6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.
12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'
13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'
14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it."
In his 1953 novel "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury portrays a dark time for a future America, a time when people and the government will not tolerate critical thought and wisdom. In the book, "firemen" are no longer the ones who help save lives but they are men who police the dissemination of ideas. The "firemen" burn books which are deemed "dangerous"--such as the poems of Walt Whitman, the novels of William Faulkner, and even the Bible itself. Seeing that such a society cannot long survive, and sure that the books that are being burned must be preserved in order to save humanity, a small band of men and women set about memorizing whole books so that their content is not lost even after the pages have gone up in flames.
I myself am not very good at memorizing things. I have a very good memory, but my memory is mainly for ideas rather than verbatim word order. I know people who have memorized fifty or a hundred particular verses from the Bible, and I have heard of some pastors who can quote whole short books from the Bible. I am not one of those folks. Before Moses sat down to write out the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), the history recounted in Genesis had likely been handed down by word-of-mouth, memorized by ancient people and recounted through the centuries until the Lord inspired Moses to write it down in the form we know today. I'm not sure I could memorize such a huge chunk of the Bible, but I suppose that if the government threatened to burn my Bible, I'd take the time to get as much crammed into my head as I could, just so I could pass it on to later generations.
26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king's son, Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to seize Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.
27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words which Baruch had written at the instruction of Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying:
28 "Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned."
This little snippet from chapter 36 of Jeremiah tells one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and although I may not get all those names quite right, it is one which I can tell pretty clearly. I remember this particular story because it is about how God preserves His Word. The Lord God will not allow His Word to be completely annihilated, not permit it to be lost to flames nor kings nor politically correct critics.
33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
As Moses tried to tell the Israelites in today's verses, "the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it." But how do we get the Word of God into our hearts and mouth so that we may do it? The clue is in today's verses from chapter 6 of Deuteronomy. We can see a few key points that Moses tries to make:
•Verse 6 : We must listen to the commandments so that they come into our hearts. We "listen" by hearing the Word preached, by reading the Bible ourselves, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance the words and will of the Lord. (John 14:26, John 16:13)
•Verse 7a: I can testify that we learn by teaching. By telling the Word of God to our children and to others, we ingrain it in our own hearts as well as theirs.
•Verse 7b: We learn by discussing the Word of God with others throughout the day--at home, at work, when walking along the street, during the daytime and the evening. All day long we must make the Word our favorite topic of conversation. The more we talk about the Bible, the more we remember.
•Verse 8: We must allow ourselves to be sealed with God's Word, let it be the mark that sets us apart from those who do not have the Word. (Revelation 3:12) Also, because the Word influences the work of our hands and the thoughts of our minds, others will see and know it, too.
•Verse 9: We must not only seal ourselves with the Word as we teach and remember it, but we must write it down so that others may read it, too. We must share the Word of God with our communities.
In short, we remember the Word of God by making it a part of our daily lives. Too often we relegate the Bible to brief times of the day--short devotional reading in the morning, a sermon on Sunday, a passage spoken to our children on a holiday or birthday. But what God is telling us here through the words of Moses is that we must keep the Word of God in our lives all the time.
The danger we face today is that people seek the Word of God in other places. In our pluralistic culture, many people believe that there is no exclusive source of truth, but rather many truths that all point to God. But let's be utterly clear on a few things:
1.We believe in Christ because we believe the gospel (the "good news," Greek "euaggelion") of His life, death, and resurrection--i.e. we believe because the Word has been spoken to us. (Romans 10:14)
2.That Word of the gospel comes to us from the Bible itself.
3.If we believe in one part of the Bible (e.g. the gospel), then we must believe it all. We cannot pick and choose, or else we undermine the whole thing.
4."Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" (John 14:6)
5.Therefore Jesus is the ONE way, the ONE truth, and the ONE life--the exclusive path to God the Father.
As Moses said, "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off." We don't have to seek intermediaries to bring us the Word of God--like the ancient oracle at Delphi or the high priests of pagan gods. Nor do we need to seek foreign wisdom and teachings to explain what we already have right in front of us. The Word of God is sufficient unto itself, with no need for someone to bring it to us from afar. Yes, we may need help with understanding what it written there, and we are to seek that help from someone who ALREADY has the Word ingrained upon his heart. When we start grafting on human traditions and foreign writings, then we dilute God's Word and utterly destroy any hope we have of learning His Word and His will. As the old country song goes, we'll be "lookin' for love in all the wrong places."
We have a wonderful opportunity here in our country and in any part of the world where the Bible can still be read aloud in public: we can write the Word of God upon our hearts and minds. Yes, we face false teachers at every turn, and public opinion is being swayed by an immoral minority that seeks to supplant the truth of God with convenient "truths" gleaned from self-centeredness and personal taste. It is just like Paul warned Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:3-5
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
And just as Paul told his protegé, we must "do the work of an evangelist": we must share the good news of Jesus Christ despite afflictions and persecution, despite the burning of public morality, despite the attempted suppression of God's Word. We must take this Word that is written on pages and write it upon the hearts and minds of our families and our communities, so that they and God's holy Word are both preserved.
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
At the end of "Fahrenheit 451," there is a war that devastates America. Despite all the attempts by the government to keep knowledge from the people, the harsh reality of nuclear destruction showed them the truth that they had been missing. In the end, those who had preserved the burned books returned to the cities to begin rebuilding society.
Today all believers have a ministry to preserve the Word of God and to rebuild a society that has been lost in the darkness of foreign ideas and suppressed truth. For too long we have allowed the Word of God to be diluted in our lives--diluted with human philosophies, secular traditions, and pagan idols. We must therefore be diligent, listening to the Bible as it is preached, reading it ourselves, and discussing it with our children and friends. We must, as Jesus told the church at Sardis, "strengthen the things which remain." (Revelation 3:2) We must hold fast to the Word of God, to keep it for later generations. And we must allow the Word to keep us focused on the one true way to God: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Holy Father God, I thank You this day for Your Word, for the holy Scripture inspired by You and written by ancient authors for the edification of all. May we all seek Your Word to know it. Let us learn and teach it, so that we are all equipped for the good works which You have prepared that we should do. And, dear Lord, let Your Word keep us ever aware of the gospel of Christ, that indelible Word that saved us from wrath and that sealed us unto eternal life. Amen.