Deuteronomy 10-12, Psalm 56
Religion or relationship has always been the battle for those choosing to follow God. Many of us have grown up surrounded by religion. I am an Ob/Gyn that cares for many who practice Orthodox Judaism. They are a pleasure to care for. Like Paul says, they have a zeal for God, but they are often steeped in religion. Out of respect, we have a Mezuzah on the doorpost of each exam room. I witness how they mechanically sweep their finger across the Mezuzah and onto their lips like a baseball player goes through his motions after hitting a home run. I walk into their rooms in the hospital after giving birth where I often see them praying words repetitiously at such a fast rate that none of those words can enter their heart. The same applies to the many patients who had their ashes displayed a couple of weeks ago, not fully understanding why, but it’s something that supposed to be done. We could all give our own lists of the many rote rituals performed out of duty, not out of their heart, that we have witnessed during our lifetimes.
It’s easy to think that in the New Testament, Jesus taught us how to have a true relationship, and in the Old Testament, the Israelites were given 613 laws in their religious system which they were to memorize in their heads and follow. But we see in today’s readings, sections which show that what God always wanted for His people was a true relationship. In Deuteronomy 10:12 , we read, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” In 10:16, we read, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” In 11;18, we read, “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…”. As we go through the Old Testament it is obvious what God desired then as He desires now is our heart.
The question we must all ask ourselves is whether or not we want to have a real relationship with God or not. We have many real relationships in this world. My wife would not be content if I expressed words with no emotion or worse gave her very little attention, and when I did speak to her, I said the same exact thing every time. But isn’t that what most religious people do? They don’t give God a second thought. Their life interactions with Him consist of occasional church appearances along with the same prayers spoken heartlessly over and over again. Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15, “Therefore the Lord said:” Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,”. Like Moses said in today’s readings, let us cast off anything that pulls us away from true worship, and enter into a true relationship with God.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: