Deuteronomy 8:6-18 After God’s people were set free from slavery in Egypt, the Lord led them to Mount Sinai where he spoke to them about how they were to live their lives as his people. But he did not begin with a list of commands, he began with the story of their salvation. He said: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Only then did he go on to give them the Ten Commandments: You shall have no other Gods before me and so on. This is ALWAYS the way the Bible talks about how we are to live our lives.
Walking in God’s ways and keeping his commandments flows from his mighty, saving works for us. It is because we are saved and because we are his people that we desire to do our Father’s will. It is important for us to keep this in mind as we plan for the future regarding the stewardship of our finances.
Walking in God’s ways and doing his will with our finances is not how we are going to earn some future blessing. It’s what we earn for services rendered or a reward for keeping his commands. God simply promises to bless us in the days ahead and bring us to our heavenly home.
Instead, walking in God’s ways and doing his will with our finances, and giving, and stewardship: demonstrates a living faith that lays hold of God’s promises-- and shows gratitude for God’s gifts-- and reminds us that we (and all that we have) belong to the Lord. When we understand our life of faith and obedience this way, we are prepared to plan for the future. The Bible says:
You shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land...you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
For hundreds of years Abraham’s descendants lived as slaves in Egypt. They were born as slaves, they lived as slaves, and they died as slaves. There was no hope for them and no future for their children. But God heard their cries for mercy and raised up his servant Moses to set them free.
God preserved their lives under the blood of a lamb and destroyed their enemies and gave them the wealth of their former masters. Surely, they must have thought, this must be the pinnacle of our life as a people!
But God was not through blessing them! The best was still yet to come as they would enter the Promised Land—a place of unimaginable plenty where all their needs would be met.
It was because they had in the LORD a God who was rich in mercy that they would walk in his ways. So it is for us! We have been saved from slavery to sin and death by the blood of the Lamb of God shed on Calvary’s cross. God has sent a mighty deliverer for us in his Son Jesus who has given us the riches of life and salvation that the devil stole from us.
But there is even more to come for us! The future is even better than the past. God will bring us to an eternal homeland where we will live in peace and plenty forever. Just like for the children of Israel, the best is yet to come!
Much too often Christians and Christian congregations think that their best days are behind them. It is nostalgia for the past and not hope for the future that fills their hearts and minds. But for the child God and for the Church of God, the future is always better than the past for we are moving to the fullness of god’s saving work.
And so then, no matter what challenges and trials we may have to face, it is hope and confidence that ought to be our attitude for we are headed to better days and a better place.
That is why we are called to walk in his ways and fear the Lord—that is why we keep God’s commands—that is why we follow his will: because our lives of obedience show our faith in what God has already done for us and promises to do for us in the days to come!
For the Israelites who were about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of everything that God had commanded them at Mount Sinai, including those laws regarding their tithes and offerings.
While the details of those specific laws applied only to them as a people, God still has a will for our financial lives that is revealed in his word and as a response of faith we are to walk in his ways regarding how we use the money he has given us.
In our Sunday morning bible study over the next couple of months we are going to see what God says about various aspects of our financial life-- but the guiding principle throughout Holy Scripture—Old Testament and New Testament-- is that God comes first in our financial lives and we demonstrate that by giving an offering that is first-fruits, intentional, sacrificial and proportionate to the blessings we have received.
Our offerings to the LORD demonstrate in a powerful way that we remember and recognize that we have, in the Lord, a Savior God who has set us free and blessed us along our life’s journey. The Bible says:
“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…
When we hear these words we are tempted to ask ourselves: How on earth could anyone who had been on that 40 year journey in the wilderness have forgotten the Lord?! But that is exactly what they did!
They saw the plagues fall upon their enemies. They heard the screams of Egypt as the angel of God’s wrath killed all the firstborn. They walked through the waters of the Red Sea on dry ground and saw their enemies drowned behind them. They were led to God’s very presence on Mount Sinai but at the first opportunity they took the wealth of Egypt God had placed into their hands, fashioned an idol from it, fell down before it and worshiped it, calling it the god of their deliverance.
Throughout their wilderness years God showed again and again that he could be trusted to meet the needs of his people and yet they grumbled about him and doubted him again and again. They needed this warning to remember the Lord by keeping his commands and so do we!
As remarkable as was the deliverance God provided for the children of Israel, what God has done for us (to set us free from sin and death) is even more remarkable. He has delivered us from Sagan’s dominion and made us his people by sending his own Son to live and die and rise again for us. We are the free people of God, headed to heaven, ONLY because of what Jesus has done for us!
And as God’s people, he has provided for us every step of our journey to our heavenly home. We are sitting here today, fed and clothed and sheltered and loved by friends and family ONLY because of God’s gracious provision.
When we came into this world we did not even have the shirt that is on our back and look at what we possess now! Can it be possible that we have forgotten the Lord? Before you answer that question too quickly, hear again how the LORD describes forgetfulness:
“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes.
From the Lord’s perspective, we have forgotten him, not based on whether or not we can recite the facts of salvation history (the devil can do that!) but we have forgotten the Lord when we do not walk in his ways and keep his commandments, rules, and statutes.
And so I ask you again: is it possible that we have forgotten the LORD and his mighty, gracious salvation and provision? What answer does our checkbook give?
What does the way we handle our finances and make our financial decisions and give our offerings say about whether or not remember that the LORD is our Savior and our Provider? Does the LORD come first? Do we trust him to meet our needs? Are we seeking his counsel on how to manage the resources we have? We should! Because he is the one who has given it all to us in the first place! The Bible says:
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
The unbelieving world around us says: MY power, MY might, MY hand, MY wealth. The Lord warns us that, as his children, we must not talk that way!
He is the one who gives us the power to get wealth. He is the one who opens his hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing. He is the one who pours out blessings upon his children.
That is why sacrificial, proportionate, intentional, first-fruits giving is so important! It reminds us, each time we give to the Lord, that he can be trusted to fill our hand again and again.
When we make it our first priority—both as individual Christians and as a Christian congregation-- to give to God’s mission was are making a confession of faith. We are confessing that all we have is from the Lord. We are confessing that he is the Creator and we are his creatures; that he is our Father and we are his children. And finally we are confessing our faith in his provision in the days to come.
God made a covenant with Abraham that he would bless the world through his offspring and he provided everything needed to keep that solemn promise in the person of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. He also promised Abraham that his people would have a homeland and now they were about to receive the fulfillment of that promise in the Promised Land.
In material blessings and spiritual blessings the LORD was and is and always will be the God of kept promises who promises to bless his people and provide for his people in this world and the world to come.
As we plan for the future, and especially as we consider how we can best walk in God’s ways and follow his will regarding our finances, we don’t have to be afraid to step out in faith and give generously to the LORD for he is the God of kept promises who will meet our needs in the days to come! Amen.