Not everyone pictures a relationship with a Heavenly Father as being good. I just finished reading a biography of Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. We aren’t as familiar with him today, but he was the most famous man in the world after he made that crossing in 1927. But despite his accomplishments, Lindbergh, by all accounts, was not the best father to his kids. He was a very accomplished man, so he expected much out of his children. He was always lecturing them, and setting very lofty goals for them. One son in particular rebelled against this, and for much of his adult life, he was totally estranged from his father.
Because of earthly relationships like this, some of us here today may have less-than-good pictures in our minds of our Heavenly Father. Maybe you think of Him as a stern lecturer, or as a heavy taskmaster. But if that’s the picture you have, we need to correct it with the word of God. One of the verses we read last Monday in Deuteronomy gives us a Biblical picture of the relationship between God and His people:
Deuteronomy 33:3 says: “Indeed, He LOVES the people, all Your holy ones are in Your hand, and they followed in Your steps and everyone receives of Your words.”
Here we find an amazing picture of the relationship between God and His people:
I. The Children of God are loved by God
Verse 3 says: “Indeed, He LOVES the people.”
The word “loves” here is a Hebrew word (chabab) which means, “to hide, as in the bosom; to cherish with affection.” That gives us a great visual of what this word means: to cherish, to hold to one’s chest.
We have all seen someone who has been given something that they just really love, and they have just clutched it to their chest, and said, “Oh, I just LOVE this.” It is a natural response when one loves something.
One of our Deaf fellowship members (Peggy Watson) put up the cutest video on Facebook this week of her little grand daughter — maybe 2 years old? — and she had their little chihuahua wrapped up in a baby blanket, and was just holding to her chest, just loving it and talking to it.
THAT is the meaning of this word: “hiding something/holding something to your bosom” because you love it so. Amazingly, the Bible says, THAT is how GOD loves His people! He loves us; He cherishes us and holds us to Himself. “He LOVES the people”!
Over and over the Bible tells us this:
— When YHWH appeared before Moses in His glory in Exodus 34, He proclaimed His basic character before him, and He proclaimed: “YHWH, YHWH God”, and the first word He spoke to describe Himself was “compassionate” — it was no accident that the first word He used to describe His character towards us is compassion. He LOVES us!
— He said in Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
— The motivation for Jesus coming to earth was LOVE: “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son …”.
— I John 4:8 says “For God IS love.”
— And His love is personal; individual: Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “He loved ME, gave Himself for ME.”
God LOVES us. Even more specifically than that, God loves YOU.
This passage says “He loves the people.” YOU are of “the people.” That means God loves YOU. He cherishes you; He holds you to Himself in love.
Is that the picture you have of God? Do you picture Him LOVING you; holding you to Himself; hiding you in His bosom because you are precious to Him? Well the Bible tells us here, that is the picture you SHOULD have. “He LOVES the people.”
See, love is what the Gospel is all about. God made you initially for the purpose of loving Him, and being loved by Him. He made you for that relationship with Him. But we all chose to walk away from Him, and chose to sin. Because God is a holy God, our sin separated us from the love that God wanted us to share with Him. But STILL THEN He loved us; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son;” “God demonstrated His own loved toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He loved us and didn’t want to leave us separated from Him. So He came to earth in Jesus, and died on the cross, paying for our sins, so that we who believe that would be forgiven and come back to Him — not just “to go to heaven”, but to go to HIM, to love Him and be loved by Him the way that He designed us to in the first place. But the Gospel is all about love. The love God has for us, and wants us to have with Him forever.
Listen, even the difficult discipline and chastisement that God sometimes brings into your life — He doesn’t do it because He is “mad” at you; He does it because He LOVES you, and He wants what is best for you. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For those whom the Lord LOVES He disciplines.” God loves you too much to let you keep going the wrong way, so He wisely and lovingly allows difficult things to come into your life to pressure you to come back to Him. But He doesn’t do it because He is “mad” at you; He does it because He loves you so much.
It’s just like the song we did a couple of weeks ago: “You’re a good, good Father, that’s Who You are … and I am loved by You; that’s who I am.”
Oh that we could really grasp this; that we would let ourselves be defined by this, and not all those other things: “who we are” is LOVED BY HIM. THAT’S who we are!
Have you ever had something really good happen to you one night: maybe you had a big accomplishment, or you won an award, or something, and you went to sleep, and woke up the next day, and all of the sudden you remember: “Oh yeah; I got ‘Teacher of the Year’” or “Oh yeah, I got that game-winning hit!” — or whatever, and you’re so happy about it that you’re just walking on air the next day, because of that?
Well in a very real sense, that is how you should wake up every day. You should remember: “Oh yeah, I am loved by God! That’s who I am! He cherishes me and holds me to Himself.” We should be “walking on air” every day: for God LOVES us: “He loves the people.”
II. The Children of God are Held By God
“All the holy ones are in Your hand.”
This is one of the great promises of the Christian faith: that the God who loves us, also holds us in His hand. He carries us, and protects us, and keeps us. And that fact that we are in His hands should comfort us in every situation we face.
Shakespeare’s “Henry V” tells the story of the English king who invaded France in the early 1400’s. After some initial success, his army was ravaged by bad weather and disease, and they began a retreat to England. Seeing their weakness, the French gathered all their forces at Agincourt to block their way back. Henry’s decimated army of about 6,000 faced 36,000 Frenchmen, knights in armor; and the French even sent thousands of men home because there wouldn’t be enough Englishmen for all of them to kill!
Just before the French attacked that morning, one of Henry’s lieutenants said to him: “I hope they will not come upon us now.” But Henry famously responded to him: “We are in God’s hand, brother; not in theirs!” And amazingly, Henry V and his men actually won the battle, in one of the great upsets in all of history.
But I love Henry’s response: “We are in God’s hand, brother; not in theirs.” If you are a Christian, that is true for you too. Whatever oppressive or dangerous situation that faces us, it does not have us in its hand: “we’re in God’s hands!” We aren’t “in the hand” of that person, or that thing. As Christians, we can say that for any situation we face:
— That boss or that company doesn’t have you in their hands: “You’re in God’s hands brother, not in theirs!”
— The politicians or the bureaucrats don’t have you at their mercy: “You’re in God’s hands, brother; not in theirs!”
— Sickness doesn’t have you in its hands: “you’re in God’s hands, brother!”
— Someone says: “But I have cancer!” Cancer doesn’t have you in its hands; “you’re in GOD’s hands, brother!”
— Sometimes it seems like we live at the whim of chance, “luck” or “fate;” but we are not in hands of “fate:” “you’re in GOD’s hands, brother!”
— That person doesn’t have you in their hands; that situation doesn’t have you in its hands. “You’re in God’s hands brother!”
We should go around speaking to each other, and encouraging each other with these words: “You’re in God’s hands, brother!” “You’re in God’s hands sister!” “All the holy ones are in Your hand” as Moses said here.
And as Baptists, we believe the Bible teaches that He who holds us in His hand will not let us go. Jesus said in John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand.” The moment we entrust our lives to Him by faith, His Holy Spirit comes into our lives to seal us as His, Ephesians 1:13 says, and nothing can break that seal. We are safe and secure; we are “held” in His hand!
There is a great new song by Keith & Krysten Getty that talks about how God keeps us in His hand:
“When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast
Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast
If you are truly a child of God, then God Almighty holds you in His hand, and no one and no-thing can ever pluck you out.
“All the holy ones are in Your hand.”
III. The Children of God worship at His feet
Where the NASB says “they followed in Your steps” the old King James probably has the better translation here: “they sit down at Your feet.” The Hebrew word here (“regel”) is almost always translated “feet”, not “steps.” So most likely “sit down at Your feet” is a good translation here … and what a picture that is, of how we as the children of God are to respond to the Lord who loves us and holds us in His hand: we are to “sit at His feet.”
This is the picture that David gives us in Psalm 131:2, when he says: “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child against his mother.” This is another great picture of our relationship with God. Notice: David does not say he is like a NURSING child against his mother. That nursing child WANTS something doesn’t it? It wants its food, and it wants it now! But a “weaned child” against its mother is different. That weaned child is getting nothing from his mother but warmth and affection. They are only there for love.
THAT is the picture David gives us here of how we are to come to God; not merely with our needs (although we can do that when we have them) but primarily and most importantly just for warmth and affection and LOVE. We should come to God just because we LOVE HIM, and we just want to sit at His feet; and lean against Him and love Him, like a weaned child with its mother.
This is the most important way God wants us to respond to Him: just to worship at His feet; to love Him. That’s why Jesus said the Great Commandment is to LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. THIS is what God wants from us more than anything else: to sit at His feet and LOVE Him. He wants that more than our religious deeds, more than our church attendance, more than our preaching, more than our tithe — although these things should all be expressions of our love. But what He really wants is our love. Just worship at His feet.
Think about that. How often do you really do that? Do you take time to just LOVE God? You say, well, I pray — but a lot of times our prayers are merely a lists of “wants,” aren’t they — we’re more like the nursing baby, who’s always wanting something. But our prayers should be more like the “weaned child” who is there just to love his Heavenly Father.
A big portion of our prayers should be just LOVING GOD. Just “sitting at His feet.” Just singing to Him. Sing some of the hymns and worship songs we’ve learned at church:
— Sing to Him: “You’re a good, good, Father, that’s who You are”
— Sing to Him: “I worship You, Almighty God, there is none like you”
— Sing to Him: “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How Great Thou Art”
Take the whole first part of your prayer time and just sing to God, and give thanks to Him, and love Him — just “sit at His feet” and love Him. And you can follow that with your prayer requests, but if you run out of time, that’s ok; Jesus said “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask.” You’ve done the most important thing: sat at His feet and loved Him.
Jesus taught us that was the most important thing. We read a few weeks ago in Luke 10 of how when Jesus came to visit Mary & Martha & Lazarus’ house, that Martha was busy with all her work, but Mary was just “seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” And when Martha complained, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but ONLY ONE THING IS NECESSARY, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Jesus said, Martha, I appreciate what you’re doing, but Mary is doing the most important thing: the thing I really made y’all for: to sit at My feet, and love Me.
What was true for Mary and Martha that day is true for us today too. THE single most important thing you have to do any day of your life, is to sit at the feet of the God who loves you and holds you in His hand, and just love and worship Him. If you’ve started your day with that, you can be satisfied that you’ve accomplished the most important thing. And if you haven’t done that, then no matter what else you think you have accomplished, you have left the most important thing in your life undone. The children of God were made to “sit down at His feet” and worship Him.
IV. The Children of God receive His words
And there’s something else we are to do when we sit at His feet: :3 ends by saying: “Everyone receives of Your words.” When we sit at our Lord’s feet, we worship Him and love Him, but we are also to receive His words.
One of the defining marks of the genuine child of God is that he receives the word of God. We quoted from John 10 a few moments ago, where it says He holds us in His hand and we will never perish. But that verse begins by Him saying that those who are really His sheep, “HEAR HIS VOICE” and follow Him. The mark of the real child of God is that he hears the word of God and follows Him:
— Jesus said in Luke 8:21 “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
— John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, they will keep My word.”
— John 8:31 “If you continue in My word you are truly My disciples …”
— But He said in John 12:48 that “he who does not receive My sayings”, “rejects Me.”
The children of God, who are loved by God and who are kept by Him, will sit at His feet, and will receive His words. This is the other “big” thing that is to happen in our morning time with the Lord: 1) as we saw, we should just sit at His feet and worship Him, sing to Him, love Him — but 2) we will also take some time to listen to Him, in His word. These are the two basic elements of our daily walk with God: worship and the word. (And by the way, these are the two basic elements of our corporate worship time as well. Our personal worship times should be a lot like our public worship times, in miniature: we spend some time in worship and prayer, and some time in the word. That’s what we do publicly, and that is what we should do personally.)
So make no mistake: the children of God receive the word of God. And the Bible is where we receive that word. This is WHY we have put such an emphasis on reading our Bibles this year. When we read the Bible, we aren’t just reading a textbook on ancient history. We are reading a love letter to us from God. And we need to read it that way. Don’t “just read it”; don’t just “get your daily Bible reading done” — that’s one of the dangers of this kind of program, that you just rush through and don’t really take time to listen. Be sure you LISTEN for the voice of God’s Holy Spirit as you read: speaking to you, convicting you, challenging you, leading you, directing you. God will speak to you through His word. Someone said recently, If you want to hear God, read the Bible. If you want to hear God speak to you audibly, then read the Bible out loud! But go to it every day, to receive the message that God has sent you. Why would you not do that?
When I came home from the office the other day, I checked the mailbox, and there was one piece of junk mail, and another big thick envelope, and on the front of it, it was addressed to “Boompa” (the grandkids call me that, after the old Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation.” Check it out some time!) I opened it up, and across a piece of paper, our grand daughter Abigail had written in her best, 3-year old handwriting, “BOOMPA” with a bunch of decorations she’d drawn. And I had to laugh, as she had included her own “confetti” — a whole slew of torn up construction paper, that had made the envelope so fat! And her baby sister Lorna got in the act too, on another card, which she had scribbled on with her favorite tan-colored crayon. Just about enough to make you bawl!
But now, what if I had received that letter, addressed to me, from my sweet, baby grand daughters, and looked at it, and just shoved it aside, and didn’t even open it. I can’t even imagine doing that, can you? I mean, WHY would a person do something like that? How can you say you loved them if you did such a thing with what they sent you?
But do you know that is exactly what many of us do every day to the God who loves us and cherishes us? He has sent us His word, truly a “love letter” from God directly to us. And how many of us don’t even open it? We just shove it aside, and don’t take time to read what He has to tell us? Let me ask you: how can we say that we love Him, if we would do such a thing?
The answer is: we don’t. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciple.” The true child of God will give attention to the word of the Heavenly Father whom he loves, and who loves him so. Every one of His children, “receives His words.”
So here we find, in what we might think of as such an unexpected place — in Deuteronomy, in the Old Testament LAW, of all places — one of the best pictures anywhere in the Bible of what our relationship with God should look like:
— God loves us, and holds us in His hand
— We sit at His feet, and listen to his word.
Even in the Old Testament; even in the LAW; THAT is the picture God gives us of our relationship with Him. If that’s not the picture you have in your mind of your relationship with God, then you need to get a new picture! You need to get a Biblical picture, of what it really means to be a child of the Heavenly Father.