“Loving God with Our Mouth and Ears” (Sermon on the Ten Commandments, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

“Loving God with Our Mouth and Ears” (The Ten Commandments)

We started off this series on the Ten Commandments with, obviously, the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” There is but one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely, the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no other. We should fear, love, and trust in this God above all things. So this is the First–and foremost–Commandment, the one that encompasses all the commandments and runs through them all. “You shall have no other gods.” That’s what we should not do. But Moses also summarizes this commandment positively when he says, in Deuteronomy, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And Jesus himself says this is the first and greatest commandment. Love God with everything that is in you, with all your heart.

But we can even take it further. Not only with your heart, which is the seat of your mind and will and emotions, but also with the various parts of your body, such as–as we’re going to look at today–with your mouth and your ears. That is the message of the Second and Third Commandments: “Loving God with Our Mouth and Ears.”

You know, St. Paul says in Romans 6, speaking to the baptized, he says: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Now when Paul says “your members,” he literally means the members of your body, the various parts of your body. Your eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet–all the parts of your body belong to God, and how you use them shows whether you are loving God or not. Do not present your members, the parts of your body, to sin, to be used for unrighteous purposes, but rather present them to God, to be used for his purposes. And that’s the same message that is given to God’s people in the Second and Third Commandments. Love God with your mouth. Love God with your ears.

“What?” you say, “I don’t see the words ‘mouth’ or ‘ears’ in those commandments!” Well, but they’re there nonetheless. They’re embedded into the commandments themselves. You can’t keep the Second Commandment without using your mouth. You can’t keep the Third Commandment without using your ears. Conversely, you break the Second Commandment with the misuse of your mouth. And you break the Third Commandment by your neglect of using your ears as God wants you to use them.

To explain, let’s start by taking the Second Commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.” God has revealed his name to us. He has made himself known to us. Everything of who God is and what he has done for us is wrapped up and packed into his name. We know who God is. He is not just some vague “higher power” up there whom we cannot know or we cannot be sure about. No, God has revealed himself to us. This happens in and through his holy Word. God made a covenant with Abraham. He revealed himself, he made his name known, to Moses. The Lord God acted in history to deliver his people and make good on his promises. The Lord God promised to send a Messiah, the Son of David, to bring in the kingdom of heaven here on earth. And we know that this is Jesus, the Christ. Jesus makes God known to us. He is the Word of God incarnate. We are not in the dark any longer.

We have even been baptized in God’s name, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In Holy Baptism, we have been joined to, we now belong to, the triune God. We bear God’s name upon our head and our hearts.

And so how we use God’s name, which is the sum total of how God has revealed himself to us–how we use God’s name with our mouth, with our tongue, shows how we are loving God. It shows whether or not we are grateful that God has made himself known to us as the God who loves us and cares for us and sent his Son Jesus to be our Savior.

So how are we doing? Well, it’s a good thing that you are here in church to praise God with your voice, singing hymns, confessing your faith, giving your “Amen” to the prayers of the church. Those are ways in which we indeed love God with our mouth.

How do you speak of God in your home or to your neighbors? Do you give all glory to God? Do you acknowledge him in all your ways? Do you call on God’s name in prayer in your daily devotions? Do you speak well of your church to others, that this is the place where you hear the good news of Christ, where God’s Word is taught in its truth and purity, where your sins are forgiven, where Christ is present, and where eternal life is bestowed freely for Christ’s sake? Well, maybe now things are getting a little dicier. Because maybe we don’t use our mouth so well in these ways. Maybe we don’t control our tongue so well. Our prayer life falters. We neglect to use our tongue to praise God, to bear witness to him, to call upon his name in every trouble. So while the commandment is good and holy, the problem is, we aren’t. We sin and fall short on a daily basis. And so the Law condemns us.

Same thing, then, with the Third Commandment, which we look at next: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” But this one will take a little explanation to see how it applies to us and to our ears. Here goes.

The Sabbath was the day of rest for Old Testament Israel. It fell on the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday. On that day, the Sabbath, all of Israel was supposed to stop what they were doing, stop their regular routine of work–stop and cease and rest. But understand what this stoppage and rest involved. It did not mean having the day off and just sleeping in or sitting around on your Barcalounger and taking it easy. The day of rest did not mean going out on your boat or hitting the golf course or going out for brunch. No. The Sabbath was a day of rest, but it was rest with a purpose. It was the time to stop your regular work routine, in order to use that time for a special purpose, and that was, to come together as God’s people to hear his Word. To hear what the Lord God has done for his people, what he is continuing to do, and what he will do. The Sabbath rest oriented and grounded God’s people in who he is and in his promises.

And in that, the Sabbath commandment still applies to us as New Testament Christians. Now of course, ever since Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on Sunday–ever since the first Easter, Christ’s church has gathered for worship on Sunday. As we do here, every Sunday morning. This has been going on continuously for almost 2,000 years now.

So now if the purpose of this Third Commandment is for God’s people to come together to hear his Word, obviously that involves how we use our ears. Our ears are how we hear. And gladly hearing and learning God’s Word is more than just letting the sound waves strike our ear drums and bounce off, or go in one ear and come out the other. That is not truly hearing God’s Word. No, real hearing means listening, letting the Word sink in and taking it to heart. Hearing God’s Word means that God’s Word will change us. It means that his Word will lead us to repentance and strengthen our faith.

Hearing God’s Word above all means hearing the good news of Christ our Savior. This is what God wants you to hear today! Listen, know for sure, that this Jesus is your Savior. Yes, you have sinned. You have not loved God with your whole heart. You have not loved God with how you have used your tongue. You have not loved God with how you have used your ears. Yes, you are a sinner. But Jesus is the Savior of sinners! He is your Savior!

Christ Jesus kept God’s Law perfectly in your place. He kept the Second Commandment by using the name of the Lord as it is meant to be used. He kept the Third Commandment by keeping the Sabbath holy, “as was his custom,” it says. His mouth and ears were in service to God. Jesus used his mouth to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus used his ears to always hear the Father’s voice and to do his will. He used his ears to hear the cries of those in distress: “Lord, have mercy!” Jesus’ mouth and ears were always in service to love for the Father and love for people. Jesus is the only righteous one.

And yet this same Jesus suffered and died for our sins. He died so that we might live. He rose from the dead so that we might enjoy an endless Sabbath, eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven. All this he did for you. Open your ears today to hear this good news! Open your mouth today to sing his praise! Jesus is the keeping of the commandments for you! And he will enliven and energize you for your new purpose of loving God with your mouth and your ears.


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