“What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” by Louis A. Dole

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“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” – Deuteronomy 10:12

Readings

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 · Luke 22:24-30 · Psalm 101

Sermon

The purpose of our creation is that we may be of service to the Lord. The Lord works by and through man, because man is a receptacle of life from Him and the only intelligent subject of His providence. All things below man are included in man. They precede him in the order of creation because man is their end. It is theirs to make ready for him, and this they do, or rather the Lord does for them. The Lord’s method of operation can be seen through the study of nature, as nature illustrates the law of His operation.

What is this law? It is the law of service or use to something higher. Nothing is created for itself alone. Everything is for something above itself. The mineral underlies, supports, and sustains the plant, the plant the animal, the animal man. And as nothing in the realm of nature has the power to disturb or to contravene the operation of this law, we find in nature the perfect peace and harmony that result from its fulfillment. In nature we find the Divine order perfectly carried out except in so far as man has disturbed it. Things in nature that are hurtful to life are of man, not of God. Man alone, as we know, has the power to act with or against God – from God or from himself. Acting from himself he has been the cause of all that is hurtful in nature. But even so he has no power to reverse its order, and when he acts contrary to order, the Lord makes even these acts serve a use. Poisonous minerals and plants, corresponding to false and evil thoughts and feelings, are used as medicines to cure diseases in the bodies of men and animals, and the time will come when, through an advance in the knowledge of the science of correspondences, they will be still more helpful. This is what is meant by the words of the Psalmist: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”

Man can misuse the law of nature on the plane of nature. But he has even greater power to misuse the Divine law in the higher planes of life. The law of service holds for him as well as for nature below him, but he can invert this law of service by serving himself primarily and others only incidentally. In doing this he eliminates from his life the Divine idea of service or use, and substitutes as his end the idea of gain for himself, which excludes others save so far as they can be made subservient to him. “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.”

Order is heaven’s first and controlling law. The science of today is built upon recognition of this law. So immutable is it that an animal unknown to historic man can be reconstructed from a fossil bone. It is illogical to think that order prevails throughout the world of nature and that for man alone there are no underlying laws governing his spiritual development.

A fundamental law of our human life is that our freedom of choice shall be preserved, and that our errors of ignorance and even of willful purpose may be overruled for our highest good. There must be perfect spiritual opportunity. One person cannot be more favorably circumstanced than another or the law fades. In the Divine order I cannot be more favorably circumstanced for the development of my spiritual possibilities than you or anyone else.

It is not our circumstances but our use of them that determines our spiritual state. The conditions for this are just as perfect for men as for nature. The law of service is the same law for both. We are not controlled by our outward conditions. They have no power to control the use we make of them. The common thought, “If this, that, or the other person or circumstance were different, I would be different,” is all wrong.

The history of man reveals the end for which he was created. In the beginning he was commanded to “have dominion.” History is a record of conquest and achievement. In a measure man has subdued nature, making it serve him. Mastery over himself, however, is not yet attained. Men still fight against each other, seeking self-advantage.

With the opening of the Word new truths have been brought to light, showing the nature of God and the Divine purposes in nature and in history. It can be seen that God is in His universe not for His own glory, as has been supposed, but for the glory and happiness of mankind; and He gives His own life to us in the words, “Whosoever of you will be chiefest shall be servant of all.” The word “service” can be seen to be written on every page of nature and history, the one word by which anyone truly lives or can live, because it expresses the law by which God Himself lives.

He who accepts this truth will find that it proves itself. He will find life as he loses self-life in service. This is true of the individual and of society as a whole. Throughout the Scriptures the Lord is pictured as king over all nations. He was put to death because He asserted this claim. Today there are those who deny sovereignty and kingdom to Christ. They are unwilling to accept His laws, for the Lord’s kingdom is one of truth and life – a kingdom of justice, love, and peace. And we can readily see that if all people were to live according to the Divine laws, we should indeed have here upon the earth the kingdom of Christ; for then alone would we have a world at peace.

The command “Gird thyself, and serve me” implies that he who will follow the Lord will not do so without effort. The Lord Himself exemplified this law. Righteousness is not the result of mere refraining from doing evil; it involves positive action. The Lord girded Himself with a towel and washed His disciples’ feet, thus expressing the great dignity of a life inspired by the high desire to be of use, to care for other needs than just one’s own, to have the spirit of service. It is the shame of life to have possessions, intelligence, or influence and to use them to advance oneself at the expense of others.

There are conditions which have to be met if we are to be able to fulfill the law. We need to learn the laws both of nature and of spirit. For the former purpose schools are established by the state, society in this way acknowledging its duty to the individual. Free schools, libraries, hospitals, asylums, prisons are for the preservation of society and of its individual members.

But that we might know the way of life the Lord gave the Word. And He has done more than this. He came on earth and lived out the precepts of the Word before the eyes of men. He has left nothing undone that He can do for us.

The law of service is ultimate because it is the primary law of universal life. It is the Lord’s law of life for Himself; consequently it must be the law of life for nature and for man. Creation spontaneously arises from the operation of this law. Love can but will that its own be another’s. It is the same whether we say creation or providence. The law is the same. Creation is the perpetual sustaining of all things, each according to its need and use. The law of service is enforced upon nature. She can but obey it.

Man’s every need, however, can be met only by his free cooperation, he alone being created in the image and likeness of God. The law of service is the law for him as for God and for nature. But man can obey or disobey it as he chooses. Obeying, he loses, it is true, his own native life of bondage to self, but he finds the power, the peace, and the freedom of God, thus his true life as a child of God.

And collective man, freely obeying this law of service, progressively realizes ideal society, which in modern parlance is known as the “Brotherhood of Man.”

Our spiritual as well as our natural life is governed by fixed laws. So may we learn to live in self-restraint, helpfully, uncomplainingly, that at last we may come into the freedom and joy of true Christian love.

If we keep the Divine laws, we need never be fearful of the future. It is enough that we are faithful in the present. We need never be anxious about what is to come either here or hereafter.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Amen

Read the original sermon in PDF format

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