Today we’re going to talk about God’s pursuit of mankind. Did you enjoy the series on the Ten Commandments? Well, this morning we are going to pick up where we left off, taking it up a level, and going deeper with some practical application. You know, like what does the giving of the Law mean for us today. Just like the 5 new laws that take effect Wednesday here in Maryland according to WBAL News.
First, marijuana possession decriminalization; second, transgender residents will have protection against discrimination on matters relating to housing, employment, and use of public restrooms and such. Third, added penalties for people who commit domestic violence in front of children. Fourth, several new laws addressing prison security and staff members. And lastly motorists will be required to move into an open lane away from tow trucks as they have in the past for police and other emergency vehicles attending to roadside emergencies, as well as they tagged on added penalties for drivers who cause accidents while text messaging or talking on hand-held cell phones.
That’s good to know right? So we need to understand the law and its application to our lives. For example, ladies, if you’re in the restroom and a guy comes walking in don’t be surprised and don’t discriminate… as long as he regularly feels feminine. And I don’t know, but maybe that means he regularly wears lipstick, blush, and eye liner… I don’t know, just guessing, but that’s what the law says. We’ve got to understand the law. You know, what does it mean, that the "consistent and uniform assertion of the person's gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person's core identity” (http://www.wbal.com/article/110059/52/5-new-laws-that-take-effect-wednesday-in-maryland). What does it mean or maybe I should add how are you going to prove it?
So this morning, we’re going to look Exodus 3:1-10, if you can find your place in the Bible. And we’re going to look at a man named Moses, whom God had pursued over the course of many years. But actually that will just be the springboard, as we see from one generation to the next, that God is in the pursuit of mankind. That God keeps loving us, blessing us, and calling to us. And yet how have we? How has humanity responded?
Have we or have we not for the most part, ignored God, neglected God, and even rejected God?
You know, ever since God made the heavens and the earth, ever since he created us in his image and likeness, he has blessed us. God spoke to us, he gave us freedom to enjoy his creation, and yet every one of us absolutely ignored him, neglected him, and even rejected him. And we all do. The rejection that God has endured is worse than anyone of us will ever endure.
And what is totally amazing is how God responds. You know, you and I, we either go for blood and get revenge or we distance ourselves so that we don’t get hurt again. But God humbles himself, he deals with our sin, he loves us, draws near to us to and enters into a relationship with us. And the word that the Bible uses to describe God’s response is covenant. That’s how God responds.
Let’s read together in Exodus 3:1-10: “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up."
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." NIV
The Lord said, ‘I have seen the suffering of my people in Egypt.’ Now this is many years after Joseph was taken into the land of Egypt. His family went in as a clan, a family of about 70 people, and now 400 years later, they’re a nation of a few million people. Now they’re slaves. Now God’s people are being mistreated. And so this is many years later.
Let’s flip over to chapter 6 now. We’ll read one more section and then we’ll go to chapter 19. Exodus 6:7-8, "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.'" NIV
And then chapter 19 of Exodus, if you can go there we’ll read two more verses. So God’s people are in slavery and God comes, crushed Pharaoh, set them free, and parted the Red Sea. Now they’re at Mt. Sinai and God is going to give them the Ten Commandments. You see, they had been set free, but they weren’t living free, they were still living in bondage to their own selfish ways. As Romans 5:14, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses…” And so Moses stands as the representative, the mediator, between God and the people, and God’s going to deal with the people.
So God speaks to them through Moses here in Exodus 19:5-6, and God says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” NIV
So in Exodus 19, at verse 5, the Lord says “keep my covenant”. Well, what is a covenant? Actually, in your Bible, this word shows up often. There are covenants between human beings, covenants between people and God, and covenants between God and us. But here is the big idea of covenant... A covenant is a relationship with God on his terms. You see, and this is amazing, because he’s God, he gets to define the terms of the relationship.
And so when the Bible speaks of God being in covenant with us, it reveals that God is gracious. You see, because God owes us nothing. He could’ve just taken Adam and Eve and said, “You messed up, you’re going to hell, the race is over, and that’s it.” And you know he could do the same thing with us. He owes us nothing, but God is gracious.
God already had a plan in place and he tells us that Adam was a “pattern of the one to come” (Romans 5:14). God was in the pursuit of mankind, pursuing us, his treasured possession, even though we didn’t ask or even care. As our Creator and Savior, he pursues us and initiates a covenant for the purpose of relationship.
Now through Moses, God gives his people the laws, through Moses we get the first five books of the Old Testament, and through Moses the people enter into covenant with God through faith. In Exodus 19:8, “The people all responded together, "We will do everything the Lord has said." They’re in covenant, they’re walking with God, obeying the law, trusting God’s provision and leading. They’re following and obeying him like children are supposed to obey their dad right? They are in covenant, he is watching over them, and he gives them commands for their well-being.
So God loves us, he establishes the covenant, he blesses us even though we don’t deserve it. We don’t… we’re sinners just like that murderer Moses, we’ve found favor just like Noah, and yet God pursues us and establishes covenant with us. That’s what God said to Noah and his sons: "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you” (Genesis 9:8-9). And because he establishes the covenant, he defines the terms of that relationship, and he has conditions.
You see the covenant shows that God is just and to maintain that relationship God has to deal with our sin. He is a just God and so he deals with our sin in the covenant. He wants our hearts, our minds, and our lives to change. So he says, “This is right, this is wrong, but even if you mess up, even if you sin, I will continue to pursue you, and I’ll help you to change your course so that you can learn to be obedient.”
Our covenant relationship with God is based upon his loving grace and not about us being so loveable. In love and grace he pursues us, he establishes the covenant relationship, and the Bible says that he did this “When we were God's enemies” (Romans 5:10)! God is doing this for those of us who have disobeyed and rejected him. Those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). And he responds to us so graciously even though we were once far away from God, his enemies, separated from him by our evil thoughts and actions. “Now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ” (Colossians 1:22, New Living Translation).
So God established the covenant, he pursues us, he’s in the pursuit of mankind like a Father; not a worldly father, but a godly perfect Father. And we need to understand covenant in terms of relationship as a father with his wife; loving her, comforting her, honoring her, and keeping her, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others as long as she shall live. We need to understand covenant as a father with his children. You know, Jesus told us, "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). So with my children, it doesn’t matter what they do, they’re still my kids, and I will still love them. It doesn’t mean that I approve of their behavior, but I will deal with that, and I will love them, pursue them, want to be with them, and never give up on them.
Now historically, the Bible reveals this idea of covenant with some key players, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and of course Jesus. Now we don’t have time today to look at each of them in detail, but these are people who step out in history, in covenant with God, setting an example for us to follow of people who also can be in covenant relationship with God. And so one after the other, we see through history, God’s covenant faithfulness to undeserving sinners like us. All of which began with the first man Adam.
So let’s look together at God’s covenant with Adam; beginning in Genesis chapter 1 and 2. And as you’re turning there, I want to remind you that Adam was in relationship with God. God loved Adam, blessed Adam, had a relationship with Adam, and in Genesis 1 you’ll see this covenant that Adam had with God. This was a very special relationship, more than just, “I know you,” more than, “We’re friends,” but, “We’re connected as family in a deeper than blood way.”
Look at Genesis 1:27-30; here is the covenant: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
And then jumping ahead to Genesis 2:15-17… “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
And we know the rest of the story; Adam was tempted and sinned. He ate of the forbidden tree and we all, through sin, have broken our covenant with God as Adam did. That’s what God says. “Like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust” (Hosea 6:7). So God had made a covenant with Adam and his wife Eve, but they violated the conditions of the covenant, they sinned, they disobeyed, and they rejected God; even hiding from him.
Yet the covenant is very important, Adam and Eve broke fellowship with God, but he in his grace initiated the first sacrifice killing an animal to clothe them. They violated the conditions of the covenant and were cast out of the garden away from the tree of life. They experienced consequences for their rebellion and disobedience and I want you to note that every covenant has features or characteristics that are consistent no matter the time or place. No matter whether Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David; it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam (Jesus Christ), a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). And so first, there’s one like Adam who is standing there in our place as our father, our mediator, and our representative. Secondly, there are blessings; like life, a son, freedom, property, descendants, or an inheritance. These are blessings and then there are conditions… Obedience… you know like “Don’t eat.” And the consequences, “If you do, you will die.” And there is always a sign or symbol of the covenant. On the inside, in the heart, it is faith… on the outside its marriage, the Sabbath, the rainbow, circumcision, Passover, and an everlasting kingdom. And lastly there’s a promise. The promise to Adam is that Jesus is coming one day; that Satan would hurt him, but Jesus would fatally crush Satan (Genesis 3:15). That as the Bible tells us, “in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
In Christ we have a New Covenant. He is the Last Adam. The Bible speaks of the New Covenant we have in him in Jeremiah chapter 31. We’ve seen the Old Covenant, we’ve seen the disobedience of God’s people, we know they wandered grumbling in the wilderness for 40 years, and didn’t get to enter into the land of promise. But God was faithful, and the next generation with Joshua and Caleb gets to move into the Promised Land. And then it speaks of a New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-33, where God says,
"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” NIV
God says, “I’ve been really loving and patient. I’ve entered into covenant with people who continue to sin against me, who reject me, and disrespect me. But I will be their God, I will love them, I will bless them, and I will do good to them. And I will do this in spite of them.” That’s the New Covenant. It’s the fulfillment and an expansion of all of the previous covenants. And the Bible tells us: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam (Jesus Christ), a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
God’s people disobeyed, they rejected God, they tried to kill God, and yet he pursued Adam, pursued Noah, pursued Abraham, pursued Moses, pursued David, and each one represented people that he wanted to be in loving covenant community with. God pursued them and each of us, declaring "The time is coming when I will make a new covenant.” And he was announcing the coming of the Last Adam, the life giving Spirit, the one whom John the Baptist saw coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
Jesus was Moses’ Passover Lamb. Jesus came to die in our place for our sins, to cover us by his blood, so that the wrath and judgment of God would literally pass over us. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, is the one who liberates us from Satan, sin, and death. He is the one who provides for us a new way of life as worshipers. And though we’ve broken all of God’s good laws, we’re sinners and lawbreakers, Jesus came “Not to put an end to the law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17-20).
He lived a life in perfect obedience to the law, yet became our substitute, to die in our place. He did this for sinners like you and me, though we rejected him. He did this to save us, to forgive and love us, so we might be in covenant with him. The Last Adam is our representative. He’s mediator of the new covenant. In Christ Jesus are all the blessings of the new covenant: salvation, forgiveness of sin, indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit, a reconciled relationship to God, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, eternal life in heaven, and a new life on earth.
While the blessings are many the conditions are few. Simply, repentance of sin, and faith and trust in Jesus. Peter said it this way, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Here is the symbol of the New Covenant. It’s the Holy Spirit, it’s baptism and communion. It is the visible way we can know we’re in covenant with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children” (Romans 8:16). And in John 15:8, Jesus said, “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Another sign that we are God’s New Covenant people is the outward manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that it’s “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”
As we close I just want to say that God’s covenant to you, his treasured possession, is a reflection of his goodness, not your greatness. God loves you, pursues you, and forgives you. He is faithful to the faithless. He is good all the time. And our only response as we close in worship is repentance of sin and faith in Jesus. Do you love Jesus? Do you belong to Jesus? Have you confessed your sins to Jesus? Are you in covenant with Jesus? Only Jesus can take away your sin, make you a new person, give you a covenant relationship with God, and connect you to his covenant people. I’m going to pray and we’ll respond with worship.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
January 04, 2015