Sunday, July 12, 2009

"May You Be Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi"

Anyone who has seen Rob Bell's "Dust" video has heard of this concept. This has become a very controversial video because in it Bell makes the coment, "Everyone talks about believing in God. But do we realize that God believes in us." Of course the Evangelical world jumped all over this statement (for reasons that seem silly. Why do Christians LOOK for reasons to argue?). But as I was preparing to teach my Life Group lesson this morning I started to find something interesting in the Gospels.

We are teaching through the Book of Matthew. We've just finished going over Jesus' baptism and what appears to be his immediate tempting after 40 days in the wilderness. But Matthew 4:12 indicates that after Jesus hears of John's imprisonment, He leaves for Galilee. Then after he arrives there, we are told of the call of Andrew and Peter, followed by James and John. Great story. But it is only a part of the BIG Story.

John's account of the Gospel tells that after Jesus' baptism, John declared to Andrew and "another disciple" that they should go follow Jesus. We read that they approach Him and ask where He is staying. Jesus answers, "Come and See." (Most scholars believe that the other disciple was John, the brother of James.) Andrew then goes and tells Peter that he has found the Messiah. Phillip and Nathanael are called. Jesus then heads to Galilee.

We see His first recorded miracle of turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana.

Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the Passover and cleanses the Temple for the first time.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and hears, "You must be born again."

Jesus' disciples baptize many (more than John the Baptist and his disciples, which causes a bit of controversy.)

John the Baptist declares, "He must increase, and I must decrease."

It is then that we read Matthew 4:12, where Jesus hears of John the Baptist's imprisonment and returns to Galilee.

OK. Great. Interesting. What's the point?

Peter and Andrew, James and John have not yet been called to be His disciples.

They're back working their trades. Rob Bell calls them the "not good enoughs". Jesus has begun His minsitry. Throughout this time you hear no mention by name of any disciples (following the end of John chapter 1), just a generic reference to "disciples."

We all know that Peter, James and John will become Jesus' "inner circle." But look at all that has happened before they come on board.

Stop for a moment and meditate on what this must have been like for them. Immediately following Jesus' baptism, we know that these four (if you include Andrew) desired to follow Jesus - even acknowledging that He is the Messiah. But they aren't called for what is likely months.

What was that time of waiting like?

Are you in the waiting room?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 8 The Davidic Covenant

A Man after God’s Own Heart

As we have seen, Israel fails to honor its part of the Mosaic Covenant. They repeatedly rebel against God.
Then Israel rejects Him as their ruler. They go to the Prophet Samuel and demand that he select for them a king, like the other nations have. Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin is selected, and fails horribly. God commands that the Amalekites be completely destroyed, and Saul disobeys. Because of his disobedience, God tells Samuel that Saul’s kingly line will be cut off.
God commands Samuel to go to the house of Jesse, for it is there that God would show him who the next king would be. Jesse brings his sons before Samuel and all seven are rejected by God. “Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep’.” (1 Samuel 16:11) David, a young shepherd with a heart for God is chosen.

The King is Coming
2 Samuel 7:8-17; 1 Chronicles 17:7-14

God makes a covenant with David. This covenant is one that would continue throughout history, to all of David’s descendants.
There are seven provisions to the Davidic Covenant. The first provision tells that the line of David would continue forever. We know that, to this day, at least one descendant of David lives – Jesus!
The second is that Solomon would rule after David. This is proven true because the one who is said to have ruled after David would also be the one who would build the Temple as a house for God, which is the third provision.
The fourth provision states that David’s throne would continue forever. That throne is occupied in the spiritual realm through Jesus today.
Fifth, though Solomon would sin against God and be disciplined for it, the line of David would not be cut off as Saul’s was.
Sixth, the seed of David’s sons would come, and God would establish His kingdom. This Seed is Messiah.
Finally, this kingdom established through the Seed would last forever.
This reference to the Seed takes us back thousands of years to another covenant. The Adamic Covenant is the first time we hear of this Seed. We know from that covenant that the Seed would be bruised by Satan, but would ultimately crush Satan’s head. Now we learn that the Seed would also reign as king forever.
Because of this covenant the people of Israel begin to await the Son of David. He would be the Messiah; the One who would come and defeat their enemies and establish an eternal, perfect kingdom upon the earth.
But the kingdom of Israel divides after just two generations following David. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, both rebel against God and are judged. The Divided Kingdom is conquered and the people placed in captivity. After a time they are allowed to return to the land, but they never again see a true son of David sit upon the throne in Jerusalem. Centuries pass, and the people hold on to the hope of the conquering Messiah to come.
But the people fail to remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who proclaimed God’s judgment during the Divided Kingdom period. He, among other, spoke of another covenant to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 7 The Land Covenant

Deuteronomy 29:1; 30:1-10

Israel disobeyed. History clearly shows that they did not honor the Mosaic Covenant – the Covenant of the Law. But later, after the Law was given at Mt. Horeb, God reaffirms the covenant made with Abraham. Remember, God and Abraham walked the Land of Canaan together, and God promised that the land would belong to Abraham’s descendants. Now, in Moab, just before Israel entered the Promised Land, God renewed this covenant. He told them that they would always hold the title deed to the land. But he also warned, the privilege of dwelling in it was tied to their obedience.
There are seven provisions of the Land Covenant. The first is the prophetic pronouncement that Israel would disobey and be driven from the land. Secondly, Israel would repent of their sin. The third pronouncement is that God would gather Israel together again. Fourth, Israel would once again take possession of the land promised to their fathers. Sixth, the LORD would circumcise their hearts – a clear reference to spiritual salvation. Seventh, Israel would live under the blessing of God.
While we may be quick to assume that this pattern is played out repeatedly during the time of the Judges, there is an aspect of it that never was. God promises to circumcise the people’s hearts. Salvation would come. The people would be spiritually born. Israel has yet to experience this as a nation. But we will see that the promise of this national salvation will soon be fulfilled.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 6 The Mosaic Covenant

Exodus 19:3-8

Two-million Hebrews. That is the number of people that Biblical scholars estimate left Egypt in the Exodus. Two-million slaves who had never tasted freedom before. Two-million men, women and children, with no structure; no organization; no laws. Two-million wanderers following an eighty year old shepherd, prophet, and former prince of Egypt.
I’m sure that they had heard stories of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and how they each had encountered a God who claimed that He would care for and bless them. There may have even been some faithful within the nation who spoke of an ancient promise to Abraham. “Our father Abraham’s God told him that after four hundred years of captivity, we would leave carrying out great possessions!” they would say. Then this peculiar man named Moses showed up and started doing the miraculous, preaching about how “I Am” was going to set them free.
Now they had crossed through the Red Sea on dry land, and seen the armies of Egypt utterly destroyed. They made their way to the base of a mountain called Sinai. For the first time in four centuries, they were a free people.
Along with great joy, they must have been terrified. Was this God a good God? What would He expect from them? Where were they going? What were they going to do when they got there, just tell the inhabitants of the land to give it over to them, because God said so?
There are 613 “provisions” in the Torah, or Law. These provisions were the requirements of God on Israel as a nation. The Mosaic Covenant is between God and Israel. This covenant is a conditional/bilateral covenant. In Exodus 19:5-6a, God tells Israel “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” We see the conditional, “If you…I will” present here.
Israel agreed to this covenant: “Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8) The Mosaic Covenant was, in essence, the national constitution of Israel – a Theocracy ruled by God, Himself. God, as Sovereign, had the right to set regulations over the conduct of every aspect of life within Israel. God desired to establish a people who would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” They would be set apart. They would be different from the nations of the world. This would be necessary, as God’s ultimate plan for Israel was to use it to facilitate the fulfillment of the Adamic Covenant, as well as the “blessing to the nations” aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. The promised Seed still must come.
There are several aspects of the Mosaic Covenant that we must understand. First, the Torah governed every aspect of life. There are 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands in the Torah.
Second, being a conditional covenant, the nation would be blessed for obedience and judged for disobedience.
Third, blood sacrifice was instituted. God is Holy. The people would have a daily reminder that sin required judgment. The calendar of the nation would center on this truth.
Fourth, circumcision was made a means of submission to the Law. Circumcision was originally instituted in Genesis 17, as God commanded Abraham and all males within his household to be circumcised as a symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant. But the purpose of circumcision was now changed to be a sign of submission to the Law. That is why the Apostle Paul warned the Gentiles in Galatia that submitting to circumcision required that they obey the Law entirely. (Galatians 5:3)
And finally, the Sabbath is instituted as a sign of the nation’s faith in God. All work would cease on the seventh day of each week. In a world where it was necessary to prepare food daily – remember, there is no refrigeration or pre-packaging – this would be a symbol to the nations that Israel trusted in God, and a reminder to Israel that they were to depend on their Sovereign.The nation struggled from the very beginning with honoring this covenant. Rebellion, complaining and lack of faith are common throughout Israel’s history. This lack of faith causes a delay of forty years before they are allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. After conquering it, a pattern of rebellion, judgment, repentance and deliverance continue for several hundred years. This rebellion would eventually result in the people being taken into captivity and scattered throughout the earth. Because the Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant, it would seem that this would be the end of Israel’s existence as a nation in the land of their forefathers. But a promise was made to Abraham, and that promise would be remembered.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 5 The Abrahamic Covenant

Genesis 12:1-3

We know very little about Abram before He is chosen by God. The end of Genesis 11 says his father, Terah, took Abraham and Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and their families and left Ur to go to Canaan. For a reason not spelled out in Scripture, they stop in Haran before completing their journey. It is there that Terah died. We are also told that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is unable to have any children.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about Abraham. Still, he is chosen by God. A voice from Heaven comes to him and makes a series of unbelievable promises. And Abraham’s part in the agreement is to believe that voice. That is the one characteristic about Abraham that is praised throughout the Bible. Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
This is a righteousness that is not earned in any way. Just a cursory look at the life of Abraham makes that clear. Abraham goes to Egypt and convinces Sarah to lie and say that they are brother and sister. Later, Abraham seeks to fulfill the covenant on his own by taking Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, and bearing a son through her. He lies again about his relationship with Sarah, this time to Abimelech, the king of Gerar. After God fulfills His promise to Abraham by giving him a son through Sarah, he rejects Hagar and Ishmael, his son through her. Abraham, like all of us, had his weaknesses and problems.
Yet the Bible is clear when it calls Abraham “righteous.” Abraham would go on to be the father of many nations. Even today, his name is praised by Jew, Arab and Gentile. The Abrahamic Covenant is the picture of God’s relationship with man: God promises; man believes God; and God fulfills His promise.
In reality, the Abrahamic Covenant is developed from Genesis 12 through 17. Immediately we see a difference between this covenant and the previous three we’ve looked at. In the Edenic, Adamic, and Noahic Covenants, there is a single person who exists as the forerunner of all who would live after them (Adam and Noah). But in the Abrahamic Covenant, the Earth is already populated. Because of this, the Abrahamic Covenant does not apply directly to all of humanity, but to the descendants of the one with whom the covenant is made, Abraham.
The Abrahamic Covenant is a unilateral/ unconditional covenant. Genesis 12:1-3 show promises made by God, without any condition placed upon Abraham. Five times in these verses we hear God say, “I will,” without hearing Him place the condition of “if you” on Abraham:
1. “I will show you…( a land)” (verse 1)
2. “I will make you a great nation…” (verse 2)
3. “I will bless you…” (verse 2)
4. “I will bless those who bless you…” (verse 3)
5. “I will curse those who curse you…” (verse 3)
There are three major provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant. First, we see that Abraham is promised a land for his descendants to dwell in. This promise is confirmed and developed later in another covenant with Israel – the Land Covenant. Second, the promise of the Seed is confirmed and developed further in the Davidic Covenant. And third, the blessing to the nations is confirmed and developed further in the New Covenant.
The beauty of the Abrahamic Covenant is its simplicity. A common man with common weaknesses meets the Creator and is changed forever. Abraham makes many mistakes. He even doubts God at times.
God comes to Abraham again in Genesis 15 to remind him of the promise, and Abraham questions God asking, “’LORD God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus’?” Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir’. (verses 2-3)”
But God is patient and faithful to His promise. He takes Abraham for a walk and promises that Abraham’s servant will not be his heir, but instead, one that will come from his own body (verse 4). Then he tells Abraham to count the stars, and promises that his descendants will outnumber them.
Then God tells Abraham to prepare for a covenant ceremony. In Abraham’s day it was common for two parties who were entering into covenant to take several animals and slaughter them, cutting them in half. The two parties would then pass between the pieces, signifying that if either party broke the covenant, the same fate should come to the covenant violator as did the animals. Abraham would have been familiar with this ceremony. The beauty is that God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep. During that sleep, he had a vision of God. God spoke to Abraham saying, “’Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age…’And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (verses 13-17). God passes alone through the pieces. The responsibility for the Abrahamic Covenant rests on God and God alone.
Events occurred exactly as God told Abraham they would. Abraham lived a long life. Sarah bore him a son – Isaac. The covenant was confirmed with Isaac (Genesis 26), and again with his son, Jacob (Genesis 28). A famine forced Jacob (now called Israel) and his family into Egypt. And four hundred years passed. God delivered the Children of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and they left Egypt with great wealth. A nation has been born. And a new covenant is necessary to guide it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 4 The Noahic Covenant

Humanity Destroyed

If you remember from yesterday, humanity has grown so evil, God regrets creating it (Genesis 6:6-8). So begins the story of Noah. God is sorry for creating mankind, but He’s made a covenant; and that covenant must be honored. Man has done nothing to merit survival. If the Adamic Covenant would have been a conditional/bilateral covenant, mankind would surely have been wiped out. But the unconditional/unilateral covenant God made hundreds of years earlier with Adam made it clear that a Seed would have to be born, and that Seed would destroy Satan.
A study of Noah shows that his selection was based upon a relationship with God. Genesis 6:9b – “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” Noah lived in communion with the Creator. This is how Enoch – Noah’s great-grandfather – was described as well, yet Enoch received a special distinction: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24) I remember growing up hearing my pastor say, “God invited Enoch to stay the night with Him, but since there is no night in Heaven, he still hasn’t returned.”
I can imagine Noah sitting on his grandfather, Methuselah’s lap listening to him as he tells the story of Enoch, and how he walked in intimacy with God, and then suddenly disappeared. Noah must have desired that special closeness and communion with God for himself.
God chooses to begin anew with Noah. He commands Noah to build an ark and prepare for a worldwide flood. Noah obeys, in spite of the persecution, ridicule and absurdity of it all. And God floods the Earth, just as He said He would. Noah and his family are spared, and after months of waiting, the ark comes to rest on the Mountains of Ararat. Finally, man once again sets foot upon dry land.

A Promise in the Sky

Genesis 8:21b-9:17

In the Noahic Covenant, Noah acts as the representative of mankind, just as Adam did in the Edenic and Adamic Covenants. Thus, the Noahic Covenant is a covenant with all humanity.
First, God commands Noah to repopulate the Earth. Some historians have suggested that the Great Flood was localized rather than worldwide, but the command to “be fruitful and multiply” shows that this cannot be the case. The only humanity remaining was on the ark – Noah and his wife, and their sons Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives.
The second provision was that man was to now rule over the animal kingdom, and all animals would now live in fear of man. We will see in the next provision why this is important.
The third provision of the Noahic Covenant is the allowance to eat flesh from the animal kingdom. Remember, up until this time, man’s diet was still vegetarian. Man would now be allowed to eat meat. As a result, God places within the animal kingdom a fear of man that would be an instinct for self preservation.
Fourth, man is restricted from eating or drinking blood. Blood is the symbol of life. This provision was to remind man of this.
The fifth provision was capital punishment. Up until this time, there is no record of a life-for-life policy among mankind.
Sixth, God promises man that He will never again destroy the Earth with flood. This is the only part of the Noahic Covenant that is related to God, but there is no stipulation on it. God never says that He would spare the Earth from flood only if man honors the above provisions. God places the requirement for the Noahic Covenant on Himself. There is no “if you…I will” aspect to it. To seal this covenant, God places the rainbow in the sky, as a reminder to Himself that He is bound to this covenant. Man benefits from seeing the sign of the rainbow, but God says in Genesis 9:15 that when He sees the rainbow: “…I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh…”
Once again, mankind is given fresh start. And, again, man will fall terribly short. Noah himself becomes drunk, and passes out in his tent, naked. One of his sons, Ham, mocks his nakedness and is cursed. Mankind grows into a great people again, but fails to spread over the whole Earth, as commanded. Instead, they become prideful and actually conceive a plan to build a tower that reaches into Heaven. This sounds strangely similar to the original rebellion of Lucifer: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…” (Isaiah 14:12-13a).
God does not allow this pride and rebellion to go unpunished. Genesis 11:9 says that God, “…confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
The Earth is once again covered with a humanity that seeks to serve its own fleshly desires. But God is faithful. He seeks out a man through whom He can raise up a special people who would worship and serve Him. He chooses a shepherd from Ur.

Abraham is selected and we see three of the most important verse in all of Scripture.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Faithfullness of God in His Covenants With Man - Part 3 The Adamic Covenant

Covenant of Hope

Genesis 3:14-19

At the point of utter despair and hopelessness, God establishes as new covenant – the Adamic Covenant. This covenant would again be made with Adam as the representative head of all mankind. But unlike the Edenic Covenant, which was conditional and bilateral, the Adamic Covenant is unilateral, made solely by God, and He would be the One to fulfill it. The Adamic Covenant opens with a pronouncement on the serpent. There are two aspects to this pronouncement. The first aspect is related to the animal-serpent. We know that the rebellious, fallen angel Lucifer was the ultimate source of the temptation of Eve, but the vessel used to tempt her was cursed first. We see that the serpent must have walked uprightly before the Fall, because the it would now be forced to crawl on its belly. It would also be hated and feared by mankind from that point forward. The second aspect of the pronouncement on the serpent is related to Lucifer, himself. And herein lays the hope of the Adamic Covenant. First, we see hatred between Lucifer and Eve that would continue throughout the history of mankind. It only takes a moment to look at the way that women have been treated over the centuries to see this illustrated. We also see a veiled prophecy of the virgin birth illustrated here. Simple biology teaches that the man brings the seed to the conception process, but here we see God make reference to the Seed of the woman - the only time this occurs is in the birth of Jesus. And the promise of the Adamic Covenant is that, although Lucifer would bruise the heel of the Seed, the Seed would ultimately crush Lucifer’s head. Before we look at the pronouncements of the Adamic Covenant upon Adam and Eve, we have to put ourselves in their place. At this point they have no hope; no future. We know that the serpent is Lucifer. We know that the Seed is Jesus. We know that Lucifer would “bruise His heel” at the Crucifixion. We know that Jesus would crush Lucifer’s head at the Resurrection and, ultimately, after the final rebellion of Revelation 20. Adam and Eve do not. All Adam and Eve know is that their rebellion has ruined Paradise. They know that the intimacy with God that they were created for has been broken. They know, for the first time, what good and evil are. But these words of God offer a glimmer of light. If there is enmity between the woman and the serpent, and between their seeds, than that must mean that humanity has a future? But that future would be difficult. For the woman, childbirth and conception would be hard, and she would be ruled by men. For the man, work would now be difficult and, at times, seem to be fruitless. And both would face physical death, just as they were now spiritually dead. They are expelled from the Garden, and a cherub with a flaming sword cuts off their ability to partake of the Tree of Life in the center. But not until after God has given them a covering for the manifestation of their guilt. Genesis 3:21 says, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. For the very first time, God slaughters an animal - maybe even a lamb - and uses that death to cover man’s guilt. It doesn’t take long for the reality of spiritual death to sink in. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy, and the downward cycle continues. Just a few hundred years pass before humanity has become so evil that God regrets creating it: Genesis 6:6-8 – “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But even as the Creator of the Universe makes plans to wipe out humanity, His grace, mercy and faithfulness to the Covenant made with Adam, shine through: Genesis 6:8 – “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”

TomorrowA look at the Noahic Covenant - God's blueprint for the conduct of the Gentile world.