Sunday, March 6, 2022

His Story in Response to Our Sin

Wow. Our ancestors denied God’s very nature and sought to control natural forces by their own practices, which led to rampant immortality and further alienation from God.

Behold His covenant, which is drawn deeply from the well of God’s love and presented in various ways and to various people over time, until its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God sought to bridge the gap. He took the initiative. He reached out to us.

What is a “covenant”? The parallel words are “word,” “statute,” “precepts,” “testimony,” “law,” and “lovingkindness.” Vine’s puts it well: “These words emphasize the authority and grace of God in making and keeping the ‘covenant,’ and the specific responsibility of man under the covenant.” (51)

Did you catch that? It’s not just a bunch of rules and regulations designed to put us in a tiny box. His lovingkindness towards us shows us what constitutes righteousness and blessed living. Sin is actually what puts us into a box. He sets us free to be who we are in Him as we follow the very best instructions for our lives.

God reaches out to us and asks us to “enter into” His covenant with Him: 

That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. (Deut. 29:12)

He asks us to “join” Him: 

They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. (Jer. 50:5) (Vine’s 51)

God initiates and we enter in, agreeing to obey what He asks of us:

Now Yahweh said to Abram, 'Leave your country, and your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.' (Gen. 12:1-3 WEB)

Notice what Abraham, who is to be the father of the Jewish nation, the Messiah and ultimately us, does:

So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Gen. 12:4 WEB)

God, speaking through another leader, Moses, tells the people that they are expected to do what the His commandments stipulate:

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that you may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you. (Deut. 4:1-2 WEB)

Ultimately, the foundation of His covenant is founded on love and loyalty between God and His chosen ones: 

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut. 6:5)

Why? He is reaching out to us to bridge the gap between our sinful state and His holiness: “In the ‘covenant,’ man’s response contributes to covenant fulfillment; yet man’s action is not causative. God’s grace always goes before and produces man’s response.” (Vine’s 51)

In other words, when we, in our sinful thinking, try to please God, we degenerate into what Romans 1 describes. We listen to our own logic, grow dark in our thinking and then allow for the flesh to take over.  When God reaches out to us, in grace in and love, He clearly outlines what He expects of us. He will bless us if we obey and will punish us if we transgress. The consequences of obedience and disobedience are crystal clear.

Each time, as God unfolds His covenant to humanity, He seals the deal with a visible sign—a reminder to both parties of His covenant. It is the moment when God’s love intersects with a fallen humanity.

Let’s take a tour of His unfolding covenant throughout history. It really is His Story.

His covenant was set into motion in the Garden of Eden. God wanted to commune with our first parents. In order to do so, He stated to Adam:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen. 2:15-17)

The instructions are straightforward on what Adam and Eve are to do in order to continue their fellowship with God. If man obeyed, he would have the Garden in all its glory: meeting his needs and providing a place to walk and talk with God. If man disobeyed, the consequences were clearly stated.

Then came Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s explicit instructions. The penalty, clearly stated was enacted: expulsion and death.

Animals were killed to provide the clothes to cover Adam and Eve. What must they have thought as these animals looked up in expectation (fear of humans came after the Flood) and suddenly, they were dead. Adam and Eve had never seen death, and there it was—staring at them from lifeless eyes.

As God removed the pelts, the blood must have made Adam and Eve ill.  God places the pelts upon them. They must have been overwhelmed. These innocent animals, frolicking only a few moments before, are now dead for no other reason than Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey.  Their sin is now “atoned” for; their sin is covered, “Atonement” means a covering. 

But what a price that was paid.

They then leave the Garden with God’s angry words still ringing in their ears. But, even in God’s wrath, He sends them away with a promise of a future Redeemer, Who would take back this earth and free His enslaved children. Despite our first parents failing to uphold their part of His covenant, God didn’t want them to live in their fallen state forever:

Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever...” Therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:22-24 WEB)

The ground would produce food to sustain humankind. But fellowship with God, face to face, was barred. It wasn’t that they just left the Garden; our first parents left God’s presence. Sin then goes on a rampage on earth as Adam’s children multiply. Could God sweep the whole planet out of existence because of humanity’s failure to uphold His covenant? Yes.

But He doesn’t.  He sees one man’s heart and calls him.

God commands Noah to build an ark and rescue his family from His coming wrath. God is acting as a Righteous Judge Who will pass sentence on an increasingly sinful world:

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen. 6:5-8 WEB)

So, in Genesis 9:8-17, God after having passed sentence, sets up His covenant with Noah. Noah is to replenish the earth with his children; all life will be food for him (along with the animals’ fear of man); meat for food is not to have blood in it; and because each person is made in God’s image, if that life is taken, the offender’s life will demanded for the redress of that loss.

Now, God’s part: He will never destroy life or the earth again with a flood. The sign of the His covenant will be the rainbow after the rain.

But God is not done providing, because man is not done sinning. Let’s go to the next phase of the covenant: the call of Abraham.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...