If you read Genesis 12:1-7 too quickly then you have just passed over God’s rescue plan for His fallen creation. It all begins with God calling one man, Abram, who responds with trust and the plan is completed by God sending His own son who lives and dies wholly trusting the father. Call, faith and mission. These are the concepts that God will use to redeem His fallen world.
Election is the theological word for God’s call to covenant (which we will get to shortly) and faith (or trust and loyalty) is the only proper response. Mercifully, righteousness (or right standing before the throne) is then credited to that person by God.
Let’s step back for a minute. If you would have been living at the time God called Abram (who later became Abraham) you would bet that God had turned His back on creation. Evil was everywhere. There seemed to be no hope. Yet, quietly, God had implemented His plan to rescue us all. He calls Abraham, who responds in faith (which itself is a gift from God. See Eph. 2:8). They then covenant together (see Gen. 15:1-21).
What is “covenant “? Covenant is a kind of ancient contract that it is as old as writing itself. The Hebrew verb (karat) means “to cut.” In the ancient near east covenants were sealed by cutting animals in half followed by the two parties walked between them. Weird, huh? The tacit announcement is “let it be done to me as has been done to this beast if I fail to keep my pledge of covenant loyalty.” But in the way God uses it, the ceremony becomes a stark reminder of the gravity of the purpose the parties were undertaking (See Exod. 24:1-8). After all, as we will see, it was a contract between two parties to defeat evil and death.
Covenants were often used to make military alliances and once undertaken, to covenant with another was considered treason. This is not unimportant, then or now.
The stronger party often recounted the past deeds performed on behalf of the weaker party as grounds for present obedience. Thus, covenant assumes gratitude on the part of the weaker party. Moreover, these past deeds and stipulations of the covenant were read aloud often to remind the parties (esp. the weaker party). You may want to remember that the next time you take the Lord’s Supper.
Now there are all kinds of covenants in the Bible. Covenants between God and Abraham, God and Noah, God and David, etc. but the most notable is the one between God and Israel.
If you read Exodus 24:1-8 you will see the ceremony that sealed the covenant between the two. The stipulations? As Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it, “Israel was expected to live differently in a world of power” God takes a group of slaves and covenants with them to become a nation of priests who are to bless the whole world. Again, as Brueggemann puts it, God takes “people without hope or the possibility of a future and transforms them into an instrument meant to rescue the world.”
For example, consider what Israel was to do for widows, orphans and foreigners. (Deut. 10:17-19; cf. Deut. 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:19-21; 26:12-15; Prov. 14:31; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6; 22:3; and Zech. 7:10). This is the healing and reconcilation that God brings via covenant with His chosen people.
So, in Exodus 24:1-8 Israel agrees to the covenant but breaks it. Yet, in Jer. 31:31-34 God promises to make a new covenant with His people, a covenant that they will not break…how? I mean they are sinners. We are sinners. We are all selfish people who inherited a sinful nature from Adam and Eve. How can God guarantee that this covenant will be perfectly fulfilled and rescue creation? God will fulfill it Himself.
Jesus is God in the flesh. He comes and lives out the story of Israel or, in other words, he fulfills the stipulations of the law, defeats evil and blesses the nations himself. He then graciously invites us into the fight and sends the Holy Spirit to transform us into His image in order to complete the plan. Brilliant.
Think about it. Israel is called, passes through the waters of the Red Sea, is tempted in the wilderness and is then charged with defeating evil (i.e., the Canaanites in the Promised Land) and blessing the nations. What does Jesus do? He is baptized, tempted in the wilderness, defeats evil (both through miracles and then the cross) and then blesses the nations. Preachers often talk as though Israel was plan A and Jesus was plan B. Nope. The plan was perfect but people could not complete it, which is what the story of Israel teaches us, only God can and He did. Jesus now invites us to join in.
How? Jesus comes and lives out the story of Israel and, in turn, we are to live out the story of Jesus.
Jesus announces and brings the Kingdom of God (or heaven), which is the direct rule of God. It is the redemption of all creation and this is accomplished by and through one repentant sinner at a time who dedicates himself or herself to love God with all of his or her heart, mind and soul and to love each other as much as they love themselves. And this is achieved solely by the work of God’s spirit within you.
Here at Revolution, we are committed to proclaiming the truths of the Kingdom and to living out the story of Jesus by going to the least among us, feeding them, clothing them and loving them, all in the name of King Jesus.
This is why we are now collecting cans to help fill the local food pantries that have fallen on hard times and this is why we will be going in teams over the next few Friday nights to help the Salvation Army feed the area homeless (Friday, downtown Portsmouth from 5:30-7:30. Let us know via email if you want to join in as we have a few spots open).
Believe it or not, if you are a Christian, then you have been chosen from before the beginning of time itself to covenant with God to fight for and rescue creation from the darkness. See Matt. 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
Things may look bleak right now whether in the world at large or in your life but God’s rescue plan has been enacted and, in the end, love wins.