Summary: A sermon on how the church is reflected in the OT covenants (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, Rediscovering Community, chapter one- Covenant Graced)
Daniel Overdorf- I visited a friend in the hospital. He had neared the end of an extended battle with cancer. The chemotherapy had taken most of his ability to think. I read some Scripture passages to him about God’s promises, unsure if he even heard me, then I prayed. As I turned to leave the room, he mumbled, “How do I know He’ll keep His Word?” After overcoming my amazement, I gathered my thoughts and said, “He guaranteed it with a cross and a covenant.”
We have many contracts mainly business dealings but a contract with God? The biblical term is covenant but basic concepts of a contract apply.
A discussion of the church community begins with a recognition of the covenant in which we participate. At the most basic level, a covenant is “an agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other.” Now the covenant we have in God has far greater significance that this and much more modifications.
Thesis: Let’s start by talking about the covenant with Abraham and then Moses
A Covenant Established
The OT roots of the NT church
Church is NT? Yes, but we cannot understand the NT church without exploring its OT roots.
While the church is a NT institution, the community of God’s people stretches far further back into history. In fact, God recognizes man’s need for community as early as Eden: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”” Genesis 2:18, NIV.
God saved not only Noah in ark, but also Noah’s family; and after God released them from the ark he set the rainbow in the sky as “““my covenant with you and with your descendants after you” Genesis 9:9, NIV. From the beginning, God desired a people who would follow Him.
God’s Covenant with Abraham
God set the wheels in motion for this community with the covenant He offered Abraham, in which God promised: ““I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”” Genesis 12:2, 3
God further defined this covenant in Genesis 15 and 17.
Both sides of the covenant involve faithfulness- God’s faithfulness to Abraham and his descendants, and Abraham’s and his descendants’ faithfulness to God. This fact will remain true throughout the remainder of the Bible and throughout the covenant’s various modifications and additions, such as the covenants to Moses and David. Even in the new covenant through Christ, the heart of the covenant remains unchanged: God offer faithfulness to His people, and demands faithfulness from His people.
Important to understand that God initiated the covenant as an act of grace. Though man shares a covenant with God, this does not imply that man shares equal status with God. God, as the superior, approached Abraham, the inferior, as an expression of love and compassion- as an expression of grace. While we see in the Bible covenants between equal parties, the covenant with God is not in that category. The covenant between God and His people better reflects the ancient Near East covenants most noticeably between Hittite kings and their vassals. Hittite king was the superior and as an act of grace he offered a covenant with his inferiors. God’s offer of the covenant is not grounded in anything other than God’s own resolve to be in a relationship with people.
Mankind’s obedience to the covenant grows from our gratitude for the grace God extended. Believers express gratitude for grace by honoring the stipulations set forth in the covenant. In grace God offers us a covenant; in gratitude we obey its stipulations.
A Covenant Emerging
Marriage is a growing experience. Marriage provides a magnifying glass that displays where we need to grow spiritually, and a laboratory in which this growth can take place.
As we go from Abraham to Moses, a similar concept appears. In Moses’ day, circumstances forced God’s people to live in close community, an atmosphere through which God attempted to lead them into significant growth as His covenant people.
Community in the Mosaic covenant
Many years after Abraham, Moses served as God’s mouthpiece for an expansion of covenant. In a sense, the Mosaic covenant modified the covenant to Abraham. This reaffirmed, revalidated, and expanded original promises and stipulations to covenant of Abraham.
The Mosaic covenant offered the first concrete expression of God’s call for His followers to live, worship, and relate to one another as a community. “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.’”” Exodus 19:5, 6.