Summary: Telling people God loves you seems tired and pointless. Most of our friends and neighbors act as though that's his job. I have to respect the doubters who say it's arrogant to believe a Supreme Being would care about us. They get it. The idea that God
Series Introduction & Review:
We’ve been going to Jesus’ cross as we work our way to Easter Sunday’s celebration of his resurrection because it is the essence of our gospel message. His death is the central idea of our faith.
So far, we’ve found that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the ransom that sets us free from slavery to sin and Satan. His crucifixion conquered the forces of evil and sets us free from the list of charges against us. On the Cross, as Jesus bled and died, he received the punishment our sins deserved. When Jesus died for us he made it possible for us to become God’s children. Whether or not we can explain how it works, Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross makes us right with God.
Middle Eastern people in the Bible, from Abraham to Paul, were as acquainted with covenants as we are with weddings. The Greeks and Romans did not have covenants. In fact, when the OT was translated into Greek the first time, they had to use the Greek word for “will” or “testament” to translate the Hebrew word for covenant. Since our society was shaped by Greek and Roman cultures, we don’t know much about covenants either.
A covenant is a comprehensive agreement between two participants with clearly outlined parameters and promises; a mutual understanding between two people that voluntarily binds themselves together. Covenants could be between equal partners or between a powerful king and a weaker person.
God chose to bind himself to humanity in a covenant to express his love for us. Jesus is the go-between or mediator of the new covenant of grace.
“Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)
What is the covenant and how does the cross relate to it?
I. THIRTEEN PARTS OF THE COVENANT RITUAL (options, usually not all used at the same time)
A. The Exchange of Robes (sharing of identities)
B. The Exchange of Weapons (sharing of enemies)
C. The Exchange of Belts (sharing of assets and strengths)
D. The Animal Sacrifice (visual aid for the vows)
E. "The Walk of Death" (more intense visual aid for vows)
F. The Mark on the Body / Striking of Hands (permanence of relationship)
G. The Exchange of Names (names mixed to merge identities)
H. The Pronouncement of Blessings and Curses
I. Stone pillars or mountains used as permanent reminders of a covenant
J. The Meal (exchange of needs)
K. Testing the Covenant (exchanging first born sons)
II. GOD’S SOLUTION GREW WITH ABRAM IN THE PROMISED LAND Genesis 15 (p. 13)
A. God acts, revealing truth about himself (opposite of Satan’s lies about God, sin and humans in Genesis 3)
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward."
B. Abram responds with a question about his heir
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."
C. God makes promises – an lineal heir and innumerable descendants
Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
D. Abram believes / trusts / has faith in God
Abram believed the LORD,
E. God justifies Abram (puts him a right relationship with God and helps him live right)
And he credited it to him as righteousness.
F. Abraham requests assurance / asks for a covenant
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"
G. God gives instructions for a covenant sacrifice
So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."
H. Abram obeys / is loyal to God
Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
I. The Covenant Ritual
1. Abram in a deep sleep = passive
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. (The Holy Spirit)