Summary: While we wait for Jesus to return, our task is to cooperate with God in his transforming work within us, to listen and obey. And it’s to continue to share the gospel with those around us; to share the glory of God with them.
One of the things I love about travel is going to places that have a history behind them. To visit Rome, to see the Coliseum or the Roman Forum, to walk on paving stones that are 2000 years old, that maybe even Paul walked on when he was brought before Caesar. Last year I preached in a church that dated back to the 13th century. They had a stone coffin in their crypt that dated back to the time of the crusades. We visited the Scottish/English border and saw the remains of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s one of the things we miss out on here in Australia, unless you visit some ancient Aboriginal cultural sites. So we tend not to have a feel for being part of ancient history in our daily life, do we?
Yet, I wonder if you’ve reflected over the past few weeks about just what an amazing thing we’ve been brought into as Christians. We’re part of a history that goes back thousands of years. We’re part of a community built around Jesus Christ the Son of God. But it’s just too easy to read the Bible, to hear someone like me or Roy or Garrett talking about it and let it float over your head as just another piece of interesting information.
So let me remind you of some of the amazing things we’ve read about over the last few months along with some that have been there but we’ve skimmed over them.
Abraham was just an ordinary man like any of us. He and Sarah understood disappointment, infertility, perhaps even despair. But God chose to speak to him, to call him to follow him, to become the father of a great nation, against all hope, against all human wisdom. And as the years passed, the promise became a reality. Israel became a great nation.
Moses was raised as an orphan. He was rejected by his own people, hunted out of Egypt by the king. Yet God came to him and spoke out of a burning bush, revealing a little of his glory as Moses watched and the bush remained intact.
God led the people out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of flame by night. He provided them with food to eat. He went before them so they defeated all their enemies.
But the greatest thing he did was to reveal to them how they should live. He called Moses to go up Mt Sinai where he appeared to him and gave him laws to govern their life together. And when Moses came down from appearing before God do you remember how he looked? His face glowed so brightly that the people couldn’t look at him. The glory of God remained, reflected in his face, like the hands on one of those old fashioned alarm clocks when you first turn the lights out. Perhaps it was a sign of God’s Spirit present within him.
David was just a young kid, a shepherd boy, when God picked him out as someone after his own heart, to be the new king of Israel. But what was it that made all the difference, that turned David into a great king? It wasn’t the state of his heart. It didn’t take long to discover that his heart was as flawed as everyone else’s. No, it was the fact that God poured his Spirit into him. God went with him, enabling and empowering him at every step, giving him victory after victory. The state of his heart mattered because he needed to listen and obey, but it was God’s Spirit working within him that brought him all his success.
Similarly Solomon, the king whose wisdom became legendary, became wise because he asked God for wisdom. God’s Spirit gave him the wisdom he needed to rule so well.
Then a few weeks ago Roy brought us the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones. That story of a once great army, now dead, now just dry bones. But the bones begin to shift. There’s a rattling noise as they come back together, flesh, muscle, sinews, form over them. Ezekiel cries out to the four winds and the breath of God comes and fills the bodies so they live again. And a mighty army stands ready to fight another battle. And what is it that’s done it? The Spirit of God.
But of course that’s just a vision; a dream that Ezekiel has had. Those Bible characters we’ve talked about were just individuals, lone operators in the midst of a people who didn’t have the first idea of how to obey God, let alone the strength to actually do it consistently.
Yet, having said that, these were God’s people, God’s nation, called out, in fact created by God, to show the surrounding nations the glory of God. They were called to demonstrate by their lives the transforming power of God and the blessings that come from being God’s people, living under God’s law, in God’s place.