1. The Bible is a record of the history of the cosmos. Specifically, the Bible explains how God relates to us in the midst of the flow of history from the creation of "the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1-2 ) to the creation of "a new heaven and a new earth" ( Revelation 21-22 ). God's relationship with His people is summarized in Leviticus 26:12: "I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people."
2. God's relationship to mankind is described in the Bible as a c __ __ __ __ __ __ __, and the Bible's record of the history of the cosmos flows through a series of covenants.
a. "Covenants in Scripture are solemn agreements, negotiated or unilaterally imposed, that bind the parties to each other in permanent defined relationships, with specific promises, claims, and obligations on both sides." - "God's Covenant of Grace," at Genesis 12:1-3 in the New Geneva Study Bible
b. In a covenant relationship both parties assume responsibilities and enjoy benefits. In His covenant relationship with His people, God has taken upon Himself the responsibility to do everything necessary for our salvation, our deliverance from sin. In so doing it was necessary that God the Son become incarnate, live a perfect life of righteousness under the Law He Himself had established, die on the cross for the sins of His people, and be raised from the dead for our justification. We as God's people enjoy all the benefits of this great salvation: we are justified ("called righteous" ), adopted, made holy, and will be made at last perfectly glorious in order to live forever with Him.
As God's servants in this covenant relationship we also assume responsibilities.
(1) We are required to t __ __ __ __ God to keep His part of the covenant.
(2) We are required to o __ __ __ His commands -- but to do so out of l __ __ __ and gratitude for the benefits He provides for us.
God, too, enjoys benefits in this relationship. He gains g __ __ __ __ through our lives of service and worship.
3. It is essential that we understand our covenant relationship with God. The next section of the Epistle to the Hebrews will describe in much detail the final form of God's covenant relationship with His people: the N __ __ Covenant -- the one sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ. This morning we begin with a look back at the Old Covenant -- the one which pointed the way to the New Covenant -- into which God entered with A __ __ __ __ __ __, the spiritual patriarch of all the people of God.
B. TEXT: Hebrews 6:13 - 7:25
1. In 6:12-20 the writer of Hebrews declares the basis of the believer's h __ __ __ for the future to be the certainty of God's promise to us.
a. God guaranteed His part of His covenant agreement with Abraham by means of two "immutable" ( "unchangeable" ) things:
(1) His p __ __ __ __ __ __ and
(2) His o __ __ __.
b. The details of this profound moment in history are contained in Genesis 15:1-21.
(1) This incident occurs just after Abraham's meeting the mysterious Melchizedek, about whom much is written in the second part of today's text passage.
(2) God re-states His original promise to Abraham, and Abraham asks the question every believer asks of Him: "How can I know for sure?" Yes, like all of us, Abraham's faith (certified by God Himself in 15:6) was mixed with an element of d __ __ __ __. He trusted God, but still he yearned to be sure that God would do what He said He would do.
(3) God responds by, incredibly, swearing a maledictory oath against Himself! He does so through a solemn ceremony in which a theophany ( "a visible manifestation of the invisible God" ) in the form of a "smoking o __ __ __" and a "burning t __ __ __ __" passed between the pieces of animal sacrifices which had been torn in half.
"Here God says to Abraham in graphic terms, "Here's how you can know for sure -- I will swear a solemn oath to you. If I do not keep my promise to you may I be torn in two even as these animals have been torn asunder." God swears by Himself, by His solemn divine nature. He is saying that if He doesn't keep His word that curse will come upon Himself. His immutable nature will suffer mutation. His indivisible being will be divided. The light of His own countenance will be shrouded in darkness. God puts His own deity on the line to give Abraham assurance." - R.C. Sproul: "The End of All Dispute" in the August, 1995 issue of Tabletalk magazine