Sermon for August 9, 2009
There are two kinds of covenants. You would have to say that is true with all kinds
of agreements and covenants made. Essentially there are only two kinds.
There is the covenant with the arrow that goes one way and there is the covenant
with the arrow going both ways. There is the covenant where the one party does everything
and the other simply gets the good; there is the covenant where in order for the
one side to be held accountable, the other side must do its good. There is a bilateral
covenant (two sided, two-arrowed); there is a unilateral covenant (one sided, one-arrowed).
In the reading before us today, both kinds of covenants are represented and shown.
God is with his people at Mount Sinai. He is establishing and sustaining his covenant
which we call the Sinaitic Covenant. That covenant is summed up by God saying, “You
keep these commandments and I will bless you; you fail to keep these commandments
and I will curse you.” In the reading it says, “When Moses went and told the people
all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord
has said we will do.” This is the two sided, two-arrowed covenant between God and
his people. This is the Sinaitic covenant.
The other covenant is God’s covenant of grace. This is the covenant we hear God
make with Adam and Eve after they sinned. In Genesis 3:15 God promised them a Savior
he would supply…and he alone. They could not pay. They did not deserve it. It
was entirely his doing. And Abraham too. He heard God state this wonderful one-arrowed
covenant when God said to him, “I am going to be with you and bless you and give
you a Savior. This Savior is coming in a way you can’t understand. I am going to
wait until you are a hundred years old so that you know that this is a one-arrowed
agreement. God showed Abraham the stars that he had created and said the descendants
would be like those stars in number. God came again and again with his promise of
a Savior. He set the agenda. He stated the promises. He made the promises happen
“in due time.” He asked nothing but faith and trust in the words he spoke. Abraham’s
responsibility was to believe God. That was all he contributed to this one-arrowed
covenant of God’s grace. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
In the two sided agreement and covenant we hear the people saying, “Everything the
Lord has said, we will do.” We hear them saying it twice (vs. 3 and 7). We hear
the people---God’s people---saying, “We will obey.” In the other covenant of God
we see the blood. We see that blood which represented a taken life given on their
behalf sprinkled on their altar and on them. Someone else’s life---something outside
of their ownership---supplied life for them.
So there you have it: God’s covenant. In the Old Testament it was these two covenants.
Let’s explore and understand God’s covenant for us today on the basis of this wonderful
account of Exodus 24…and it is wonderful! This is the God who made everything and
who has all power coming to each of us with his agreement.
God’s Covenant with Us…
1. Something to do with God’s law
2. Something to do with the blood
3. Something to do with the meal
1. Something to do with God’s law
The people wanted to do something. They recognized something good here. They were
inspired to say something...and we hear them saying it. When Moses went and told
the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything
the Lord has said we will do.” And they said this again in verse 7 of this short
section of words before us this morning.
Jesus comes to us today and every day and says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
He invites us to do something here. We recognize that it is a good thing. This
is the God of gods and Lord of lords and he is coming to us because he loved us so.
There is Jesus. Our Father in heaven has given us Jesus to be our Savior. That
fact stands by itself in his wonderful covenant of grace, the one-arrowed covenant.
We just believe it like Abraham did…and it was credited to him as righteousness.
And if you read there in Romans 4 you see that God is talking about his one sided
covenant with Abraham because we read, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works,
he had something to boast about---but not before God.” So it wasn’t by Abraham’s
great and good works that God loved him and showed him mercy and brought the little
baby boy Isaac into his life…and later brought the little baby boy Jesus into his
But Jesus also does still say, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” How could
we not love Jesus? He has died for us! He loved us…so! He loved us yesterday…so.
He loves us today…so. He promises to love us all our lives…so! We love Jesus!
We love him because of who he is and what he has done. Jesus says, “If you love
me, keep my commandments” and we say, “Sure we will. We will keep these commandments
because we too love you so. We are going to love our neighbors as ourselves. You
tell us to do that. We are going to forgive everyone his trespasses against us because
you tell us to do that. We are going to be cheerful and content. We are going to
give of our best and first to you. We are going to pray for each other. We are
going to live thankful and happy lives. We are going to do all these things.
You have to say the same things that the children of Israel said. If you have a
pulse, if you have a brainwave, if you have one drop of blood that can be moved by
someone else’s sacrifice for you…you have to say it too. You have to endorse the
two sided and two-arrowed agreement. Jesus says to you, “If you love me, keep my
commandments.” And we say, “Okay! Right! That’s what I’m going to do!” But friends,
in this two sided agreement and covenant (on our side!) there is an awful word. That
word is the word “recalcitrant.” It means to kick back. It is a word associated
with a stubborn and mean spirited donkey. It means what the Lord said and Moses
himself had to say in his final swan song, “Jeshurun (my little upright one) grew
fat and kicked.” Deuteronomy 32:15. That’s what happens on our side of the two-sided
agreement with God. We have this nature. It kicks and struggles and says no to
God. It goes back on our agreement to keep all God’s commandments. It’s part of
our nature. It is what we are, and even after our God gives us his Promise and his
Son and even after we are reborn and reformed, there’s that nature too…kicking against
what God says and spoiling our side of the two sided agreement.
Do you hear how we too say exactly what the children of Israel said from their mountain.
We say it from our mountain. We say it here today. The words echo here each Sunday.
We are going to live like Christians. We want to! We take seriously what our Savior
says, “If you love me keep my commandments.” But our old nature kicks and we find
ourselves nodding our heads in agreement when the Apostle Paul says, “So I find this
law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner
being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my
body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of
sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from
this body of death?” Romans 7:21-23 Our Sunday resolves and our spiritual resolves
to do everything Jesus wants us to do when he says, “If you love me, keep my commandments”
are quickly broken to smithereens.
There is a unilateral and a bilateral agreement. There is the one sided covenant
and the two sided one. There is the one with the arrow going one way…from God to
us and the one going both ways…between us and God. Thank God for both! But especially
thank God for the agreement with the blood in it. Thank him that at Sinai we don’t
have to just listen to the people saying, “Everything the Lord has said, we will
2. Something to do with the blood
This one-sided agreement…one direction agreement…is the one that has the blood in
it. This is the one that saves us. We are not saved because of the two-sided agreement.
This one-sided and one-arrowed agreement is the one with the life in it. This is
the one that answers the age-old question of God, “What will a man give in exchange
for his soul?” The answer to that question is…”Nothing.” There is nothing that
we would give in exchange for our soul because we don’t have any currency that is
worth that much. We don’t make life. Even the life in our bull or our lamb or our
ram is not something we make…not something we are capable of making. Life is something
that is precious beyond our ability to even comprehend it. All we can do is sacrifice
someone else’s life to preserve ours. That’s what kings did. That’s what a heart
donor does. That’s finally what God does too. And he does it. He sacrificed his
Son’s life for yours. That was his agreement. That is what he said with that most
famous and comforting of passages, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one
and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
The people felt the blood spatter and splatter their clothing. “Moses then took
the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant
that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’” And the blood
was good even though it was blood. In fact, the blood was good because it was blood.
The blood showed that life had been given for life. It still does. It shows us
that this morning from the altar.
The blood is good. The blood was God’s way to save us. He gave his blood for us.
It is on us. It is on our altars this morning. (In a special way it is on our
altar this morning in the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper.)
And the blood lets us stand in God’s presence too. This blood of Jesus lets us approach
the otherwise inapproachable God. This blood tears the covering curtain that separates
us from our Father in heaven. This is the one arrowed agreement. God gave his life
for us so that we can stand before him in “righteousness and innocence.” God entered
this agreement so that we can eat and drink with him and he won’t lay a hand on us
either…other than put his hand of blessing there.
But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw
God, and they ate and drank. It was because of the blood shed in this one-arrowed
3. Something to do with the meal
There is also something to do with a meal that is connected to the great Covenant
Making God and his covenant.
And they ate and drank.
This eating and drinking together with each other and with God is in the covenant.
It wasn’t because of the two-arrowed covenant that God’s people were invited into
the presence of God to eat and drink. It was because of the blood on their garments
that they got there. It wasn’t because of the righteousness of the disciples that
Jesus took them into that upper room and gave them food for their souls to eat and
drink. It was because of the one-sided covenant of grace that Jesus did it. And
when he sat there eating and drinking with the disciples, he spoke of another meal.
“For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom
of God comes.”
The words before us in Exodus 24 are a prophecy of the covenant fulfilled in Revelation
with the marriage supper of the Lamb: “But God did not raise his hand against these
leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” And that is exactly
what will happen with us too. This is the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For
the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen,
bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts
of the saints.)” Revelation 19:7,8 Notice that even with the clothing here mentioned
that makes the people worthy to eat with the Lamb, it is the Lamb who provides the
wedding garments. He tailors the garments. He fits them to us. He gives them to
us…freely. This is for all those who have washed their robes in the blood of the
Lamb…all those of the one-arrowed covenant of God!
This red arrow from God’s life to yours and from God’s heart to yours is your life
and joy! Amen.