Sermon for August 9, 2009

Exodus 24:3-11

 

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. (Romans 4:3)

 

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 life too.

 

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 do.”  

 

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.”  John 3:16

 

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 agreement.

 

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.