Story 5 10/09/16–Highland—Meute
The Story: “New Commands and a New Covenant”
The Story, Chapter 5
Pearl: God wants to be in relationship with his people.
Function: To appreciate that the “upper story” purposes of the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the Sacrificial System, was so that God could be with his people in community.
Previously in The Story we learned about the many plagues that God sent upon Egypt in order to persuade the Pharaoh to let the Israelite people leave Egypt culminating in the final and most devastating plague of the death of the first-born in every family in Egypt. The only way that Israelite families were spared was that they had the blood of the sacrificial lamb spread on the doorposts of their homes. The Passover is still today remembered by modern Jews in one of their holiest days—Yom Kippur. The Passover lead to the great Exodus from Egypt of God’s people, the Jews, who are the spiritual ancestors of followers of Jesus the Christ. God’s “deliverance” of his people is not forgotten by the Jewish people.
Today The Story continues with God’s people moving on into the wilderness to follow their leader Moses who is the intermediary between God and the people. And by the way, what is our Lord Jesus but a mediator; the New Testament calls him our great High Priest.
1. Memory is so vital to Judeo-Christian people because as we see from the very beginning, God’s people had short memories!
a. When I drive children to school on the school bus, which I’ve done for nine years, I frequently must remind them to turn around and to sit down. I repeat myself so often that, just to amuse myself, I try to think of creative ways to say the same thing to the kids. I like to say, “Michael, do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around.” “Sarah, your face is so hairy that it looks like the back of your head.” Children have very short memories.
b. God’s people had been spared death through the Passover. They had escaped from Egypt with great plunder. They were delivered from the pursuing Egyptian army through the parting of the waters in the Red Sea. God traveled visibly with them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
i. Incidentally, we do get our biblical stories mixed up. A group of middle-school children were learning about Lot during Sunday school. The teacher asked the students why Lot’s wife was in so much trouble. One boy answered, “It’s because she was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.”
c. In the wilderness when they were hungry and complained, God provided manna and quail on the ground. All they had to do was go out and pick up what they needed for their families. When they complained that they were thirsty God provided water by making a pristine stream issue forth from a rock.
i. God did all of this for them but when Moses was gone for a long time on the mountain with God what did the people do? They forgot their God! They made a new god—a golden calf and they worshipped it. They forgot their true God!
2. I want the children on my bus to be happy and safe as they ride. I want to have a good relationship with them—driver with rider. Sometimes to get the attention of the children I get up out of my seat and walk back to talk to them face to face, even sometimes sitting down in the seat next to them. You should see their eyes get large and how they quickly straighten up, (briefly—maybe 15 seconds).
3. From the Bible we gather that it is God’s desire to have a relationship with his people and it is His desire that this relationship be one of joy and harmony. He desires your well-being. Yet when he looked upon our ancient ancestors, God saw the need to get up from the driver’s seat and walk back.
God went down to dwell with His people. In order for God to do this three things had to be worked out.
First, some rules for living had to be established.
1. Rules come naturally for all of us. We make up rules everywhere. At the beginning of any occasion of human interaction basic rules are established.
a. That is what the 10 Commandments are. First they are rules for how to relate to God (the first four). They have to do with our vertical relationship with God.
i. Have no other gods.
ii. Do not make idols.
iii. Do not use God’s name wrongly.
iv. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
b. The final six commandments have to do with how we are to treat other people. They have to do with our horizontal relationships with people.
i. Honor your father and mother.
ii. Do not murder.
iii. Do not commit adultery.
iv. Do not steal.
v. Do not lie (bear false witness).
vi. Do not covet.
c. The Law of God for us (his people) are for our own good. They are ways of health and wholeness. They are not so binding or limiting but are really ways of true freedom and true vitality. They open life up to us; they do not prevent us from “really living.” “Real living” is life lived within these limits!
So for God to dwell with people, as was his desire from the beginning, he had to spell out the basic atmosphere in which God and humanity could cooperate and commune.
2. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) wanted to come down the mountain and actually dwell with his people. As stubborn and stiff-necked as they were, God still wanted to dwell with them. For the holy God to do this, careful provisions had to be made. So God gave the directions for the Tabernacle to be made.
a. The most skilled artisans were called forth to follow the blueprints God gave them and make precisely what God dictated be made. A mobile tent structure was created in order to allow for God to dwell with his people. Once the Tabernacle was made God took up residence in it and God “tabernacled” among his people. That is, God took up community among his people.
i. In Lancaster, PA, at the Mennonite Information Center, a life-size replica of the Tabernacle is constantly on display.
ii. Even though God dwelt with his people there was a barrier between God and people. There was togetherness but there was necessary separation. Only the High Priest was able to go into the Holy of Holies where God dwelt and he could only go in once a year. In fact a rope was tied to him in the event that if he keeled over in the Holy of Holies, he could be dragged out lest the first responders go into that holy place and be struck dead since no one but the High Priest could enter.
1. This is precisely why the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. The dividing wall of separation between God and humanity was removed through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The New Covenant was being established at that moment of tearing down the wall of separation.
For God to dwell with his people there had to be a code of conduct (the 10 Commandments). There had to be a structure to keep the people a safe distance from the holiness of God (the Tabernacle). Finally there had to be a way of dealing with the sin of the people which violated the holiness of God. Sin had to be covered (the Sacrificial System).
So a sacrificial system was provided by God which dealt with sin through the shedding of blood. Much of the book of Leviticus presents this “sacrificial system.” This is usually where most people get bogged down while trying to read through the bible.
1. This whole notion of “blood atonement” may well be very puzzling to our post-modern sensitivities today. I grew up with this biblical notion so I am quite used to it. But imagine if you had never encountered the bible and are only now hearing about sin being dealt with through the shedding of blood. It makes God seem rather primitive and morbid.
2. So think of it this way. It is a biblical concept that “the life is in the blood” (Genesis 9:4). We all relate today to those who make the ultimate sacrifice and give their lives in defense of freedom and for the safety of others … soldiers, firefighters and first-responders, etc.). This is the ultimate act of love, to sacrifice one’s life for others. John’s gospel reads, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).
a. So in order to deal with the sin which separated God from his people he gave them a system of animal sacrifice which represented the greatest gift that could be given, a life for that of another. Animals were sacrificed to symbolically cover the sin which separated God from his people.
b. A physical representation of the “greatest love,” the “giving of a life for that of another” was enacted in order to restore the right relationship between God and people.
3. This “sacrificial system” using representative animals did not work for keeping harmony between God and his people. So God acted once and for all. He did the ultimate in order to atone for sin. He gave his own life through the death of Jesus the Son. God demonstrated this greatest love of “laying down one’s life for one’s friends.” This put an end to the sacrificial system, even though today we still “sacrifice” ourselves for others. God sacrificed himself in the Son, Jesus the Christ.
Because of what God has done in Jesus the Christ God now dwells not in a “Holy of Holies” but in those who appreciate Him for who he is. God dwells in his people. He dwells in us through his Holy Spirit. There is no longer any separation or dividing barrier.
People find the peace and love of God and connect to God through appreciating God’s ultimate gift of love given in his Son, Jesus the Christ. Through receiving the gift of love offered by God in His Son we unite with God. This is part of God’s Master Plan. This is true life. This restores what was God’s intent from the beginning.
As we continue to move through The Story, watch the God of love continue to act in human life and through human history to restore, to make right, and to make all things new.