The Story, Chp. 5 “New Commands and a New Covenant”

February 12, 2017

The Story, Chp. 5 “New Commands and a New Covenant”

Exodus 19-40

Exodus 29:38-46, John 1:6-16


Intro:  Do you remember how God’s relationship with humanity started out?  He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  Intimate companions sharing life together.  And then came sin and the relationship was broken.  Since that time God has been at work to reconcile us with himself.


Chapter 5 of the The Story covers chapters 19-40 of Exodus and spans just one year in the life of God’s people.  The Israelites have been delivered from Egypt and find themselves as nomads as they had been before they came into Egypt, 400 years prior.  


Although the covenant of circumcision set the Israelites apart physically and marked them as belonging to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living in the midst of a society that had many gods and even saw Pharaoh as a god, it would have been difficult to hang on to faith and practice of a people who had been set apart.  They were used to and comfortable with all the sacrifices to other gods and they had not yet been given a lot more instruction on how to be, how to live as the people of “I Am”. 


So here they are, rescued from Pharaoh and slavery but wandering in the desert.  They are like a baby just birthed and needing to grow up into who they have been called by God to be.  Here in the desert, God is shaping and molding them and calling them to be His people of a new covenant, but as we shall see, old habits die hard. 


It is important to bear in mind that God is constantly at work to reconcile his people to himself.  Listen to God’s desire in Exodus 29:38-46 as he expressed it to Moses as he explained the daily sacrifice to be made in order for this fellowship to occur . . . 

42 “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.

44 “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.


So God has prepared to give the nation of Israel all that it needs to be in a right relationship with him: a New Covenant, rules to live by, a place to worship.  A way for God to be known by the people and for them to know their God.


It has been said by psychologists in a variety of ways that one of our core human needs is to be known.  Gregg Henriques is quoted in Psychology Today as describing it this way:

. . . being “known” means that the individual is able to share their full experiences, private thoughts, and public image with important others.

Gregg Henriques Theory of Knowledge


Based on that definition, who are you truly known by?  Who do you know?


Rev. Tim Keller speaks about how being known fits into our relationships with others in his book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Timothy J. Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God


So, as God is setting up the tabernacle with Moses and the priests, it’s focus is not on sacrifices but on God’s desire to be known by his creation and his great desire to know us, be with us, fellowship with us.  I know that I harp on our lack of fellowship sometimes.  But only because I understand how important and essential fellowship is to being the body of Christ - and friends, that is who and what we are.


So God and Moses have had this great organizational conference - can you imagine being the one to receive God’s will and charged to go back to a people and make sure that it is carried out?  Moses is prepared to go down the mountain and give the people all they need to be in a right relationship with their God.  And before Moses went up, they all agreed that they would do whatever God required.  But meanwhile, back at the camp, another scene is being played out!  And God notices and he is not happy!


Human memory is short.  Especially when there is unrest.  And the Israelites were restless.  Their lack of patience and waiting on God gets them in trouble.  Friends, as we look at this part the story, be reminded that nothing has changed.  Think about it: When we give up waiting on God, what sort of substitutes do we stand in his place?


I find Exodus 32 to be one of the most horrible and hysterically funny passages in Scripture.  Kind of like the roadkill you can’t quit looking at as you drive past.  During their time together, God notices that they people, in their impatience, have gotten out of control and the Aaron is giving them what they want to appease them.  God is so angry at their behavior that he threatens to destroy them and Moses, the intercessor, begs God to stay his hand and allow him to go to them and set them right again.


Let me read to you the scene that just seems so vivid to me.  I am especially intrigued by Aaron.  Ex 32:15-29. 

Aaron’s response is the hysterical part to me.  I mean, come on!  “Well, Mo, I threw in all the gold and a golden calf just popped out!  It was miraculous!  What was I going to do? So we just worshipped it a little bit!”  You’ll remember what God said about that as we read through the commandments this morning. 


The rest of this passage is quite tragic and reveals to us that God doesn’t put up with sin.  He demands our obedience or death.  He wants relationship or nothing.  Thanks be to God that in his graciousness he did not wipe out the Israelites and he continued his graciousness throughout generations even though every time they vowed their obedience they soon after forgot and went their own way.


Boy if I had a dime for every time I acted the same way to God, knowing what he wants of me, vowing that I will obey and then six seconds later going my own way.  He has every right to be angry with me and if I were solely under the old covenant I fear I would be a goner but God made another new covenant with us through Jesus.  


Let’s conclude with our passage from John 1:6-16 

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


God, the Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign Lord over all other gods and everything that exists, became flesh and moved into our neighborhood and lived with the likes of us.  Can you comprehend that?  It’s huge!


In the OT, God dwelt among the people via the tabernacle.  He was present but separate from the people.  He was known, but not known.  But then when the time was right, he came himself in human form, in a baby. He came as Jesus and physically dwelt among us - so that God could be known by us and touched and seen and be present in human form.  Isn't that what we want in any good relationship?  It is what God wants from us.


God dwells among us still.  We are the new tabernacle.  The church is not a building made with hands and stone and wood.  The church is us and we are the place where God resides. We are to be a holy people, set apart for God and his purposes.  The purpose of this building is to provide a place for us to meet in.  It is a beautiful space and cherished by many but it is not the tabernacle of God.  It is a tool to be used by the tabernacle of God and that’s us.  The purpose of our lives is to house God and worship him with all that we are whether we are in the church building or in our homes, at school, at work, alone or with others.  God dwells in you.


1 Cor. 3:16-17 says:  “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”


We are the Covenant people of God.  We carry God with us into the world.  Go in grace and live in relationship with God through Jesus who came in the flesh to reveal God to us.