Sermon: God's Covenant
Summary: God, in his faithful love, desires to be spiritually near his people, which he accomplishes through redemption and covenant, which are not essentially about arbitrary rules, but about a faithful relationship, which is why God begins with a reminder of who he is and how he is to be approached.
Text: Ex 19:4-5; 20:1-5
Scripture Reading: Eph 5:25-29
1. Christmas season once again - Still see signs of it everywhere
a. I remember watching Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers on TV
b. Remember listening to Andy Williams and others on vinyl
c. There was always a Christmas program in the square
d. Everyone came together, sang about the baby Jesus
2. As children, we seemed to identify with the baby Jesus
a. We didn't understand it, but the story was etched in our minds
b. One thing we got though, was that children were important to God
c. Somewhere along the way, learned simple people important to God
3. We only saw what was on the surface as children
a. We didn't know that no one knows the exact date of his birth
b. We didn't know that God never specified that we should honor it as a
c. Yet so many still choose to recognize his birth as a family tradition even
when they learn this that this was never required by God
4. How many in the world really understand the significance of what happened?
a. Many do not quite understand who Jesus is
- Col 2:9 - In him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form
- Col 1:16-17 - All things created through him and for him
b. (Jn 1:14) - He became flesh, dwelt among us
- Dwell is not, oikevw or katoikevw - to live in house/dwelling
- Word is skhnovw - To tent (noun form skhnhv - tent/tabernacle)
- Literally - He "tabernacled" among us
5. Brings to mind what happened at base of Mount Sinai
a. God came down from mountain to the tabernacle & live among people
b. For that to happen, two things had to take place
- Redeem the people to himself from slavery
- Make a covenant with them
c. The first already happened, now God is making covenant
d. Will look at what we can learn about God and us
I. God relates to us through covenant (Ex 19:4-5)
A. Covenant, sometimes called, treaties, contracts, agreements
B. ILL: How many of you are living under a contract now?
1. How many have a mortgage? How many have a lease?
2. Contract between two entities
3. Specifies the terms, penalties
4. Executed when signed, notarized, and in some cases recorded
C. Covenant in Bible and ancient times different than mere contract
1. Modern contracts and treaties are often impersonal
a. Uses third 3rd person language
b. Refers to parties in contract indirectly - "buyer, seller"
2. Ancient covenant was founded on personal relationships
a. In parity treaties - included a pledge of mutual
faithfulness, and the parties become "brothers"
b. In Suzerain-Vassal treaties, the suzerain becomes the
"father" of the vassal, whom he calls his "son"
- Suzerain protects the vassal
- Vassal is loyal and loves the suzerain
c. Vassals often commanded to love their suzerain
- Eg: King Esarhaddon, 680-668 B.C, in order to
ensure loyalty to his son Assubanipal, stipulated,
"you will love as yourselves Assurbanipal"
- Eg: Vassals might declare under oath, "The king of
Assyria, our Lord, we will lovel
d. Vassals, in loyalty, not to enter into this kind of treaty with
other suzerains, there is only one
3. Covenant is about relationship, not arbitrary commands or
a. Covenant not an impersonal document
b. Covenant is a pledge of mutual loyalty, love, and
4. This why God begins with his name, Yahweh (20:1-2)
a. ILL: Pam used to walk up to employees and say,
- "Hi Frank, how are you?" and shake hands
- They way, "How did you know my name?"
- She said, "It's right there on your name tag?"
- They feel suspicious, on guard, stranger know name
b. Do you go around arbitrarily giving your name to others?
- When going through check out line?
- On street corner
- Waiting in line at amusement park?
c. Only give your name when initiating a relationship
d. There is a risk that goes with it
- Will be affected by the other person
- Susceptible to their wants, needs, desires
- Open possibility of being hurt
D. Amazing - God initiates a personal relationship with his people
1. Is he affected by our wants, needs, desires? Yes
2. Have we ever hurt him in any way? Yes, we have grieved him
3. But God has made a covenant to be faithful to us
4. He wants us to be faithful to him . . .
II. (v.3-5) You shall have no other gods
A. No other gods in the presence of God
B. God prohibits worship of other gods
1. He is a jealous God - to be expected in a marriage
a. You have the right to expect exclusivity in a marriage
b. Jealousy in this case is NOT a bad thing
c. This is why Bible often refer to marriage to describe our
relationship with God.
d. God wants us to be devoted to him, our creator, as our
2. There are only two classifications of what exists in universe
a. Created - Everything that has been created
b. Creator - He who created everything
c. Which is smarter to serve and worship?????
3. Isaiah shows the sheer stupidity of worshipping the created
a. Isa 44:9-19
- (v.11) - Craftsmen who make gods are mere men
- (v.16-17) - The gods from same wood for fire
- (v.19) - He falls down before a block of wood
b. (Isa 45:20-22) v.22 - Addresses the nations
- They pray to wooden god who can do nothing
- Turn to Yahweh, only he can save
c. (Isa 46:1-2) - About Bel and Nebo, Babylonian gods
- Imagery of Cyrus attacking Babylon
- People flee, carrying their precious idols on beasts
- They and their gods are captured, and taken to
d. Do you see the problem of idolatry?
- Idols not the creator, they are created BY US
- Acts 17:29 - God's nature is not like gold, silver, or
stone, an image formed by art and thought of man
- An idol can do nothing to save us
4. (Isa 46:3-4) But God can do more than any idol we create
a. Instead of them creating Yahweh, Yahweh bore them
b. Instead of them carrying Yahweh, Yahweh carried them
from the time they were born
c. God will continue to carry them till they are old
C. ILL: Now you understand why God gets angry with false gods/idols?
1. When spouse cheats, don't you expect passionate anger?
a. We know God loves deeply, passionately
b. One who loves passionately, anger when love spurned
2. But imagine if spouse leave not for another woman/ but a
mannequin that he himself built
a. Not even a very good likeness
b. He speaks sweet nothings to it, spends time with it,
serves it, brings it to bed with him, eat dinner with it, etc.
c. Tells it, "No one loves me like you do!"
d. But it is just a piece of carved wood!
3. Hard to put into words the offense of being left for piece of wood
4. That what it is like when we serve and love something not God
D. Want to make sure we are not putting something in the place of God
1. If your passion, energy, sacrifice, priority, love, not God, then it
could be idolatry
2. If it did not create you and the world, it is not God
3. If you can carry it, literally or figuratively, it is not God
4. We are surrounded by false gods and idols, not recognize them
III. What kinds of gods and idols tempted with today?
A. Alternatives to God have been offered from the very beginning
B. What are some of the false alternatives?
1. Most obvious are the idols and pagan gods or non-gods
a. The eternal oneness of Buddhism
b. Allah of Islam
c. The goddess of Wicca
d. Any number of other gods of other religions
2. Would-be Messiahs
a. Many government leaders pretend to be god-like
b. Most of them have wound up becoming tyrants
C. But there are some that are far less obvious and just as destructive
1. Caricatures of God
a. God as grandpa rocking chair, no cross thought
b. God as a dark, wrathful deity looking to get you
c. Baby Jesus in manger - tender, meek, mild, harmless
- Heb 1:13 - Sit at my right hand until I make your
enemies a footstool for your feet
- Eph 4:8 - Jesus led captive a host of captives
- Col 2:15 - When he disarmed the rulers and
authorities, he made a public display of them,
having triumphed over them through the cross
d. Jesus is the Messiah - Conquering King who Saves!
- No, he will not break a bruised reed - gentle
- But he destroys our enemies and saves us
2. Bible - Bibliolatry
a. Worship of the books itself
b. (Jn 5:39-40) You search the scriptures because you think
that in them you have life, but these testify of me
c. Knowing the Bible not the same as knowing God
d. Bible is a road map, don't get so wrapped up in the
details you forget the destination
3. Me - Humanism, one of first sins
a. Gen 3 - Increase knowledge, and be like God, said Satan
b. Still happening today, in science, humanities, law,
government, medicine, education, philosophy, etc.
c. Many think we have grown so smart, not need God
- They ridicule the very idea of God
- They preach that you are a random, cosmic accident
- They preach godlessness in the name of freedom
- The greatest atrocities in human history happened in
20th century, when believe in God took a dive
d. Man as idol just as stupid as statues for idol
- We are not creators, but the created
- We need to serve and worship the creator
D. Don't get so worried we tempted to trust in what is not god
1. Lack of trust in God can lead to idolatry
a. Gives rise to acceptance of would-be Messiahs
b. Tempt us to look to godless sciences and philosophies
c. Tempt us to look only to ourselves, wealth, abilities
2. Through Christ, we can say I can do all things through him who
3. God has come near and we can call on him.
a. He is called . . .
- El-Shaddai - God Almighty
- El-Roi - God who sees
- El-Elyon - God most high
- El-Olam - The everlasting God
b. His name is Yahweh. . .
- Yahweh Sabaoth - Lord of Hosts
- Yahweh Nissi - The Lord our Banner
- Yahweh Yireh - The Lord will Provide
- Yahweh Shalom - The Lord is peace
- Yahweh Rapha - The Lord our healer
4. We call him, as Jesus did, "Our Father"
a. Not just God, but our Father
b. We are his children
c. We have one Heavenly Father, committed to us
d. We are committed to him
1. Trust in God and God alone
2. He sent Jesus into the world, not just to be a baby, but as savior, Lord, Messiah (inv)
3. 1 Kin 8:23 "O Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart"
4. God keeps covenant and "hesed," covenant love/loyalty toward us
5. In return we love the Lord our God will all our heart, soul, mind, strength