Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part III: The Great Love Story
December 13, 2009
· 026, 017 (Roman Roads)
· Inscriptions plan, Hosea summary
· Excited about the deacon candidates and thanks to Peter for the tremendous work he did getting this going.
We are continuing our “Inscription” series, and beginning January 1st, we are going to begin reading through the Bible as a church. Are you ready?
· On 27th we are going to talk about how to read the Bible and give you some tools, including a journal.
This week we are getting the bird’s eye view of the story of the Bible. Accordingly, we will be looking at overarching themes more than individual Scripture. I think you are going to be surprised by some of the things we’ll see.
· This is also my Christmas sermon (due to CC program) which is highly fitting.
Give us the eyes to see the big picture of your action throughout history. Help us see that Jesus coming isn’t an isolated event, but the culmination of a larger plan.
Angry God in the OT?
Like many sermons, this one began as a question, one that has bothered me and perhaps has bothered you. It is driven by common misperceptions, but until we answer this question, we will come up against a block whenever we read the OT.
Q Why is God so angry in the OT, but loving in the NT?
In the OT, God is always slewing this person or that (I just read the story of the Uzzah, who tried to keep the Ark from stumbling and got zapped for his troubles (1 Chr.13:9ff)).
The prophets are filled with dire warnings of destruction. Then there is the Law – eat this, don’t eat that. Don’t do this, or you’ll be stoned.
Q Where’s the love, man?
Equally distasteful is the constant flow of animal sacrifices. Animals killed every day to satisfy him.
· Add to this the overall violent nature of the OT (such as Psalm 137), and we get an angry, unmerciful, vengeful God.
But in the NT, we are told that God is love (1 John 4:16), that God so loved the world (John 3:16). Jesus came to die for us, and our faith is all about grace.
So why is God so mean in the OT? In the early church, a guy by the name of Marcion had an interesting take: The God of the OT was not really God, but a lesser deity.
Furthermore, the OT is not Scripture, just the NT. What about all the OT quotes in the NT? Sneaky Jews snuck them into the Bible. Marcion went on to create his own version of the Bible.
· Strangely, we have him to thank for our canon, he made the early church buckle down and confirm the cannon.
The greatest love story
Q Have you ever secretly wished the OT wasn’t part of the Bible?
· I have. It’d certainly make things easier. But the more I read it, the more I see I’ve been missing something very important.
The more carefully I read the Bible, looking at context, historical background, and overarching themes (as we will do in the series) the more I see how deeply we misunderstand the OT:
· The OT is a love story that finds its culmination in the NT.
That is the main thing I hope you see today, the great love story that flows throughout the Bible, finding its culmination in Christ.
· Love and anger, grace and wrath all flow equally through Old and New, and at the basis of it all is God’s goodness.
Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.
· Even in the wrath? Yes, we’ll see how when we talk about Noah’s Ark.
You see, it’s not that God is angry in the OT and nice in the NT, but that lack the perspective to see God’s goodness, love and grace in the midst of all the blood, laws, and “slewing.”
· That is why this series is so important.
· My favorite OT professor said he studied the OT because he LOVES the NT so much, so he could really understand it.
If we get rid of the OT (as we have done via neglect), we will have a weak NT, because they are so integrated. In fact, the terms OT and NT are misleading, as if the OT were archaic.
· Perhaps BC and AD would be better, because the OT is all a preparation for Christ’s coming.
I said that the OT is a love story; actually it is the same love story told over several times. It is most like those stories where the guy relentlessly pursues the girl, rejection after rejection, because he knows they belong together.
But before we go any further, let me say something before I lose all the guys. Most of us aren’t into romances.
· Romcoms are just a way to trick us into watching a romance.
The Bible uses all sorts of analogies to help us understand our relationship with God: husband/wife, parent/child, king/subject. Some are a little easier to latch on to than others (I always felt awkward singing worship songs about God being my lover).
Rather than get weirded out, understand that all of these analogies are incomplete, but taken together they give us a clearer picture.
· For guys, it may also help to identify with God’s role are the pursuer than the church’s as the pursued.
The repeating theme
The love story can be explained with these basic themes, repeated ad nausium because of our rebellion and free will:
· God calls, we rebel, God pursues and restores.
The cycle begins in the opening pages of the Bible: God called Adam and Eve to be his children, they rebelled, God pursued them and restored them.
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “... I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 NIV
Theologians call this “protoevangelion,” first good news, God’s plan to defeat Satan and restore us.
Notice what it says: “Your offspring” and “he,” this does not mean people in general, but a specific person, the Christ. And Christ would be wounded, but the snake gets the worst.
· It’s like the angels see Jesus, bloodied, bruised, and a crown of thorns, but Jesus says, “You should see the other guy.”
Throughout the OT, God continued to confirm and clarify this promise of a Messiah who would die to pay the penalty of sin and restore what was lost.
· From the moment they were lost, God sought to bring them home, because he “is love.”
This theme continues through the history of Israel: God calls them to be his people (through covenant, which we’ll talk about with Abraham), they rebelled, he pursued and restored them, then they rebelled, then he pursued and restored them...
Especially as we read the prophets, we will see this constant theme of God constantly pursuing his people. Perhaps the most moving is that of hosea and Gomer.
All these stories are drawn together by the love of God, who is “righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.”
Q But what about all the wrath, sacrifices, and laws?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until we get there in the series, there just isn’t enough time now. But a key point you’ll have to trust me on – grace is as much in the OT and NT.
Getting out of the cycle
The difference from OT to NT is not law verses grace, but internal verses external:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
And what inaugurated this change? The coming of Christ, God in the flesh, and his gift of the Holy Spirit. Through his death, (which the sacrifices foreshadowed), God could change our hearts, not just our actions.
· This is the fulfillment of the Genesis 3, and ended the cycle of pursuit and rebellion, as if the guy finally gets the girl.
Fullness of time
And like a good love story, this story is all about timing. If all the sacrifices and law were insufficient to change us from the inside, why did God wait so long to send Jesus?
Q Why let all those people languish in sin?
In the book of Galatians, Paul said that Christ came into the world in the “fullness of time,” meaning that he came at just the right time.
There was a window of about 200 years, from around 30 BC to around 180 AD when travel and communication were easier than ever had been or would be until the modern era.
1. common language: Greek, much like English today. This made it much easier to spread the Gospel.
2. relative peace throughout the known world, called Pax Romana. Rome kept peace through force, and stopped pirates.
3. Ease of travel: The Romans had 53,000 miles of maintained and patrolled roads (compare 47,000 in Interstate system).
But in 180 AD, the Roman Empire began falling apart, and things actually went backwards.
· It wasn’t until the modern era that we have again the ease of travel and communication that Paul knew.
But by the time the empire began to collapse, the Gospel had been well established, so Christianity was able to continue spreading, in spite of the worsening travel and communication.
· Christ was born at just the right time – before or after and Christianity would have been stuck in Palestine.
To sum is all up: God is a God of love in OT (he is also a God of wrath in the NT, which is a good thing, more on that later).
But another important point is that this is not just the Bible’s story – it is our story. God has called each of us, but we have all rebelled. He now pursues us, out of love, until we either surrender and allow him to restore us, or we die running.
Q & A