A Covenant Rest
A COVENANT REST
A. Introduction: One of the things God offers His people is rest = a life of dependence on and trust in Him for everything.
1. You don't work to earn or deserve His help or provision. You simply believe His promises and He brings them to pass. The result of this rest is peace.
2. In the OT, when God finally brought His people into the promised land under Joshua, the Bible says God gave them rest. Josh 21:43-45 Rest meant:
a. God defeated their enemies and they took physical possession of the land. b. It was a land of full provision -- flowing with milk and honey.
c. God did for Israel everything He promised them.
3. Heb 4 tells us Jesus provides a rest for us which is greater than that rest.
4. To enter the rest of God (a life of faith, trust which gives total peace) we must believe God and cease from our own works. Heb 4:3;10
5. In the next few lessons, we want to look at the greater rest Jesus offers. To do that, we must first look at the subject of covenants. It will make it easier to rest or trust in God.
6. God made it clear to Israel that one aspect of blessing for them in the land was the fact that they had a covenant with Him.
a. Lev 26:9--For I will be leaning toward you with favor and regard for you, rendering you fruitful, multiplying you, and establishing and ratifying my covenant with you. (Amp)
b. Heb 8:6 tells us we, as Christians, have a better covenant established on better promises. Better means everything they had plus more.
B. As we study the Bible, we see that God has always desired relationship with man.
1. God created us for sonship, fellowship. Eph 1:4,5
a. His plan was to have a family of sons and daughters like Jesus. Rom 8:29 b. The Bible tells us of the great lengths God went to to have a family and relationship with us. He had to send Jesus to die for our sins.
2. We see God's desire for relationship with man through covenants.
a. Covenant = solemn, binding agreement entered into by two parties.
b. By entering a covenant, two bind themselves together for mutual purpose.
3. As we study the Bible, we find the word covenant applied to various transactions between and and man and between God and man.
a. Between man and man (individuals, tribes) a covenant was a compact or contract "in which each party bound himself to fulfill certain conditions and was promised certain advantages." (Unger's Bible Dictionary)
1. God was called upon as a witness, oaths were sworn.
2. To break a covenant was an extremely serious matter.
b. A covenant between God and man takes on a different slant.
1. God and man are not independent covenant parties in the sense that each haves something the other needs but can't provide.
2. A covenant between God and man is in reality a contract or promise from God to do good for those who have nothing to offer that He needs.
c. But, by entering into covenants with man, God demonstrates His love and His faithfulness -- He initiated the covenants and He will fulfill them.
4. The Bible itself is divided into the two great covenants between God and man -- the Old covenant (testament) and the New Covenant (testament).
5. If we can come to know and believe God's love and faithfulness, we can rest in our covenant relationship with God who has bound Himself to us for our good.
6. As we study, consider what these covenants show us about God's faithfulness and the rest He has offered us.
C. The Old Covenant was revealed and established through a man called Abraham.
1. God entered into a relationship with Abraham which became the basis of the Old Covenant. Notice, God initiated it. Gen 12:1-3
a. Abraham was called to leave his country, kindred, and follow the Lord to a land God would give to him and his descendants forever. Gen 17:7,8
b. God's promise to Abraham was a four-fold blessing.
1. Abraham would increase into a numerous people.
2. Material and spiritual prosperity = I will bless you.
3. Abraham's name would be famous.
4. Not only blessing to Abraham, but to all nations.
c. Abraham left his homeland and followed God's directions.
2. In Gen 15 God cut a covenant with Abraham.
a. v5--God promised Abraham numberless children.
b. v6--Abraham believed in God. Believe in Hebrew = give yourself wholly up, or unqualified committal.
c. Covenant in Hebrew literally means to cut covenant.
1. When a covenant is cut or entered into, blood is shed -- either that of the people themselves or their substitutes, and it is mingled as a sign of the joining that is being made.
2. v8-21--At God's direction, Abraham sacrificed some animals, divided them into two pieces, and Abraham and God passed through the pieces. That is how a vow was solemnized. Jer 34:18,19
3. The sacrifices symbolized death. By walking through the pieces, each party is saying: this is my death; the animal died as my representative.
4. He renounced all right to live for himself, saying: I will die for you; your interests take precedence over mine; anything I have that you need is yours; I no longer live for myself; I live for you.
3. God renewed the covenant with Abraham's son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob. Gen 17:19; 26:2-5; 28:13-15
a. In the time of Jacob, Abraham's descendants went to Egypt to live. b. Abraham's descendants became slaves, fell into idol worship, but after 400 years, God delivered them -- just as He told Abraham He would.
4. After they came out of Egypt God renewed the covenant with Moses and Israel (Abraham and Jacob's descendants).
a. At that point God gave them the Law of the Covenant (Exodus and Leviticus) to set them apart as a nation.
b. Because God knew the Law would be broken, a priesthood and blood sacrifices were established. The sacrifices would cover their sins and make it possible for God to dwell with Israel.
c. As we study, we find that, under the terms of the Covenant, God blessed Israel with: physical protection from enemies, pestilence, disease; He gave them food, clothing, shelter, shade, warmth, and directions in the wilderness; once in the and, He caused their crops and flocks to multiply.
5. At various times in Israel's history, the Prophets foretold of the coming of a New Covenant. Jer 31:33,34; 32:38-40; Ezek 11:19,20; 36:26,27
6. That New Covenant was revealed and established through Jesus. Matt 26:26-29
a. Jesus established the covenant through His death, burial, and resurrection. b. His blood was the blood shed when the covenant was cut.
D. Before we go any farther we want to make some key points about what we have already seen -- in connection with God's faithfulness and the rest He offers us.
1. These covenants were initiated by God -- He has chosen to bind Himself first to Abraham, then to Abraham's descendants (Israel), and finally, to us Christians -- for our good.
a. Love was the motive behind the Old Covenant. Deut 7:6-9
b. Love is the motive behind the New Covenant. John 3:16
1. Luke 22:15--Jesus He desired to eat the Last Supper.
2. With desire = I have heartily desired = Jesus was eager to establish this covenant with us despite great cost to Himself.
c. If love initiated the covenant, then love will see it through, fulfill it.
2. God bound Himself to us for our good through a legal contract that had severe penalties if it was broken or not honored. Why did God do this?
a. It isn't because He has to be forced to stay faithful, but rather to magnify the certainty of His faithfulness and reliability.
b. He wants to be held to His part of the covenant because He is faithful.
3. Heb 6:13-18 tells us that God gave Abraham two unchangeable things -- His oath and His promise because He wanted to clearly show Abraham His faithfulness.
a. God promised Abraham multitudes of descendants (Gen 12:2; 15:5), then He swore it (Gen 22:16,17).
b. When a covenant is established, men take an oath before God.
c. Here, God took an oath before a man -- and He did it to show " you can count on Me. I will do what I said."
4. God wants more than anything else for us to believe Him, trust Him, and He has "bent over backwards" to help us do so.
a. The Bible, the word of God, is God's revelation of Himself to us.
b. God's purpose in creation was to have a family based on relationship. Relationship is about knowing another person. God wants us to know Him. If we know Him, it will inspire trust, confidence, and rest in us.
5. Before God cut the covenant with Abraham, "the word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision." Gen 15:1
a. This is the first place in the Bible where the word "word" appears. It is the first place we see vision, shield, and reward.
b. This is also the first great "I Am" statement in scripture. I Am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.
c. Jesus is the Word of the Lord -- the Living Word who took on flesh when He was born in Bethlehem. John 1:1;14
d. Jesus referred to Himself as "I Am" in John 8:58
1. We have in past lessons established the fact that Jesus appeared to man many times in the Bible before His incarnation at Bethlehem.
2. One of those appearances was to Moses from the burning bush as I Am. Ex 3:14
3. In John 8:56 Jesus told the Pharisee that Abraham rejoiced to see Him -- I Am. And, here He is in Gen 15.
6. God gave a tremendous revelation of Himself to Abraham as He prepared to cut the covenant with him.
a. He shows Himself to be the great I Am -- I AM that I AM = all you need me to be when you need me to be it.
b. I am your shield = your protection in the midst of a wicked, evil world.
c. I am your reward = the satisfaction and sufficiency of your life.
d. Why did God do all of this? To inspire trust and rest in Abraham.
7. After showing Abraham these wonderful things about Himself, God then cut covenant with him.
a. Then, God swore to Abraham by Himself that He would fulfill all the terms of the covenant. Gen 22:16,17
b. This is clearly Preincarnate Jesus. v1; 11,12; 15-17
8. Did God keep the covenant He made with Abraham and fulfill all?
a. God promised to bless Abraham -- DONE! Gen 24:1;35; 13:2
b. God promised Abraham a son -- DONE! Gen 21:1-3
c. God promised Abraham that Jesus would come from his line -- DONE! Gen 22:18; Matt 1:1-16
d. God promised Abraham descendants more than the sand and the stars -- IN PROGRESS! Gal 3:29
e. God promised Abraham his descendants would have the land forever -- STILL TO BE FULFILLED! (because of Israel's unfaithfulness; yet God has not abandoned them. Amos 9:15)
9. Jesus was the guarantee of the covenant God made with Abraham. He swore by Himself. Gen 22:14,15 He is also the guarantee of the New Covenant.
10. Heb 7:22--In keeping with [the oath's greater strength and force], Jesus has become the Guarantee of a better (stronger) agreement - a more excellent and more advantageous covenant. (Amp)
E. Conclusion: We have not said all there is to say about our covenant with God.
1. The Bible shows us is that God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God.
2. Through the Old and New Covenants, God willingly initiated and entered into two great contracts to do good for men.
3. One key to entering the rest Jesus provides is knowing and believing that God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God.
a. If you know God is faithful to do what He promised, what He has covenanted to do, then it is possible to rest in God.
b. If you know God doesn't keep His promises to us because we deserve it, but because we believe them / Him, then it is possible to rest in God.