Covenant Ceremonies

December 17th, 2017

David Sorn



This week we study the ceremony that started the Old Covenant, its relationship to the ceremony that started the New Covenant, and what that all means for your relationship with Jesus!



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TRANSCRIPT


FAMILY CHAT

Morning.  David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.  Morning to you.

Before I get into Exodus this morning, let me address something briefly with a quick family chat.

It’s something I’ve needed to address about every 24 months or so in the history of this church.

What happens in successful churches like this where you have a lot of growth and people are coming to Christ, is oddly enough, cycles of passivity.

We love watching people come to Christ, and we falsely start to believe that it will “just happen”

Until…pretty soon…it doesn’t happen anymore.    

I was struck by this the other day when I was asking people about our Rwanda trip to Eastern Africa.

I said, “Are you going?”

And person after person looked at me like, “No.”  Or “It hasn’t even crossed my mind”

Or, I would ask, “Have any ideas who is coming with you to your House Groups Christmas party or to Christmas Eve, so they can hear the Gospel?”

“Haven’t though about it!”

“But we sure are excited to see people come to Christ that day!”

Except…no one will…if we all just wait for other people to live out the Great Commission  

Listen, this is a different sort of church.

We are not a modern-day consumeristic church where everyone sits back and takes a little something for themselves.

We’re here…together…to be a people being changed by God to change the world.

And you can’t change the world by watching it.

Every single one of us…ought to pray through every single evangelistic opportunity by saying, “Lord, how can you use me…THIS WEEK… to change at least one life?”

If you ask Him that, some of you are going to see…even family members come to Christ this week!

Or think of this… You know, we think we could see 1,000 people come to Christ this summer in Rwanda.

If you think you have something better to do than that this summer…I’d love to hear about it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s the Lord’s will for you to be there…but it sure does mean that it’s serious enough that every single person in this room needs to go to Jesus and say, “You command me in your word to take the Gospel to the nations…is there any specific reason you’d rather have me at the cabin this summer instead of changing people’s eternal destinies?”

Every time there’s an opportunity…pray, “Lord, how can you use me this time?  Help me be bold”

All right, end of family chat J

 

 

WHAT IS A COVENANT

Let’s get into the Book of Exodus…a book we’ve been studying off and on for almost a year now.

So far, we’ve seen God free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and now they are on their way to the promised land…but currently at Mt Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula.

The last few weeks, we’ve been studying chapters 20-23…a section of Exodus called “The Law”

And now that God has finished giving them the law, he’s going to establish and confirm this covenant with them.

But first of all, what’s a covenant?

It’s a word many have heard, but few can define.                           

Here’s a definition of a covenant:

Covenant = A chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

There are a number of covenants in the Bible...especially in the Old Testament

God makes covenants with Noah, Abraham, and David  

All of the covenants in the Old Testament are precursors to the most important covenant…the NEW COVENANT (where we all can be forgiven by believing in Jesus as our Savior)

Probably the most famous of the Covenants in the Old Testament is the one we will look at today:

Scholars call it the Mosaic Covenant, but oftentimes the New Testament just calls it “The Old Covenant”

The basic conditions of the Old Covenant were summarized back in Exodus chapter 19… this is God speaking

(Exodus 19:4-6) – NIV

4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

In summary, God rescued them…and now He promises to bless them…IF they want to enter into a covenant with Him AND obey Him.

And they obey Him by following the commandments found in “The Book of the Covenant”…which was essentially Exodus chapters 20-23 (The 10 Commandments and all the other laws)

ESTABLISHING A COVENANT

We’re going to get into our chapter for the day (chapter 24) in a just a moment if you want to follow along

(Page 64)

(Renovation App) 

This is a really important moment in the history of Israel.

They’re going to officially acknowledge that they are entering into a covenant with the One and Only God…

And, if you’re going to establish and confirm an important covenant like this one, there probably oughta be some ceremony to it, right?

This was how things went 3,400 years ago, and really, it’s how they still go today.

Think about weddings.

Marriage…is probably our best modern-day example of a covenant.

Remember our definition?  

Covenant = A chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

That’s marriage. 

And how to you begin the marriage covenant?

Do you just say, “Hey…let’s say we’re married now…on the count of 3?”

No, you do it with some ceremony!

Even people who don’t get married in a religious ceremony, have to go before a judge and declare promises…in a…ceremony

And many others nowadays, go all out on their weddings.  

According to The Knot, the average wedding cost is now $35,000. 

This idea of covenants being started with a ceremony is still going strong today.

Let’s read the first half of the Old Covenant Ceremony now:

(Exodus 24:1-8) – NIV

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2 but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

3 When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Okay…there are a number of parts to this ceremony.

It starts with Moses and the leaders worshipping God

Moses then builds a special alter with 12 pillars for the 12 tribes of Israel. 

Later there will be a reading from the Book of the Covenant…and then an official response from the congregation of people

You see this in verses 3 & 7 where they say, “We will do everything the Lord has said.  We WILL obey” 

This all kind of sounds like something you might see at a modern-day covenant ceremony (like a wedding)

You have a nice alter, some worship music, some readings, some official responses       

And then…in our chapter today…they sacrifice an animal.

Weird…but not that weird. 

That happened at your wedding, right?

Where you do you think the Chicken Kiev came from?

If you were in many other places around the world…they’d probably sacrifice the animal nearby…same day, right?

Not that weird.         

But don’t worry, we’re going to get to the weird part…at least for our modern-day ears.

Moses then takes half of the blood (from the animal sacrifice) and splashes it against the alter he built…and the other half…he sprinkled on the people. 

As a pastor of many weddings, I’ve seen a number of new and trendy ways to symbolize the initiation of a covenant:

The sand ceremony where the couples pours into the different colored sands, the one where they tie the knot that never comes apart, but I’ve yet to be asked to sprinkle blood on the bride and groom.   

So what’s going on here? 

Blood…is an incredibly important symbol throughout the Bible.

Blood represents life…and often the outpouring of life.

It’s a symbol of one life being given for another.

So half of the blood is thrown against the alter.

Most likely symbolizing God’s demand for justice.

That something else has taken God’s wrath (in this case the animal who was sacrificed)

And the 2nd half of the blood is sprinkled on the people.

Showing that they are covered by that blood. 

Forgiven by that blood.

And the sprinkling also shows that God and the people are BOUND together in this covenant/agreement

Think about how people have used this sort of imagery in history.

Long before we realized how easily diseases were transmitted through blood…

Warriors used to each cut their hands…draw blood…shake hands…and swear an oath to each other as “Blood Brothers”

The “blood” would bind them together in their covenant

There is still another common element to Covenant Ceremonies

Along with the readings, the music, the responses, and the sacrifice…Covenant Ceremonies often involved having a meal together.

We see this a number of places in the Bible.

In Genesis 26, when Abimelech and Isaac decide to settle their land dispute, they make a covenant to live in peace.

And they confirm the oath…with a meal.

Jacob and Laban do the same thing in Genesis 31.              

And even today…when people make business deals…they often do it…over a meal.

What’s one of the most prominent and best parts of the wedding? 

When they feed you for free!!  The meal!

Except as I always say…but we had to buy them a gift…so it’s not really free.   J

And God is going to confirm his covenant with his people…with a meal.

 (Exodus 24:9-12) – NIV  

Lap-is La-zoo-lee

9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”

The rest of the chapter talks about how Moses was on the mountain for 40 days, and we’ll get to that and what happens while he’s on the mountain…when we come back to Exodus in January.

But what just happened here?

Did these leaders seriously just toast the start of their covenant with God Almighty?

How good do you think that cake was?!??

Now, what exactly they saw is hard to say.

The Bible clearly says (in Exodus even) that no one has seen God’s face and lived.

So what did they see? 

They saw the material under his feet…

Maybe…MAYBE…they saw his feet?

Or some sort of vision of Him?

But it’s doubtful they looked him right in the eye.

But either way, to celebrate the start of this covenant, they have a meal together!

The final thing that happens is Moses is given something physical to take away from the ceremony.

Just as when you make a deal to buy your house and you take home stacks of paperwork that you signed (and didn’t read)

Or when you get married, you get a marriage license.

Moses is given the 10 commandments on two tablets of stone…that will eventually be stored in the Ark of the Covenant

 

 

SEEN AGAIN IN THE NEW COVENANT

Now, the Old Covenant (w/ the Israelites) is a precursor of what was to come in the New Covenant (now offered to the whole world)

The New Covenant says that if you would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins…and you give your life to Him, you can have the covenant promises of:

Forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternity in heaven.

And how was this NEW covenant initiated?

In many of the same ways!

There are the little things:

No longer are their 12 pillars or 12 tribes, but 12 disciples

There’s the fact that after the New Covenant is established we get another “Book of the Covenant” – The New Testament.

But think of the larger parallels here!

How is the new covenant officially initiated?

By Jesus’ death on the cross! 

By a blood sacrifice…just like the old covenant.

And again, it’s that blood…that saves us, covers us, and unites us.

Sounds weird…but that just essentially means when you believe that Jesus died for you (he bled and died)…you are saved by his blood (his death)

And remember the weird part about the sprinkling of blood on the people??

The NT calls back to that exact instance in chapter 1 of 1 Peter

Verse 1 says…To the elect… (now continues in verse 2)

(1 Peter 1:2) – NIV

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Or Hebrews in the NT describes it this way:

 (Hebrews 9:13-14) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!!

13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

So the New Covenant is also initiated with a blood sacrifice.         

But fascinatingly enough…the New Covenant is also initiated…on that same weekend…with a meal (just like the Old Covenant was!).

If you’ve been around church long enough, you’ve probably heard the story of communion (or the Last Supper) read plenty of times.

But listen now with new ears as Jesus explains the last supper…literally the last meal he would eat before he died

(Luke 22:19-20) – NIV

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

See, it’s not just that Jesus is dying on the cross in our place

He’s also, very purposefully, initiating a NEW covenant.

By the way, what’s also really cool is that the Bible speaks often of the “marriage supper” that will take place in heaven when we all get there.

The prophet Isaiah talks about this, Jesus has a few sayings about it, the Book of Revelation talks about it.      

So in the future, when our covenant is 100% fulfilled and we see him face to face…again…we will celebrate that covenant by eating together.

 

 

WHY A COVENANT MATTERS

So why should this idea of a covenant matter so much to us?

Because there is power in remembering what God promised US in the covenant!

What’s a “covenant” again?

Covenant = A chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

BINDING promises…

That if enter into a relationship with Jesus as our savior…

He will always be our God…He will never leave us…and we will always be His.

We’re in a covenant!  A BINDING promise…that never ends.

And that’s powerful.

Sometimes the power of that is easier to see in human relationships…like a marriage

I recently read the story of David Langerfeld.

He met his wife his freshmen year of college.

She was absolutely beautiful, even modeled a little, and best of all, she loved Jesus with all of her heart.

They got married right after graduation.

They loved to hang out, work out together, go to the movies, and travel.

They were head over heels in love.

18 months into his marriage, his wife, for no apparent reason, lost her balance and fell on the floor at work.

The following day…it happened again.

They went to see a neurologist…and found out she had Multiple Sclerosis…and that she would only continue to deteriorate.   

Over the next 30 years, her bones became brittle, her face became puffy, her body became a mess.

She went from a walker, to an electric scooter, to a wheel chair.

No longer could she feed herself, write her name, or even control her own bodily functions.

And yet, they stayed together.  And stayed in love.

Why?

Because for them…marriage is a covenant.

It’s a binding promise you make to another person.

Because marriage is a reflection of the binding promise that Jesus makes to us…that for better or worse…he will never leave.

This is what we need to understand in our walk with Christ.

It isn’t just that Jesus forgave you.

I think a lot of us…when we struggle in our sins and we feel far from God…

We try and remind ourselves… “Jesus died for me on the cross…I’m forgiven”

We remind ourselves of something TRUE…but rather transactional.

In other words, we just think about the transaction of he took my sin, I got forgiveness…my standing is now okay.

That’s true…but it’s SO much richer than that.

And this is why the Bible talks about “covenants” 297 times!  

Because understanding that God is in a binding Covenant with you…and no matter what you do or how cold your heart gets…He will never leave you…

…is essential to understanding God’s love for you!

And I encourage you to think of your relationship with Him through this covenantal lens more often.

Not just a transactional one.

You can see, that even in a marriage, this makes a difference.  

My marriage is strengthened not just because I know if I mess up and get mad at Lindsey that she’ll forgive me…

But it’s ALSO strengthened and deepened because I know that we made a COVENANT to always be together and never leave each other.

And so I’m not insecure that our marriage is going to one day fall apart 

Because I know…that we’re in a covenant…that we’re committed to keeping.

And know that God made the same commitment to you

And He keeps His promises!

 

 

COMMUNION

This morning, we are going to take communion together as a church body.

Communion, as we read earlier in Luke 22, was instituted by Jesus so that we would often remember his sacrifice.

And not just that we are forgiven…but that…as we share this meal with Him…that we are celebrating His covenant with us!  

The Bible tells us that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion. 

Which means 1) not do it in vain.  To only do it if we truly believe it.  And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok.  You’re on a journey.  2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)

In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice.  When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice. 

And when you’re ready, at any time during the next two songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion. 

If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so.  With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)

And so, as you take communion today…think about this:

That God has made an everlasting, binding covenant with YOU through Jesus.

And this morning…we celebrate that covenant together with Him (just like they did long ago)…through a meal.

Today…as Christians…we celebrate that we are His…forever.

Let me pray.


Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN


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