This week’s readings started with the sin of the golden calf and ends with instructions on sacrifices for sin. As we move from Exodus to Leviticus, “From sin to sacrifice” is an appropriate headline.
Exodus 32 records a tragic event of Israel’s sin against God. This is right after God had spoken to Israel and given them the 10 Commandments. In less than 40 days after they had said, “I do” at the spiritual wedding at Mount Sinai, they were wallowing in Idol worship with a golden calf. This is a god of their own making, and they are saying: “These are your gods O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!” It is hard to imagine.
Question one: Did God love Israel? Yes! Question two: Did Israel love God, the true and living God of Creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? No.
Question three: What is God teaching us here?
It’s one thing to take Israel out of “idol worshipping Egypt” but it’s quite another thing to take “idol worshipping Egypt” out of Israel!
Exodus is clear. God chose Israel, but Israel, at this time, did not choose God… not yet. By the time we get to Leviticus, Israel is learning how sacrifices may be offered for their sins. We see God working on them to bring them into shape.
Have you ever caught a wild animal? You can rescue a wild animal from danger or death, but (contrary to Walt Disney) they probably won’t like you for it. They probably won’t feel any sense of obligation to you for it either. You can take an animal out of the wild, but it takes a lot to get the wild out of the animal. It takes a while before trust is built and a relationship can develop. Sometimes it can’t. So it is with God and sinners, sinners like you and me. Sinners like Israel.
God is not interested in taming sinners. God has bigger plans. God wants to save sinners… from their sins. God wants a holy people that love Him. So, at least one part of God’s plan is that the sinner whom God chooses to save must choose to accept God’s salvation. It’s not a one way street. God is seeking those who are seeking Him, His kingdom, His righteousness. God is saving those who trust Him, who have obedient faith. God is serving those who will be His servants, into whom He can pour His love as they pour His love out to others.
Therefore, the saved that God chooses to save must continue in their choice to accept His salvation. We can walk out on God. We shouldn’t, but from all we see in scripture, we can… and many do. Every parent can attest to how challenging it is to raise up godly children who keep the faith and continue to walk with God. It is an awesome challenge to pour God’s love into our children, so that they receive it and when they have children they begin pouring His love into theirs. Nothing on this planet is more beautiful or more important than that!
What is God’s vision for Israel? What does God desire for them? Look at Exodus 29:45-46, (God sets everything up the way He sets it up so He can be with His people). And before that, look at Exodus 19:3-6. (God brought Israel to Mount Sinai to take them for Himself like a husband would take a wife for himself).
Do you hear that? What is in God’s heart for His people? What’s His vision and desire?
Let’s make an application to ourselves here. What is God’s vision for the Signal Mountain Church of Christ, and you as a member here? What does God want for you? What is His desire for you? To be Like Christ. The New Testament is replete with scriptures that teach us this. Ephesians 5:1-2, Phil. 1:21, 2:1-11, 3:10-11, 4:13.
How do we become like Christ? That’s OUR MISSION! How can we be like Christ? By Seeking His kingdom and righteousness first, by accepting His Saving grace in obedient faith and sharing it with others, and by Serving like Him with His love as His hands and feet. These all involve hope, faith, and love.
God calls us to become like Christ, His Son. God gives us new birth through His Holy Spirit as we receive Christ in baptism, for the remission of our sins. We are buried with Christ into His death through baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life in Christ. Romans 6:3-4. His sacrifice saves us from our sins. Then God forms Christ in us as we seek Him first (He is our living Hope). We are saved by Him and share His saving grace with others (He is the confession of our Faith). We are served by Him and in turn serve others as His hands and feet (He is the source of our Love).
Is this true? Is God’s vision for His people to be like Christ His Son?
Is this true? Has God given us a mission individually and as a church body to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, to save the lost by His grace as we share His word, and to serve like Him with His love as His hands and feet?
Is this true? Do we accept this mission? Will we put our faith, our hope, our love in God and allow Him to use us to accomplish His work?
Jesus told a parable in Mark 12 about a land owner who planted a vineyard and put a wine press in it, build a wall around it and build a tower for protection of it. Then he rented it out to some farmers and went on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the farmers seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant and they struck him in the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and this one they killed. He sent many others, some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, they will respect my son. But the tenants, saw him and said to one another, “This is the heir! Let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours.”
So… they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants, and give the vineyard to others. In Matthew 21, after telling this parable, Jesus says: Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce it’s fruit.
This parable does a lot of things. The owner obviously represents God. The son He loves, obviously represents Jesus. But who are the tenants and who are the servants?
It appears that the tenants are the Jewish leaders and the Jewish nation as a whole, and the servants are God’s prophets.
How many opportunities did the owner give to these tenants to do what was right? How patient is God with these tenants? What ultimately happens to them?
I don’t want to be like those tenants, do you? I’d rather be a servant. Even if it means being abused or killed by tenants who should respect me. I’d rather die serving my Lord than live selfishly like those tenants. Both the servants and the tenants answered to the owner. We will too.