April 27, 2014
You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt. You saw how I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to myself. Now obey me completely. Keep my covenant. If you do, then out of all of the nations you will be my special treasure. The whole earth is mine. But you will be a kingdom of priests to serve me. You will be my holy nation.’ That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
So Moses went back. He sent for the elders of the people. He explained to them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.
All of the people answered together. They said, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. (Exodus 19:4-8)
And Moses came and told the people all the words of Jehovah, and all the ordinances: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which Jehovah hath spoken will we do.
And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient.
And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words. (Exodus 24:3-8)
Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab along with all whom God had gifted with the ability to work skillfully with their hands. The men were eager to get started and engage in the work. They took from Moses all the offerings that the Israelites had brought for the work of constructing the Sanctuary. The people kept on bringing in their freewill offerings, morning after morning.
All the artisans who were at work making everything involved in constructing the Sanctuary came, one after another, to Moses, saying, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing this work that God has commanded us to do!”
So Moses sent out orders through the camp: “Men! Women! No more offerings for the building of the Sanctuary! (Exodus 36:2-6)
Here are separate incidents where Moses brings God’s words to the Children of Israel. They hear and they vow to obey. They have Listened to God, and they swear to Act for God.
In the first incident (Exodus 19:4-8), they had seen God’s power and they swore on the basis of that. “Wow! He made the Pharaoh bow to His demands, and He destroyed the Egyptian army when they came after us. We better agree or we’re toast!”
“OK, God whatever you say, just don’t get angry with US.”
They agreed without knowing what was in store for them.
But this was lip service. They agreed with their lips, but they made no heart commitment. They did not own their vow. They heard God’s words, but did not take them to heart.
In the second instance (Exodus 24:3-8), Moses called all the people together. Then, in their hearing, Moses read all the Law required of them, including:
They have lived under YHWH’s guidance and provision for 3-5 months. This time, they clearly have the knowledge to make an informed commitment. The People of God own the Covenant and swear to obey.
This time, they have a full picture of the Covenant terms. They heard and understood God. Now the ball was in their court. They, as individuals and as a nation, had to act out what God spoke to them.
We all know the story. They blew hot and cold. One generation was zealous for the Law and for God. Two generations later, and several after that, they were indifferent and grew to be apostate. I have never stopped to count the number of times God had to deliver His Chosen people from the disaster they fell into through their apostasy.
What was the recurring pattern, what happened to the Children of Israel time after time? What does this say about God?
In 1 John 4:8 he says, “God is love.” Since God is love, where do we discover what that means?
What is God telling us through the Beloved Apostle John?
We are God’s children and only the man who knows God hears our message; what we say means nothing to the man who is not himself a child of God. This gives us a ready means of distinguishing the true from the false.
To you whom I love I say, let us go on loving one another, for love comes from God. Every man who truly loves is God’s son and has some knowledge of him. But the man who does not love cannot know him at all, for God is love.
To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins. (1 John 4:6-11)
If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!
God spoke to the Children of Israel, giving them his directions how they should live. God speaks to us today, giving us directions how to live.
He has spoken to us in:
We have listened to God speaking to us. We are listening today. We have completed and continue to complete the first half—we listen to God.
How do we complete the second half? How do we act for God?
You have heard it said many times before: we are the hands and feet and voice of our Lord God.
We all can look and point to acts of love we all make to one another. “Behold how they love one another!” is true of us.
What is not evident is how we act out what we have heard from God in the world. Our close Christian group is a secure microcosm under God’s love and entwined with the mutual love we all share. We reinforce one another, not only in our fellowship, but also in our relationships individually with our Loving Father.
The world at large, however, is not mutually reinforcing. There is a distinct absence of Godly love in our culture. Businesses know that the friendly, helpful approach leads to dollars, so they instruct their employees to smile. Nevertheless this is not real love.
Every day we encounter drivers who are ungracious, pushy, erratic, and offensive (it is our fervent prayer that we do not have with them close encounters of the 3rd kind).
We have had to deal with fellow employees, apparently bent on bringing us down. People, who are feeling stress, take it out on others. Bureaucrats who are serving their time for a paycheck couldn’t care less about the public’s problems or needs. The atmosphere in the world is a serious test of our love.
To act for God is to live out love. Bless when we are cursed. When you see those without a smile, give them one of yours. Pray for them before, during and after each encounter. Leave them with a word of blessing, whether they like it or not.
To act for God in living love is to be patient and understanding, even when things are not going your way. Recognize that the person on the other end of the phone or behind the counter has not appeared the moment you encounter them. He or she has been putting up with all kinds of people before you arrived and is aware that she or he will have to after you leave. Make you encounter as pleasant as you can. In gratitude, drop a blessing into their lives.
When you cannot get through the bureaucratic labyrinth and your frustration level grows, begin praying and reacquire the peace that Jesus alone can give. Learn to respond instead of reacting. Our immediate human reaction is usually retaliatory and offensive. However, if we refer our situations and emotions to the Holy Spirit, He generates a Godly response. We thus allow our Guide and Counselor to speak love through us.
We have listened to the Old Testament summery of the Law many times.
Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Perhaps more times we have heard Jesus summary of the Law.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
Having listened to this, our act is to love God. Love is not just a squishy feeling in your stomach, which just might be the flu. Love is an action. You love God by:
This second half of our topic is the proof of the first. You will act for God if you have truly listened to God. We have a solid base from which to do the acts of love to those in the world, to our families and to our Lord. Go into all the world and make disciples, loving them into the Kingdom of God by presenting Christ to them through word and deed.
Our Gracious Father, we recognize we are slow learners. You have taught us this lesson of love in Your Word and from sermons all our believing lives. We confess that even after we have heard your instruction to love, like the Children of Israel, we forget and act out our worldliness.
Thank you for being patient with us and teaching us again and again the truth that love wins. Grant us the wisdom to allow Your love to so pervade our lives that it flows out in acts of blessing and words of encouragement to those who are Yours and to those who are not yet.
Through Jesus Christ our Savior, we pray. Amen