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Tuesday: Israel and the Covenant — 27 Comments

  1. And it shall come to pass,if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do ALL His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high about all nations of the earth.
    The Israelites part of the covenant was obediences and how miserable they have failed.

  2. A few years ago Carmel decided that she would learn to play the ukelele. She was already an accomplished pianist, having earned her AMusA (pianoforte performance) while she was pregnant with our daughter. So, she had some idea what she was taking on when she started on the ukelele. She joined a beginners class with about ten other people her age. They would have a lesson for about an hour and a half each week. For the rest of the week, Carmel would practise the chord transitions she had been taught. Some were easy, some were hard, and a few were dash near impossible! But she persisted and after much groaning, she would finally master them. Some of the others in the class would not do any practice during the week and come to the class having forgotten what they had been taught only a week before. Many of them complained that the lessons were too hard and quite a few dropped out. Learning to play the ukelele wasn't just a matter of learning the chords and transitions; it required practice and commitment to be successful.

    Nowadays, commitment is a dirty word with a lot of people. They do not want to commit themselves to anything for very long. Try and get people to commit to changing their lifestyle in order to be healthy! Most people are happy to go on a diet for 12 weeks, or do a bit of exercise for a couple of months, but when they realise that in order to be successful they have to change their lifestyle forever, all sorts of excuses rise to the surface.

    The Isrealites were good on agreeing to commitment:

    And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. Exodus 24:3 KJV

    Six weeks later they were complaining about lack of leadership and worshipping a golden calf. So much for commitment.

    And, whatever else you may like to say about grace and faith, salvation comes with commitment - the sort of commitment that lasts a lifetime. It does not save you but it is the result of receiving the grace of Jesus, and it glorifies our Father in heaven.

    • Fortunately, as the Scriptures illustrate with the nation of Israel and the Hebrews is that my salvation from death doesn't depend on my commitment to The LORD, but is 100% dependent on The LORD's Love for me and His Commitment to forgive me for my sin, and His Commitment to die for me, so that I can be assured of being reunited with Him in the New Earth. Unfortunately, most human beings never believe that Theology, but insist on striving, working, obedience, religion, moral purity and self-sufficiency to be worthy of salvation from their sin and earning their way into the New Earth.

      • Mark, every soul who will finally be lost and suffers the 2nd death has been loved by God, who gave them every chance to be forgiven. So it seems that there is more than just God's love involved in my salvation.

        Notice the promised blessings from Christ given in His letters to the churches(Rev 2,3) "to him that overcomes...". If we have no part, then why the need for freewill? I am not suggesting that anything is earned, but rather, received. "Whosoever believeth in Him" is not a mere agreement, but results in "the good fight of faith" which requires putting on "the whole armor of God". There is more than mere feelings involved isn't there? Doesn't Jesus teach us to "strive...", to "ask...seek...knock"(Luke 13:24, Matt 7:7,8)?

        This "action of faith" earns nothing, but receives everything.

      • As Robert implied, if believers had no part to act in salvation, everyone would be saved. And if everyone were saved, heaven would be as unpleasant as much of this earth is now, because the Lord does not magically transform personalities and characters. The people who ruthlessly beat up innocent people on city streets would do it in the streets of the New Jerusalem.

        The old gospel song says it well:
        "Trust and obey, for there's no other way
        To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

        If we do this, we will not be focusing on self, trying to make ourselves "perfect" to earn heaven. Rather, we will be cooperating with the Lord Jesus in saving as many people as possible in this world. We will forget self in service to others. That is our end of the covenant.

        As I mentioned in another comment, Jesus fulfilled humanity's part of the covenant and regained all that Adam lost. It is our privilege to be adopted into His lineage to share His inheritance in the heavenly Kingdom. We gain it by trusting Him to save us and obeying Him because we know that He will ask us to do only what is ultimately best for us.

      • You've hit the nail on the head.

        Im so tired and bored reading Adventist literature that dresses up salvation-by-sanctified-effort and leaves reader bereft of the joy of knowing that God does all that has to be done for salvation, that it is a completed work, and that nothing we do or say can take away from it or add to it.

        Until people get that, no gratitude is possible, as the human ego will be always looking for that little something it can do.

        Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone!

        • Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone! Until people get that, no gratitude is possible

          Yes Jordan! Until we receive that by faith, no gratitude is possible, no joy is possible and no peace is possible. To anyone attempting to earn heaven, Paul asks, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Galatians 4:9 NIV).What happened to all of your joy? (Galatians 4:15 NCV).

          Legalism is joyless because legalism is endless. There is always another rule to obey and work to perform. Inmates incarcerated in self-salvation find work but never joy. How could they? They never know when they are finished. Legalism drains joy. Grace, however, dispenses peace. The Christian trusts a finished work. Grace offers rest. Legalism never does.

          "If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." — Exodus 20:25 KJV

          God's altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord's own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour's work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man's chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in him alone.
          -- Charles Spurgeon

          • Sieg - what a wonderful, heartwarming, intellectually and spiritually satisfying statement by Charles Spurgeon. It is sooo very important that our mind grasps this Truth, clearly understands it and 'accepts the Lord Jesus' atonement'. This is the only way the mind will be satisfied and comes to its 'rest'.
            Thank You!

      • In his great love for us, God sees us as we might be through his eyes of faith. He believes in us. The question is, how does our faith answer his vision for us? If we truly believe in what he believes of us, it will be answered by our obedience to what he asks of us. What he asks of us is that we will love and serve others as he loves and serves us.

        God has forever and irrevocably linked himself to mankind through his Son, Jesus. In the Son of God, all God’s words are fulfilled and all the answers to his promises are “Yes.” When we have the same mind as his Son, when we identify with him and become one with him, we will graciously humble ourselves in service to those who misunderstand us, who are imperfect, and who work against us. This marks us as ones made in God’s image. This marks us as God’s remnant people. Here is the patience of the remnant; here are those who have the testimony of Jesus and the Spirit of Prophecy.

        God’s wondrous love is a healing balm to the soul. Heaven is time and place where we become part of this wondrous love for eternity.

  3. I’ve had patients on my job ask me, “How do I get saved?”

    Without proselytizing, I’ve responded by sharing a few Bible texts with them that are impressed upon my mind in the moment.

    Most of the time they have to do with something God says, or a comforting promise. Usually they’re written down for the person’s future reference.

    I then encourage them to talk to God. Even if you’re not sure He exists, tell Him you’re not sure He’s there. Tell Him you want to believe and you want the change that He promised. The change that will make you just like Him.

    Rarely is much more than that said. Sometimes if asked, I give them a sample of a simple prayer and remind them that God will hear them when they speak to Him from their hearts.

    It is only God Who is righteous. Only He can transform us. Only He loves and knows us enough to take years to show us ourselves. Only He has the patience to help us overcome our sins and weaknesses as we surrender our hearts to Him.

    • "It is only God Who is righteous. Only He can transform us. Only He loves and knows us enough to take years to show us ourselves. Only He has the patience to help us overcome our sins and weaknesses as we surrender our hearts to Him."

      . . . so that we can eventually be saved?

      Why can't you tell people that salvation is a free gift, available here and now, and simply for confessing and believing in Jesus?

      (This is not a rhetorical question.)

      • Mr River, could you expand on your meaning of "simply for confessing and believing in Jesus"?

        How does one "believe" in Jesus? What does that look like? Does it mean to believe all that Jesus taught? If so, check out Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with The Beatitudes". So what does it mean to believe these words from Christ, including Matt 28:20?

        Thank you.

        • Salvation comes with hearing, and believing what you are hearing, about Jesus.
          Remember that tens of thousands of people became Christians long before the NT was even written. Fortunately, we also have those wonderful texts we call Gospels, which fill in detail and about who, when, where and why Jesus died on the cross and rose the third day. As one reads, or hears them read, the seed of faith is planted and grows into all the elements of discipleship, ". . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The "things" are all part of life within salvation, not prerequisites or conditions of salvation.
          That's what it looks like.
          Did I answer your questions?

          • No conditions for salvation? Then everyone is saved? I would suggest a closer reading of Jesus' teachings. You have missed a lot, or have just not elaborated, such as what are "the elements of discipleship"? What did Jesus mean when telling Nicodemus that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"(John 3:3)? Sounds very much like a condition for salvation doesn't it? That's just one of many such conditions Jesus points out.

            • No conditions for salvation? Jesus already met all of the conditions for our salvation by his birth, life, death and resurrection (this is the gospel).

              Then everyone is saved? Everyone who believes the gospel.

              Everyone who doesn't believe or tries to preach a different Gospel will be lost (John 3:18; Galatians 1:8).

            • Ok, I agree with your answer here. The condition is faith, when you say "everyone who believes". Just like Jesus taught Nicodemus.

  4. What many of the Israelites didn't realize was that the LORD promised to transform their hearts and minds to be like His, then they would automatically follow his teachings.

    Ex 31:13
    “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
    Lev 21:8
    You must treat them (the priests) as holy because they offer up food to your God. You must consider them holy because I, the LORD, am holy, and I make you holy.
    2Peter 1:2-8
    May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.
    3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
    5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
    8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Thank you , Shirley. Yours is a perspective the study Guide for today should have emphasized. As the old song says, "Victory in Jesus". Paul makes the process quite clear in Ephesians 2. I appreciate your positive, practical approach.
      Have a blessed day.

      • Yes, Richard, here is another passage which reveals the promise of the Everlasting Covenant, it is the LORD who works in our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit to transform our characters.

        Heb 13:20-21 MKJV  Now may the God of peace (who brought again our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant)  (21)  make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  5. I see the Covenants God made with man as serving very specific short-term and long-term purposes. His efforts focus on the redemption of mankind from the stranglehold its sin-nature has placed on him; this is an ongoing process.
    It is interesting to note the wording of the first half of Jer.11:8KJV – ”Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked everyone in the imagination (stubbornness) of their evil heart; ..”
    ‘Obeying’ is will-generated, ‘inclining the ear’ is heart-generated. I look at Israel as a small sapling growing from the roots of the tree of humanity, rather than an ‘example’ to be judged by everyone as pertaining to their obedience or disobedience, successes and failures regarding their relationship with God.
    The Creator is God of all humanity. I am grateful that God chose a people to start the process of His Salvation benefiting all humanity; He had to start small, and He chose Abraham and his children; representative of the people living at that time, having no understanding who the true God is, but desiring to be protected and having a closer spiritual relationship with Him.

    It is good to find that our study does not only focus on the requirements between two parties of a Covenant agreement. God knew it would be an uphill battle, and so did Abram, Moses and those following in leadership positions. After all, growing in spiritual awareness takes time. We know that! Man’s fallen nature is fighting to stay in control of the will, heart and mind of the overcomer.
    We read in Gal.5:22-23KJV about the Fruit of the Spirit. This is the spiritual end-product of God’s efforts as our heart and mind change. He grows a new spirit in us, His Spirit.
    He started this process with the children of Israel by using the Covenant to mature them spiritually. Eph.6:10-132KJV talks about who we wrestle with and how important it is to be wearing the spiritual armor at all times. Israel was just beginning to understand that their fight was not only with their neighbors, but rater with their old nature.
    I think we do them and ourselves a disservice by looking at Israel’s problems from the standpoint of ‘judgment’ without the mitigation of compassion, especially since we are the beneficiary of their growing pains.

    I think it to be much better, much wiser, to take a more understanding, empathetic view of Israel’s struggles. We all face the same enemies, fight the same battles, need to overcome the same obstacles standing in the way of Faith. Can we really be smug and stand in judgement, using our ‘hindsight’ to judge them with? Would this not shed a light onto our heart’s condition of how we see those yet struggling with life’s temptations, deceit, and misguidance?
    The heavenly Father’s relationship with His human children as well as His spiritual children is just that - a relationship between a father and his children. The complexity existing within the small earthly family multiplied a thousand upon thousand times is what our heavenly Father has accepted as His responsibility because He loves His creation – Man and Woman.

    “How can I develop a deep, loving relationship with God?” We can start by drawing close to God by seeing in Him our heavenly Father; to seek in this relationship with Him everything we always wanted to establish with our earthly father, and so much more!
    The spiritual relationship with our heavenly Father starts with trusting Him with the trust of a child; this small child does not doubt the integrity of its parent; it seeks nurture and protection only. Ever deepening faith springs from this ongoing, loving, faith-based relationship between the spiritual child and its heavenly Father, causing us to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul as we extend this loving peace to our fellow man.

  6. Somehow the emphasis in this lesson needs to be on God's power. I suppose I keep harping on it, but I feel it's so important. A question asks "what do these verses say about how important it is for us to control our thoughts? Well, I hate to say it, but I've found in myself it's impossible for me to control my thoughts. They have a power of their own. Only in connection to God have my thoughts ever changed. It's one thing to control your actions - will-power can accomplish a lot. But thoughts are another matter. And the question at the end - "Why if our relationship with God isn't right are we so prone to fall into sin and disobedience?" I would say that if our relationship with God isn't right, we aren't just prone to fall into sin, we are sure to fall into sin! If we have a narrow view of sin, like the Pharisees, we might think we don't fall into sin because our actions are right, but sin is much deeper than that. We really need the power of God in our lives. And if Israel had realized that, they wouldn't have lived like a yo-yo, following God for a while because they were in trouble, and then quickly falling away again. God did save them when they turned back to Him, but I believe He wished for so much more for them. Later passages on the New Covenant confirm this.

    • Christina I hope this para will give you some light-

      God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the powers and faculties given to man. Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are “willing to be made willing,” the Savior will accomplish this for us, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. {AA 482.3}
      Christina, you what to give the Holy Ghost the go ahead to have him change your thought and inclination. Many times the things we watch at/see, listen to/hear or enter in our bodies have a deep appeal to our thinking. The power of Jesus only can allow us to escape. In my own life whenever I have to go to work and the devil is using some people to get to me the Lord wake me up in the early hrs of the morning to pray. By so doing, the Holy Spirit fights for me during the day and make the situation bearable for me. The problem is still there, but it is no more I but Christ who is dealing with the situation and he sends angels to assist me with the work. He bears the burden for me.
      Satan is a master at what he does, it is only the will power govern by Christ can humans escape.

  7. Paul tells us “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”(2 Cor 10:5).

    "Why is the personal, relational aspect so crucial in the Christian life?"

    The only means available of communing with God is through His word, and our prayers in response. Both the Spirit and nature are not adequate apart from a knowledge of God's Word. Personal contact is how any relationship flourishes. When we lose contact with a friend, we soon lose closeness and personal involvement, and eventually personal knowledge. With God, this personal knowledge is vital if we wish to keep His covenant. Any deviation from His will is breaking away from the knowledge of God and breaks our covenant with Him.(See Prov 2:1-5; 3:1-8, Ps 119:11, Eph 5:17, etc.)

    • I appreciate your comment, Robert, but "communing with God... through His Word and our prayers in response" is *not* the only means of communing with God. In fact, in your own comment, you appear to acknowledge that the Lord does speak through His creation and through His Spirit.

      I would agree that if we have the Word available, depending on the creation and the Spirit is not enough to commune with God. In fact, we can be led far away from Him by depending on our own sense of "the Spirit" and of the meaning of nature. We need the Word to test "the Spirit" and to read nature aright.

      Yet, there are areas of the world where the Bible is not available. I believe in such places, the Lord communicates enough of His will to seekers that they can be saved. See John 1:1-9, with special attention on verse 9, "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." No exceptions. Then consider Romans 1:19-20.

      • Yes Inge, I agree with the exceptions you brought out, which are not too common where I live. My comment addresses the question in a forum about Bible study. 😉

  8. With untold love our God has loved us, and our love awakens toward Him as we comprehend something of the length and breadth and depth and height of this love that passeth knowledge. By the revelation of the attractive loveliness of Christ, by the knowledge of His love expressed to us while we were yet sinners, sinners, the stubborn heart is melted and subdued, and the sinner is transformed and becomes a child of heaven. God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart. By it He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 76.


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