God's End Game - Part 13
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
February 10, 2019
Last week, in our God’s End Game series, we saw how Adam & Eve’s rebellion against their Father utterly infected us and the world.
That first sin brought shame, a breaking of fellowship with God, a struggle between the sexes, a struggle between good and evil, and a struggle even in nature, and ultimately darkened hearts for all humanity.
We saw how it played out in the attitude of the first murderer, Cain, who built a city with arrogance and defiance and how it carried on down his family line.
We saw how mankind got worse and worse to the point that God was sorry he had made man. So he chose the godliest fellow he could find, saved him and his family from a flood that destroyed the world, and started over. Yet that sin problem remained.
Their descendants banded together and made a city and a tower, Babel, in the same spirit of arrogance and defiance. In their building it they were saying they didn’t need God, they’d take care of themselves, thank you very much.
I showed you how mankind still does that today with the tower of atheism, humanism, and even religion.
Now that we’ve established why an End Game is needed, it’s time to tackle the cosmic question of how is God going to fix his good world gone bad? What actually is his end game?
He had options being God and all.
1. He could scrap it and start over (totally, unlike the flood). But if he gave man free will again, he ran the risk of a repeat performance. If he scrapped it and started over without free will, then love would not be a part of our world (and God is love).
2. He could just run with it and let everything slide (many say if he was a good God he would have). Actually, he couldn’t do that because it would go against his very nature. Being a holy and just God, doing that would require him being in a relationship with people tainted by sin. There are some things God cannot do!
3. He could religify it and make a set of rules for everyone to follow.
That way, if folks kept enough of the rules, if they did a good job of working their way into God’s favor by obeying his codes, then they’d earn the right to be put back into relationship with him.
That one, if you stop and think about, makes sense and seems fair.
In school that’s how it works. The smartest and most studious get the A’s.
In sports that’s how it works. The fastest and the strongest win the games.
In business that’s how it works. The companies with the brightest staff and best ad campaigns make the most money.
Many, many folks think that’s how it works in God’s good world gone bad. They think that’s how he handled it. God rewards those who work the hardest, who make their way the farthest up his ladder of performance.
To be honest, they think that for good reason.
If we kept on going in Genesis, we’d see a shift in focus. Chapters 1-11 are about the beginning of the human race and why things are the way they are. But chapter 12 onward is about the beginning of the Hebrew race starting with a man named Abram, who would later be called Abraham.
God made a people for himself out of Abraham’s descendants. We know them as the Hebrews, the Israelites. They ended up in bondage in Egypt. God raised up Moses to deliver them. They crossed the Red Sea and began their journey to the Promised Land.
On their way, they found themselves at the foot of a mountain, Mt. Sinai. God descended on the mountain and called Moses up for a meeting…
Exodus 19:16–20 (ESV) — 16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
What comes after that is super familiar to us, the world even…
Exodus 20:1–17 (ESV) — 1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ONE 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. TWO 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. THREE 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. FOUR 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. FIVE 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. SIX 13 “You shall not murder. SEVEN 14 “You shall not commit adultery. EIGHT 15 “You shall not steal. NINE 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. TEN 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Keep going and for sixty chapters in Exodus and then Numbers, the Laws of God are added to and explained in great detail, for a total of 613 to be exact.
Now if God gave these commandments, wrapping them all up in a covenant with his chosen people, the Israelites, saying if you do them you’ll be blessed if you don’t you’ll be cursed, don’t you think it’s fair to assume he meant for them to be a way to reach him? To be made right with him? A way to undo what was done in the garden?
It was, after all, a breaking of a commandment that led to such a mess. Wouldn’t it make sense then, that our keeping of commandments would be the way back?
It would seem that way. That fits into the way the world works. And it fits into the way many of us think about God.
Ah, but there’s a problem with that and it has to do with Abraham, or Abram as he was called at the time.
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Look carefully and notice God promised Abram three things:
- Land - the land of Canaan.
- Offspring - problem was, Abram and Sarai had no children, they weren’t spring chickens anymore, and weren’t getting any younger.
- Blessing - God said that in Abram “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Stay with me here, because this is the bridge that’s going to carry us over into the NT where we’ll see in full detail the mind-blowing way God deals with his good world gone bad.
Zoom in on that last part, the blessing part of God’s promises: “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
What’s strange about that is, looking backwards from Exodus and Numbers, where the law of God was given to his chosen people, the ones who came from Abraham, you’d expect it to say, “In you all the families of your descendants shall be blessed.” But it says all the families of the EARTH.
That word for earth in Hebrew, when looked at in the context of this verse, means “the entire surface of the land on which mankind dwells.”
Now because this is spoken to Abraham before Israel even existed, it means somehow, in him all families of all time ever to exist of every tribe, nation, and people ever to dwell on the face of the earth are going to be blessed in him!
Remember that and look on to chapter 15…
Genesis 15:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
One of Abram’s problems with God’s promise of offspring was he had no children, and it didn’t look like that was going to change. Because he was so old. How old was he? So old if he’d have acted his age he’d have died.
His only choice was to pass down his inheritance to a member of his household, who wasn't a biological heir, a servant named Eliezer. This was a custom in ancient times for the childless.
Look, though, how God responded…
4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Wow. What a revelation. What an answer to Abram’s question, “What will you give me?” God said he would give him his very own son to be his heir. And not only that, from his son would come so many descendants, he wouldn’t be able to number them.
In ancient times there was no greater joy than having children, and no greater joy especially than having a son carry on the household name. And on top of that to know from this son would come a multitude of descendants? Abram probably high-fived every guy in his clan.
Okay. We are about to get to what I consider the most important verse in the Bible because it reveals how God deals with the problem of his good world gone bad, how he handles our dark and sinful hearts…
6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
That word “righteousness” means in right standing with God. It means Abraham’s sinfulness has been dealt with; he’s been acquitted of his faults. That severing of the relationship between him and God brought on by Adam’s sin has been made right.
This little known and well-hidden verse demonstrates something revolutionary. Abraham was made right with God by believing in the promises he gave him.
Wait, what? It wasn’t Abraham’s obedience? His works? His performance that made him right with God? It was his faith?
430 years before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai, a man was made right with God. If that’s true, then what’s written on those tablets cannot save you from your sin.
This verse tells us the way God deals with his good world gone bad, the way sinful man is made right with him is not works or the keeping of the law. It’s faith; it’s by believing in His promises.
This gets even better.
What did God promise Abraham?
Land. Seed. Blessing.
What did we zoom in on? Blessing.
And what was strange about it? Somehow, in him all families of all time ever to exist of every tribe, nation, and people ever to dwell on the face of the earth are going to be blessed.
How was that promise kept? How is my Gentile family today blessed in Abraham?
Look at what Paul, an Israelite and former Pharisee, wrote the Christians at Galatia, who were falling for the idea that the way to be in right relationship with God was through Mt. Sinai…
Galatians 3:6–14 (ESV) — 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Whom did Jesus descend from? ABRAHAM! Jesus and what he did on the cross is the fulfillment of that promise made in Genesis 12!
So, Abraham was made right before God the way we all have to be: belief in his promises which are specifically and ultimately bound up in Jesus!
So it’s not Mt. Sinai that deals with God’s good world gone bad; it’s Mt. Calvary (where we’re going).
Does that mean we get to do away with the 10 Commandments? Are they worthless? Paul asked that very question…
Galatians 3:19–27 (ESV) — 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Look at your illustrations:
Cross out the tower
Write you can’t get there from here above the Mt. Sinai (we don’t fire the guardian when it’s time to take our inheritance. The fulfilling of the law was necessary for our relationship to be restored… accomplished through Jesus!)
Conclusion: Let me close with this. A lot of folks sitting in churches just like ours believe this up to a point. They accept that believing in the promises of God is how you get saved, but they act and live like works are how you stay saved.
Let me ask you a question: if works can’t save you, how can they keep you saved? If Abraham’s obedience after believing and being made righteous was required to stay in right standing with God, then he didn’t make it. Just read his story. He lied about his wife to Pharaoh and then tried to help God fulfill his promise by impregnating his wife’s maidservant.
If you think that works are how you stay saved, then you are trying to reach God through religion just like the Pharisees, or the Muslims, or whoever.
You’ve gone back to Babel!
So next week we are going to dive down deep into how God did actually deal with his good world gone bad.
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