An Absolutely Amazing Analogy

In Old Testament times, covenants were made in this way:
The two parties would cut an animal down the middle and lay the two halves down with a walkway between them.
The two parties would then walk between the two halves of the animal–showing their commitment and consent to be treated as the animal was should they break their part of the covenant.
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He passed through the animals by Himself. There was no way Abraham could keep his part of the covenant. He would have failed in no time.
When God passed through the animals by Himself, He took both the responsibility and the penalty should the covenant not be kept. When God saves a person, He takes full responsibility for him or her. He justifies and sanctifies. Nothing is left up to us to fulfill. How comforting this is!
It’s terrible that we’re so used to weak and pitiful depictions of God. God is not weak and pitiful. He is powerful and uses His power without consulting humans. He is One worth trusting. His love for His people lasts.

Note: Here is only my feeble attempt at retelling what I heard during a sermon. I have not extensively researched covenants myself.

God's love: incarnation, initiation, propitiation

Notes from last Sunday’s sermon:

Have you merely gone from being a full-time pagan to a part-time dabbler in sin?

Your sin is so great that it took nothing less than the death of God’s Son to pay for it.

If you think that God is a loving grandfather and doesn’t really punish sin, here are some passages for you to read:
Revelation 1:13-17 . Hebrews 12:18-24 . Hebrews 12:25-29 . Isaiah 6:3-7 . Ezekiel 1:26-2:1 . Genesis 15:9-17

1) God manifested His love in Christ’s incarnation1 John 4:9
God’s love is not abstract. It is personal–displayed in a person.

The cross displays the power to bring dead people to life. Each Christian is evidence of this.

2) God manifested His love by initiation. – 1 John 4:10a
We were not the initiators.

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea.
‘Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul;
always thou lovedst me.

– anonymous

3) God manifested His love in substitutionary propitiation. – 1 John 4:10b
substitutionary propitiation = satisfactory payment
The offended paid the full penalty for the criminal.

Psalm 119:73-80

73. Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76. Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
77. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78. Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79. Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
80. May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!

73. God created me. He formed my mind. Only that of His Truth which He allows me to understand will I be able to comprehend. I have no ability outside of His enabling. I cannot wrap my mind around anything about Him and His Word except that which He communicates to me in a way that my frail heart can grasp. Rather than be discouraged by myself, I must fly to Jesus, seeking Him in His Word to make the words speak to me and to affect my understanding for His glory.

74. Hope belongs to believers. Without Jesus, you can have your best life now and put off unpleasantries till later. Face up to God’s wrath against you now, and you may enjoy His pleasure eternally. Only children of God have hope of good things while they are afflicted here on earth.

For the non-christian, this life is the best things will get.

For the Christian, this life is the worst things will get.

No light matter is here connoted.

75. God’s ways are all good. Even His chastening is good. God will be faithful to afflict me with my sin until He calls me home. What a comfort!

76. As long as I am chastised by God for my sin and continually brought back to Him from my straying ways, I can rest in knowing that I belong to Him. Falling from the hands of my God would be the greatest tragedy. Therefore, knowing that I am held securely by Him is the greatest joy.

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6

77. God’s grace in my life is my life. I have no life outside of His life. What He has given me and continually gives me is true life, not some semblance of a happy existence.

78. I must not try to right all wrongs. First, I would never be able to do so. Second, God alone is Judge. He will right all wrongs in His perfect timing, so I can rest in His goodness.

Here, is an example of what to do when we are falsely accused. Rather than mull over our hurt and ways of revenge, we should meditate on God’s Word. It alone is Truth. It is bad to encounter falsehood, but it is a hundred times worse to stoop into falsehood ourselves. Stooping to false thoughts shows a deeper false belief that our thoughts, words, and actions will not be judged.

To war against falsehood in our own lives, we must give ourselves to reading and meditating on what is true—God’s Word.

79. Are we so filled with God’s Word that we have a ready answer for all who question us? Are we able to confidently say that we can communicate God’s Word to others?

Ministry is not the goal. Knowing God is the goal.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15 (emphasis mine)

Nevertheless, we should all be equipped to articulate our hope and minister to others in due time.

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:13-17

We cannot articulate our hope unless we know what it is and know it well. We cannot have any counsel to minister to others if we have not plunged the depths of God’s counsel ourselves.

80. The psalmist did not here state that he desired his appearance or the way others perceived him to be blameless. He asked for his heart to be blameless. You cannot get any deeper than that. The heart in Scripture denotes the whole inner person, including the mind and attitudes. The heart, too, is the seat of emotion. Rather than wanting to promote an upright image, the psalmist desired Truth in the inmost parts. He wanted to be spotlessly clean on the inside. Why? If we Christians already have the promise of eternal salvation, why expend much energy on purifying ourselves? Why give ourselves to housekeeping of our earthly temples? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Scripture states that each person will receive what is due him at the final judgment.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

I want to be worthy of receiving a large reward, don’t you? Now what should be my reason for desiring a large reward? I cannot think of a better reason than that I may be able to give a large reward back to my King. Whatever I may receive will rightly be cast back at my Savior’s feet. How big of a reward do I want to cast back? How much glory do I want to ascribe to His Name?

Now, here is a reason to pursue uprightness with a passion—to glorify my God as much as I can as long as He gives me breath.

Psalm 119:65-72

65. You have dealt well with your servant,
O Lord, according to your word.
66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
67. Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
68. You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
69. The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70. their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
71. It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
72. The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

65. God deals well with His children. All His ways are good and good for us. His goodness was, is, and will be. He will never stop being good and doing good. His Word is good and He is good. This does not only imply sweetness, but Truth. There is nothing that is more true and right than Him and His Word. And this is the One we can call “Master.”

66. Because God is the only good One, He is the best teacher of good. All the excellent books of solid Biblical teaching cannot substitute for God’s Word’s interpretation of itself. Unlike books written by men, the Bible stands on it’s own as a complete curriculum on God, His relationship to us, and our responsibility toward Him. It is worthy of diligent all-consuming study.

67. This is an amazing paradox. When I was comfortable with my sin, I strayed far from the path. But, now that I am bothered by sin, I keep to the path. When it went “well” with me, I erred greatly. When I became afflicted, I pursued rightness. This is not to say that God’s people don’t sin anymore. This is an illustration of life before and after conversion. Surely, it is good that God calls His people not to a path of ease but to one that is often ridden with stones.

68. God is completely good. Diligently remind yourself of this—one among most basic truths.

69. Though I am attacked by unbelievers, I must not allow any part of my heart to become anxious. I must diligently keep my whole heart focused on Truth and God’s Word—my greatest and unfailing treasure. I must not become distracted by lies.

70. Though their hearts are cold, and they don’t care about me, I must not be offended because I do not live for their approval anyway. I must continually delight in God and His Word. Therein lies true joy.

71. Affliction is good for the soul.

We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God. -D.L. Moody

72. God’s Word is better for me than any earthly riches. I must remember this when I am choosing activities and investments (particularly of time).

Too small comforts?

Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you? -Job 15:11

Woe be to us if we consider God’s comforts too small.

Where else could we turn?

If we reject His comforts, there are none for us.

deadness and salvation

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. -Ephesians 2:1-9 (emphasis added)

The notion that we could choose or not choose to be saved implies that we are not really dead before salvation.

The concept of us being completely dead before salvation implies that God breathed life into us. And if He breathed life into us, could there have been any chance of us choosing not to be saved? If this were possible, who would have had the greater power – us or God?

So what should our response be? Utter gratefulness and humility. For there is no way we could have breathed life into ourselves. God did it all.

Note: I am not saying that all will be saved. I am saying that for those who are saved, God brought them to salvation, and He could not be resisted.

Psalm 119:57-64

57. The Lord is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58. I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59. When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60. I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62. At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63. I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!

57. “Food keeps me alive, therefore I promise to eat it.” God’s Word is more necessary to keep my spiritually alive than food is to keep my physically alive. There is no option but to treasure the Word of God.

58. All my soul should be devoted to seeking God’s favor – not in the sense of justification, but in the sense of ascribing glory to Him in the the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. What a great promise it is that God will bring the work in me to completion! Nothing will snatch me out of His hand.

59. When I consider this life, I must be turned to God’s Word. There is no other guide sufficient to chart these treacherous waters of life.

60. A mark of someone who loves God’s Word is eagerness to obey. This is proof of a regenerated heart. Period.

61. No obstacles will eternally phase the righteous. No hardships will cause the justified to reject their Judge. Rather, trials will be a force to send them straight to God’s Word for whatever comfort and strength may be found there. And they will not be disappointed.

62. God’s Word is, when rightly viewed, the sufficient incentive to rise from sleep. Sleep, though sweet to every soul, cannot match the sweetness of God’s Word to those who cherish it. Do we love God’s Word enough to get up from sleep early to spend time in it’s folds, word after word drawing us deeper into it’s ocean of meaning?

63. Can I stand before God with a clean conscience concerning those with whom I spend much time? Are my companions helping me in my walk with the Lord? Companions are not just people. Whatever I spend time on and with is a companion. Am I influenced for God’s glory by my companions?

64. In this verse, “steadfast love” refers to God’s mercy. His goodness, kindness, and faithfulness are evident to eyes that see. The earth and our lives are full of these things. If we cannot see them, the problem is with our perception, not with reality. When we have trouble believing God’s goodness in the midst of hardship, we should pray for a heart to believe what we cannot see and eyes to see what we would not recognize on our own.

Life is to be lived thoughtfully, not carelessly. Time is fleeting. Make the most of each moment with the mind God gave you to ponder Him. Study His Word with your whole being, determined to do so till you have exhausted it’s meaning. By the way, this will keep you duly occupied for eternity. And what better preoccupation could there ever be than sitting at our Savior’s feet?

Psalm 119:49-56

49. Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50. This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
51. The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
52. When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord.
53. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
54. Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
55. I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law.
56. This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.

49. Of course God never forgets, but we act like we believe He does sometimes. If we always remembered that God never forgets His promises but always fulfills them, would we ever be discouraged by our circumstances? This is an idealistic question, but it should be our goal. So much, if not all, of our sin is rooted in forgetting or not believing God.

50. God’s promises give life and comfort. Since God’s Word gave you new life, it most certainly can sanctify you till eternity. Do not let go of your trust in God and His Word. Nothing will prevail against it.

We Christians have been given the promise of all promises and hope of all hopes. Forgetting this ends us up in discouragement. When we are afflicted, we should have the most hope because it is only temporary. Our eternal future is full of joy!

51. No matter what kind of ridicule comes against me, I can still cling to God’s Word – which never fails.

Though I may be scoffed and mocked by unbelievers on this earth, their beliefs are a myth. I can remain steadfast because my belief is in Truth. Pursuing God’s way in my life can keep me from being discouraged by opposition.

52. God’s commandments are rooted in Who He is. They are also the best guide for our lives. God gives rules not just for His own benefit but for ours. This is an awesome truth. God, so great and high above us mere wretches, actually is concerned about our welfare. This should be enough to make us run to every command He gives. He is omniscient, and we are not. Therefore, we must trust His guidance.

God has given His Word to us partly to show how He worked in times past. History is recorded to teach us. It is good for us to see people’s disobedience followed by judgment so that we may be more committed to obeying God in our own lives.

Remembering how God worked in times past should buoy me because He never changes. As He was faithful to keep His own safe in the past, so He will do so in the present and future. Though I may not see His faithfulness in a way that makes sense to me, I can trust in His Word that says: “…He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does.” (Job. 23)

53. When we are angry about law-breaking, we should evaluate our hearts. Are we upset because they got away with it? Or are we upset because God’s glory has been in a tiny way obscured in their eyes? Are we envi0us of their “freedom” or jealous for God’s honor to be upheld?

54. What do we sing and muse about? If it is something other than God’s Truth, it is not the best it could be. As we are pilgrims on this earth, we should set our hearts on God and His Kingdom ways – for that is eternal.  Our time here is so extremely short. Eternity in God’s house is what we are preparing for.

God’s Word is not dull like a rule-book. It is the finest of all literature, and fit for singing all the day. It should capture our hearts like no other one or thing can.

55. It is by remembering Who our God is that we are strengthened in the dark seasons. Knowing Who He is will enable us to trust when we can’t see, walk when the path is not lighted, and be confident of deliverance when darkness overshadows like clouds.

56. Keeping God’s Word, in itself, is a blessing. It is a jewel worth leaving every other “gem” (trinket) behind for. If all we could expect would be the satisfaction of knowing that we obeyed God’s Word, we would be most greatly rewarded. Not only this, but we are promised so much more. For our little acts of obedience, God opens the floodgates of Heaven’s blessings. What reason is there not to obey?

Psalm 119:41-48

41. Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise;
42. then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules.
44. I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45. and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts.
46. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47. for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
48. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.

41. Here, again, is a request that will not be denied. God’s love and salvation are applied with the greatest security. Those upon whom God sets His love can be assured that it will last forever. The greatest sorrow one can experience is not knowing God’s salvation and love. If you have been blessed by these things, you have been given the greatest gift of all.

42. When the devil condemns me, I can rest secure because I know that Christ has made me clean. God sees me not in my sin but in Christ’s righteousness.

43. Beseech God to keep you growing in Him. He is pleased by earnest desire to hold on to Him. There is no other sure hope besides God and His Word. There is no other reward greater than that given to those who obey Him.

44. We should find ourselves more and more making promises to God out of love, and not fright. Do we love to serve Him? Do we love to obey Him? Do we love to seek Him?

45. True freedom is found in God’s way of living. If you see the Christian life as a collection of rules and regulations, and you find it a burden, something is wrong. You have not grown to love God as you ought. You have not tasted the sweetness of His love. If the freedom you desire is the license to do as you wish, you do not understand Christ’s lordship over you. You do not understand that you have been bought with a price and therefore owe your life to God.

The freedom a Christian enjoys is freedom from condemnation. Instead of life as a convict in a prison cell merely waiting for the day of execution, a redeemed sinner enjoys life as a servant in the King’s realm. The possibilities for rightly honoring and serving the King are endless!

46. “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (Pro. 22:29) We sometimes think of the Christian life as one that lives above academia, and indeed, in some respects, this is true. However, God placed people on this earth to glorify Him not only in church services and “religious duties”, but in the whole of life. Leaving academia entirely to the non-regenerate is an unwise and ignorant choice. Christians should study as much as others, if not more, because the world of academia needs bright beacons of God’s transforming power. More importantly, we honor God by learning about His creation and studying for His glory. God gave us minds for a reason.

If we allow ourselves to remain ignorant of things in this world, we do not bring people’s attention to Christ. Rather, we are a source of dishonor to our Lord. We of all people should be the most zealous to learn.

47. Those who delight in God’s Word will be blessed. It is not my duty to enumerate all the rewards for doing so, only to obey.

48. “Lifting up hands” causes me to think of surrender or worship. We are to worship God, not His Word as an entity in and of itself. We are to delight in surrendering ourselves fully in obedience to God’s Word. It is hard to clutch anything tightly when our hands are opened and extended. Held out hands show willingness to receive and give. We must receive the commands of God and give ourselves to carrying them out.

Psalm 119:33-40

33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35. Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36. Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37. Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38. Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39. Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40. Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!

33. If God does not teach me, I am taught in vain. In the footnotes of my ESV Bible, “keep it as my reward” is an alternate wording for the last phrase of this verse. Could it be that God’s Word (in written form) is not only our current treasure to sustain us on this earth, but will be our reward for the ages (in spoken form) as we see Him face-to-face? This may seem as a bland reward compared to streets of gold lined by mansions (as we are prone to imagine we have coming us in eternity, but has no basis in God’s Word). But, we have only to read what God’s Word says about itself to realize that there is no greater treasure than God Himself, and His communication to us is priceless. Relish His Word so much that you relish the thought of Him speaking with you face-to-face in eternity far above all the material joys that might be yours at that time.

34. Left to my own imagination, I am only prone to devising false applications of God’s Word. Therefore, it is necessary to pray for God to give me proper understanding of His Word. It is also important to discern self-help books and the like whether or not they rightly apply Scripture to life. Just because an application seems good to me doesn’t mean that it is God’s will.

Keeping God’s Word is not an activity I can do on the side. It must consume me. I must be fully committed to God’s Law and meditate on it daily despite what other things demand my attention. A day without time in God’s Word and continued meditation upon it is a day wasted.

35. Like Paul, I want to walk righteously, but my desire is often violated by my will. I do not do what I want to do. God must lead me in His way if I am ever to walk righteously. My delight in His law is not enough. I must delight enough to rely on His strength. And when I fall, I must delight to rise up and do so again.

36. I am not naturally inclined to God’s Word for His sake. I naturally may want to do right in order to benefit myself. A Christian must learn to desire righteous living for God’s glory alone.

37. I may be doing quite well in not looking at wickedness. But, there is always room for improvement. I must learn to discriminate between what is worthwhile and what is worthless. Time spent merely on leisure is appropriate at times, but generally I should seek to always use my time in the best possible way. Life is found in living as God desires.

38. God’s promises will be fulfilled. Asking Him for that, therefore, is asking in accordance with His will. They are, however, not always fulfilled in the way we expect. For example, the promise to children who honor their parents is “your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) I know of children who were honoring to their parents and yet died early. Franklin Graham was a rebel, but did not die during that phase of his life. While we may not understand God’s promises, we should always keep in mind that as long as He does not change, His promises will be fulfilled. We should trust in His character and leave the specific fulfillment of His promises up to Him because His ways are way higher than ours.

The wording of Exodus 20:12 can be properly applied to an eternal reward. Only Christians can truly honor their parents as God commands. Life on this earth is not the reward for Christians. Our reward is eternal life. If we see Exodus 20:12 this way, we can guard against wrong understanding of the promise.

39. In Christ, my reproach is taken away. I will not face the eternal consequences for my sin. I need not fear earthly reproach because I will never face eternal reproach. Praise the Lord!

40. The passionate desire of the psalmist for God’s Word is an example that I want to imitate. I want to long for God as much as I can. There is nothing with as much worth attached to it as God and His Word. True life is found in Him!