Relationships for Redeemed People
Recently I read a book called Same Kind of Different as Me. It’s an amazing story about a homeless black man, an international art dealer, and a woman that bound the two together. A true story, set in Forth Worth, Texas, Denver Moore was a poor black sharecropper who left the fields of Louisiana and found that homelessness on the streets of Forth Worth was actually a step up. Ron and Debbie Hall were wealthy Christians who made a sacrificially generous choice to invest themselves in the homeless population in downtown Fort Worth. The story that follows is a beautiful story of rescue and redemption where Denver is drawn out of his homelessness, his isolation, his fear, and his anger, and Ron and Debbie invite him into the fullness of life that only Jesus offers through Himself and His life-transforming community. As Denver’s life turns around, he realizes that he’s been rescued for a reason… to help his homeless companions find and experience the same fullness of life, meaning, and purpose that he’s experienced. Today, he is an artist, public speaker, and volunteer for homeless causes. In 2006, the citizens of Fort Worth honored him as “Philanthropist of the Year” for his work with homeless people at the Union Gospel Mission. It’s a powerful story… to be rescued for a reason.
We have been rescued for a reason. There is some greater purpose in what God is doing in our lives… individually and collectively. Remember, the story of God is the story of the God who creates and re-creates for His glory and for our good. What’s so powerful about this epic story of re-creation is that God actually invites us to not only experience the re-creation and the redemption in our own lives… but He actually invites us to become a part of His work of re-creation and redemption. As we explore the covenant that God makes with Moses and the people of Israel, here’s the big idea…
We have been rescued by God to be His redemptive community for the world
In this installment of the Story of God, we are in Exodus 19:1-6 where God invites us back into relationship with Him after the Fall. As we walk through this passage and unpack the big idea that we have been rescued by God to be His redemptive community for the world, we will see a progression of four themes… and the order that these themes emerge is very important for the Story of God and for our lives. The four themes are this: the Road, the Redemption, the Relationships, and the Response. And here’s why the themes and their order are important: (1) we all have a road that we are traveling down, and (2) God supernaturally and powerfully steps in to rescue and redeem us, and (3) He shows us what relationship with Him, with each other, and with the world around us looks like. (4) Then we have a response to choose to follow Him and live out that relationship with Him, with each other, and with the world around us. Here’s what Exodus 19:1-6 says:
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Theme #1: The Road (vv. 1-2)
A lot of history has passed between God’s covenant with Abraham where we discovered that we are blessed to be a blessing. Our passage in Exodus is about 600 years after the covenant with Abraham. Here’s the road that the people of Israel have traveled down in those 600 years.
The Patriarchs. Abraham, our main character last week, had a son named Isaac, who had a son named Jacob. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, has 12 sons, and they become the 12 tribes of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph ends us in Egypt and through an amazing series of events ends up 2nd in command of all of Egypt, serving the Pharaoh. There is a famine in Canaan where Jacob and his sons live, so they head down to Egypt, find out that Joseph is there, and they all move to Egypt.
The Slavery of Israel. Years and years pass, and the Egyptians enslave the Israelites… for 400 years. During the latter part of those 400 years, a little Israelite baby named Moses is born, and through a series of supernatural events, he ends us living in the Pharaoh’s court. But it’s still hard times for the people of Israel… but remember the covenant that God had made with Abraham and his descendents. There’s a glimmer of hope in the story in Exodus 2:23-25.
Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.
So as the story progresses, God uses Moses to free the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Ultimately the people of Israel are released, hence the name of the book “Exodus” which in Latin means “The Road Out” (ex = out & odus = road or way). Exodus is the story of how God led His people out of bondage and slavery. So at this point, there are over 2 million Israelites leaving Egypt, and the Pharaoh is not happy about this turn of events… so he sends his army to capture them and force them to return to Egypt. And then the most dramatic miracle of rescue and redemption in the OT happens when the people of Israel are backed up against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army barreling down on them. God splits the waters in two. The people of Israel pass through on dry land, and when the Egyptian army pursue them through the dry ground, God causes the waters to crash down upon the army and He destroys them. God has rescued Israel… redeemed them from slavery and death. They are His people. So when we get to Exodus 19, three months have passed since the Israelites escaped from Egypt. And they are now in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula camped out near the foot of Mt. Sinai.
This is the road of rescue that the people of Israel travelled down. This is their story. And you have a story too. You have your own road that you’ve travelled down to get to this point. Just as God was supernaturally present in Israel’s story, He is supernaturally present in your story as well. At times Israel either struggles with or simply chooses not to see that God was present on their road and in their story. And it’s struggle we all face… keeping our eyes upon God, sensing His presence, knowing that He is there through it all… wherever we’re at on the road we’re travelling.
Theme #2: The Redemption (vv. 3-4)
This is one of the most important passages in the Old Testament. Here’s why–it shows us that the Lord has supernaturally and powerfully saved, rescued, and redeemed the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. Everything else that flows and follows from this point forward is in response to His divine redemption, love, and grace. In v. 3 – so Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai, and God speaks to him there and has a message that He wants Israel to know for the rest of their lives.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself” (v. 4).
God is reminding them of His supernatural work in their lives and in the freedom that they are now experiencing. He is reminding them that He is the One who has done this. He has made promises to them, and He is living up to His word. After the Red Sea experience, when the people of Israel are on the other side, they have a huge worship service with Moses as the worship leader. Here’s part of one of the songs they sing from Exodus 15:9-13.
“The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil;
My desire shall be gratified against them;
I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them.’
“You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders?
“You stretched out Your right hand,
The earth swallowed them.
“In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.
Back in Exodus 19:4, there is an intimacy here even amidst the power, “How I bore you on eagles’ wings.” When an eagle is teaching its young how to fly, if the eaglet is falling out of control, the eagle will swoop down under the eaglet and will catch it on its wings. This is a picture of what God has done for Israel.
He has brought His people back to Himself. This moment will become one of those life-changing, transformational experiences in their own lives and in their history as a people. The rest of the OT will continually come back to this moment to remind them that God is the One who acted powerfully to rescue and redeem His people because of His love and His grace.
Where have those powerful moments of redemption and rescue happened in your own life? Perhaps in your story, it’s when you came to Jesus Christ and gave Him your life. For some, that was a dramatic moment. You knew very well that you were headed for death and God brought you to a place of life. For some of you, God has come through in a very powerful way… He’s healed you physically or emotionally… or He’s healed a relationship… your marriage or a relationship with a family member. And for some of you, the simple fact that He has preserved and is preserving you through difficult times and challenging seasons is a sign of His presence and His protection in your life. God calls us to remember these moments… to focus on those seasons where “He has born us on eagles’ wings.” Remembering these moments gives shape, meaning, and purpose to everything in our lives that comes afterwards.
Theme #3: The Relationships (vv. 5-6)
Now that they have been rescued and redeemed, God explains to them what “relationships for redeemed people” look like… relationships with Him, with each other, and with a broken world. And here’s the catch for us to understand and experience from this point forward–while we are never saved by works (i.e., we can’t work hard enough to earn salvation and redemption… it’s always a gift of grace), how we choose to live in relationship with God, our obedience to Him, determines how we experience the blessing of God and how we will be used by God to extend that blessing into the world and reverse the curse.
v. 5 – “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant…” Now we’re into conditional language. Redemption and rescue is at God’s divine initiative (we are never saved by works), but experiencing His transformational power and presence in our lives is based upon our willingness and our desire to live in obedience to the boundaries that He gives us.
There are three relationships expounded upon in the Law: (1) with God, (2) with each other, and (3) with a broken world. In the Ten Commandments that are given in the very next chapter, Exodus 20:1-17, God shows them what it looks like to live in relationship with Him and with each other. Then God says that if the people of Israel live within the boundaries that He gave them with Him and with each other, then He would use them to be a blessing to a broken world to be a kingdom of priest… His redemptive community for the world.
Relationship with God. Exodus 20:1-12. In the first four commandments, God gives His people first and foremost what it looks like to live in relationship with Him… above all He wants their heart. He wants Israel to love Him with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength… because He knows that He is their greatest good. As they are fully His, as they see and savor Him above all else, then they will experience the fullness of life that He desires for them… the fullness of meaning and purpose that He wants to use them for… to be His redemptive community… those that have experienced the redemption, freedom, and blessing of God and then live out and extend that redemption, freedom, and blessing to a broken world.
Relationships with each other. Exodus 20:13-17. After God has given them a picture of relationship with Him, He then explains in commandments #5-10 what it looks like to live in relationship with each other. We often see the Ten Commandments as a bunch of “Thou shall not’s”… the “no’s” of the Ten Commandments. But if we are going to say “yes” to God, we are going to have to say “no” to something else. We are going to have to say no to idols in our lives that steal and destroy our relationship with Him… and we are going to have to say “no” to the things that destroy the redemptive community that God is building… that’s the essence of the relationships with each other. We must say “yes” to God and to His life transforming, redemptive community with His people, and say “no” to the things that destroy it… murder (which is born out of anger and rage), adultery and sexual immorality, stealing, lying, and coveting.
Relationships with a broken world. Now here’s where the road leads… here’s the power… we’ve been rescued and redeemed for a reason: “We have been rescued by God to be His redemptive community for the world.” As God is reminding His people that He has been with them on the road out of slavery and the road to freedom, as He has redeemed and rescued them, as He desires that they live within the boundaries of life-giving and life-transforming relationship with Him and with each other, He says this, “I want you to be a redemptive community for the world. I want you to help me reverse the curse in this broken world.”
A Kingdom of Priests. This is a beautiful and powerful image… a kingdom of priests. The kingdom means that we are living under the Lordship of the King… that’s the Creator Redeemer King God. But a priest is someone who lives in two world… a priest is someone who goes to God on behalf of people and goes to people on behalf of God. Priests must live in the reality of God first and foremost… loving Him with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength… but then they must be in touch with the realities of broken people in a broken world. And priests go into the hurt of a broken world with the hope of God. One pastor put it like this – “priests live at the intersection of hurt and hope and direct traffic.” That’s what we are called to do… to be this kingdom of priests… to be a people who live at the intersection of hurt and hope and direct traffic to the One who can restore, redeem, and re-create. This offer and opportunity was given to Israel, but it’s also given to us as the Church… the redemptive, life-transforming community of Jesus. “We have been rescued by God to be His redemptive community for the world.”
Theme #4: The Response
Our response must be to say “yes” to God and to His calling and mission for us. And saying “yes” means living in obedience to Him. We are the “called out ones,” holy people that God has rescued from death and sin and brought to Himself to a place of life, meaning, and purpose. If we are going to live out that calling of being a life-transforming community of Christ, then we have to commit to living under the loving Lordship of Christ. Here is where it is important for us to understand that while we are not under the OT Law anymore (all of the specific laws that God gave to Israel in the OT) because Christ has perfectly and fully fulfilled the requirements of the Law on our behalf… His perfect righteousness has been given to us, we are under the “Law of Christ.” (see Galatians 6:2). There are still life-giving boundaries of being in relationship with Christ and with each other in the life-transforming, redemptive community of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the best way to describe the relationship between the OT Law and the NT Law. In both the OT and NT, there is one great commandment that is repeated in both the OT and NT… love God with the totality of who you are and love your neighbor as yourself. And then in the OT, we have the Ten Commandments that become the expression of that one great commandment. In the NT, 9 of the 10 are repeated with the exception of “keeping the Sabbath holy.” But I believe that there is plenty of evidence in Jesus’ words that Sabbath Rest is also for people in the NT… we just don’t have to have it as a specific day like the Israelites did in the OT… but we are to take regular time to focus on God, His Word, and worship with His people. And then in the OT there were 613 laws that were culturally stipulated for the people of Israel to be “called out and distinct people” in their ancient near east culture. And in the NT there are plenty of commands… there are over 50 “one-another commands” in the NT… the law of Christ.
So if we are going to live out our calling of being that redemptive community, that kingdom of priests for the world, then we must say “yes” to Jesus Christ. We must say “yes” to loving Jesus with all that we are. We must say, “yes” to loving each other the way He loves us. And then we must say “yes” to loving the broken people in a broken world that are all around us with His love. This is the calling… to say “yes” to Him and to be His people—the redemptive, life-transforming community of Jesus for the world. We have been rescued for a reason.
We are all on this road… this journey of redemption… of growing in our understanding and our experience of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and His cross and resurrection. We are all growing in our understanding and experience of living more fully in a relationship of love and obedience with Him, which includes living in love and sacrificial generosity with each other and with the broken world around us. We have been rescued by God to become a redemptive community for the world. This is our calling and our part in the larger Story of God–the story of the God who creates and re-creates for His glory and for our good.