A People for the King

The Story of God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  56:59
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Good morning, Gateway!
Scripture: Lam 3:21-26.
God of creation. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God of the covenant. You are merciful, and gracious, slower to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin, but you are also just, and you sometimes give us what we want so that we experience the consequences of our sin. Father, we acknowledge our sin before you. Forgive us for the ways we have tried to be God rather than trust God. Help us live humble dependent lives before you. For the sake of your son Jesus Christ, fill us with your Spirit. Help us walk by faith and trust and help us praise you with all our might this morning. In your name we pray, Amen.
Welcome Anthony Apeles!
If we haven’t met before, my name is Chris. I’m the pastor of Gateway Chapel, the church that gathers in the building. We are a church on mission to plant churches, and make disciples who hear, love, and obey Jesus. And this morning before we hear from God’s word together, I have a special guest to welcome up, would you guys give a warm welcome to Anthony Apeles, the Director of the Sumner Food Bank. As you guys know we have moved in next door to the Food Bank, and as we begin to plant roots (Deep Roots, Big Blooms, as the sign says) we want to start to dream about how we can be good neighbors to the Food Bank. I've really enjoyed getting to know Anthony, a brother in Christ, and I wanted you guys to get to know him, too.
Thanks for being here, my friend!
Who is Anthony? Why in the world would you want to be the director of the food bank during a pandemic??
How are you encouraged by the way God is using the food bank to serve the community?
What might you recommend if someone walks in on a Sunday morning asking for money, food, rent assistance..?
Other ways to help support you and the food bank?  
Ways we can pray?
Thanks Anthony!
We are in our second month of our Year of Biblical Exploration as we are exploring the Bible together and learning to fall more in love with Jesus through this text which HE loved so dearly and which also points to him. The goal of 2022 is not to get more Bible into OUR life, but to get more of OUR life into the Bible.
This morning we’re heading into week 3 of our sermon series: The Story of God. We’ve been saying over the last couple of weeks how essential stories are for determining meaning in our lives. We can go through the same events, birth, school, marriage, wins in life, failures, loss, kids, jobs...masks, no masks...and interpret these events wildly differently based on the story we believe to be living in. So the question for Christians is what story are we a part of? How are we to live in light of that story?
I’ve mentioned a couple times to you a book I’m reading...The Drama of Scripture. It breaks up Scripture into a 6-act play. And that’s the framework we’re following in this sermon series. It’s not the only way to divide up the story of the Bible. But I find it helpful and I want to share it with you.
So two weeks ago we began by reading Genesis 1. It is not a story about God vs Science as we’ve made it out to be, but it is a story about a King and his Kingdom. God made all reality, filled it with inhabitants, including us, humans, his crowning achievement. We are made in his image to rule on his behalf and take his creation onward. It’s a beautiful beginning. What could go wrong?
Last week in Genesis 3 we witnessed Rebellion in the Kingdom. Humans were deceived by the serpent and redefined good and evil for themselves. They sinned. And the consequences were dire. They were exiled from God’s life-giving presence, and Genesis 3-11 is all about the downward spiral into chaos. And yet, we saw that God is remarkably patient with us, refusing to give us what we deserve: complete destruction and abandonment, but one day God promises to send a savior who will lead us back to the tree of life and into God’s own presence.
“The whole Bible can be portrayed as a very long answer to a very simple question: What can God do about the sin and rebellion of the human race? Genesis 12-Revelation 22 is God’s answer to the problem...Genesis 1-11 poses a cosmic problem to which God must provide a cosmic answer. The problems so graphically spread before the reader in Gen 1-11 will not be solved just by finding a way to get human beings to heaven when they die. The love and power of the Creator must address not only the sin of individuals, but also the strife and hostility of nations; not only the needs of humans, but also the suffering on animals and the curse on the ground...— Christoper Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, 195.
God’s response is to choose a family. And so this week is about Israel: The People for the King. If you’re like me, you’re familiar with the texts of Genesis 1-11. You’ve read these stories - accurately or inaccurately - since you were a kid. But then there’s this MASSIVE part of my Bible that I really don’t know what to do with. Leviticus? Kings? The Prophets? Let’s just read Romans, okay?
How do we get from Genesis to the cross? Can’t I just read my Bible beginning in Matthew or John, because if this is all about Jesus, why does Israel matter? Aren’t we the people of God now? How does the history of a small nation-state in the middle east have anything to do with my life in suburban America?
I want to say this: learning about how Israel fits into this story has been more life-giving for me than just about anything in the last year. I want to share SOME of what I’ve learned with you today.
Why did God choose Israel? What are they supposed to do? How does this story play out? How does it point to Jesus? Give me 30 minutes. I can’t say everything. If ever you were to takes notes, today is the day. As our good friend Gene Poppino would say, “You can’t do what you don’t remember. You can’t remember what you don’t write down.” Why did God choose Israel? What are they supposed to do? How does this story play out? How does it point to Jesus? Give me 30 minutes. I can’t say everything.
Why Israel?
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.”
The book of Genesis is all about God and how he takes darkness and turns it into light. Not only in creation, but in the lives of human beings. Genesis 1-11 is all about God and the whole world. It starts out great, and then it takes a sharp decline at Genesis 3, spirals into a full blown disaster by Genesis 11. Then Genesis 12-50 is all about Abram, who becomes Abraham, and his descendants.
Before we can answer the question, “Why Israel?” we have to answer the question, “Who is Abram/Abraham?”
Abram is a descendant of Noah. Nothing special about him, but we do learn he’s from Ur, and he’s traveled with his family to Haran and they’ve settled there. Also, his wife Sarai is barren, which in the ancient world is a horrible horrible predicament.
Then, God shows up and talks to Abram - we don’t know what that was like, was Abram already worshipping God? We don’t know. - and says, “Move. Go to a land that I will show you.”
I think we’re supposed to notice the difference between the people at the tower of Babel and Abraham. The Babel folks said, “We’re strong, Let’s stay put a make a name for ourselves HERE!” But God says to a nobody, “You’re weak and without a child, move and I WILL make a name for you THERE!”
Think of the radical trust required of Abram. He can’t Google, “5 Best Places to eat south of Galilee.” He’s flying blind! God chooses weak people who trust him to bless the world.
God makes key promises to Abram that will be heavily discussed throughout the Old Testament, and the entire Bible.

A land.

God says, “Go to the land that I will show you.” The word for land is the same word from Genesis 1:1 where God made the heavens and the earth. So it’s almost like God is saying, “I’m starting a new creation and a new earth with you Abram.”

A great nation.

God says, “I will make of you a great nation.” This seems ironic because Abram is old and has no kids! He’s 75 when he leaves Haran. A great nation? But this sounds a lot like Genesis 1, “Be fruitful and multiply...” Again, like God is restarting with Abram.

A great name.

God says, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing...”
What did we just read in Genesis 11? A story about people wanting to make a great name for themselves…how does that go? Not well.
Babylon resists God, tries to make a name for themselves, they’re brought low…Abram does nothing to earn God’s favor, God chooses him, Abram trusts God, and God raises him up above all families on earth.

Your family will be a blessing and bless all families of the world.

Here’s the kicker: through Abram, God plans to restore blessing to the world which was lost as a result of sin. Why is God choosing to bless Abram? Is he good looking? Impressive? Already has a big family and doing well so God’s like, “Yeah, let’s just make more of those kinds of successful people.” God chooses Abram for the sake of others. And think about that…the “Others” are horrible people like the Tower of Babel crew. So we’re learning about God. He’s the kind of being who chooses to bless weak people in order to save his enemies who deny him and try to run their lives apart from him.
But, the curse of Genesis 3 was bigger than just people are now mean and angry…the whole universe is hurt! Animals, plants, the ground itself…needs to be restored. This is the call of Abram and his family. Abram’s grandson is named Jacob, he has that famous scene where he wrestles with God, and God changes his name to ISRAEL. Thus, the nation of Israel are descendants of Abram, who are blessed to be a blessing. The ones through whom God will one day save the universe.
So just like Genesis 1-2, we’re bright eyed and bushy tailed. Feeling good about our new creation! How does it go? God says, “Abram, leave your family and go!”
Genesis 12:4 ESV
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Wait…didn’t he say leave your family? But…I’m going to bring my cousin. Can't you relate to this? We want to listen to God but....maybe 75% of the way?
Not a good sign...
So why Israel? Without any prerequisites or success on their own, God chooses the descendants of Abram to one day restore blessing to the world which was broken by the curse of sin.
What is Israel supposed to do?
Turn to Exodus 19.
I think we read Exodus 19 once a month. For good reason, it is one of the most important passages in the Bible for informing us as the people of God as to who we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do while we have breath in our lungs.
To recap the story: God chooses Abram, he says “Go to the land I’ll show you.”
They do. Eventually, after that crazy story of Joseph and his brothers at the end of Genesis, the descendants of Abram end up in Egypt to avoid famine. Unfortunately, they end up being enslaved by the Egyptian leader Pharoah for 400 years. God calls Moses to save Israel (you’ve seen the movie) “Let my people go!” all that, parts the Red Sea, and the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abram are now free.
And God brings them to Mt. Sinai to essentially have a wedding ceremony with them to say, “You guys are my people.” And this is what he says...
Exodus 19:1–6 ESV
1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Here we see what Israel is supposed to do

Israel is to be a kingdom of priests.

Just as America is a kingdom of Amazon Prime Members…Israel is to be a kingdom full of priests.
What does that mean? What does a priest do? In the ancient world, priests we’re in-between people. They stood between heaven and earth. They brought the gods to the people, and the people to the gods. And in Israel’s case, they were to be the mediator for the God of all creation, the true God, and all people.
How would they do that? Well first they’re supposed to remember what he’s done for them. “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians.” First and foremost, Israel is supposed to never forget that God saved them when they were completely helpless and showed his love to them before they did anything to deserve it.
Then, they’re supposed to listen to his voice. That word “Obey” in verse 5 is the Hebrew word “Shema” which means to listen.
When your parents asked you, “Did you not hear me?” they weren’t concerned about your ear canals, but your disobedience.
Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God’s voice, but listened to the serpent. Israel is to be a nation full of people who listen to God. That’s why we say at Gateway we want to first “HEAR” Jesus.
They’re to keep his covenant. God is inviting them to be his unique covenant people to the nations. They’re supposed to love God and love others. In fact, in chapter 20, God gives them the 10 commandments, the first 5 of which deal with how to love God, and the second five show them how to love others.
Notice the progression…God HAS saved them, and now he gives them the law to say, “Here’s how to be truly human.” He doesn’t says, “Obey these rules and THEN I’ll save you.” He saves them, shows them his love, and then invites them to do life differently.
Israel is the nation descended from Abram, chosen by God to restore blessing to the world, and be a kingdom of priests to the nations, showing them what God is like.
How does that go?
Not great. Shortly after, Israel breaks the first commandment and worships a pair of golden calves. Rather than just giving up on Israel, which would be a reasonable response, God continues his covenant relationship with them.
Where does the story go next?
If you’re like me, for most of my life I didn’t know what to do with 75% of my Bible, namely the story of Israel. We like Genesis. Creation! Fall! Exodus is also fun. Part the Red Sea! But from Leviticus I’m not going to remedy that in 5 minutes, but let’s just do a 30,000 foot flyover to say, “What is the story of Israel that we see between Exodus

Leviticus: How to live with God

Living near a perfect and holy God is like being close to the sun. It’s good and life-giving…but also super powerful and dangerous. Leviticus is where Bible reading plans go to die, there’s a lot of stuff about skin disease and animal sacrifice, but it’s awesome. It’s all about how God makes a way for his sinful people to live in proximity to his life-giving presence.

Numbers: Really Bad Road Trip

This puts your nightmare roadtrip stories to shame. Israel moves from Sinai towards the Promised Land, and they grumble and complain and deny God time and time again. Numbers puts God’s grace and faithfulness on full display as he sticks it out with his cranky people.

Deuteronomy: Half-Time Speech before Promised Land

Moses is about to die. The people are about to go into the Promised Land. Moses gives a series of sermons saying, “Listen to God! Don’t forget the covenant! So far, you’ve really messed up, but God has been so good to you…don’t blow this!”

Joshua: Going into the Promised Land

Moses dies, Joshua takes his place. They cross a body of water again, this time the Jordan River and they move into the land God promised to Abram. This is where we get some of the sticky passages in the OT where God commands his people to attack other nations and wipe them out…it makes us uncomfortable. We’re going to talk more about this in a few weeks. Come to church in March!

Judges: :( We need a king!

The key line in Judges is this...
Judges 17:6 ESV
6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges is one big frowny face. Without a true leader, Israel is just a bunch of tribes running around doing horrible things. Samson shows up here and he’s a mess.

Samuel: We got kings! But…:(

1 and 2 Samuel is essentially the Rise and Fall of King Saul and King David. Even though Israel clearly needed a king to help stabilize the nation, it didn’t solve their problem of listening and obeying God. And, when the leaders of Israel disobey as well, things get really really bad.

Kings: Here’s why the exile happened...

1 and 2 Kings shows how the leadership of Israel failed to obey God time and time again. Israel splits into two nations, a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. Both sin eggregiously. The northern kingdom is eventually wiped out completely by Assyria, and the southern kingdom is exiled into Babylon. Not only that but the temple and the city of Jerusalem are destroyed. It’s the biggest crisis of faith imaginable. Has God broken his promise with us?

Prophets: Have you forgotten the Covenant?!

The Prophets show up among the time of the kings. A lot of your Bible are prophetic books. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Malachi…these guys are covenant watchdogs. They’re main job is not to predict the future, but to point to the past, namely the covenant at Mt Sinai, and say, “Hey Israel, have you forgotten the covenant? If you continue to disobey, there will be consequences.” And consequences do come. Namely, the exile.

Ezra-Nehemiah: The exile didn’t work...

The exile ends, God brings his people back to Jerusalem. It’s like when a parent grounds their kids for two weeks and says, “That oughtta teach em!” Surely my effective discipline changed the chemical make up of my teenager!” It didn’t work. Israel is still full of sin. They are still not being a blessing to the world. They are still not being a kingdom of priests that God called them to be.
Why did God choose Israel? To restore blessing to the world. What are they supposed to do? Be a kingdom of priests by living by the covenant. How does it go? Not well. They don’t listen. They don’t trust. They go into exile. They come back from exile but not even that works.
Why doesn’t God just give up on Israel? They’ve given him every opportunity to walk out.
And how does this connect with Jesus? How does this story of Israel lead to the cross?
Give me 5 more minutes, and turn with me to Genesis 15.
Genesis 15:1–4 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.” 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.”
As we learned, Abram is the father of the nation of Israel. But at this point in the story, he has no kids. So he’s like, “God, what’s up? I’m trying to trust you but it’s hard.” God says, “You’re going to have a son.”
Genesis 15:5–6 ESV
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.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Abram is the kind of human God adores. A human who looks at the promises of God, as crazy as they seem, and says, “Okay. I trust you.”
Genesis 15:7–11 ESV
7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Imagine the scene. Just a minute a go they were enjoying a night under the stars, but now Abram is like an amateur butcher, cutting these animals, blood everywhere. Birds are coming down, Abram is beating them back with sticks.
Okay what in the world. What’s happening here? God is initiating an ancient pinky-swear. But a very visceral and messy one.
What people did is they would cut these animals in half, and two parties who were making an agreement would say, “If I break out agreement, let me be like these slaughtered animals.” This is serious. You’d never forget an experience like this. We send texts, “I promise I’ll be there!” And forget. Maybe we should go back to this.
Genesis 15:12–18 ESV
12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
God is making an agreement with Abram that he’s going to do all these things for him, and then right at the moment they’re supposed to walk through the animals together...what happens? God gives Abram a roofie. Abram passes out. And who walks through the pieces? God. God alone. What is Abram’s role in fulfilling the promise? Nothing. He’s sleeping. God is essentially saying: if either party breaks the covenant, I ALONE bear the responsibility, I ALONE will die.
Come on!
This is the story of Israel. God chooses a family to restore blessing on the world. And he makes a loving covenant with them and takes ALL the responsibility of completing the task on his shoulders. And he says, “I know you’re stupid, humans. But I love you enough that even in your stupidity, I will NEVER give up on you. And one day, I will bear the responsibility of your sin completely on my shoulders, and I will DIE because I am that serious about keeping my promises, and I am that serious about restoring all creation to blessing.”
And that’s why the cross of Jesus Christ is so beautiful. Because on it we see that God himself kept his promise. Jesus is how God kept his promise to Abram. Jesus is the one who would ultimately restore blessing to the world. Jesus is the one who kept the covenant faithfully. Jesus is the one who bears the covenant curses on his shoulders on the cross. But the curse doesn’t have the last word. Jesus lives! And like Abram, we can TRUST that if God kept his promise THEN, he will keep his promise NOW and one day restore all things.
I don’t know a better story than this.
What do we do with this? Here’s the phrase I’m leaning into these days.

The story of Israel reminds us we can relax and trust Jesus.

When the story of my life is making enough money, being a good enough person, being a good enough dad, going a good enough husband, and just generally avoiding pain, failure, and loss at all costs…I’m anxious, afraid, stressed.
When I meditate on this story, that God never breaks his promises, that God’s plans are never thwarted by my ongoing stupidity, that God chooses me to be a part of his story not because of what I do or have done, or will do, but that he simply wants to be with me and have me be a part of his plan to restore blessing to the world through what he’s accomplished in Jesus…I can relax.
But when I remember this story…and think that it is NOT ON MY SHOULDERS. I can relax. Jesus has got this. I’m just a part of his goofy people he’s chosen to represent him to the world.
What story drives your life? Are you anxious, worried, confused? Meditate on this story. God wants us to be a part of this story.
Philippians 1:6 ESV
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
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