The story of the Old Testament is a beautiful one. Yet it is sad story. It is the tale of an amazing Kingdom that was invaded by the poisonous enemy of its righteous King. The worst part was that the King’s own servants betrayed Him. When Adam and Eve believed Satan and rejected God, it was a mutiny. It brought the twisted rebellion of their new master into the very depths of their own hearts. And because they had been given the incredible honor of being the stewards of God’s beautiful creation, they brought their corruption down upon everything else. God had given them a world without suffering or death, and they sabotaged it. The broken world where we now live is not what we were made for. Yet even in the middle of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, God continued to pursue His plan to bless humanity. He knew their weaknesses and His love was so great that in spite of their horrific betrayal, He longed to bring them back to Himself again. God made a promise that one day, a descendant of Eve would crush the head of Satan.
After Adam and Eve rebelled, they were sent away from the Lord’s Garden Temple. They had to live in the world they had chosen, yet their souls were not made to bear the pressure and contamination of evil. They passed the disease on to the souls of their children. Their children had children, and their children had children, and over hundreds of years, the number of people on earth grew to be thousands upon thousands of people. What do you think happened when there were that many people full of sin living together on earth? The people encouraged each other on to greater and more offensive sins. They rebelled against God even more and tried to live apart from Him so they could be as wicked as they wanted.
God saw all the terrible desires in the hearts of humanity and moved in history to restrain their reign of power. He divided the people into nations with different language groups, separating them from their terrible influence on each other. Then, out of all of these nations, the Lord chose one man and called him to be separate before the Most High God. This man’s name was Abraham.
God made a Covenant promise with Abraham. He said He would give Abraham so many descendants that they would be like stars in the sky or sand on the beach. Then God promised to make Abraham’s children into a nation of priests. They would represent the holy ways of God to all the other nations of the earth. They would show the rebellious people of earth the pathway to righteousness. And through Abraham’s descendants, God said He would somehow bless all the nations of the world.
God didn’t tell Abraham exactly how He would do it, but we can look back now and know. Hundreds upon hundreds of years later, God would raise up a Chosen One from among the people of Israel. He would be the Savior of the world. We know Him as Jesus. He would be the descendant of Eve, who God said would crush the head of Satan and defeat his evil Kingdom in Genesis 3:16. The most remarkable thing about Him is that He would also be God Himself. The Son of God would leave His place on the Throne of Heaven and “..make Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a Servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:7). God would become a Man. And then He would offer Himself up to die to pay the punishment for the sins of humanity that started with Adam and Eve. It is a story of epic beauty. It is also true. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Abraham heard God’s promises to make His children into a great nation, and he believed. Abraham’s faith in God was the opposite of the sin of Adam and Eve that brought the terrible curse upon the world. They chose to believe the words of the Serpent, which brought death. But Abraham chose to trust in the Words of God. He depended on what God said to be his source of hope, believing more in God than in the promises of this world or the power of his own desires. That faith was precious to God, and He counted it towards Abraham as righteousness. Abraham is the great Old Testament model for the kind of faith and dependence that God longs for in all of His children…including you and I.
Over hundreds of years, Abraham’s children grew to become millions of people. Yet by that time there was a big problem. They were all slaves. They lived in the land of Egypt, and the pharaoh used them to work as slave laborers to make his empire wealthy and powerful. God had warned Abraham that this was going to happen. And at just the right time, God raised up one of Abraham’s children to speak against the oppression of the evil Pharaoh. This man’s name was Moses. God told Moses that He was going to use him to set His people free. And He did.
Through great and mighty miracles, God delivered His people from the oppression and suffering of Egypt. You may remember the amazing story when God split open the Red Sea so that His people could pass through. Then He called them out into the desert, where they were given a brand new Covenant promise. This Covenant was not exactly like the one God made with Abraham. In fact, the Covenant of Moses was one stage in God’s plan to fulfill His Covenant with Abraham. God’s promises to Abraham were everlasting and unconditional. It was God’s work to keep that covenant. There was nothing Abraham had to do to keep it, and it will never end.
God’s covenant with Moses was temporary. It was a special agreement between the Lord and His special, chosen nation. He promised them lavish blessings. He would give them a Land of Promise and cause their crops to grow so that they would always have plenty to eat. He would protect them from enemy nations that might want to attack, and He would bless them with many children. But there was something they had to do to keep their side of the covenant as well. God made a contract, or an agreement, with them that they had to obey. It was called the Law. The Ten Commandments are a part of it. This Law taught them the wonderful, pure ways of God. It taught them to worship God and cleanse themselves from sin so that His presence would remain close to them. It helped them order their way of life, teaching them how they should treat each other as God’s beloved children. The Law showed the way for humans to honor God even when they lived in a broken, sinful world. If they lived by the Law, they would be completely different from the wicked nations of the world that continued in rebellion. The normal suffering and hardship of society would be greatly reduced and the vulnerable would be protected.
If the nation of Israel did not honor the Law of their Covenant with God, the Lord had another set of promises for them. He would stop blessing their crops and animals. He would no longer protect them from the enemy nations around them, and He would kick them out of the Land of Promise that He had given them. They would have destroyed their opportunity for blessing by abusing it. They would have set a bad example to the world about what their God approved. God laid the choice out for them very clearly from their very first days as a nation in the desert.
The Covenant of the Law established the nation of Israel as God’s holy people. For about one thousand, five hundred years, their nation was defined by this Law. It was something like the way the United States and India are defined by their Constitutions. During all those years, there were times when Israel honored God’s holy Law. But more often, there were times when they lived in horrific rebellion. And so God punished His children just as He said He would. He sent other nations to come and conquer Israel and remove them from the Land of Promise. His people were sent into exile, captives of other nations.
Yet no matter how sinful Israel became as a nation, there was always a righteous remnant who were faithful to their Lord. Sometimes they were judges who helped the people return to the ways of God. Sometimes they were kings who purified the nation from their sins. At other times, God sent prophets who came with words of rebuke and warning. They also came with new promises. We will be learning more about them in the next few lessons.