In Nehemiah 10, the people are agreeing to a covenant. A covenant is something we see many times in the Bible. A covenant is also known as a partnership, an alliance. I always like to consider it as a promise which outlines a relationship’s boundaries. When we look at a covenant between God and His people, we can see that it is a spiritual agreement.
The process of entering into a covenant is interesting. It was something pagans participated in, as well as the Jewish people. First, it is important to note the pre-ceremony actions. This is a time when the different sides discussed terms. We see this happening in Genesis 15 between God and Abraham. There is also a time of representative selections. With regard to the Abrahamic Covenant, God and Abraham were the representatives. During the covenant process, there is typically an exchange of belts, weapons, or robes. Then there is the walk unto death part of the process. This is where the people walk around the sacrifice and basically say, “Do so to me as has been done to this animal if I break this covenant.” We see God doing this with Abraham in Genesis 15:17, as the smoking fire pot and flaming torch pass through. There is a pronouncement of blessings and curses, an exchange of names, and a covenant meal to share as part of the covenant sealing process. We cannot forget the seal of the covenant, where we have a sign of the covenant that will be remembered. For Noah, it was the Rainbow. For Moses, it was the Sabbath.
It is awesome to study about covenants, but it is most important for us to understand these covenants with the vantage point of the New Covenant. Remember friends, we entered into a New Covenant. Jesus is our representative (Son of Man), God’s representative (Son of God), and He was the sacrifice (Lamb of God). He took off His robe of glory to come to us, and we now have His righteousness (Philippians 2:5-7). Jesus’ walk unto death was His walk from Gethsemane to the Cross. The sign of the New Covenant is a circumcised heart (Romans 2:28-29). As you share in the Lord’s Supper, and one day as you share in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, you are sharing the covenant meal. Today, thank God for the New Covenant, and most important, for our Representative and Sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
As I prepare for the “What Jesus Said: The Red Letter Series,” I have been intensely studying the words of Jesus. The first study of the series is about what Jesus says about Jesus. There are more “red letters” than I first thought; it has been an awesome time of prayer and study. In Matthew 16, we read about Jesus asking the disciples who Jesus is. After spending weeks pouring myself over what Jesus said about Jesus, I found myself spending a lot of time on this passage that shares Peter’s thoughts.
Who did Peter say Jesus was? He answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter basically says that Jesus was the One sent by God, the Deliverer, and also that Jesus was the Son of God. Wow! He got it! Jesus said he was blessed. In understanding this, Peter was considered the rock. Yet reading further, we find Peter is called “Satan” for not grasping God’s divine plan. Eventually Peter gets it. Yes, it was after he denied Jesus three times. But he gets it. One day he grasps Who this Messiah, the Son of the living God truly is, and his life totally changes.
What do you say about Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? Because this says a lot about you and about your life. It is true—you do not define Who Jesus is. Your words do not make Him any different; your words don’t change Jesus. Even so, Who you think Jesus is changes you—it can be the difference of life and death, the difference to living bread or spiritual bankruptcy. Who you think Jesus is may decide who you follow, who you worship, and for who you live. Who you think Jesus is determines how you live your life and what matters most to you. Who you think Jesus is makes the difference of peace that is beyond understand, joy that is overwhelming and overflowing. Today, write down Who Jesus is to you. Is He your everything? Is He the Son of God? Is He the Son of Man? Is He the Messiah? Is He the Living Bread? Is He the Light of the world? Is He the Christ? Is He your Redeemer? Is He Lord of the Sabbath? Who is Jesus to you? Then take a step forward, studying His Word and praying each day, and allow Him to continue to reveal Himself to you in new and awesome ways. Then add to the “Who Jesus is” list. May you spend your life getting to know Jesus—it will be a life well-spent.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 16:13-17 [NIV]
Some people do not know that I am attending an A.B.H.E. (Association for Biblical Education) approved university, majoring in Christian Ministries. I attended college when I graduated from high school, but life has various journeys; after ten years with a different career focus, I was given a new direction.
When I decided to answer the call and take the path before me, I slowly began telling people that I was returning to school. Most people accepted the news with open arms. Some wanted to know exactly what type of employment could be found with a degree from the university I attend. The university has many majors, all geared toward Christian education, ministry, and counseling. When I let one friend know this information, she gave me an unexpected answer. She said if and when there was a time when I would lead a church, she would attend.
It is certainly a great compliment to have someone say they would love to attend somewhere with your leadership. I was gracious with my response; however, as I pondered over what was said, I was concerned. She was putting her entire walk with God in my hands. She was basically saying she was going to sit outside the door, waiting till I came, and then enter. There are a few issues that trouble me. What if it takes me too long to enter the door? What if something happens prohibiting me from entering? What if I am directed in a different direction? Will she simply sit there, waiting, or will she enter? There is a big difference if we attempt to come to God with open arms, or if we are attached to someone along the way. God wants us all back, but He wants us to walk through the door. I don’t believe it is wrong to initially walk through the door with someone; however, one cannot sit in waiting, believing it is the only way.
I do not believe our God is scary. If people who haven’t read the Old Testament open that section up in their Bibles, they may say He is very scary. I will admit after reading some passages, I got the chills. However, if we read the Bible, truly read the Bible, it is very clear that God loves His children. With the situation with my friend, I do not believe it has anything to do with fearing the Old Testament God. She has experienced the Christian tight belts.
The Christian tight belts are those “Christians” who walk around with this belief of being higher above others. They have everything looking good on the outside. Clothing pressed and a sparkling smile. They are saved and therefore they are better. It’s like at the supermarket in the meat department. There is the 95% lean meat which is proudly displayed on the top shelf, and then there’s the 75% ground beef at the bottom. Everyone wants the lean meat, because they know it’s better, but some cannot afford the cost so it turns them away.
People are turned away by the 95% lean meat. People are also turned away by people who attend church and believe they deserve to earn a gold medal for it. As we all know, when we are saved, we are all on the same area of the plane. There is no first class and coach. No one is better than the next person. We are certainly supposed to shine the light to non-believers, and spread the Message. However, the Gospel is not to go out as a “I’m better than you because I know and have accepted this and you haven’t” type scenario.
Our God is compassionate. Our God sent His only Son to come redeem us from our shortcomings. If we look closely at each of our lives, we can all see the evidence of these fallen moments. Even after we accept Christ, they occur. As children of God, we are all family to the King. We are all precious. Remember, that the King came here to serve. The King gave the ultimate sacrifice. We, too, should serve as our Lord has left us a clear example. When we do that, when we show God’s love to others, the lean meat looks appealing. The lean meat is affordable, and doesn’t look to be too high up on the shelf.
Do not sit outside, waiting for someone to take you in the door. If you go to a church and you do not feel right, there are many more churches around the corner. While selecting a church, remember that Bible reading and prayer are important, and will help in the selection process. If you have accepted Christ, do not believe for a second that you are above those who haven’t yet. They also have the invitation; it’s just taking them longer to R.S.V.P. Instead of pushing them away for putting the invitation to the side, perhaps you can show them God’s invitation by sharing your own journey.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve; and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43b-44 [NIV]