Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Commandment Covenant

This season of Lent we have been exploring the covenants of God with his people. We discussed the covenant with Noah and how that was a covenant of re-creation. We discussed the Abrahamic covenant and how that was a covenant of promise: a group of elect people, a place for community, a relationship with God, and a saving name. Essentially, this the promise of heaven.

Now we get to the ten commandments, which we have already gone through twice today. This is a covenant, too. It seems like a bunch of commands or rules, but it's actually a balanced treaty between the King of Kings and his people. As we read in the first verse, it begins: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery...” And then the 10 commandments begins.

Our side of the deal is the ten commandments, but God's side of the deal is pretty big, too. He delivered us out of the house of slavery in the land of Egypt—literally, figuratively, spiritually. The lopsided part of the covenant is this: God's part has ALREADY BEEN DONE, and out part is completely impossible for us to fulfill, due to our sinful nature.

The commandments themselves are a response to God's grace. He has already saved us. He has already inflated the liferaft and put it in the water. He has already lowered the ladder, so we can climb it. He has saved us. However, we don't keep the commandments. We choose not get in the liferaft. We chose not to climb the ladder. You've probably heard the joke about the old man in the house, and the floodwaters were rising. The sheriff came in a jeep and told the old man, “get in!” He turned him down, saying, “no thanks! The Lord'll save me!” When the floodwaters got to his front porch, the sheriff came in a boat. “Get in!” “No thanks! The Lord'll save me.” When the floodwaters got to his roof, the sheriff came in a helicopter, lowering a ladder. “Climb up!” “No thanks! The Lord'll save me!” Later, in heaven, the Old Man came face to face with the Lord. “Why didn't you save me?” he asked. “Are you kidding?” the Lord responded. “I sent you a jeep and a boat and a helicopter!” God has fulfilled his part of the covenant. He has provided us with a jeep and a boat and a helicopter. We have a choice” get in, grab hold and climb up, or refuse salvation. Obeying the ten commandments are our way of getting in, grabbing hold, and climbing up.

Another Good analogy is comparing God to the Mafia. Sounds weird, right? Well, what does the Mafia do? You have just opened a new store for business, and then some slick guy comes by and says, “what a beautiful place you've got here. Shame if anything happened to it.” That's a threat, and you have a choice: you pay a weekly fee or get a Molotov cocktail tossed through your front window. You're paying for protection from them!

Now, how does this compare to a covenant with God? You open up a store for business, and a guy comes in, but instead of threatening you, he says, “how do you like the store? I paid for it. I'm the one who got you the loan. I found the location to build. I gave you the passion to go into business in the first place. Your wife? I set you two up. Your kids? I chose them for you. Your life? I created it. All of this you have you owe to me. I gave it to you.” That's love. Like the Mafia, you have a choice, but it doesn't involve a Molotov cocktail. It is a choice between returning the love, and rejecting all the things that God has already done for you. When we reject God, we essentially throw a Molotov cocktail through our own plate glass window, because we'd rather destroy our own store—our own lives—than accept God's gift.

The ten commandments are our way of returning God's love to him. He has already done his part, but we fail to do our part. What happens is the King fulfills the part of the vassal, too. Jesus Christ perfectly kept the ten commandments, he shows us how to do it, and when we fail, he picks us up and carries us over the finish line. Footprints isn't just a beautiful poem. It's theologically sound.

Romans 5:6 reads, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” The greatest gift of all, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was given for us, while we were still sinners. The ten commandments, are showing that we accept that gift. That we understand it, that we accept it, and that we love God back.

Just yesterday there was news story out of Tampa, Florida. A woman and her daughter were driving down a windy road, and car came up erratically behind them, passed them, and the woman driving flicked them off! Well! A little ways down the road, and they found the car burning between two trees. The driver was on fire, trying to get herself and her own burning daughter out of the car. The offended woman pulled over and rescued both of them.

That is loving our neighbor, yes, even loving our enemy, but it is the ultimate expression of loving God, respecting life, even when we see someone abusing that life. This is what Jesus did for us. He rescued us from that burning car. He put out the flames with his own body, and he died in the process. And we had just been flicking him off.

Let us pray that we can love God back for all the gifts that he has given us—including the greatest gift of all, his son. Let us thank God for his saving us, while we were still sinners, for giving us ten ways to return the love, and for giving us his own son to show us how to love.