Standing on the Promises
Old Testament Reading- Deuteronomy 4:39-40
New Testament Reading- Ephesians 2:6-10
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -March 14, 2021
Did you ever receive anything you that you didn’t work for? You might say, “No, I have worked hard for everything I own, and I don’t owe anyone anything because I achieved all that I have myself.” Maybe, but I doubt it. I think we often forget what help we have had along the way to what belongs to us. Keep in mind that right now we are only talking about material things like furniture, vehicles, and property, but isn’t there more to life than these? I will grant you that education, hard work, and good living will go a long way, but let’s look into it some more.
Abraham was called by God and told to go to a land that was not his own, not the land he was born and raised in, but completely new. God told Abraham to go, and he listened. Imagine that, a land that you do not know. I know that may sound easy to us now, but imagine the dangers involved at that time. The Bible tells us that it was a hostile world filled with not so civilized people. It isn’t the world we live in, where there are laws that people are governed by and people to enforce those laws. In Abraham’s day that was not the case, so going somewhere new, away from all you know and away from your family and friends, away from your whole support and protection system is gone, not easy. But Abraham had great faith, and he listened to God, and God counted it to him as righteousness. God loved Abraham, loved him so much that He made a covenant with him. A binding contract that said I will be your God and do mighty things for you, if you will remember and do God’s will. Abraham accepted and many nations came out of him and his wife Sarah, in fact, these nations still exist to this day and ours is one of them. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was the father of Jacob, who was named Israel by God, and Jacob was the father of twelve sons, the twelve sons of Israel.
These twelve sons were living in the land that God had given to Abraham, but there was division between them, and they did not like how one of the youngest sons, Joseph was treated. They became jealous of Joseph and the love and affection he received from their father Jacob, so they decided to kill him. At the last moment some of them had second thoughts and they decided to sell him to slavers instead and to tell their father that he had been killed by wild animals. Jacob was devastated and Joseph, unbeknownst by his father, was taken as a slave into Egypt.
Even though the sons of Jacob hated their brother, God had not forgotten about Joseph. Many terrible things were happening to Joseph in Egypt and it may have seemed that God had forsaken him, but He had not. Eventually Joseph was framed for something he hadn’t done wrong and was thrown in jail, but still God remembered him and made him an interpreter of dreams. Pharoah started to have strange dreams and became troubled over them. He asked his wisest advisors, but no one could tell him what they meant. Finally, a person who had known about Joseph’s gift told Pharoah about Joseph and he was brought before Pharoah. God told Joseph the meanings of Pharoah’s dreams and how to help and Joseph became a powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharoah himself. Soon a terrible famine devastated a large part of that corner of the world and Egypt was well taken care of by Joseph because of what God had told him to do. Word spread to Joseph’s brothers far away and they came to Egypt to escape the famine. They finally learned that Joseph was their long-lost brother and Jacob learned that his son was alive. Joseph confronted his brothers about what they had done to him years earlier and they repented. Joseph forgave his brothers and told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s whole family and the people of Egypt were saved by God not because they had worked for it or because they deserved it, but because God loved Joseph and his fathers before him.
400 years pass and Joseph is long forgotten about by the Egyptians and the Israelites that came to Egypt because of the famine never left, but now they have become slaves of the Egyptians. They toil and sweat to build and to farm for not much more than a meager return to sustain themselves. They are ill-treated and lorded over. The Israelites have not all forgotten God though and they cry out to him in prayer about their mistreatment. God has not forgotten them either and hears their prayers for salvation. Now is the time of Moses, the great Hebrew leader that God had saved from the waters of the Nile and given over to Pharoah’s daughter to live as one of her family. Moses was a powerful man in Egypt and knew all its ways, but God had another plan for Moses. He was to lead the Israelites out of bondage back to the Promised Land that God had given to Abraham all those centuries ago. God performed mighty miracles, the likes of which had never been done before, to not only show the Egyptians His might, but to show the Israelites as well. In the end, not only did the Egyptians let the Israelites go, but gave them riches and livestock to leave with. Again, we see, God is doing the work. God is making it all happen, showing His power to all and providing much needed wealth and provisions to the Israelites for their journey, not because they deserve it, but because He loves them and honors His covenant.
Because of the Israelites unbelief God needs to discipline them and leads them around the desert for the next forty years. All the while God is teaching them in the ways they are to be as His new nation. God is preparing the next generation for entrance into the land and not only preparing people, but the land as well. The Promised Land has not been vacant for centuries but has had many nations of people living and building and farming the land. When God decides the time is right, He leads the people into the land and brings down the nations there that are more powerful than the Israelites. The Israelites are given the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Deuteronomy 6:10-25, “10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. 20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
Wow, isn’t that mighty, isn’t that wondrous, how God would provide, out of love and out of His promise to Abraham so long ago? But He is not through yet, He has made a new covenant, sealed in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us, to cover our sins. Ephesians 2 tells us,
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Do you see the similarities in the two accounts from the Old and New Testaments? God is always at work for our well-being because He loves us so much. Let’s return that love to God in our words and our actions toward others, to creation, and in our worship. Let us always remember that even when we think, that all we have in this world, we have achieved on our own, we are sadly mistaken, God has been there every step of the way, disciplining you, loving you, and providing opportunities, and blessings to you always. Not because we deserve it or because we are a great worker, but because He loves us, and His grace is sufficient for all. God is still guiding us to the Promised Land, but a new Promised Land, that is incomparable to anything we have ever seen or will ever see again. A place with mansions we did not build filled with all kinds of good things we did not provide, wells we did not dig and vineyards we did not plant, but where we will eat and be satisfied and be grateful for all that Jesus has bought and prepared for us. A place in the promised place with God. Thanks be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.