Sermon series: Covenant People
Connection to unit theme
God's promise to bless His people with land will come to fruition because of His faithfulness. When Israel turns away from God she will experience discipline. However, the Lord will remain faithful to His covenant and fulfill His promise. Ultimately, He accomplishes his covenant purposes through the Son of David, Jesus Christ.
Any parent with young children is familiar with the sad results when a child's desire for autonomy clashes with her overestimated view of self. Some of these falls are less significant, such as when a child refuses to allow his parents to help him tie his shoes, shouting "I can do it!" Other falls are more significant, such as when children seriously injure themselves because they overestimate their abilities.
There is a reason why every child has had this experience. This is the history of humanity. Whenever God gives a promise man assumes it will require his own abilities to fulfill it. Whenever the Lord gives a task we figure that we have everything we need to accomplish it. We are like the stubborn child that shouts, "I can do it!" when it's painfully obvious that we cannot. Yet even in the midst of this subtle rebellion God's relentless grace accomplishes what human stubbornness cannot.
I. God's promises will not be fulfilled by man's performance (Dt. 7:6-7)
Standing before a vending machine a man presses D2. His candy bar dutifully falls to the opening at the bottom. Out of all the candy in the vending machine the man chose this candy bar because of its chocolaty goodness and delicious caramel nougat center. He chose it because of its desirable qualities.
In Deuteronomy 7:6 the Lord reminds Israel that he has "chosen [them] to be a people for his treasured possession" (Dt. 7:6). When the Israelites heard this they may have responded like any other person and assumed that it was their desirability that stirred the LORD to pick them out of all the other people in the world. Yet in Dt. 7:7 the Lord assures them it is not because of their performance that God would bless them. He is even more pointed in Dt. 9:6 when He says that He is not "giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness."
In Joshua, God graciously gave the land that He promised to His people. This prosperous land would be theirs to keep if they would trust the Lord and follow Him instead of their own hearts. The book of Judges is a sad story of what happens when God's children say in rebellion, "I can do it!" The resounding theme is that in those days when there was no king in Israel "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). The story of Judges is the unfolding of what God said in Deuteronomy 7 - they would not lay hold of God's promises because of their own performance. In fact, just the opposite would happen. Their performance would cause them to lose the land and eventually go into exile.
Application: Thousands of years after the judges ruled Israel, humanity is still tempted to "do what is right in his own eyes". Even believers can be tempted to rely on our own abilities to accomplish God's promises. Are there promises of God in which you do not trust Him?
II. God's promises will only be fulfilled by God's provision (Dt. 7:8-11)
Recovering addicts often talk about their experience of hitting rock bottom. Some people must come to the end of their own efforts before they realize they cannot make it on their own. The period of judges proved to be a rock-bottom point for the Israelites. This tragic story cries out for a Redeemer. We cannot accomplish the promises of God, but He can. Only He can.
That should not have come as a surprise to the Israelites. From the beginning God taught them that His faithfulness would lead to the fulfillment of His promise, not human effort. He rescued the Israelites and gave them the Promised Land because, "the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers". It is because of His faithfulness and not ours that His promises will be realized. He is faithful to His covenant oath even when we do what is right in our own eyes.
Against the dark backdrop of Judges is the story of Ruth. During the "days when the judges ruled" Ruth, a Moabitess and her bitter mother-in-law Naomi, find redemption in their gracious kinsman, Boaz. He serves as an apt pointer to our great Redeemer, Jesus the Christ. The book also ends with a beautiful glimmer of hope. The last word in Ruth is the name "David". Yet, David himself is but a shadow of the Son of David, God's ultimate provision. Just as God said he would do in Deuteronomy He keeps His covenant promises through the provision of His Son, Jesus.
Application: The Redeemer has come. Christ shows that God keeps each of His promises. Think through the many promises of the New Covenant that God has made to us. Just as God came through on the promises of the Old Covenant, so He will accomplish His promises in the New Covenant. Rejoice that we worship a God who is faithful even when we are unfaithful.
God's promise of land to the Israelites actually finds its origin in God's placement of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One grand theme throughout the Scriptures is that God is creating a people to dwell with Him in the New Jerusalem, which is a redeemed Eden. Our first home, the Garden of Eden, was destroyed by human sin. There humanity decided to worship and serve God's creation rather than God Himself. As a result of our rebellion we lost our home. Yet, God in His grace is making all things new. He promises that those that trust in His provision instead of their own performance will find rest in the home that He has built. Unbelievers are called to turn from hearts that shout, "I can do it on my own" and instead trust in God's provision through Jesus Christ. Believers are called to cling to the promises of God because we trust the God who made the promise.