(Genesis 6&12, Exodus 3&6, Deuteronomy 4&6, Jeremiah 31)
Introduction: Samples. People offer me samples all the time. They send them in the mail. They put them in with my newspaper. They offer them on street corners. They tempt me with them in stores. Why do merchants give out samples? They hope to draw me in to buy their product. Our lesson this week is also a sample. We are going to sample four contracts between God and man. Let's jump into our lesson and see if this encourages us to study these promises in more depth later this quarter!
- Noah's Contract
- Read Genesis 6:13&18. God offers Noah and his family a "covenant" - what we might call a "contract." Is this covenant between Noah and God different than our contracts? If so, how does it seem different? (Genesis 6:18 is the first time in the Bible that "berit," the Hebrew word translated "covenant," appears. Vines tells us that this Hebrew word is considered the parallel or equivalent to "word," "statute," "testimony," "law," "will" (as in last will and testament)and "loving-kindness." This gives us a broader definition of this term than just looking at it as a contract.)
- Would you have accepted this contract offer?
- Read Genesis 6:22. As you consider this verse and the story of Noah, what do you think were the terms of the covenant between Noah and God?
- If Noah had not obeyed God, would they still have had a covenant relationship?
- Abram's Contract
- Read Genesis 12:1-3. Assume God came to you with this offer, would you gladly accept?
- What would be the most difficult part of this offer? (Leaving his familiar surroundings.)
- Why do you think God wanted Abram to leave his familiar surroundings? What sense is there in that? (The text does not even say where Abram was going ("go to the land I will show you") God apparently wanted to have a more focused relationship with Abram.)
- Read Genesis 12:4-5. Abram accepted God's offer. Do you think Abram had a relationship with God before God came with the offer in Genesis 12:1-3? (Yes. No one would accept such an offer unless you had confidence in the person making the offer.)
- Last week we discussed that Adam sinned because he chose Eve over God. How would you compare Abram's decision to follow God with Adam's decision to stay with Eve? (They were just the opposite. Abram passed the test that Adam failed - however Abram's test was not as severe.)
- Read Genesis 11:31. Do you think God made the same offer to Teran, Abram's father? (Something certainly caused Teran to set out for Canaan. If you look at Nehemiah 9:7-8, God is said to have brought Abram out of "Ur of the Chaldeans." This shows that God's plan for Abram was in action when his father left Ur - well before the promise of Genesis 12:1-3 when Abram was in Haran. The important point here is that this tends to show a long-standing relationship between God and Abram.)
- God offered Noah a contract to avoid the flood. He offered Abram a contract to be the father of a country. Is there a common thread in these two offers?
- Moses' Contract
- Read Exodus 3:10-12. Do you think Moses wanted to enter into the contract God is offering him?
- Read Exodus 6:2-4. Does God's contract with Moses have anything to do with His contract with Abraham? (This is a continuation of the same contract.)
- As you consider the contract offered to Noah, Abram and Moses, how do they differ, how are they similar? (Noah and Moses were offered a "rescue mission" contract. Moses and Abram were involved in different aspects of the same contract.)
- The Old Contract
- Read Deuteronomy 4:12-13 & 6:4-9. Does this contract seem anything like the others we have just sampled? (Because we are only looking at "samples" this week, this contract seems quite different.)
- The other contracts we looked at were keyed to specific people. This contract is not. Why is that? (As we look at each of these successive contracts, they seem to be getting broader all the time. They are less and less focused on an individual.)
- When you consider only Deuteronomy 4:12-13, what is our obligation under this covenant? (To follow the commandments.)
- Why do you think God wrote the commandments on stone tablets? (If we have some doubt about what God wanted His people to do with the Ten Commandments, this erases the doubt. God wrote them down in a very permanent way so His people would have no doubt about what He wanted them to do.)
- What is our obligation under Deuteronomy 6:4-9? Is it different than the obligation under Deuteronomy 4:12-13? (What is similar is that in both instances God gives instructions about how to keep our attention on His commandments. What is different is God's command about love. Telling someone to "Do this," is substantially different than telling someone "Love me." Together, however, they create a picture of a clear, long-standing relationship in which we fulfill our obligations out of love.)
- The New Contract
- Read Jeremiah 31:31-33. God talks about the Ten Commandments and then says He is going to make a new covenant with Israel. Car manufacturers tell us about their "new" models, but rarely is the new model totally new. What is new and what is old about this new covenant? (What is old is that God is still speaking about His law. Verse 33 explains the difference: under the new covenant the law will be written on the hearts of the people.)
- What does it mean to have God's law written on your heart?
- Keep your bookmark at Jeremiah 31:33 and turn back to Deuteronomy 6:6. Carefully compare these two verses. What difference do you see between God's description of what He had in mind for the Ten Commandments and what He has in mind for the new covenant? (Wait a minute! What we determined was "new" about the new covenant turns out to be part of the old covenant too. These verses show that God had exactly the same goal in mind all the time. In both the old and new covenants He wanted His law in "the hearts" of His people.)
- Look again at Jeremiah 31, and especially verse 32. What does God say is the difference between the old and new covenants? (In this text God says the difference is that the old covenant was not obeyed.)
- Is God saying that the old covenant was not obeyed or that it could not be obeyed?
- What do you think God means by His remark (v.32) "though I was a husband to them?" (This sounds like an "even though I did my best" kind of remark. The New Living Translation says "though I loved them as a husband loves his wife." God sounds like He expected His people to have kept the old covenant.)
- Why did the people not obey the old covenant? (These texts create a very strong argument that God's goal for His covenants has not changed. He wants His law to be part of our "heart." It seems the old covenant did not work because it did not become part of the "heart" of the people. They were not willingly obeying God's law.)
- A major difference between the old and new covenant is the coming of Jesus to earth as the Messiah. How do you think this affected "heart obedience?" (Let's just put to one side for a moment the obvious importance of salvation by grace alone. Just seeing God come to earth, live as a man, demonstrate His love for us by His miracles, His life, His death and His resurrection, should be an irresistible force for writing God's will on our heart.)
- Let's read on: Jeremiah 31:34. What time or place is this describing? Is this a time when the Gospel Commission ( Matthew 28:18-20)does not apply? (The Gospel Commission tells us, among other things, to teach those around us. Jeremiah 31:34 says no more teaching. These verses in Jeremiah must be looking forward to a time after the Second Coming of Jesus.)
- If I am right about these verses in Jeremiah referring to our new life in heaven, what does this say about the Law? Is it, the "old" contract? (No, God's Law is for all times. I think it is a serious theological error to put aside the Ten Commandments. God's Law does not change under the new covenant, what changes is the way in way we relate to the Law. We now have the Law written in our hearts and our minds.)
- Friend, the good news in the theme that connects these contracts is that God wants to have a relationship with us.
- Next week: "All Future Generations."