The Purpose of Freedom

I. Introduction

Two hundred and forty years ago, our nation was in bondage. Made up of 13 colonies of the British Empire, the colonies were governed by rules from far across the sea. Twelve years prior to that, the British and the French were in a great race to colonize the Americas, leading to a great amount of tension. In 1754, the British, under the command of 22-year old George Washington, ambushed a French patrol and set off a war against the French. There were about 2 million British colonists and only 60,000 French colonists, so the French enlisted the help of the native American Indians. This French and Indian War lasted 9 years before the British finally defeated the French, and the French ceded control of all of land east of the Mississippi River to the British.

This was an expensive war, and the British felt the American colonies should pay the brunt of the expenses. The British levied higher taxes against the 13 colonies to pay off the war debt, and also imposed other rules that were very inconvenient, such as if the British felt the need to guard your town, you were required to house British troops in your home at your own expense.

The colonies had no say in these taxes. But of particular irritation was the monopoly given to the East Indian Tea Company. No tea could be imported to the colonies directly; instead, The British imported tea to Britain, marked it up 25% to pay for war debts, then sold it to the Americas. In 1773, the Sons of Liberty raided a shipment of tea and threw it all into the Boston Harbor with the rallying cry of “No taxation without representation.”

Three years later, in 1776, the Thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Britain.

II. Independence

What does it mean to be independent? The dictionary defines independence as “freedom from the control, influence, support, or aid of others.” When the young American Colonies rebelled against the British, they wanted representation, they wanted a say in their own fate. They wanted to govern themselves. Others were not going to dictate their day-to-day lives; the colonists were going to choose their own way.

From a historical perspective of developing countries, this was unique. It had never been tried. No country had ever attempted self-governing rules. No country had ever tried a system where the governed were also the governors.

But in the history of mankind, this attitude is hardly unique. The ultimate authority is the God who created us, and we (the creation) have always wanted to govern ourselves.

It seems like every time I teach a lesson, I go back to Genesis 1:1 again. But today, in a fantastic improvement over that record, we’re only going back to Genesis 2. Verses 16 & 17,

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

And man joyfully obeyed and enjoyed a sinless and holy relationship with God the Father. And that lasted maybe a day. After that, we decided we wanted to govern ourselves, and we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We said to God, “You are not the boss of me.”

III. Bondage

When we ate, we rebelled. We looked to our rebellion and said, “See? We are free to do what we want. We don’t allow anyone – including God – to tell us what to do.” We believed that this rebellion was the same as independence which was also the same as freedom.

But these three words are not the same. Yes, we rebelled and declared our independence from God. But were we then free? What did we gain by rebelling from God?

In our rebellion, we decided to go our own way. In our rebellion, we decided on our own not to follow God’s plan. Since God is holy, and God’s plan is holy, our rebellion is… unholy. It is a sin. Our sin separates us from God. In the Old Testament, Isaiah laments this rebellion in Isaiah 63:10 –

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

In other words, our sin nature, passed along from the first rebellion of Adam all the way to us, vexes the Holy Spirit and makes us enemies of God. We saw this rejection of God in 1 Samuel 8:6-9 when the people of Israel – people supposedly free since they had rejected God – demanded somebody to rule over them. It seems they recognized they needed somebody to lead and guide them, but they just didn’t want that somebody to be God –

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

In 1 Samuel 15:23, our rebellion is described like this –

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Our rebellion against the Lord doesn’t lead to freedom. Our rebellion makes us enemies of the Lord. Rebellion aligns us with forces that oppose God. As enemies of the Lord, we become family with a relative we don’t really want, but we share a common goal with him. John 8:44, Jesus tells us who we are when we are in a state of rebellion –

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Yuck. I don’t like this family. So my rebellion against the Lord didn’t lead to freedom, it led to sin. To oppose God’s plan, I have to align myself with the devil, and I am in bondage to this sin because I am rebellion. I cannot escape sin because I am in rebellion which is sin. Instead of freedom, I am in bondage. I am in bondage to sin. In John 8:34,

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

And in Romans 7:14-15, Paul recognizes this bondage –

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

We all sin. We are in bondage to that sin. We’re going to look at 2 verses that describe just how awful the rebellious bondage to sin looks to our Lord. First, let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:1-7 –

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

In that description, I see my own bondage to sin, and I see that our great United States of America has rushed from independence into bondage to sin. From “loving ourselves” on social media like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, to “loving money” and our fascination with pop culture and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Allowing men to use women’s restrooms if they “identify” as a woman and then brutally verbally bashing those who are trying to promote a chaste and safe public restroom experience. Over a half-million abortions every year because having a baby is inconvenient. In my lifetime I’ve seen this nation go from prayer in schools to prosecuting people who pray in schools.

And our national fascination with sex. How much of the internet is related to porn? A study from Columbia University estimates Psychology today estimates as much as 20% of all web traffic and web searches are related to porn.

Our nation is in bondage to sin, and we celebrate it and put it on the internet for everybody to see.

Romans 6:16 also points out that ultimately we only have 2 choices –

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Our rebellious sin nature is a trap. We are stuck in our sin nature and we cannot free ourselves. Romans 1:24 says that God eventually gives us over to the sinful desires of the heart. There is no middle ground. There is no “mostly obedient” state. Giving to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or the Star of Hope or tithing to the church cannot save us if there is one little speckle of disobedience in us. And this verse tells us that we are either trying our very best to find God’s will in our lives, or we are not.

We’d like to believe there is a middle ground, where we can be good people and go to heaven. We’d like to have compassion on good people that aren’t Christians. Surely good people go to heaven? Isn’t that fair? Isn’t that nice? Since God is such a nice guy, surely He’d see it my way?
But that misunderstands God’s purpose in our lives. God loves all His children, and He wants what is best for us. And that means voluntarily giving up our own independent rebellion and agree with the Lord that His will is the best way, and ultimately is the only way. And God tells us that there is one way to gain the promised land, and everything else belongs to sin. Galatians 3:22,

But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

IV. True Freedom

So our rebellion gives us the illusion of independence, but in reality we are trading our allegiance. I pledge allegiance to God and His ways, or I pledge allegiance to our father the devil. There is no third option.

So here’s an interesting quandary. Can we be in bondage, and yet be free?

In the story of the Exodus, we start to get a glimpse of God’s purpose. What was the exodus? It’s the miracle of God leading His people out of bondage, out of slavery. And once the people were free, what did God do? He gave them the Ten Commandments. He set rules for that freedom.

We make a mistake when we confuse our independence with what we truly desire. We desire freedom. Freedom to follow our God-given passions and desires, to seek for God in all the wonderful places He designs for us, to seek His will and find that His plan for us is far, far better than our own independent plans.

Why should we trust this freedom to God? How many hairs do you have on your head? Is it 1000? 100,000? I have no idea. But this is how well God knows me: Not only does He know how many hairs are on my head, but he’s numbered them. 1, 2, 3, 4…. Luke 12:6-7,

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

A very good reason for trusting the Lord is that He knows me far better than I know myself. Should I continue to maintain my independence of God? I certainly have that choice; I can choose to be independent of my creator. But it turns out that is the same as the sin of rebellion, which means independence from God is bondage to the devil. Or I can be independent of Satan, and choose to be in bondage to God. I am in bondage either way.

What does this look like, being in bondage to God? Do I just follow the Ten Commandments? Do I just avoid the Seven Deadly Sins? Do I follow all 613 mitzvots?

Let’s go back for a moment to 2 Timothy 3:1-7 and look at what bondage to sin looks like.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

These things that bind us to sin are lovers of ourselves, lovers of money, proud and boastful and abusive and disobedient and ungrateful and unforgiving… and if I am honest with myself, I can see my own sinful nature in this description. These are the descriptions of the last days. It’s what the Father of Lies would call love. It’s a perversion of what God calls love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I don’t know how to do this. Not on my own. At least, not at the level necessary to meet the standards of a Holy and Perfect Lord of All. I’m going to fail.

So the answer to whether I have to follow the Ten Commandments or avoid the Seven Deadly Sins is… yes. All of them. And none of them.

You see, since God knows how many hairs I have on my head, He knows me better than I know myself. And even when I try to run, He knows me. Jeremiah 23:24,

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

God is everywhere I am. I cannot hide. Even in my rebellion and my so-called independence, I cannot escape. The Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins judge me and my shortcomings. They show me how I fail, they show that despite my own efforts, I’m going to fail at being holy. And that’s ok, because God loves me and has given me a solution. God has given me His Son.

We don’t just “stop sinning” by trying to stop committing the Seven Deadly Sins. Obeying the Ten Commandments doesn’t stop us from sinning. That is is “legalism,” that is trying to save ourselves by “works.” We stop sinning by recognizing that we are in rebellion, that our entire lives have been devoted to bondage in sin, remembering that there is no halfway decision, and then choosing to be bondservants of Christ. We choose to cease our rebellion against the Lord.

What about the Ten Commandments? The Seven Deadly Sins? These give us insight and direction as to what pleases the Lord. For those who have had children, if your child takes a cookie before dinner after you expressly told him not to, do you say, that’s it, I’m done. You’re on your own. Go outside and never come back. From God’s perspective, is our identity as His child dependent on whether we ate the forbidden cookie?

Of course not. We set rules for good behavior for our children. We discipline them when they are disobedient. We raise them, we forgive them, and love them. God does the same for us, and all our sins are forgiven when Jesus took them to the cross. We just have to choose to be in God’s family. Then if we are imperfect, if we only follow eight-and-a-half commandments, our Father still loves us.

In fact, that’s where our freedom comes from – being within the will of God, being a slave to His love, and recognizing His word protects us. Psalm 119:44-45 puts in this way –

I will keep on obeying your instructions forever and ever. I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

So our goal then, is to recognize our rebellion against God did not lead to freedom. It just led to a different sort of bondage. This is where we once were, from 2 Peter 2:17-19 –

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

 

When we accept Jesus, then this is who we become from 1 John 1:12 –

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

And when we are children of God, then there is no condemnation for falling short of God’s perfect will. Romans 8:1,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

V. Conclusion

When mistake rebellion and independence with freedom, we wallow in a lifetime of sin. The rebellion against God results in death and misery and frustration. Or we can attempt to save ourselves by doing good, but the rules we set for ourselves are burdensome and joyless. Worse, we try to set rules for others so we can demonstrate how superior we are.

God’s way is to accept that we are powerless on our own and full of sin, but His Son will take the punishment for our rebellion so we can be slaves to righteousness and serve one another in love. It’s not rules imposed from the outside, but the power of the Holy Spirit from the inside that brings glory to God, peace and joy to us, and blessings to others.

There is a song by Watermark that I love, called “Captivate Us.” During the chorus, she sings, “Let every chain be broken from me as I’m bound by your grace.” Choosing to be a bondservant of Christ Jesus doesn’t restrict our freedom, but gives us freedom to be who God created us to be.

It’s like a train, a locomotive, intent on going its own way. And it jumps the track in search of independence. These train tracks are too restrictive, the train says. And when the train has fallen off the tracks, it’s powerless, it’s useless, it’s stalled. When the train is put back on the track, then the train is free to do what it was created to do.

This is the truth that brings glory to our Father in Heaven. John 8:32,

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

That is true freedom.

To God be the glory.

The Purpose of Work

I. Introduction

Welcome back, everybody. I think it feels weird to see people again.
We’re still not back to normal, though. Diane & I were blessed during this lockdown. I was able to work from home, and I got an extra hour of sleep because I wasn’t commuting and we saved on gas. But at the peak of the lockdown, 43 million Americans filed for unemployment. People that I reached out to last year when I was looking for work are now reaching out to me.

I’ve returned to work at the office, but we’re at 25% capacity with the rest still working from home. Maybe you’re affected. Maybe you’ve been furloughed, maybe you’ve filed for unemployment. If you haven’t, it’s likely you know somebody who has.

Which I find amazing that God has a word for us today to talk about work. Our key scripture today, Ecclesiastes 9:10,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Slide2

We’re going to take this verse apart and put it back together, but first, let’s talk a little about the book of Ecclesiastes. Most theologians attribute the writing to Solomon, who, blessed with more wisdom that anybody in history, found wisdom provided no meaning to life or any comfort.

Whatever we have here on earth, we see from a limited perspective, and only God’s perspective will give us true wisdom and comfort. The book begins in verse 1:2 with

Meaningless! Meaningless!

And ends in verses 12:1 and 12:13,

Remember your Creator.
Fear God and keep His commandments.

Slide3

In between these two verses, man can find comfort and meaning to life. And in between these two verses, the book of Ecclesiastes talks about “work” frequently. Our work can be frustrating and sometimes feels meaningless. Why are we working? What are we trying to accomplish? Will it mean anything after I’m gone? In between “Meaningless! Meaningless” and “Remember your Creator; Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 9:10 has a lesson for us about the design of work, the dignity of work, and the delight of work.

II. The Design of Work

So Ecclesiastes 9:10 begins with,

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

Let’s face it, it’s really hard to do nothing. If you were at home during the lockdown, maybe you started feeling a little stir-crazy.

We are designed by God to do work. God created us in His image, and God is a creative and working God. God creates. We, too, are creative beings, designed to create and designed to work. The capacity for work is part of our DNA. The ability to work is part of our DNA. The mentality to create and to work are part of what it means to be a human made in the image of a working and creative God.

When God created humanity, God’s very first command to Adam was to get to work. Genesis 1:26-28,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Get to work, Adam. And in Genesis 2:15,

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Slide6

Get to work, Adam. You have to read another 10 verses before Eve, his helper, makes an appearance. And the Fall of Man is still another chapter away. So before marriage, before family, before sin of man ejected Adam from the Garden of Eden, God created man to work. Adam tilled the ground, managed the garden, named the animals, and was appointed steward over God’s creation. Get to work, Adam. In working, we are practically demonstrating the image of God on earth.

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

The phrase “your hand” represents our capacity to work, but also our individuality. And the phrase “finds to do” means there is always something that we can do. We are to be good stewards of this earth and contribute to the flourishing and development of this world. It is in our DNA to do something.

But we’re not all cut from the same cloth. We are not a cookie cutter design. I am different from Chris. And Tony is different from everybody.

We, by our design, are uniquely created for a specific type of work. God not only created us with the capacity to work in general, He also created us to complete certain types of work in particular. God designed each of us with different abilities and personalities. We are not the same. We do not all have the same serial number. Rather, God made each of us unique for our unique work.

This means that God did not design everyone to be a teacher or a preacher. God did not design everyone to be a car mechanic or a counselor. Instead, God designed people to be engineers, lawyers, teachers, anesthetists, IT technicians, accountants, geologists, dentists, and writers. For humanity to truly have dominion over all of creation, God endowed different types of people with the unique ability to govern over, serve in, and contribute to virtually every area of life.

Slide8

Each one of us is attracted towards an area of work that we are particularly equipped to accomplish. We each have God-given strengths, skills, leanings, passions, and spiritual gifts that naturally lead us into one ‘profession’ or ‘vocation’ or ‘work’ over another.

And everyone of us has struggled at some point in our life with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” or “What is my personal calling?” We all want to figure out what our role and contribution ought to be in our short time on earth.

How do we our purpose for work? We can find our purpose at the intersection of 3 main things: our abilities, our affinities, and the affirmations of others.

Slide9

  • Our abilities refer to our God-given strengths, our gifts, personality, and skills.
  • Our affinities refer to our interests and what brings us the most amount of joy and energy.
  • And affirmation of others means that other people can testify whether our perception of our skill is an actual, substantial strength.

All three, working together, can help us draw out our purpose from our own guesswork. In other words, do what you do best for the glory of God.
God has specifically designed us – our abilities, affinities, and affirmations – to strategically position ourselves for the greatest impact for His glory. When we follow God’s design, our work will not only become more personally enriching, but our work is our witness and our examples of our excellent and creative God.

So the phrase “Whatever your hand finds to do,” are instructions, it reveals how we should evaluate ourselves, evaluate purpose so that we can enjoy work, serve others well, and contribute to God’s kingdom.

III. The Dignity of Work

In the second part of the verse, “do it with your might,” God challenges us always to do our best with the gifts He has given us. There is dignity concerning work.

There is value in work with the best we have to offer. The reason for engaging wholeheartedly is not simply because that is what we ‘ought’ to do. We should engage wholeheartedly as a response that work itself is a gift from God and a dignifying responsibility on its own terms. There is no work that is undignified.

We should not approach work because we’re threatened, or somebody may condemn us, but because all work is good.

Back in Genesis 1, every time God created something He called it ‘good;’ then He created mankind and called us ‘very good.’ God has selected us do work as He does, and when we manage His creation to His glory, it is a high and noble honor. Work is one way that demonstrate Christ within.

Slide11

So work is more than just our duty. It is a privilege. The only right response to the reality of work, and serving God in our work, is to expend our might and to give our best, which is an act of worship.

Work, then, becomes primarily a response of stewardship and faithfulness. However, when work becomes something different than a responsibility of stewardship and faithfulness, it decays and maligns everything else in its path. Hence the next part of our verse, “do it with your might.”

Our work should be done for the sake of work itself. Not for our own significance, not to make us important, not for other’s approval. Not even for money. A biblical view of work as the means to something else. Work well for work’s sake.

When work becomes a means to an end, when we are working for something other than work, we may find ourselves bowing at the feet of an idol. There is nothing wrong with financial stability, providing for your family, or approval from others. However, when we see our work primarily as a means to achieve these, we have ruined the very essence of what makes work beautiful on its own terms.

Sometimes when I watch an old movie, the mom brags to her neighbor that her son is a doctor or lawyer. Always a doctor or a lawyer. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a doctor or lawyer. But 90% of the workforce should not be doctors or lawyers. And I’m pretty sure God did not create 90% of people to serve as doctors and lawyers.

Slide12

So, why the obsession to be a doctor or lawyer? It is because those two professions in our American society are associated with status, stability, and prosperity. Who would not want those things? And so, becoming a lawyer or doctor becomes the means to attaining status, stability, and prosperity.
So many then, who strive to be a doctor or lawyer, are sacrificing their God-given skills and passions to join a a profession they do not like or have no skills in, just because they feel like they must do so to attain the ‘good life.’ Not only do these people become embittered and finding no satisfaction in their work, but their God-given skills and passions are left unused and they begin to atrophy. People unhappy with their work also make those around them unhappy. In other words, instead of working for the dignity of work and to God’s glory, they work for themselves, and the design and dignity of work suffers. It was never intended to be for them after all. It’s all for God’s glory. God’s call is for us to “do it with your might” and not with or for anything else. When work is done with any other purpose or motive, it becomes defective and destructive.

Regardless of your vocation, there is dignity and purpose when seen in the light of God. It is not about the kind of work you do; it’s about how you do the work. With dignity as a Christ follower.

IV. The Delight of Work

Our scripture verse then says,
“for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in [death].”
Your translation may say “sheol” as a location for death.

So I have news for you. You’re going to die. You have an expiration date. So do I. Eventually, you and I are going to run out of the one precious resource we cannot replenish: Time.

Slide14

Time is a limited resource. We all desire more of it. We wish we had more time in a day to finish that project. We wish we did not have to sleep as much so that we could maximize our productivity. And so our available time limits our capacity for accomplishment and completion. It humbles us, and it sobers us up to realize that we may never get to finish it. Time marks the end of our work, and the end of our lives.

This is a short life. Once we’re dead, whatever happens in Heaven and the glory we shall see when Christ returns, this life is over. Rather than doom and gloom, the calamities in this life enrich us, they challenge us, they are God’s way of getting our attention, they are opportunities for us to grow and to show the world that, regardless of the calamities, the hardships, the pain and suffering, that we are enjoying our limited life. Our life gives us the chance to choose our eternal destination and to share the joy of living as a child of God to others that do not yet know the Lord. We live out our limited life in the hope of continuing in our eternal life.

And it is our eternal life which we should value. The time is so short, and eternity goes on, well, forever. That’s the definition of eternity, and our lives continue through eternity, compared to this very short time here on planet earth. So why am I not afraid of Covid-19? Because Covid-19 can only change my expiration date on earth. If I depart early, I begin eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ sooner.

Jesus said in John 9:4,

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Slide15

I once went to an estate sale my wife had organized for an elderly couple. They had collected years and years of Asian art, sculptures, beautiful furniture, but in their last few years they decided to move into assisted living, limited space, and it was time to relinquish their material possessions. At the estate sale I couldn’t help but notice that all this art, loaded with their memories was being sold for pennies on the dollar. All these memories, once this couple was gone, were meaningless. We can’t take it with us, and we leave almost nothing behind.

The message is that we live in a world plagued by frustrations towards the completion of our goals, aspirations, and work. But in God’s economy, when our work is done with hearts and hands bent on God’s Kingdom and eternity, our work means something, whether it was completed in this life or not. Without God and eternity, all things ‘under the sun’ simply have no meaning or lasting impact. But with God and eternity, even our smallest efforts matter and carry into eternity. Our work means something to God. This knowledge ought to give delight, that what we do, when done for the glory of God, pleases Him and we will understand that in eternity.

In Timothy Keller’s book, “Every Good Endeavor, he writes the following:

If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.
Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

How can we truly delight in our work? It comes from the assurance that God values us and our work; and in the Lord, our labor will carry into eternity. He infuses our work with meaning and eternal significance in a way that we simply could not on our own. Only the Christian is privileged to enjoy his or her work in this way. And in light of this, we can rejoice.

V. Conclusion

God works, and therefore, work on its own terms is a good thing. It is a glorious extension of His attributes. And when God created us in His own image, He made us both agents of work (giving us the capacity for work) and regents of work (entrusting us with the responsibility to work). Work is part of what it means to be human. God has in store a certain design, dignity, and delight for us in the privilege of working.

When we do not work, we simply become less than what God designed us to be. If work according to God’s design is humanizing, then not working at all or not working according to God’s design is dehumanizing. As Christians, we realize that our work is not our ultimate worth, stability, security, or satisfaction. Christ is. Under this framework ‘under heaven’ our work, becomes redeemed to being what it was always meant to be all along: work.
When we live according to God’s will for work, we will find God’s unique design for work, His special dignity in work, and His particular delight for us to enjoy within work. His plan truly becomes our purpose. Let nothing deter you from the work God has for you. Do it with joy, with gusto, with purpose, and love.

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To God be the glory.

The Davidic Covenant

I. Introduction

We’re going to get into 2 Samuel 7 today and discuss God’s covenant with David and the building of His temple, but we’re going to lay some groundwork first and describe what a covenant is and how many they are in the bible.

First, while the properties of a covenant sound like a promise, an agreement, a contract, a covenant has far more significance. A promise is a declaration from one person that he or she will or will not do something. You can say, “I promise to do something,” and you can even say, “I promise to do something if.” Promises should be ironclad. In reality, they’re not. I’m sure everyone in this room has had a promise given to them and then be incredibly disappointed when that promise was broken. I’m equally sure, if we’re going to be honest, everyone in the room has also given a promise that they didn’t keep. We tend not to remember those because we have an excuse, but a promise is a promise.

You know what irritates me in the movies? Some guy is rushing off to war or fighting an impossible battle or called on to do something incredibly dangerous and life threatening. Something like, “Here, your job is to take this giant tongue depressor and make Godzilla say ‘aaaah’ by running into his mouth.” And his girlfriend says, “Please don’t go!” And he responds, “I promise I’ll come back.” Either that is a promise that is completely out of his control and he has no business saying that, or it’s a movie spoiler because now we know he’s going to survive.

Then there is the agreement. If you do this, then I’ll do that. “Can you pick up the kids after school? I’ll make dinner if you do.” “You can borrow my car if you fill it with gas.” It’s two sided, requires something from both people.

Then there’s the contract, a legal contract. Your apartment lease, your mortgage, your student loan, your car payment. Even your phone bill. This is like an agreement, but if the agreement fails, there are repercussions spelled out in advance. “You agree to pay the following amount for your car every month by the 5th of the month. If it is not paid by the 5th, then a 10% penalty applies. If it is not paid by the 10th, we will repossess your children.” That sort of thing.

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Covenant encompasses many of the characteristics of a promise, agreement, and a contract, but it goes further. In the bible, a covenant is a spiritual agreement and has the following characteristics –

  1. A covenant is pure and righteous
  2. A covenant considers the benefit of the other person instead of one’s self
  3. A covenant is based on love
  4. A covenant is permanent

A contract is an agreement; a covenant is a pledge. A contract can be broken, a covenant cannot. You sign a contract, you seal a covenant.

Marriage should be covenants. That’s how the Lord intended them, as a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. We treat them like legal contracts, though. But I think that’s a completely different bible study.

So the bible itself is a covenant document. It is how God has chosen to reveal to us His plan to redeem us and give us eternal life. Within the bible, there are seven major covenants. Each covenant can be either conditional or unconditional; it can be specific to a single nation or it can be general. Conditional covenants are based on certain obligations and prerequisites; if the requirements are not fulfilled, the covenant is broken. Unconditional covenants are kept regardless of one party’s fidelity or infidelity.

II. Seven Covenants

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A) Adam (The Adamic Covenant), symbolized by the ground of the earth. This covenant comes in two parts –

  1. Edenic (innocence), Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant is general in nature and outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was the party of the first part; newly created man was the party of the second part. It regulated man’s dominion of the earth and presented a simple test of obedience. The penalty was death and condemnation for Adam and his descendants.
  2. Adamic (grace), Genesis 3:13-19. The Adamic covenant includes the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve. Satan’s tool, the serpent was cursed, women’s status was altered, the earth was cursed, spiritual and physical death resulted. But it wasn’t all bad, it also included the first promise of a future redeemer that would crush the head of Satan.

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B) Noahic Covenant, Genesis 8-9, symbolized by the rainbow. This covenant is between God and Noah specifically, and also with humanity in general. After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood (see Genesis chapter 9). God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never again flood and a reminder that God can and will judge sin. It has nothing with the LGTBQ movement, they’ve corrupted a covenant symbol from God for their own selfish pleasures.

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C) Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, symbolized by the stars. In this covenant, God promised Abraham. that He would make Abraham’s name great, that Abraham would have numerous descendants, and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. God also made promises regarding the land of Israel. God also promised that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham, which is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

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D) Palestinian (Deuteronomic) Covenant, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, symbolized by the Sabbath. This unconditional covenant noted God’s promise to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God, then to restore them at a later time to their land. This covenant has been fulfilled twice, with the Babylonian Captivity and subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great; and with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, followed by the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in 1948.

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E) Mosaic Covenant, Deuteronomy 11, symbolized by the Two Tablet of the Law. This conditional covenant, specifically for the Old Testament Jews, promised the Israelites a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. It consisted of the Ten Commandments, social judgements, and religious ordinances. Over 600 commands, 300 positive, 300 negative. Much of the Old Testament chronicles the fulfillment of this cycle of judgment for sin and later blessing when God’s people repented and returned to God.

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F) Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, which coincidentally are our bible study verses for today, symbolized by Jerusalem. This unconditional covenant, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, promised to bless David’s family line and assured an everlasting kingdom. God promised unconditionally to put a son of David on the throne, but only the righteous son would reign for eternity. While David’s son Solomon ruled over Israel, he failed to keep God’s commands. Only David’s descendant Jesus was the true and faithful Son deserving of the everlasting throne of David.

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G) The New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, symbolized by the Passover Cup and Bread. The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ. It secures blessing for the church, it flows from the Abrahamic covenant, and secures all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants, and all who comes to God’s Only Son through faith. This covenant is unconditional, final and irreversible.

Seven Covenants. Seven is God’s number of perfection. We can either rest, like He did, or back up to #6 and spend some more time on the Davidic covenant. Since I already put these slides together, I say let’s look at the Davidic covenant in some more detail.

III. Davidic Covenant

The establishment of the house of David is an integral part of God’s master plan to fulfill the promise made in Genesis to defeat the enemy and crush the head of the serpent. So far, God has brought His people out of Egypt and has given them a good land. He has driven out their enemies, making His presence known by winning battles the Israelites couldn’t win on their own.

But because of their sinfulness in the days of the Judges, God was angered and delivered them into the hands of their enemies in fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. When Israel repented, Psalm 78 tells us that God came to their rescue. God set His servant David as the shepherd of Israel, and as the Servant King on the throne.

The Davidic Covenant represents one of the most significant moments in God’s plan for the people of God. Psalm 78:67-72, makes it clear that the placement of David on the throne was a major milestone in God’s plans for redemption and was essential to the establishment of God’s rule in Israel.

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

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The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a preillustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. So let’s take a look at the Davidic Covenant, its explanation and its meaning for us today. We’ll begin with 2 Samuel 7:1-3,

IV. The Davidic Covenant’s Explanation

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

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The Davidic Covenant took place between King David and God, when King David made plans to build God a house of cedar. The kingdom of Israel was at rest from their enemies, and David pours the thoughts of his heart out to his faithful prophet Nathan. He says, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” David sensed the incongruity of living in an impressive palace while the Ark of God was still in a tent. I mean, if David was in a palace of cedar, then surely God’s ark ought to be in a palace! David’s humility and his love for the Lord moved him with the desire to bring about a change and he shared that desire with Nathan, his friend, his prophet. And Nathan, perceiving the king’s sincere motivation, gave his blessing on the project. Nathan said, “go and do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
In verses 4-7, we see the Lord’s gracious response.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

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The same night that David shared this with Nathan and Nathan instructed him, “Go and do it, the Lord is with you,” the Lord came to Nathan and instructed him to put a question to David. God said, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD,’ Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?”

Now, look at how good and wise our sovereign Lord is in the way He sends these words to David. God gives these words to David from the mouth of Nathan and not from another prophet, so that the reputation of Nathan would not be impugned. I mean, what would it have been like, if God had sent another prophet to tell this to David. It would have appeared that Nathan had spoken falsely. But God is good, and He allows Nathan to be the one to deliver this news. Just think how perplexing it would have been to David to have had Nathan tell him one thing during the day, then another prophet shows up and says not to do it. The Lord’s wisdom and kindness are seen in the way that He delivers this message to David. David is not confused, and Nathan’s reputation is not damaged.
In fact, we later find out from the lips of David’s son, Solomon, that the Lord told David that He was pleased with what David wanted to do. 1 Kings 8:18-19,

But the LORD said to my father David, “Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.”

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Solomon tells us that the Lord told David that He was pleased with the desires of his heart. Then, in 2 Samuel 7:6, the Lord reminds David of an important spiritual truth. He says,

“For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.”

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Stop for a moment and think how profound those words are. First, they point to God’s willingness to identify with His people. If His people must travel in the wilderness in tents, God is going to be there with them. The sovereign God of Israel is not removed from His people, He is near to His people, and He even shares in their humiliations. Is this not a foretaste of Christ’s tabernacling with His people? And yet, you see it here in the sovereign God of Israel.

Secondly, these words emphasize God’s continual presence with His people. He is not distant or unconcerned. He is near. He is in the midst of His people. And our glorious Lord Jesus Christ would one day show forth beyond all human expectation, the extent of God’s commitment to be with His people, as John tells us in John 1:14, that

“He was made flesh and He dwelt, He tabernacled among us.”

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In 2 Samuel 7:8-11 the covenant which God inaugurates with David is explained and established.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

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The Lord surpasses Himself in blessing David. He reminds David that it was He who chose him and made him ruler, telling him in verse 8, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.”

God has been with David, He has given him victory over His enemies. God is the one who has made David great, He is the one who will continue to make David great. The Lord reminds him in verse 9,

“And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.”

Furthermore, God says in verse 11 that He will establish His people in their own land, and He will give them rest from their enemies. And ultimately, that the Lord Himself will build David a house.

“From the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”

Notice that Nathan tells David “God will make you a house.” There is an intentional play on words the Hebrew language. David begun this passage by saying that he wanted to build a house for the Lord. Of course, by that, he meant a temple. In Hebrew, the word for house (bayith), can also mean palace. Interestingly, the word for temple and house is the same word for dynasty in Hebrew. And so there is a play on words going on here. David says “Lord, I want to build you a house,” meaning a temple, “because it is not right for me to be in a house,” meaning a palace, “and You dwell in a tent.” And God replies, “David, you will build Me a house?” meaning a temple. “No. I will build you a house,” meaning a dynasty.

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On one hand, you had a king building a house of cedar for God; good intentions and well-meaning heart. On the other hand, you have the Creator of the Universe wanting to build a house for you that is not limited to time or geography. Which one has a bigger vision? From the time that God saw David in the pasture tending sheep as the youngest of 8 boys, God saw beyond the pasture. God saw a dynasty, a lineage, a bloodline that would change history for all time.

The Lord was not speaking of building David a house of cedar. He was speaking of building David a dynasty. That is something Saul wanted but did not get.

Saul wanted Jonathan to sit on the throne and God told Saul that Jonathan would not sit on the throne of Israel. But now God is saying to David, “David, your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.” So, the Lord says, “You will not build Me a house, a temple, but I will build you a house, a dynasty.” He would establish David and his seed after him, as the monarchs of the people of God.

V. The Davidic Covenant’s Establishment

2 Samuel 7:12-17

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

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With these words we have the formal inauguration of God’s covenant with David, though the word “covenant” is not found here. Other passages explicitly state that this was a covenant inauguration. For instance, in Psalm 89:3-4,

I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David, My servant, your seed will I establish forever and build up your throne to all generations.

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You will also find similar wording in Psalm 132. The covenant promises a number of blessings to David:

  1. First, his own flesh and blood will occupy the throne. “And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of your body, I will establish his kingdom.” This is no small promise, given the political instability of the near east kingdoms of David’s time, or for today for that matter.
  2. Secondly, David’s heir will fulfill David’s desire by building a house for God. “He shall build a house for My name.”
  3. David’s heir will stand in unique relationship to God. God will be his father, and he will be His son. Nathan proclaims this amazing word, “I will be his father and he will shall be My son.” Now, we who live under the New Covenant and have the privilege of addressing God as our Father, may not be too startled by that statement, but to the Hebrew ear, it would have been unbelievable. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is an individual so clearly designated a son of God. And yet that is the blessing of David’s covenant.
  4. Fourth, David’s heir may experience punishment for sins, but he will not be cast off like Saul. Look at that second phrase in verse 14, “when he commits inequity, I will correct him with the rod of men and strokes of the sons of man.” On the surface, that looks very negative. However, in the context of Saul having been cut off, that is actually a very positive thing. God is saying, “If he stumbles, and he will, I will not cut him off like Saul. I will discipline him, but I will not cut him off.” This of course, proved important in the days of Solomon’s disobedience as well as for many of the kings of Judah.
  5. Fifth and finally, God makes the astonishing promise that David’s kingdom will last forever in verse 16. “Your house, your kingdom will be established forever before Me. Your throne will be established forever.” David’s dynasty is without parallel in the ancient near east in length of duration. His house ruled Judah for over four hundred years, far longer than any of the ruling families in the Northern kingdom.
    The promise was not that the lineage of David would reign for a long time, but that it would reign forever. That leads the prophets of the Old Testament to say that this Davidic promise would only be fulfilled in the Messiah. That, of course, is exactly how the New Testament interprets it. This reign is ultimately fulfilled in the reign of the son of David, Jesus Christ and His eternal messianic rule. The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a type. It was a shadowy figure. A pre-illustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the reign of Christ.

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VI. The Davidic Covenant’s Meaning Today

The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who now rules invisibly from heaven until He puts every enemy under His feet. And, our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ’s kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.

To put it another way, personal holiness means learning the attitudes and customs of a new kingdom: the kingdom of Christ. And personal evangelism means telling people that the rightful king of the world against whom they have rebelled is willing to grant amnesty to all who return and live under His rule. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the eternal King of the world will come from heaven and establish a reign of joy and righteousness and peace over all his loyal subjects forever and ever. And until He comes, the worldwide mission of the church is to extend complete, free, universal amnesty to people from every nation.

Here is a parable from our Lord recorded in Luke 19:11-27 –

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While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

Jesus compares Himself to a nobleman who has gone to a distant country to receive a kingdom and then return. The distant country represents heaven, and after receiving the kingdom of Heaven, the nobleman will return. Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, will not sit upon the throne of David until His second coming to earth.

Israel was not prepared to receive the Messiah when He came to earth the first time. Will we be prepared when He comes to earth the second time and establishes His Kingdom? Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

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The very mercy and faithfulness that guarantees David an eternal kingdom will guarantee you all the joy and righteousness and peace of that kingdom. It is a promise made by God. God is saying to you this morning: “if you will come to me empty-handed and hungry, willing to receive what I give, then I will write for myself in your presence a job description and bind myself with an oath to treat you forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that I have demonstrated in my covenant with David.”

Hear the call of the Lord Jesus Himself in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:16,

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Come to the Son of David, come to the King of Kings, and He will sign with His own blood your personal copy of the job description He has written for Himself- to be God to you. And He will give it to you as an eternal covenant, never to turn away from doing you good.

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The choice is yours. What will you do with God’s covenant promise?

To God be the glory. Amen.