Before Interstate 75 was built, drivers traveling to Florida went right through the middle of Corbin, Kentucky, on Highway 25. Every day hundreds of them stopped at a particular Café for a bite of famous fried chicken. But when the interstate was complete, Highway 25 went quiet, and the Café was left high and dry.
The Café owner was at a crossroads. He could hope for the best and ride his near-empty restaurant all the way down, or he could pursue another vision for his restaurant.
The owner decided to move ahead out of the disaster that ensued when I-75 bypassed his hometown. He hit the road and started recruiting and franchising across the United States. It all began with a clear-eyed look at a situation that had changed completely. That willingness to face reality and journey afresh made col Harlan Sanders and KFC a household name, and if we are willing it will lead us into our destiny.
God covenanted with Abraham, and Moses, that if they were to go on this divine journey He would bless them to become a blessing to the whole world. Today I want to examine the covenant that Moses ventured forth in.
Everyone faces a journey through life of some kind, and we have the opportunity to dream big and see it come to pass right now. We can imagine anything right now. Think about it! Street ministry, youth ministry, ladies, men, families. We can plant new churches, here and around the world. This is the most exciting moments of your Christian walk. And God has brought you here for such a time as this, not just to pray, not just to give, but to be a part of what He’s about to do at Ignite.
But it so come down to covenant. Dictionary.com defines a covenant as a solemn agreement between two parties to do or not do something specified. In other words, a covenant is an agreement between two parties which involves promise which must be kept. It’s a promise or pledge.
We as a church believe that God is leading us into a new premises in Nambour. But the Lord this week has been encouraging me to learn from the covenant journeys of others. When God led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land, it involved a covenant. It’s not a free ride, where you get blessed no matter how sinful you might choose to be. Like them, we face a journey, not alone, but with God, and we only want to walk this journey with God, but we have to recognise that it involves covenant, with commitments from both sides. So what does Scripture say about the journey covenant?
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
I’m not frightened of moving, I’m not fearful of the process or the result, but I am fearful of one thing… Stepping out of God’s will. Let’s not delude ourselves, to truly walk with God we must be obedient. There is an agreement, a covenant. As Isaiah said,
Isaiah 1:19-20 (ESV)
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
It’s been said that the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years because they were led by a man, and like all men he refused to ask for directions. That’s not true, of course, but the journey was made long and difficult because people forgot what God had done, doubted, complained, rebelled and stepped out of God’s will.
And remember, their journey started with miracles, just as our journey has. The 10 plagues, and of course the incredible miracle at the Red Sea. With ongoing presence of God a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud in the day. No Israelite could doubt that God was with them, leading and guiding them, protecting and providing for them.
Numbers 9:16-18 (ESV)
So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.
Israel didn’t have a refidex, had a divine GPS in the form of a cloud and fire. Like a GPS, it directed and guided them. But it required obedience to the covenant relationship God had with them. For us the cloud is moving, and when it moves we need to be ready to follow in obedience. We need to not be stuck in a rut, which is just a grave with the ends knocked out. We have to see new, fresh horizons in God.
WHAT ARE GOD’S COMMITMENTS?
So a covenant involves promises and commitments, usually from both sides. What were God’s requirements? He fought for His people…
Exodus 14:13-14 (ESV)
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Let’s examine how God fought for and provided for His people…
1. GOD SEES BEFORE
I mentioned when I last preached that God is named Jehovah Jireh, which means the Lord provides. And God is able to provide perfectly for you and for our church because He sees ahead. God knew Pharaoh’s plans and saw to it that Israel was cared for.
This is providence, which means “to see before.”… Timely preparations for future eventualities. No matter what the enemy plans to do to you, God can see before you and has already taken care of it, and He will guide and protect you.
Exodus 14:4 (NIV)
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this.
Proverbs 15:3 (NIV)
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
Just because you can’t see the way doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have the way. We have seen incredible miracles in this church, and if you are part of this church, I believe the Lord can do incredible miracles for you too! You may be facing unbelievable odds, hardships, pain, fears, but God sees before you and will fight for you as you remain in covenant with Him.
2. GOD COMES BETWEEN
The pillar of fire brought light to Israel, but brought darkness to the enemy. The people of the world are walking in darkness, but God’s people have “the light of life” (John 8:12). The enemy cannot touch you without first encountering God.
Exodus 14:19-20 (NIV)
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
God is passionate about protecting His people. Does that mean that nothing will ever go wrong in your life? Of course not. Jesus said,
John 16:33 (NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God doesn’t usually make you avoid life problems, He leads you triumphantly through them! God can give you the strength to face every problem life throws at you. And when you do, you can do so knowing that God is protecting you.
Deuteronomy 20:4 (NIV)
For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
3. GOD GOES AHEAD
God not only see ahead, He goes before you and opens the way to do the impossible. The trapped and doomed people see the Red Sea parting before their eyes, and they walk though on dry land.
Exodus 14:21-22 (NIV)
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The next time you are in a seemingly impossible situation, remember what God did for Israel at the Red Sea. The people of Israel celebrated and never forgot this victory (Pss. 66:6; 106:9; 136:13–14). Recalling God’s past help can encourage you as you face future challenges to your faith.
And we can have that same faith. We saw God provide for our finances miraculously bringing in money to buy this building, and we can trust Him again to bring in the finances to allow us to move.
Have you seen God do miraculous things for you in the past? If He comes through for you before, He can and will do it again if you are obedient.
And God goes ahead of us as a church. I believe He is opening doors that no man can shut, and I am praying that we move in by this April. That takes faith but I believe God delights in our faith.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
4. GOD COMES BEHIND
God comes behind us, protecting us.
Isaiah 52:12 (NIV)
But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
God moved behind the fleeing people, blocking off the enemy, protecting the terrified Israelites. He can and will protect you too, if you stay close to Him.
I remember walking through a very dodgy part of a very dodgy city with one of my girls, and holding their hand. If they ran away, I couldn’t protect them. I need them to stay close so I can protect them and guide them. God demands that same obedience so He can protect us as we journey.
God’s promise is that He will be with us, even to the end of the age. He will never leave or forsake us, no matter what difficulties we face. But this covenant is not without conditions. If you live in rebellion to God, if you refuse to walk with Him, obey Him, honour Him, if you run from Him don’t be surprised to find yourself facing life alone. Does He still love you? Yes, but we have a part to play in this covenant.
SO WHAT ARE OUR COMMITMENTS? WHERE DID THEY GO WRONG?
God makes a firm and unshakable commitment to us. He longs to prosper us and not harm us…
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
But the next 2 verses reveal our part of the deal…
Jeremiah 29:12-13 (ESV)
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
So asking Jesus into your life as Lord and Saviour is the first part of covenant. This opens the door to covenant relationship with Him. If you haven’t as yet done that, you need to do that now. But ongoing covenant also involves ongoing obedience.
We are to call to Him, come to Him and seek Him with all our heart, and that means trusting Him rather than ourselves for the future. It means obeying Him, no matter the circumstances.
We are generally pretty bad at this. We tell God what we want Him to do for us, rather than ask, and then we get mad when He doesn’t do it our way. We act like He is our servant, but the Bible teaches that we are His servants. If you want the God of Heaven to guide and lead and provide and protect your life, you need to walk with Him, and obey Him, not do your own thing.
The people of Israel saw great, incredible miracles of provision. Yet they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Even when they failed in their part of the covenant, God still blessed them… Moses describes their journey this way.
Deuteronomy 29:5 (ESV)
I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.
God was with them, even when they let their side if the covenant down. So what went wrong? How did they fail to respond to God’s generous protection and provision. In essence, they failed to fulfil their part in the covenant. God never let them down, but they constantly let Him down. So where did they go wrong.
1. THEY FORGOT
They forgot the blessings of the Lord when they faced the pressure cooker of being trapped by the Red Sea. Similarly, we often profess faith until it comes under pressure.
Psalms 106:7-8 (ESV)
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
Then Towards the end of their journey, Moses said to the people
Deuteronomy 8:2 (ESV)
And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
We humans, who have seen such blessing from the Lord, when the pressure is on, quickly forget how He has blessed us and how much He loves us.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (ESV)
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Has God blessed you in the past? We need to never forget His goodness
Psalms 103:2 (ESV)
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
2. THEY DOUBTED
The people doubted God would fulfil His promise to lead them to the Promised Land. We know that our faith blesses God, and causes a flow of blessing into our lives. Caleb, you might remember, was one of only 2 spies who would enter the Promised Land. God allowed him to take the land because he didn’t doubt…
Numbers 13:30 (ESV)
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
You see, doubt short-circuits the blessings of being in covenant with God. In fact, in the extensive list of the consequences or curses of disobeying God in Deuteronomy 28 we find
Deuteronomy 28:66 (ESV)
Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life.
The people doubted God would keep His promise. Do you doubt your God. I’ll tell you, even though this week has been tough talking to lawyers, finance people, boards. Etc, I do not doubt that God is going to lead us to downtown.
3. THEY COMPLAINED
Faith looks ahead with courage, unbelief looks back with complaint. I may have professed faith this week, even felt it, but I have to tell you I have complained way too much! Complaining is something we people are experts at, right?
Numbers 11:1 (ESV)
And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
When facing the Red Sea, they complained that Moses had rescued them. Just after the Red Sea, they complained about the lack of water, the lack of food, and so on! They even complained about the menu God arranged for them…
Numbers 11:5-6 (ESV)
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Complaining is a sure sign of doubt, and it affects everyone around you. It even got under God’s skin! It never brings blessing, it always brings a curse. It shows that we are not grateful. Church, we need to cultivate a gratitude attitude.
Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Difficulties should present opportunities to shine, not whine!
4. THEY REBELLED
Forgetting past blessings leads to doubt, which leads to complaining, which leads ultimately to rebellion. The people got together, whined together and then rose up in rebellion together.
Psalms 78:8 (ESV)
and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
On the Exodus journey people whined and complained so much that a guy named Korah rose up in rebellion against God and His leaders.
Numbers 16:4-5 (ESV)
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.
Moses called for a showdown and for God to choose His leader. Moses was vindicated, and Korah was swallowed up by the earth.
Numbers 16:32 (ESV)
And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.
God treats rebellion very, very seriously. When King Saul refused to obey and went all religious to try and get what he wanted, God’s said this through Samuel
1 Samuel 15:22-23 (ESV)
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Trust me, you do not want to rebel against God. Walk with Him, don’t fight against Him!
COVENANT IS NOT A BURDEN, IT’S A BLESSING
We often think that covenant is a burden, but it’s not, it’s a blessing. Covenant is not about rules, it’s about relationship. That’s why boyfriends and girlfriends want to get married. It’s not just a piece of paper, it’s a covenant before God. Relationship grows strong when encapsulated by the sure promises of covenant.
The people of Israel made their journey constantly rebelling and complaining, but we should learn from their mistakes.
God has covenant with us. He’s saved us, He’s blessed us, and He is not about to stop. God has given you promises, guidance, directions, warnings.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
God promises are yes and Amen, but they all take shape in the relationship of a covenant.
So what promises has God given you? What do you believe He promises you? More importantly, are you being obedient and walking in the covenant? Love is covenant. With your wife, and with your God. Love is not a feeling it’s an act of the will, a decision to obey. God gave us marriage not to constrict our love life but to fulfil it. His covenant brings blessings, and breaking the covenant brings pain and loss. So what is God asking you to do to demonstrate your love and commitment?