This message is the fifth in a series of six that seek to develop this summarizing sentence about the Bible:
The Bible is the story of a God who makes a special promise about a special person who creates a special people to live in a special place with Him forever.
The focus of this message is on the fourth part of that sentence: “The Bible is the Story of a Special People.” In this message I will seek to answer the question: What kind of people is the Bible about? The Bible is the story of a created people, a chosen people and a covenant people.
Our Scripture this morning is from Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7 and 2:18-25.
Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (27) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul].
Genesis 2:18-25 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (19) Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. (20) So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. (21) And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. (22) Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. (23) And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.” (24) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (25) And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
I. The Bible is the Story of a Created People.
In Genesis 1 and 2, we have the account of the creation of the human race. This event occurs on the sixth day of creation as the climatic goal of all of God’s creative activities. In Genesis 1:16-27, a general overview of God’s creative act is given, but in chapter 2 a microscope is placed over this event resulting in the additional details which are provided. Here we see that God’s life-giving creative act is initiated, as always, through His spoken Word. In Genesis 1:26 the Godhead converses, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Also included in this account is the necessity for the Spirit of God in the life-giving process as God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
Soon, however, man became a “dying” being because of sin. In the very next chapter, the first man Adam disobeys his Creator by eating of the one tree which was forbidden him. As a result of this disobedience, God’s promised judgment of death has come upon all human beings. Genesis 4 tells us the sad story of the first murder as one of Adam’s sons (Cain) kills another, his brother Abel. Chapter 5 is the chapter of death as the genealogy of Adam’s descendants are given, each ending (with the exception of Enoch) with the chilling epitaph “and he died.” By chapter 6 the wickedness of mankind has gotten so bad that God sends a worldwide flood which wipes out the entire human race with the exception of the eight member family of Noah. After the flood and the earth is somewhat repopulated, mankind once again expresses its rebellion against its Creator by erecting a Tower. God’s judgment is once again swift and severe. Humanity’s common language is confused that no more collaboration for such a project would be possible.
In other words, in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we see the failure of humanity and the need for a new humanity. We see death reigning and the need for the life-giving work of the Creator God. We see the failure of the descendants of Adam and the need for a new Adam. This is exactly what God provides in the pages of the New Testament. There Jesus Christ is described as the new Adam who creates a new humanity. 1 Corinthians 15:22 states, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Then in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 we read:
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (46) However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. (47) The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. (48) As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. (49) And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
Christ creates a new humanity who, according to His own words in John 3, must be “born of the Spirit” and who according to the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:23 have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
No wonder that Jesus on the very evening of the day of His resurrection appeared to His disciples in the room where they were assembled and in John 20:22 says, “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Then nearly fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost, there is the sound of a “rushing mighty wind” as the Holy Spirit was poured out and a new humanity was created in Acts 2. And God is still at work creating this new humanity whenever the Word of God is preached and accompanied by the regenerating work of the Spirit of God. Whenever these two dynamics are at work new life is always still the result!
The Bible is the story of a created people!
II. The Bible is the Story of a Chosen People.
In Genesis 12, we have the account of God’s sovereign choice of Abram out of all the families of the world. After the scattering of the nations in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel, we see the beginning of the gathering of the nations in Genesis 12 as Abram is told that through him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). But in the immediate context of the promise we don’t see Abram being a blessing to all nations, but rather a curse. By the end of chapter 12, Abram is in Egypt and Pharaoh’s house is plagued because of Abram’s sin of lying about his relationship to his wife Sarai (Genesis 12:17). Then in Genesis 22:18, God specifies that it is through Abraham’s seed that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The apostle Paul explains exactly who Abraham’s seed is in Galatians 3:6-9, 13-16 and 26-29. There he writes:
Galatians 3:6-9 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (7) Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. (8) And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (9) So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.Galatians 3:13-16 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), (14) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (15) Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. (16) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
Galatians 3:26-29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Then in Ephesians 2:11 through 3:7, the apostle Paul explains that believing Gentiles have been mysteriously united together in one body with believing Jews, in Christ. These are the same ones described in Ephesians 1:4 as those chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world.”
The apostle Peter adds similarly in 1 Peter 2:9-10 that believers are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” in language clearly meant to parallel God’s description of the nation of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6.
The Bible is the story of a chosen people!
III. The Bible is the Story of a Covenant People.
After Abraham’s descendants spent 400 years in Egypt, God raised up a deliverer to bring them out of bondage and into the promised land. God used Moses to accomplish a complete victory over the gods of Egypt through the ten plagues and over the mighty Egyptian army at the Red Sea. After experiencing the redemption of God from their slavery, God entered into a sacred covenant with His people at Mt. Sinai. This covenant is treated by the later Old Testament prophets as a marriage covenant between Yahweh and Israel. The marriage vows for this covenant are found in Exodus 19:1-8 (before the giving of the Law) and in 24:3-8 (after the giving of the Law). Notice Israel’s repeated “I do’s” or literally “We will do . . .”:
Exodus 19:1-8 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.
Exodus 24:3-8 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
The indictment against Israel throughout the Prophets is that although they were married to Jehovah they had been an adulterous wife. The story of the prophet Hosea is one which illustrates at the same time both God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant. Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to her marriage covenant with Yahweh, the Lord utters these shocking words to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 3:6-10,
The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. (7) And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. (8) Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (9) So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. (10) And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the LORD.
But God promises that things will not always be this way. There will be a New Covenant made, a new wedding ceremony conducted. This New Covenant is described in Jeremiah 31:31-34 as follows,
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– (32) not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Do you remember the words of the Old Covenant ceremony from Exodus 24:8? After Israel’s agreement to the vows of her covenant relationship with Jehovah Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Now read the words of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). This marriage will not end in divorce, because Jesus shed His blood to purchase the ability for the bride to keep her marriage vows! He will not let the church turn away! Paul describes this glorious purpose of Christ in His bride in Ephesians 5:25-27 with these words,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, (27) that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
But will this marriage truly be successful? From our perspective the church doesn’t look too pretty sometimes. But take a glimpse into the future in Revelation 21:1-7, 9-11 and we see the glorious future of the church! Can you hear the wedding music begin to play in the background: Here comes the bride . . .”?
Revelation 21:1-7 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Revelation 21:9-11 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
God’s purposes will not fail! He will have a bride without spot and without blemish. The New Covenant will be successful because Christ has redeemed His people by His blood!
The Bible is the story of a covenant people!