Theme: Knowing God is knowing His partnership
See this Explaining the kingdom page for more on this topic
Psalm 100 — Praise God who is good and whose love endures
Joyful security comes from knowing God and living as His people
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
“All the earth” – the call to worship starts off wider than the people of Israel, or (we might say today) the Church. It is a call to all mankind, and even all creation. The focus from v.3 becomes more specific.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
“Gladness… joyful songs” – characterises worshippers of the living God who respond to His goodness, v.5, in praise and joy.
3 Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
“Know” – acknowledging that Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, is the one true God, and being completely assured of this truth.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.
Enter… with praise” – coming into God’s presence in praise and joy were two conditions for entering the sanctuary.
• For further study, compare Psalm 40:8, 42:2, 43:4, 66:13, 86:9, 118:19-20.
5 For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
“For the LORD is good” – full of generosity, Ps. 23:6, 25:7-8. Here, “good” is supported by His merciful love and faithfulness, emunah, which NKJ renders as “truth”. The root meaning is about being established or confirmed and this is where our word “Amen” comes from.
Exodus 19:2-8 — Israel will be God’s special possession and witness
Moses hears God speak words of covenant on the mountain where he first met God
2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
“Desert of Sinai” – in the south-east of the peninsula and the setting for the rest of the events of Exodus, Leviticus and the first ten chapter of Numbers. This was about seven weeks after the exodus and later this was the time of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. So Pentecost also celebrated the Giving of the Law.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
“The LORD called to him from the mountain” – fulfilling the promise made to Moses here, at the burning bush, that he would bring the people out of Egypt and serve God on this mountain, Exodus 3:12.
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
“Carried you on eagle’s wings” – as eagles carry their young on their back, a picture of God’s care in the rescue.
5-6 Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
“Now if you… keep My covenant” – the covenant with Abraham 600 years before is to be amplified and extended, but whereas that covenant was an unconditional promise to an individual, this will be conditional on the nation’s continuing relationship with God.
“A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” – unlike the surrounding nations and their kings, Israel was to look to the LORD as their ruler and be a nation set apart for Him, and a model of having Him as their king. As a priest stands between God and people, representing one to the other, Israel would represent God, and be channels of grace to nations that did not know Him. Following the resurrection and Pentecost, every believer in Jesus would take on this role in the redefined new covenant priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
“Set before them all the words” – the covenant that Moses was given to convey had three main emphases: (1) the commandments to govern their personal lives, (2) the law for their social lives and way of relating; and (3) ordinances for knowing how to approach God in their religious lives.
• For further study, see Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-24:11; Exodus 24:12-31:18.
8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
Moses had encountered the Lord on the slopes of this mountain when he was drawn by the sight of a burning bush, years before. Now the Lord had called him again and was telling him how the relationship would work — ‘relationship’ being an important word.
Everything about God is about relationship, from the oneness of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit relationship of the Trinity, down to the way He hears and speaks to us in the activity of the day – and the way He sets out for His church to love and respect each other.
His desire for the nation of Israel is a protective and providing partnership, exactly what’s needed in difficult terrain with hostile onlookers.
The way this works is in the words “Keep My covenant”, or in our language, “Guard the relationship”.
What does keeping covenant with God mean to us? What is the balance between our actions and our attitudes?
Matthew 9:35-10:8 — Jesus sends the twelve with His authority to proclaim the kingdom
This mission is to heal, deliver and free Jewish inhabitants of Galilee
9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
“Jesus went through” – Galilee, in the preceding section which is bracketed by this verse and similarly-worded Matthew 4:23. Now He is sending the Twelve to proclaim the arrival of the domain of God over sickness.
36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep without a shepherd” – Jesus’ compassion is expressed in pointing out the failure of spiritual leadership that has left the people bereft, Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2, 13:7; Mark 6:34.
• For further study, Jesus’ compassion noted: Matthew 14:14, 15:22, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
• For further study, see Isaiah 18:4-5, 27:12, Hosea 6:11.
10:1 Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
“Gave them authority” – also implied in “apostles” in the next verse; the word conveys the sense of an envoy sent to bring an area into line with a new rule. Jesus delegating His power in this way was remarkable and without precedent, and underlined His deity.
2-4 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
“These are the names” – the lists of apostles always start with Peter but the differences are slight, except ‘the other’ Judas, son of James, called here Thaddeus.
• For further study: Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13.
5-6 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
“Go… to the lost sheep of Israel” – the priority for the good news of the kingdom was the people of the covenant, staying within Galilee for this mission. After His death and resurrection Jesus commanded the kingdom message to be taken to all nations, Matthew 28:19.
7-8 “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
“Proclaim this message” – by speaking and acting in the name of Jesus, the disciples also confirmed His Messiahship, see Matt. 11:2-6.
The headline to this story is Jesus’ memorable statement – which is about partnership: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few… ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers…“
The ones that were already committed to that partnership as apprentices of Jesus are the Twelve (soon to be joined by others – Luke describes the sending out of seventy-two). At this point they are taking instruction to carry on the work they have already observed the Master doing; now He will observe them doing it.
However the call to partnership for us, as disciples has an important difference. There’s the work that God does, and the work that He assigns for us to do. In our time, we are the only ones who can tell people who Jesus is, proclaim the kingdom of God He came to inaugurate, and be the connection for people for the works of the kingdom.
What heaven desires and plans, has us as a vital link in the chain – it depends on our willingness to exercise our faith. Jesus didn’t come to start another world religion, He came to call disciples – and that is the kingdom partnership.
How do we see ourselves as the same as, or different from, the first disciples?
Romans 5:1-8 — Our faith through Jesus has brought us close to God
Therefore we can praise Him in difficult times as He strengthens us through them
1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
“Justified by faith” – summarises the teaching of the first part of the letter, c. The believer in Christ has, by God’s grace and Jesus’ action, been pronounced to now have right standing with God. It is a legal status of having been absolved from judgment, and therefore having (not just feeling) peace with God. God confers worth on us, through our faith in Him.
3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“Glory in our sufferings” – the path to eternal glory has rock falls and other difficulties which God uses to grow our Christian resilience and trust in Him, as we are held by His love. This is not a morbid view of God’s glory because of sufferings, but a joyful one of experiencing God’s majestic, overwhelming presence coming into difficult experiences.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
“Just at the right time” – it is when we acknowledge our powerlessness and our need of Him, that Christ is revealed to us as our Saviour.
7-8 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person” – it is not unknown for someone to prefer another person’s life over their own, but the point is that Jesus went to His horrific death for us, while we were still in sin’s grip and therefore His enemies.
In the words of an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It helps (a lot) if we know we are not alone, but held by God’s faithful love, while we wait for Him to break through with His glory.
This is hope, the confident expectation that God has our backs, and has ways and indeed purposes beyond our imagination. As The Passion Translation puts it, “…This hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!“
When life’s road is smooth and we feel in control, the partnership is not as evident as when we find ourselves almost upended by the potholes and finding ourselves relying on His saving hand again.
How much are you influenced by the world system we live in where favour has to be earned? If Jesus died for us while we still in independence and rebellion against Him, how does that knowledge influence how we pray now?
LORD, in the words of the psalmist, we worship You with gladness, joyfully thankful that we have been chosen to know You and to daily experience Your enduring love.
Whenever we rise to the call to be workers in Your harvest field, or we are challenged to persevere in hope when the field gate seems locked, we know that we belong to You, and that You are committed to us.
Thank You for the new and better covenant we have with You through Jesus, and for the practical helping partnership of Your Holy Spirit.
May we know where You are directing us, so we can partner with You and see Your kingdom come, for Your glory. Amen.
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