Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Our God and His People

“I will take you to be my people and I will be your God…”  Exodus 6:7.

Just before God kickstarts the great salvation action of the Exodus, he tells Moses about what the upcoming plagues and deliverance will accomplish.   In the verse quoted above, the Lord tells Moses that he is ransoming the people of Israel so that they can be his people.  And when he takes them as his people, they will also have Him as their God.

This is one of the biggest themes in the entire Scriptures and one of the most memorable promises.  Exodus 6:7 is the first time it is said, but far from the last.  So, I thought it would be a good idea for us to consider this theme in this newsletter article today.

Following the defeat of Egypt’s gods in the plagues, Pharaoh lets the people of Israel go.  After the Red Sea crossing, Pharaoh’s hosts being drowned, the people of Israel celebrating their release, you will remember that they travel to Sinai.

While this place is famous for God giving the law to the people, the reason for this journey to Sinai is to ratify the covenant that God had said he would make.  At Sinai, God has made the Israelites his people, and the law and statues of Exodus 20-24 are the terms that God expects his people to uphold to have the Lord as their God.

At the end of Exodus 24, the elders ratify the covenant terms with blood sacrifices and a feast in the presence of God himself.  The people agree to the terms and all things seem good!  God and his people are one!

Well then Moses goes up to the top of Mt. Sinai to discuss plans with God, and wouldn’t you know it, the people decide to build a golden calf.  They break the covenant almost out of the gate.

This breach becomes a problem throughout the rest of the narrative of the Old Testament.  Time and time again, the people of Israel prove themselves stiff necked, rebellious.  They will not have the Lord as their God, despite all of God’s kindness.

Despite the breaches, God shows himself just as stubborn, putting up with his people’s failures and upholding his promises almost despite the Israelites.

But God also knows that things must change.  This can’t go on forever.  And for the next 700 years, God’s patience begins to run thin.  Eventually leading to his thrusting off the people and delivering them into exile, just as he promised to do if the people forsook him.  At one point, he tells the prophet Hosea to name his two children, “Not my People” and “No Mercy” named so because God tells the people through Hosea, “for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”  And that he will “not have mercy” on his people anymore.   Hosea 1:9.  Ouch, but words that are deserved.

Of course, God then tells Hosea in 2:23 that one day God will remedy the problem of God’s people stubborn hearts, he will fix them and on that day he will say, “I will say to ‘not my people,’ You are my people; and he will say, ‘You are my God.’”  Beautiful promise!

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah also take up these ideas as they reflect on the continuous broken covenant that Israel has created.  God tells Jeremiah 31 that God will make a new covenant and give the people new hearts that will no longer go astray.  Ezekiel pictures God’s work of renewal as a river flowing from the temple that draws people to God.

All this comes to fruition in Jesus Christ.  He bears the punishment of the people of Israel for their breaking of the covenant and also remains faithful to his Father.  The echoes in both the baptism and the transfiguration bear this same promise from God, “You are my Son.”  Jesus Christ shows such obedience throughout his life and his death that his Father “is His God.”

And while the heart of Jesus Christ is stabbed through with a spear, it is this action that gives all of us new hearts that Jeremiah promises.  We are told that blood and water spew forth from Christ’s wound (John 19:34) which echoes Christ’s own words earlier in the Gospel (John 7:37-39) that all who believe in Christ will flow living waters from their heart, which John tells us is the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus Christ the promise to us 21st century human beings is that we are God’s people and that he is now our God.  This promise has come to us non-Israelites!  All people who turn to Christ, from every tribe and people and language are made into God’s people through Jesus Christ and him alone.

Peter in his first letter writes (which I just noticed as I write this that these words echo Hosea’s quite starkly) to say to the Gentiles that “once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10

Because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, you, yes you!  You who are reading this right now, you are made into one of God’s people.  Baptism seals you, the Supper confirms it, the absolution upon your confession reassures you of it.

This leads to some of the final words of the Bible.  In Revelation 21, this theme that has played out throughout the entire narrative of Scripture sees its consummation in the return of Jesus Christ, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  Revelation 21:3

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.  You are God’s people and He is your God.  Walk in his light and trust in his ways.  God has never disappointed his people and he never will.  Amen!

In Christ,
Pastor Andrew Belt
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