February 8, 2015
Who doesn’t like a good story? Today we watch stories on T.V. and in the movies. And we read stories. This morning I want to begin a series of messages entitled God’s Big Story. The plan is to take in the whole scope of scripture. For it is in the scripture that we read God’s big story.
In December I read a blog post by Pastor, Matthew Miller (Vancouver, WA). It was about the kingdom of God and Miller encapsulated God’s story in seven summary statements. I thought it was so good that I handed it out on New Year’s Eve. I am using Pastor Miller’s summary statements as the springboard for these messages. This morning I want to begin by saying, in God’s big story, the kingdom of God is the mission.
I. GOD CREATED MANKIND TO REIGN IN HIS KINGDOM. Gen.1:26-27
If you go to the museum of Science and Industry there is a room with a huge model train layout. You know what I’m talking about. There are mountains and towns and cities with cars and people and moving trains. It’s a miniature world. At Christmas some of us set up model village scenes with houses, people, shrubs and trees. We make it look like the real thing. It’s a world that we create.
Well, there is a reason we like this sort of thing and it goes back to creation. When God created us, he created us in his image. Not only are we creative people, but we were made to reign, to rule within God’s kingdom. In fact, in 2Tim.2:11-12, Paul writes about our relationship with Christ: “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him....” We were made to reign in God’s kingdom.
God’s story, of course, begins with God. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God.” God has always existed. Because God created the heavens and the earth, he obviously rules over all. In Ex.15:18 it says, “The LORD will reign forever and ever.” And so when God created Adam and Eve, there was no question but that Adam and Eve lived under the rule of God in the universe that he created. In Ps.145:13 David writes, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.” God’s rule is benevolent. It was not a hardship for Adam and Eve to live under the rule of God. In fact God provided a wonderful environment for Adam and Eve to live in.
Genesis 1:26-27 highlights the fact that God created mankind to also have a sphere of dominion within his kingdom. Adam and Eve were given dominion over every living thing that moves on the earth. In Gen.2 we see that Adam was given authority to name all the animals.
For over 25 years the Great Place to Work Institute has studied the world’s most notable workplace cultures. In 2014, Google was considered the number one best place to work. Well, I can tell you that the number one best place to work for all time would have been in the Garden of Eden when God gave Adam and Eve authority to rule. God is the best person to work under. In God’s kingdom his will his done.
Now each of us has a kingdom which is part of God’s kingdom. In our kingdoms, our will is done. Part of my kingdom is my workshop. I put things where I want them to be and I do pretty much what I want to do down there. Parents have a kingdom in that they are responsible for their children. They make the rules in the home. As long as we understand that our kingdoms are really part of God’s kingdom and rule in light of God’s rule over us, all is well.
II. MANKIND HAS REJECTED GOD’S KINGDOM. 3:8-19
Obviously, something happened. In Gen.3:1-13, we read about how Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She and Adam both disobeyed God when they ate of that tree. They chose to believe the lie of Satan. They thought that maybe God was keeping something from them. They thought that by disobeying God they would become wise as God. From the text in Genesis, it seems that God gave only one prohibition. Otherwise Adam and Eve were free to do as they chose. Of course when they chose to disobey God, they chose to usurp the good rule of God over his good kingdom. Whereas Adam and Eve used to enjoy walking with God, having conversation and fellowship with the King, that fellowship was broken. Adam and Eve became sinners and sin entered into the world, marring and scaring everything it touched. The principle of self-centeredness became the ruling principle within the heart of mankind and so mankind no longer sought to live under God’s rule. Now it was every man for himself. Build your own kingdom apart from God. Matthew Miller writes, “God created man (male and female) not like one of the beasts, but in his own image, as extensions of his own rule in the world. But sadly man surrendered to a beast (serpent) and abandoned this right to rule.”
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, things went from bad to worse. In Gen.3:14-23 we see that God put them out of the garden of Eden. God cursed the serpent and the ground. From that point on mankind would live by toil and sweat. Adam and Eve had children, who had children, who had children, and as the population increased so did the perpetuation of evil. Sin became so pervasive that God sent a flood, sparing only Noah and his family. Noah’s children had children, who had children and once again the population increased on the earth and sin abounded more and more in the hearts and ways of mankind.
Search your heart. Look at your kingdom. Do you not find a principle, an inclination to have things your way with nary a thought about God? How many of God’s good and beneficial rules have you broken? Not long ago I heard about a woman who intentionally went out and had a brief affair, all in an attempt to get her husband to pay attention to her. She deeply regretted it and only in hindsight realized how misguided her thinking was. In the kingdom of her marriage she did not consider the good rules of God concerning marriage. Her kingdom is crumbling. All around us and in our own lives we see the destructive results of usurping the rule of God in our lives. Everything that is good in this world has become a means for promoting great heartache and destruction. Alcohol, sex, political power, money, popularity, marriage, having children, work, technology, science; people use these things in self serving and evil ways. Why? It’s because ultimately men and women, you and I, are living in self-centered rebellion against God and his kingdom rule. Who would think that at the core of our being is a heart filled with rebellion against the rule of God? Like Adam and Eve, we want to be our own god.
III. GOD IS ON MISSION TO REESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM AMONG MANKIND. Gen.12:1-3
This is a pivotal point in God’s big story. In Gen.12 we are introduced Abram. Abram was a descendant Noah’s son, Shem. God selects Abram and directs Abram to start a new life by moving to a new land that God would give him. And God promises to do some amazing things in and through Abram. Notice in v.2 God says, “I will make of you a great nation. Iwill bless you and make your name great.” God would make Abram’s name so great that Abram would become a blessing to others. In fact, in v.3, God says, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
What is God doing here? Well, God is beginning to reestablish his kingdom rule among mankind. Up until God chose Abram, there was no nation of Israel. There was no Promised Land. God was going to establish a new nation. In Gen.17 God gives Abram a new name. He calls Abram, Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” The new nation would begin with Abraham.
In Gen.12, Abraham builds an altar and begins worshiping God. As Abraham put his trust in God and worshipped and obeyed God, he experienced great blessing, just as God had promised. In a miraculous way a son was born to Abraham. That son’s name was Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob, who had 12 sons. And from those 12 sons the nation of Israel was born.
Because of a famine Jacob and his sons and their families eventually moved to Egypt. We are familiar with the story of Joseph. Really it was while they were in Egypt that the descendants of Jacob grew into a nation. But things did not go well in Egypt. For 400 years Israel was enslaved by the Egyptians. Finally God raised up Moses and miraculously delivered his people from slavery. At Mt. Sinai God gave his laws by which the nation of Israel was to live and govern themselves. God promised to lead them to a land that he would give them. It was the same land that God promised to give to Abraham. It was the land of Canaan.
After many hardships the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River and took residence in the Promised Land. There were many battles to fight and God gave great victories until the land was secured by Israel. And this is where it gets interesting.
All the surrounding nations had kings. God was Israel’s king. In Ex.19:5-6, God said to Israel, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” God was again establishing his rule, his reign among people. Israel was to be God’s showpiece to the nations of what it is like when God reigns in the earth. And there were many moments of great blessing in Israel’s history, moments when Israel experienced profound blessings from God. You can read about these moments throughout the Old Testament.
But again, something happened. Despite God’s blessings and command to worship him only, over and over again the people of Israel chose to turn away from God and his good rule, to worship and serve idols, who are not gods at all.
And then a day came when the people came to Samuel, who was their leader at the time. Listen to 1Sam.8:4-7. “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” Wow! It’s Adam and Eve all over again.
Saul was the first king, but he greatly disobeyed the Lord. David was the second king. He was a man after God’s own heart. Eventually the nation of Israel split into two nations. The kings of the northern kingdom were all wicked and did not worship God. Some of the kings of the Southern Kingdom did worship God and received God’s blessing
Throughout the history of Israel God graciously worked in and through those kings who worshipped and obeyed him. God sought to establish his reign through those kings. He allowed those kings to rule in his kingdom. But they were all deeply flawed and eventually both northern and southern kingdoms of Israel were defeated and went into captivity. You can read about this in the historical books of the Old Testament. Men and women, God showed great patience and love in his dealings with his people Israel. He showed them great favor and blessing. But over and over again we see that mankind does not have in mind the things of God. His own people would not trust God and walk in his ways.
IV. JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S APPOINTED KING. Ez.37:1-14; Dan.7:1-28; Mk.1:15
It would seem that God’s plan for reestablishing his kingdom reign among mankind was a failure. Israel was not a light to the nations. But in God’s story there is a subplot that was hidden for many long years which eventually becomes the main plot. In other words there is more to God’s big story than meets the eye.
Over the many years in which Israel turned away from God, God sent prophet after prophet to call his people back to himself. A number of these prophets spoke of things to come
For example, in Ez.37:1-14, we find a very famous passage of scripture in which Ezekiel has a vision. He sees the nation of Israel defeated. The bodies of the people of Israel are now a heap of dry bones scattered in a valley. The picture shows what happens when God is continually rejected. The end result is destruction and death. But in the vision, God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. Ezekiel is to say, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” What will the Lord say? The Lord will cause these bones to come together. He will restore their bodies and breathe new life into them. In v.11-14 God says to Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ’Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” Wow, God is speaking about a resurrection from the dead, a resurrection in which God breathes his Spirit into people to give them life.
Or in Dan.7:1-28, Daniel had a vision in which he saw four beasts come out of the sea. Each beast represents a king and an empire. In order they represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Alexander the Great, and Rome. These empires were powerful and oppressive. But then in v.9 we are taken to the throne room of God, the Ancient of Days, who is ready to bring judgment. And in v.13-14 we read, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
O who is this? He has no name, but we know that he is a man. And we know that he will reign over a kingdom that will encompass all peoples and all nations. You see what I mean? In God’s story there is this subplot. While God is seeking to work with his people Israel, he is quietly raising up a king who will fully carry out his will on the earth.
Isaiah tells us more about this king. From the Gospels we know that his name is Jesus. In Mk.1:14-15, we read, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus, God in the flesh, fully God and fully man, embodied the rule of God and brought the rule of God among mankind.
I will not say much more for we will continue next week. But men and women, for those of us who know Christ, we have a ministry like Jesus. Here we are, the people of God. We have entered into God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, the king dwells in our lives through his Holy Spirit. The King lives in us and desires to rule in each of us. So, just as Jesus proclaimed the arrival of God’s kingdom in his person, in what he said and did, those of us who have Jesus living in them also proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth in what we do and say. Is your life proclaiming the arrival of God’s Kingdom? Is your life proclaiming the fact that God’s good rule has come to earth? Amen.