Theology in 3D

God’s Resolution

Ken Casillas | January 1, 2019
New Testament, Old Testament, Theology

At the start of a new year it’s common to preach and to blog on the theme of resolutions. I want to do the same, but not in the traditional way. While Christians should regularly evaluate their lives and renew their commitment to biblical ideals, we also need regular reminders of the divine working that serves as the basis and provides the power for our working in sanctification.

Have you ever considered that God has made resolutions? These are actions that he resolves to perform, commitments that he chooses to take upon himself for the everlasting good of believers. And given his absolute faithfulness and his infinite power, we can expect that—unlike us—he will keep his resolutions perfectly.

Sometime do a search on the expression “I will” in the Bible. Then select out the occurrences where God is the speaker. You’ll have hours of material for meditation. What I want to do here is to narrow the scope to what could be called the most basic divine resolution: the resolution that he will be our God and we will be his people. This is shorthand for the entire plan of salvation. It summarizes the message of the entire Bible. And it features prominently at key points throughout the history of redemption.

THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT:
GOD TAKES THE INITIATIVE IN ORDER TO BE THE GOD OF HIS PEOPLE.

In the opening chapters of Abraham’s story, Yahweh’s commitments to the patriarch concentrate on material blessing: offspring and land. The universal blessing highlighted in Genesis 12:3 points to something deeper, but it’s not until chapter 17 that the Lord begins to define that blessing. Verse 8 gives the first record of God’s resolution:

And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.

That resolution speaks to a reconciled relationship between the Creator and a particular group of people. To appreciate this, we need to contrast it with what Abraham was used to. Joshua 24:2 says that he previously worshiped pagan gods. What was that like? All humanly devised religion is about man reaching out to God. Genesis 17:8 captures what is different about biblical religion: God reaches out to man. He takes the initiative in order to be our God.

Of course, this is only the beginning of the story. We’re jumping ahead over 600 years to get to our next passage.

THE EXODUS:
GOD DELIVERS HIS PEOPLE FROM BONDAGE IN ORDER TO BE THEIR GOD.

Exodus 6:1-8 summarizes the outline and message of the book of Exodus. Verse 6 predicts that Yahweh will unleash his omnipotence and deliver Israel from Egypt. But verse 7 explains that his purpose isn’t just to free the Israelites from their miserable slavery. His goal is much grander:

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

This promise also clarifies what is meant by God’s initiative. It wasn’t merely an invitation that expressed good will but left it up to the people to work out a method for establishing a relationship with God. No, Yahweh stepped in, crushed the opposition of Egypt and its gods, extricated the Israelites from enslavement, guided them through the Red Sea, and drowned the Egyptian army in those same waters. This is how intent he is on being their God! This is how committed he is to his resolution!

At the heart of the whole process of deliverance was the application of lambs’ blood to the doorposts of the Israelites’ houses (Exod 12). So he’s connecting his resolution specifically with the concept of the shedding of blood.

But what happens once Israel is out of Egypt? How does Yahweh follow through on his intent to be their God?

THE TABERNACLE:
GOD PERSONALLY DWELLS WITH HIS PEOPLE AS THEIR GOD.

As amazing as the Exodus was, it wasn’t the climax of the book that bears its name. The climax comes at the very end, when the tabernacle is erected and God’s glory descends. And what was the significance of that event? Exodus 29:45-46 tells us:

I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

How close will Yahweh be as their God? He intends to live right in their camp! He is going to manifest his presence visibly to this nation in a way that is unique in the entire world.

No wonder he gives so many details about the tabernacle. Why be so precise about this building and its furniture? Because it’s not just any house, it’s God’s house! And why all the regulations that relate to sacrifice in this place? Because through the sacrifices Yahweh is communicating that he himself will do everything necessary to remove the sin that separates Israel from him. That way he actually can live in the midst of them.

But what happens while Moses is getting these instructions? The people get impatient, and Aaron ends up making a golden bull for them to worship. Yet the book doesn’t end there, right? Despite Israel’s failure and all its devastation, through Moses’ intercession chapter 40’s climax comes anyway. Here’s an even greater display of how serious Yahweh is about being their God—he’s willing to forgive their gross idolatries and take up residence among them!

Of course, there’s more to Exodus and to the Pentateuch than that. As we come to our fourth point we see an emphasis on the people’s response to all this grace from God.

THE MOSAIC COVENANT:
GOD ESTABLISHES REQUIREMENTS IN ORDER TO BE THE GOD OF HIS PEOPLE.

In Leviticus 26:11-12 Yahweh says,

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.

Here God’s resolution comes in the context of the Mosaic covenant blessings, and it’s followed by covenant curses. It’s at the end of an “if . . . then” sequence. Even though God has done everything to initiate a relationship with the nation of Israel as a whole, he calls on each generation of Israelites to commit themselves to him personally. This entailed a pure lifestyle that reflected his holy character. If the people failed in that regard, they would forfeit the privilege of being God’s people.

How did the Israelites fare? The next time God’s resolution occurs is over 800 years later. It’s in Jeremiah 7:23 and 11:4, in the context of rebuke, where Jeremiah is reminding his generation of what God had said and reproving them for not living like Yahweh was their God. This leads up to the humiliating destruction of Judah in fulfillment of Leviticus’ covenant curses—a destruction that Jeremiah witnesses with his own eyes.

What then of God’s resolution? Would he abandon his “I will be your God” promise? Would human failure ultimately undermine it?

THE NEW COVENANT:
GOD WILL REGENERATE HIS PEOPLE IN ORDER TO BE THEIR GOD.

Thankfully, Jeremiah 24 repeats the promise in the context of the exile. In verse 7 we find this refreshing word:

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

The people’s enjoyment of Yahweh as their God, which includes a life of obedience, is predicated on another divine initiative: God himself giving them a heart to know him. Do you see how committed he is to being the God of these people? So committed that he will transform them inside so that they willingly and gladly follow him and his law. God would do that for a remnant even during the exile. And that sets the tone for a much bigger point Jeremiah makes: the New Covenant.

We see God’s resolution in the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 30:22 and 32:38. But the key passage is in chapter 31:

At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people. . . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (vv. 1, 33-34)

Note that God’s resolution here is predicated on something else. V. 34 begins with “for,” giving the bottom-line reason that God can be Israel’s God: he will deal finally and totally with their sin. That looks ahead to the removal of sin through the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross.

Jeremiah’s contemporary, Ezekiel, also emphasizes Yahweh’s resolution to be the God of his people through the New Covenant. He quotes the resolution at 11:20, 34:24, 36:28, and 37:22-27. The resolution occurs one other time in the Old Testament. It’s toward the end, keeping alive Israel’s hope as they rebuild their homeland following the exile.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness. (Zech 8:7-8)

After some 1500 years of divine persistence with the rebellion of Israel and her forefathers, Zechariah appropriately ties Yahweh’s resolution to his attributes of faithfulness and righteousness.

THE CHURCH AGE:
THROUGH CHRIST GOD IS THE GOD OF PEOPLE FROM ALL NATIONS.

What, though, does all of this have to do with those of us who aren’t Israelites? For one, recall that God promised redemptive blessing to all families of the earth. But more specifically, the New Testament appropriates the Lord’s “I will be your God” resolution to believers in the Church Age.

In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul is urging the Corinthian Christians to separate from false teaching so that nothing would hinder their treasured relationship with God. How does Paul describe this relationship and motivate the Corinthians? By quoting Leviticus 26:12, of all things:

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Cor 6:16)

Similarly, Hebrews 8:10 quotes Jeremiah 31:33’s New Covenant promises as a central part of Hebrews’ argument for endurance in faith in Christ in the face of persecution. Without changing Yahweh’s plan for Israel, Jesus’ redemptive work has given all believers in the Church the experience of God’s gracious resolution. He is our God, and we are his people!

THE ETERNAL STATE:
GOD WILL BE THE GOD OF HIS PEOPLE FOREVER.

Our blessed relationship with the Lord will endure beyond the present era. Just like the Tabernacle brought the culmination of Exodus, so the New Jerusalem will bring the eternal culmination of God’s resolution for his people of all ages.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)

That’s the hope believers have no matter what 2019 may hold. Whether or not you stick to your resolutions, the Lord is going to stick to his! He is resolutely committed to be your God for time and for eternity. He has paid the ultimate price in order to make it happen. And he will complete the process without fail. If he is your God through Christ, his resolution is the firm foundation of your relationship with him. Let that stabilize, motivate, and enable you as you strive to live for him in the new year.

Photo credit: JuergenPM, pixabay.com


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