God’s Big Picture Unit 4: The Partial Kingdom – People and Blessing (Genesis 12 – Leviticus)
– A million slaves rescued
– A faceoff between God and Pharaoh – And a nation is born This is God’s Big Picture: The Partial Kingdom-
People and Blessing –God’s Big Picture
Bible Overview CoursE The partial Kingdom- People and blessing Unit
4– In this course we’re exploring the big picture
of the Bible’s story. All units can be downloaded for free, including printable outlines of
the talks and the bible studies that follow at clayton.tv and godsbigpicture.co.uk. In the story so far we’ve been looking at
the beginning of history, as described in the Bible.
God made a perfect world, but human beings spoilt everything by rebelling against him
at the fall. He then makes a promise to one man, Abraham.
God could have given up on us and said, in effect, “go to hell the lot of you”. But,
instead, in his amazing grace, he promises to put everything right and restore his kingdom
on earth once more. In these next two studies we’ll see how that
promise is fulfilled in part in the history of Israel: ‘the partial kingdom’. There are four main elements to the promise
of the kingdom of God. Three of them, people, blessing and land,
were revealed to Abraham: a fourth is added later: the promise of a king. Those promises
point ultimately to the salvation achieved by Jesus Christ, but they are partially fulfilled
in the history of Israel. In describing Israel’s history, the next few books of the Bible focus
on a different promise of God in turn. We’re looking in this unit at how God’s promises
to raise up a people begin to be worked out in Genesis 12 to Exodus 18.
And then how his promise of rule and blessing starts to play out from Exodus 19 to Leviticus.
We’ll then look next time at the promises to give them a place to live in (which is
in the books Numbers through to Joshua) and a king (in Judges to Chronicles). I should warn you; you’ll need to put your
seatbelt on. We’ve completed three of our nine sessions and we’re still only in the
first book of the Bible, so we’ll have to travel much faster from now on. –GOD’S PEOPLE (Gen 12- Exo 18)– God’s people is the first promise made to
Abraham. God said, “I will make you into a great nation”. And we see this partially fulfilled in Genesis
12-50. But there’s a problem right from the beginning:
Abraham and his wife Sarah can’t have children. Something needs to give if this promise is
to be fulfilled. Eventually Abraham thinks he’d better help
God out, so he sleeps with Sarah’s maid, Hagar, who gives birth to a son, Ishmael. But God
makes it clear that his people won’t arise from Ishmael’s line. Abraham is being taught
that, if the gospel promises are to be fulfilled, only God can do it. Salvation is
“not by works, so that no-one can boast”. Sarah is by now an old woman, way past childbearing
age, but a miracle happens: she gets pregnant, just as God said she would, and gives birth
to a son, Isaac. You may wonder why there’s so much focus here
on marriage and childbirth. It’s because the gospel’s at stake. If God’s promises are to
be fulfilled, Abraham’s family can’t fizzle out – it has to continue. And, sure enough,
Isaac marries Rebekah and they have two boys: Esau and Jacob. Esau is the oldest, and yet
it’s the scheming Jacob who receives his father’s blessing, as if he’s the firstborn, and so
he’s the one whose children are in the line of promise and become the people of God. He
certainly doesn’t deserve that privilege – he’s an unpleasant man, who tricks his brother
out of his birth-right. Once again, we’re being taught an important
principle. No one deserves to be part of God’s family; it’s entirely by grace. Jacob in turn has twelve sons and Joseph is
his favourite. Out of jealousy, the others sell their brother into slavery and tell Jacob
that he’s dead. Joseph is taken to Egypt where he’s put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit,
but miraculously he’s vindicated and becomes Pharaoh’s right hand man. And so he’s in the
perfect position to help when his family experience a famine. The famine endangers the future
of the gospel, because it threatens to snuff out Abraham’s descendants before this small
family grows into a great nation. But God has overruled everything, so that when the
brothers come to Egypt desperate for food, Joseph is able to help them and the family
tree survives. God is in complete control. He’s even able
to use great sin and innocent suffering as a means by which his gospel promises are fulfilled.
We see that, of course, supremely at the cross of Christ. Next we come to God’s People: The Partial
Fulfilment in Exodus 1 to 18 and the Redemption from slavery in Egypt. The picture painted is of ‘the God who saves’.
In Genesis Jacob and his family move to Egypt to be with Joseph, settle there and multiply.
But by the beginning of the book of Exodus Pharaoh has turned them into slaves and treats
them cruelly….But God hasn’t forgotten them. We’re told:
“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because
of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant
with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.” God had promised that the Israelites would
be his people, so he must act to set them free from the Egyptians so they can belong
to him. The rescue operation begins with God appearing
in a burning bush. He tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of his people
and he reveals a new name to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM”.
This usually appears in our Bibles as “LORD” in capital letters. One possible translation
is “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”. If Moses wants to know the nature of the God who speaks to
him, he’ll need to watch what he does. And so we learn from Exodus that God reveals
his character through his work of salvation: He is the God who saves. Moses doesn’t save
the Israelites, God does. In fact God is the hero of every story in the bible. It’s a book,
above all, about God. Next comes salvation by substitution in Exodus
12. The climactic moment comes at the Passover.
God announces that he’ll kill all the firstborn sons in Egypt in a single night, but he tells
the Israelites that they’ll escape if they kill a lamb instead.
Just imagine that you’re the oldest boy in an Israelite home. Do you think you’d sleep?
I doubt it. You’re down every few minutes asking, “Dad, have you done it yet?” Only
once he shows you the blood of the lamb on the door of the house can you relax – you’re
safe then. And it happens, just as God had said. All
the firstborn Egyptians die, but the Israelites survive. So God saves through substitution, His people
deserve judgment just as much as anyone else, but God saves them by providing a substitute
to die in their place: the lamb for the firstborn son. Finally we come to salvation by conquest in
the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. After the death of all those Egyptian sons,
Pharaoh at last lets the Israelites go, but even then he changes his mind and leads out
his army in deadly pursuit. The Israelites are trapped by the Red Sea, but God parts
the waters and they escape to freedom. Pharaoh and his chariots go in, the waters come down
and the Egyptians are drowned. So here is salvation by conquest in the defeat
of Pharaoh. And both these acts of salvation – by substitution
and by conquest, foreshadow what God will do through Christ on the cross, who died in
our place and defeated the powers of evil. So… The first promise has begun to be fulfilled;
the Israelites are God’s people. Next up God’s Rule and Blessing in Exodus
19 through Leviticus. –GOD’S RULE AND BLESSING EXO 19-LEV– God’s second great promise to Abraham was,
“I will bless you” . That promise is partially fulfilled in Israel’s
history, as God both gives the Israelites his law and then blesses them with his presence
as he comes to live with them. So first – God’s law: the Ten Commandments. With the Red Sea behind them, the Israelites
reach Mount Sinai, where amidst thunder and lighting God reveals his law to them in the
Ten Commandments. It’s important to stress here that salvation
comes before the law: they’re already his people through the rescue he has achieved,
and then they’re given the law. God’s salvation has always been by undeserved grace, not through
obedience. We tend to have a negative attitude to law,
but it’s a wonderful thing to be under the law of God. Now that the Israelites are God’s
people, they must live in a way that reflects his character. And that’s the best way to
live. We learn from the New Testament that God’s law has a number of different functions.
– It reveals our sin, by convicting us of our disobedience.
– It also reveals our Saviour, by pointing to Jesus as the only one who fully obeyed
it, and who took upon himself the penalty for the law-breaking of others.
– And then it reveals God’s standards, showing followers of Jesus how he wants us to live. Finally we come to the partial fulfilment
of the promise of God’s presence with his people and we’re looking at the end of the
book of Exodus. Now that God’s people are under his rule again,
they’re able once more to experience something of that presence with them. The very purpose
of redemption is relationship, so God instructs Moses to construct the tabernacle. This is
the tent in which his presence will dwell among them as they travel towards the promised
land. Now it’s a great blessing to have God in their
midst, but it also presents a problem: how can the holy God live among a sinful people
without utterly destroying them? The answer is sacrifice and the book of Leviticus
describes how God institutes a whole system to deal with this problem. – The Israelites are to lay their hands on
an animal, thus indicating that it represents them and their sin.
– The priest then kills it as a substitute for them and presents its blood before the
presence of God in the tabernacle. – It dies in their place, so they can live. So in all this, the second promise is partially
fulfilled. By the end of Leviticus the Israelites are under God’s law and know something of
the blessing of living in relationship with God, with his presence with them. And yet, wonderful as that was, it was severely
restricted. Inside the tabernacle was the Holy Place, and beyond that the Most Holy
Place, which was the focus of God’s presence, where the ark, with the Ten Commandments inside,
was stored. In front of it was a big curtain, which kept everyone out, and once a year,
only one man, the high priest, could enter. Clearly this was a limited relationship – a
mere shadow of what was to come. And likewise for the sacrificial system.
Of course no animal is an adequate substitute for a human being. Those sacrifices, offered
day after day, were only pointing to the one, perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the lamb of
God, offered when he died as our substitute on the cross.
At that moment the curtain in the temple was torn in two by God and these promises were
fulfilled. Anyone who trusts in Christ can come right into the presence of God. So, that’s it for this unit. In our race through
Genesis to Leviticus, we’ve seen the first two promises of a people and of rule and blessing
partially fulfilled. But do come back for our next unit when we’ll
open up Numbers to Chronicles and get onto those 2 remaining promises – a Place and a
King in the second part of the Partial Kingdom.