Essentials of Old Testament Theology - Lesson 3

God and His People

God's relationship with his people.

Paul House
Essentials of Old Testament Theology
Lesson 3
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God and His People

God and His People

God makes covenants with his people. He relates to them in understandable Ways and forms. He calls them to self, holds them responsible for high standards, and makes promises to them.

I. God Redeems and Calls His People to Himself: The Abrahamic Covenant

  • From idolatry and sin (Josh 24:2-3)
  • For relationship with God (Gen 12:1-9)
  • For blessing the nations (Gen 12:1-9)
  • From slavery (Ex 1–15)

II. God Instructs His People for Relationship and Witness: The Mosaic Covenant

  • Purpose of law: holy nation (Ex 19:5-6; Ex 20:1-2); reflect relationship with God (Lev 11:44).
  • Purpose and usages of the law: condemn; inhibit; guide to holiness and forgiveness; reflect lawgiver; joyous to those in relationship with God (see Ps 119).
  • See Romans 9:30-32.

III. God Forgives His People: The Mosaic Covenant

  • Ex 34:6-7 = It is his nature to be merciful and just.
  • Lev 1–7 = It is based on sacrifice.
  • Dt 30:1-11 = It effected through repentance.

IV. God Prepares a Future for His People: The Davidic and New Covenant

  • 2 Sa 7 = An eternal kingdom. This kingdom has begun.
  • Jer 31 = A new covenant. This covenant has been enacted.
  • Isa 65 = An eternal home. This home has been prepared (see Jn 14:1ff.)


These two and a half hours of foundation-level lectures will introduce you to the beauty of the Old Testament and its major themes. They are summaries of Dr. House's full Old Testament Theology class available in the BT Institute.

Essentials of Old Testament Theology

Dr. Paul House


God and His People

Lesson Transcript


Let's open our Bibles. Won't sound like the right place to start, but it actually will be the first text. Joshua 24 and verses two and three. Joshua 24. Last week we talked about God, the Creator. And this week I want to talk about God and His people. God and His people. We're doing a series on putting the pieces together, trying to see how some of the Old Testament themes go throughout the Old Testament and then enter into the new so we can see the wholeness of Scripture as it relates to the wholeness of God's character. And so last week we talked about God the Creator, and I hope that too, as we go, that we take these themes and apply them in ways that are relevant to our lives and want to do the same. This week I am struck as I go through the Scriptures how God relates to people in understandable ways and forms, reaching out to have relationship with us. One of the ways that he reaches out informs that we're understandable to the people of the Old Testament era was to make covenants with people. These are binding agreements in which he calls people to themselves, holds them responsible for their action, gives them high standards, and obligates himself to them with promise. As far as we know, there is no other ancient near Eastern country that believed their God made a covenant with them was just that personal. And the thing that they would have found extraordinary in the ancient world is that God would obligate himself to people. That's just not the way it went.


And so we have this incredibly personal God who relates to his people. Now we know that between Genesis one and two, where we started the theme of creation and the Abraham stories, we know there's a great deal of sin and spread of sin. I suppose I'm leaving sin out of this discussion only in the sense that I think we know about that and assume it and hear about it through the themes that we're talking about. But there is a terrific sin problem by the end of Genesis 11 and God reaches out to create a new people. And so in the Abrahamic Covenant, start in Genesis 12, God Redeems and calls his people. He redeems and calls them to himself. And when God redeems and calls his people, he redeems and calls them from idolatry and sin. That's why I want to start with Joshua 24, where Joshua, in talking about Israel's past, tells us something we didn't know from reading Genesis 11 and 12. He makes a statement about Abraham's past. Verse one Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to shake them and summon the elders, the heads, the judges, the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, thus says, the Lord, the God of Israel, long ago, your fathers live beyond the Euphrates, Terah the father of Abraham and of nature, and they served other gods. Then I took your father, Abraham, from beyond the river and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. And it continues on. And it culminates, of course, in Joshua's famous statement that, as for me, in my house, will serve the Lord. We tell the old sweep of Israelite history, We're going to serve the Lord.


But I find it interesting that even Abraham had to be redeemed and called for by idolatry and said That's what God does when he redeems us, we come out of something. And some of you have a pretty good idea what some of that something was, because you remember very clearly what sort of things you were involved in when you were converted. And some of those things stopped and you began to serve the Lord. And I once felt pretty bad because I didn't have a great testimony like I used to hear at some of these Baptist revival means I grew up with. And they were wonderful testimonies. I had a Pentecostal brother, friend of mine, great, great influence on my life. The pastor used to tell his testimony how I used to run around to all this wild stuff and get pretty excited talking about here. By today's standard, you know, it's pretty tame stuff. And he almost sounded disappointed when he came to the point where he became a believer. You think calm down. And so I feel bad and have these good testimonies like folks. And it was a startling thing. God gave me a glimpse into what I would have been without him. And I don't want to go through that again. So some of you, if you begin to wonder, well, you know, I wasn't that bad. I'm not that much. And you really have to work up something. I want you to know, just as Abraham was redeemed from idolatry and sin, so are we as God's people, every one of us, and therefore as a group. And we need to understand that we were redeemed from idolatry and sin for relationship with God. Genesis 12, which is where we normally start with the Abrahamic Covenant.


God is calling Abraham in chapter 12. And so many times we see these personal references. The Lord said to Abraham, Go from your country and from your kindred to a place where I will show you you're going to go and I'm going to lead you and I'm going to show you and I'll make of you a great nation. I'm going to do that for you. I'm going to bless you and make your name great. You'll be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, etc.. He's saying, look, our relationship means that as you serve me, I'm going to do these things for you. It's what friends do, isn't it? And indeed, well, in the book of Isaiah, the Bible calls Abraham God's friend. And so there is this sense that he was redeemed from idolatry and sin for relationship with God. But a bigger purpose that I think we all share is, particularly as we talk about a missions conference so that all nations would be blessed through him in chapter 12 and verse three, I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you. I will cursed in. You. All the families of the Earth shall be blessed or shall bless themselves. But it wasn't just an individualistic purpose, but that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him, through his family. Now, though, we can't claim that sort of promise. We do recall that we are redeemed so that the world might know the glory of Christ. We believe the Great Commission that we've been set. Christians have been sent to the ends of the Earth to make disciples baptize and to teach them to observe the everything that God's commanded. So it's not just an individualistic thing, though, that's important.


And it's not just a family thing. It's very important to us. And it's not even just a church thing, which is very important to me. But it is an international global situation for Abraham. And then we see, by extension, for all God's people, and then we see an exodus one through 15, that God redeems these people, the Israelites, from slavery. That God has a concern for the physical, emotional, etc. well-being of his people. That's one of the things we pray. We pray for all sorts of things, always not for physical healing. We pray for financial blessings for people. We pray for all sorts of things. And if nothing else, the first several chapters of Exodus indicate that God's concerned about those saying. He redeems us from sin and idolatry for relationship with himself, for blessing the nation, and from all sorts of other difficulties. And so God redeems and calls this people to himself, God and his people. We go on past Exodus 15 to Exodus 19. And we see that God instructs his people for relationship and for witness. We come to the Mosaic Covenant. God instructs his people for relationship and witness the Mosaic Covenant. Now, the purpose of the law is often misunderstood, but stated very clearly for us. If we take a look at chapter 19, let's start with verse four. You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptian and how I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19 four. It's a pretty, pretty personal statement I delivered you. I carried you. I brought you to myself. That's the relationship that's been established and certainly their relationship with individuals like Moses and others. But there is this national relationship as well. Verse five Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my cabinet, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for the earth is mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of praise and a holy nation.


You see, the purpose that God had for them was that they might reflect the relationship that they had with God in a way that would show them to be a holy nation amongst all the other nations so that the world might see God and come to him. This is the purpose of the law. And in the law we see that God instructing His people is to reflect the relationship. We know the phrase be holy, for I am holy. We cite that in a variety of ways, don't we? We side it to, frankly, to kick ourselves into gear every now and then. We're not living up to the standards of that. We ought to. We use it for encouragement and other things. But we ought to remember that this is a relational statement. Be like, I am God's this show your relationship with me by being like I am. And of course we see this in other relationships all the time. There is a sense in which some not all brothers and sisters operate like that, that you want to be like your older sibling. Some of you know I had some to choose from, and there is still a sense in which. If I could have. The physical courage of my oldest brother. I've been inspired how he's faced cancer for a few years and other things. If I could have the financial courage of my brother, the farmer, I hadn't got it just to risk everything on the weather. Every year I've without joking at all, I've said to people I have courage to farm. I used to have the expertise by the courage or the sheer, again, courage and guts and brains and perseverance of my older sister or even the good natured niece of my youngest sister.


We're not sure how she got in the family. I saw now on the news that they've attempted to clone cats. Now, I'm not sure why anybody would want to do that. We don't have enough of them. But you know what? Apparently, they tried to clone a calico and it kind of like they had done a negative, a photo negative instead of being like calico and dark. It ended up being kind of like gray with a different pattern. Again, it's like a and they found out this cat wasn't like the original at all. And this is going to mess up. This guy's got a cloning business. He's promising to clone Kitty. Well, he can't get it done. The problem? So I'm not sure how my sister got so good natured, but I guess it was just having five or six sibling rolling around all the time. But we know what that's like. Relationships. I like to be like my dad or I'd like to be like my mom. Or you look at another person, you really look up. I like to be like them. And we would all wish that we could reflect the love that we have for our spouse and for our family. We ought to think about be holy, for I'm holy. God instructs us in his ways so that we might reflect that relationship. And make no mistake about it, there are only a few things that law can do as a literary type. Think about it. There are only so many things it can do. It's not as flexible, say, as a narrative or that sort of thing. But, you know, laws can condemn. Shows when you broke the law, a law can inhibit. In other words, in fact, if the only thing that moves you is the fear of punishment.


Law can do that for you. It can inhibit your actions. If that's what it takes. It is also true a couple of positive things. One, it can reflect the law giver, the goodness or lack thereof of the law giver. And it can guide to holiness and forgiveness in our case, but it can guide those who love the law giver. The law is only good and joyous to those in relationship with God. So if you go through the Bible, read Psalm 119. This person in relationship with God is excited about the law because the good God who loves him has given him this guide to walk every day. I know it was pre law and all, but Camp was preaching on Esau, wasn't it, son? You know, I doubt he saw was anxious to hear more about law early in his life. He just really hope somebody would guide his actually want to do pretty much what he wanted to do. Of course, the Bible is filled with people like that, but the purpose of the law is to create a holy nation to minister to the world. And Peter says, and first Peter, too. That's the same purpose of the church to be a kingdom of praise. The whole agency quotes the same passage. And then he begins to talk to people, doesn't he? And first, Peter, about submitting to authority under all sorts of tough situations man marriage and and community and government. And so he said, you're a king of praise. Holy people let that relationship to God be reflected in all your actions. If you try to use the law to create a relationship, you misuse the law. And Paul criticizes several people in the book of Galatians and other places who try to use the law to create a relationship rather than to reflect one.


And every single one of us will mess up if we try to use the law to create a relationship with God rather than to have it reflect that relationship. But that's what he's doing in and through his people. He instructs his people for relationship and witness. And the best days I spend on this earth are the days in which I accept God's guidance and walk by it. To serve him is perfect freedom and there is no other. And I don't begin to know how to do that without his help. And I don't just mean his help in some kind of nebulous way. I mean specifics. Some of you find that oppressive, and most of us do, until we hit a situation where, you know what, we're glad the scripture was very helpful. God's people. He doesn't redeem and call them and leave them to themselves to see how best they can sort out life. He instructs his people for relationship, for witness for holiness. That's the Mosaic covenant. Also in the mosaic come a third point, God forgives his people. God forgives us people. Exodus 34 six and seven. Exodus 34 six. And serve is a fundamental passage to understanding God's nature in the whole of the Old Testament and into the new. In the men's Bible study of Friday morning. When looking at some of these concepts for the last couple of weeks and will again this week after the Golden Calf incident in Extras 32, Moses prays to the Lord and eventually the people are forgiven by Lord. Verse six of Chapter 34 The Lord pass before Him and proclaim the Lord the Lord a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression in sin.


But by no means will clear the guilty and goes on to expand. Here's the nature of God. His primary impulse is to be slow to anger about in steadfast love and faithfulness. In fact, in the Book of Lamentations, which I think page four page has more about suffering for your sins than any other book of the Bible. In that passage, following the text where it says Great is your faithfulness. One of the things that the writer says in chapter three, verse 33 I was a lead reviewer on this book and should have done better. Lamentations 333 We have an ESV for who does not willingly afflict literally the text says he does not judge from here. He does not afflict from his heart. We should lift it in there in taking the metaphor, laid it straight out. He does not afflict from his heart. It is not God's first impulse to judge and to afflict. Isaiah calls his judging act in Isaiah 2821. His alien Act. His strange act. God is willing to judge. He will not clear the guilty. But God's first impulse is to be merciful. And he is just we cannot presume on his mercy. Nor can we ignore his justice, but it's in his nature. And so it's less than surprising when you come to Leviticus one through seven, having explained to people that standards and instruction for life. Leviticus one through seven is all about sacrifice and forgiveness. Right in the law, right after the first long installments of standards, God explains to people he knows will sin. Without excusing that saying, he explains how they can be forgiven. So it's so important for us to see the God who instructs his people knows he is instructing a fallible people and he has a means of forgiveness.


What if it's long term? What if it entails the worst sort of sin in Deuteronomy 30? After a couple of chapters that state how the Lord will, if forced to drive the people from the land, even in the punishment of their sin. That's as bad as it can get. They've been exiled. They're gone, Moses says. However, in chapter 30 and verse one, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and a curse which I've set before you and you call them to mind among all the nations where Lord, your God is driven, you wake up in exile in a foreign land and you return to the Lord. Return in repentance. Same word in the Old Testament. Return of the Lord, Your God, you and your children and obey His voice and all that. I command you today with your heart, with all of your soul. Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes that have compassion on you, and He will gather you again from where he scattered you. Doesn't matter where you are. The text goes on to say he will bring you back. You see the Lord who is abounding in mercy and yet who will not clear the guilty is ready to receive those people who return to him. And it remains so throughout Scripture, again, without presuming on that mercy, because he will by no means clear the guilty. We need to remember that the God who redeems and calls his people, instructs his people, forgives his people. If it is true in the Old Testament, how much more so when Jesus Christ himself offers himself as a sacrifice for sin, so that their author of Hebrews says, If this is true, how shall we neglect so great a salvation? So that the mercy of God and the kindness and the forgiveness of God is writ large in Christ.


And it was already relevant from the start. And finally tonight, as I just think of some putting the pieces together for his people, God prepares a future for his people. We see this in the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant in Second Samuel seven. God promises, David, that he will have an eternal kingdom. It's not going to end for 17 verses of that. Chapter seven. David A desire to build a temple for God and Gods. And thank you for wanting to build a house for me. But I will build a house for you. Your son will be on the throne and he will have an eternal kingdom. It won't ever end. Now then, as the Old Testament unfolds in, we see in the prophets and in the writings and the Psalms and other places. That God fills out that portrait to say that this king will be a savior. This king will be a servant. This king will be God's chosen one. And then on into the New Testament. But I take heart not only in knowing who the Eternal King is, but as David did as well. From where I stand tonight. Even in such good company, an eternal kingdom. Sounds good to me. And according to Jesus, here's the interesting news. This kingdom has begun and we get a taste of it when we pray together and we have fellowship together and we worship together, we realize that we are closer to being what we ought to be and what we're going to be. In settings like this, then we can imagine. The kingdom has begun, and it shall not in. Or Jeremiah 31, in the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem. God speaks to Jeremiah 580 years before Christ and says there's going to be a new covenant.


It'll be unlike the first one and the announces the problem with it, which you broke, not problem with God. But he says then that this new covenant will mean that there won't be any need to teach members of the Covenant to know God. He says, they'll all know me. They'll all know me. This covenant has been enacted through Jesus Christ. As he says the night before, His betrayed as He takes the Lord's Supper. This is a new covenant in my blood. It's been enacted, and it's a wonderful thing to me to be around other believers. Because it reminds me that the New Covenant is in force, that my family is enlarging, and that's a good thing. God prepares a future for his people. And finally, this future is not only of an eternal king of the New Covenant, but we bring all this together in Isaiah 65, a passage I've come to love more and more. Isaiah 65. God's promised us an eternal home. Isaiah 6517. And this passage is cited and quoted from extensively in Revelation 21. Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. And the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind, but be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create for. Behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem. Be glad my people no more shall be heard in at the sound of weeping in the cry of distress. No more shall there be in an infant who lives only a few days. Go to verse 23, they shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord and their descendants with them.


Before they call, I will answer while there yet speaking, I will hear. And the wolf and the lamb shall graze together. The lion shall eat straw like the ox, and thus shall be the servants food. They shall not hurt or destroyed. All my Holy Mountain, says Lord. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you. Revelation cites this passage and says, New heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem, No suffering, no death, no separation. God has a future for his people in the Old Testament that is cited and connected and amplified in the new. And that tells me that from the beginning to the end, God has always prepared a future and a home for his people. So when I think to myself that God has redeemed and called us to himself, he's instructed as he forgives us, he prepares a future for us is a really anything we need that God has not prepared for his people. That we really need. And so as I look to these themes about God and his people, of course, I left out the book of judges. That's also part of God and his people. But God is indeed the one. Who has created us and will sustain us. And who has given us each other. In our homes, in our churches, in our communities. And we need to give thanks to our God for all he has done along these lines.