Todd explains the significance of the Law of Moses for us today. (The audio also includes the drama team's rendition of the entire Old Testament, acted out in under 23 minutes.)
Why The Bible Can Be Trusted
Why There is Hope
Why The Church
Why Change is Possible and Necessary
Why All the Passion
Why There is the Law
Why the Jews
Why We Are Here
Why There is Evil
Why the Story You Live in Matters
We're in the middle of a fun big picture metanarrative, to use a very postmodern term, walk through the Scripture. If you were here last week, you realize that we covered some serious ground. I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I'm not going to cover 46 chapters this week. The bad news is I'm going to cover 36 books.
We finished Genesis 50, last week as we talked about why God moved from moving and working in the context of the entire world community to specifically targeting one nation, one group of people who he chose by grace that he might bring them into a relationship with himself. Through that blessing, which he freely gave them, he would reveal himself to the nations that he also wanted a relationship with.
We realize we covered a lot of ground last week, so we're going to serve you. We're going to give you a chance to catch up. So sit down, and here is the first half of your Old Testament. The following drama recaps the previous message in this series.
All: God's Story: Scene One: The Genesis or, "Help, God! We messed up already!"
Narrator: In the beginning, there was nothing but God. God spoke and there was light. Over the course of seven days, God created all things. God created the earth, animals, fish, the entire universe, and finally a man created to be like himself.
Adam: Not bad!
Narrator: But God saw that the man was lonely, so he created a woman to be his companion.
Adam: Not bad!
Narrator: Everything was perfect. God had provided the man and woman everything they needed and they were in a relationship with him just as he planned until one day…
Satan: Hey, girlfriend!
Eve: Who, me?
Satan: No, I'm talking to the other only woman on the face of the planet. Yesss, you.
Eve: Oh, what's up?
Satan: Well, I was just wondering. You and this dude you hang out with seem to have it pretty good around here. Yet I notice you never seem to eat from this tree here. What's up with that?
Eve: God has given us just one rule: that we don't eat from that one tree. He says that if we do, then we'll die.
Satan: Laughs. Oh, please! Get out of here! For eating a piece of fruit? You won't die. You mean to tell me that you have the run of this entire world here and you're scared to eat from one, little tree?
Eve: I'm not scared.
Satan: Clucking noises.
Eve: I'm not chicken.
Satan: So prove it.
Adam: Hey, Eve, what's going on?
Narrator: They had broken the one rule that God had given. As a result, they messed up a perfect relationship with the perfect God. They were banished from the garden of Eden and had to spend their days laboring for the food that had once been provided for them. Time passed and Adam and Eve had two sons. Abel was a shepherd.
Narrator: And Cain was a farmer.
Abel: My herd is looking so good lately, all fat and healthy-like. I just have God to thank for that. I'm going to make him an offering of my best sheep. That's sure to please him.
Cain: Yeah, yeah. My crops are just great. I just love working out in the hot sun all day. Thanks, God. I guess I'll offer him up some of my crops, too. What are you looking at? I'm not giving him all my best stuff!
Narrator: God was pleased with Abel's sincere offering of his best sheep, but Cain, well, not so much.
Narrator: God said to Cain, "Why are you angry? You need to get control of that stuff before it leads you to sin."
Cain: Yeah, I'll work on it. Forget that noise. Hey Abel, I have something to show you out here in the field!
Abel: Show me what?
Cain: Oh, come on! It's right here in the field.
Abel: Cain, no!
Narrator: So Cain killed Abel and the first murder had been committed. From then on, things didn't get much better. Man continued to get more and more evil and grow further and further apart from God. That relationship that God once had with his people, his very reason for creating them was long gone.
God decided to start over. He brought a huge flood on the earth, destroying everyone in the world except one man's family, whom he shut into a boat with two of every animal. Noah's family was saved from the flood and got busy repopulating the earth.
All: Scene Two: The Promise.
Narrator: Time passed, and even though God had shown with the flood that he meant business, most people ignored him and continued to sin, but a few people really tried to follow him. One such person was a man named Abraham.
Abraham: What? What's going on? Who's there?
God: It is me, God.
Abraham: I don't believe it! God is talking to me? What have I done that you honor me?
God: You have trusted and obeyed me so I make a promise to you. I will give you more descendents than the stars in the sky. I will make a nation of people out of you and they will be my people.
Abraham: God, this is wonderful, but where am I going to put all these people? I just have a one-bedroom apartment.
God: I will give you land of your own. It will be a wonderful land that I will give to your descendents. You will get rid of all the people who live there because you have trusted and obeyed me.
God: It will be a land flowing with milk and honey. Now go!
Narrator: So the promise was made, a promise that would show God's faithfulness time and time again, even though it would be a while before it actually happened. Time passed and Abraham and Sarah gave birth to a son. God came to Abraham and told him to sacrifice Isaac to him as a test. Abraham was just about to go through with it when an angel stopped him.
Angel: Stop, wait, zip it, okay. Yeah, okay. You don't really have to do this. Okay? God was just testing your obedience to him. Okay. Thanks.
Abraham: Don't do that to me!
Narrator: More time passed and Isaac had kids of his own. Two sons: Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau had an argument over a trick that Jacob played on Esau. Fearing for his life, Jacob ran away to a place called Haran. Jacob eventually had 12 sons of his own, one of whom was named Joseph. The story of Joseph and his brothers is well-known so we can kind of fast-forward through some of this.
Jacob loved Joseph the most and gave him a special colored coat. The brothers hated Joseph and sold him into slavery. Joseph worked for a guy named Potiphar, but got thrown into prison when Potiphar's wife hit on him. Pharaoh was disturbed by some weird dreams and heard of a guy in prison who could interpret dreams.
Joseph told Pharaoh that his dreams meant there was a famine coming throughout Egypt and in seven years, there would be no food. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of Egypt and Joseph stockpiled food for the time of famine, saving Egypt. Joseph's whole family joined Joseph in Egypt during the time of famine.
Years passed and Joseph's family got larger and larger. Eventually, Joseph died. The Pharaoh decided to put an end to the Israelites once and for all. He decreed that any Hebrew boys born during that time would be put to death. It was at this time that Moses was born.
All: Scene Three: The Exodus, or "Enter Moses, exit us." Get it? Exodus?
Narrator: Anyway, it was at this time that Moses was born.
Moses: Hi, I'm Moses. Okay, here's the deal. I grew up as a prince, killed a man kind of sort of accidentally on purpose, then out of fear I ran over to Midian.
Man: Welcome to Midian, land of mystery and adventure and the finest merchandise this side of the Red Sea. Sir, could I interest you in…?
Moses: No thanks. So I'm in Midian. I get married. I become a shepherd. God speaks to me through this burning bush. He tells me to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release all the Israelites from slavery.
Pharaoh: Ha, ha, ha. You must be joking, Moses.
Moses: So here I am.
Pharaoh: I will never let your people go.
Moses: Tough luck, Pharaoh. God will bring his power on you!
Narrator: To make a long story short…
All: Too late!
Narrator: He did.
Moses: Let the plagues begin! Blood in the Nile! Frogs! Flies! Gnats! Dead livestock! Boils! Hail! Locusts! Darkness!
Narrator: And finally, the death of every firstborn son in Egypt.
Moses: Israelites! Israelites! Okay, if we put the blood of a perfect lamb over our doorposts, God will pass over us when this plague of death comes for the firstborn sons.
Narrator: God did, but…
Pharaoh: My son is dead, Moses. Take your people and go.
Moses: Four hundred and thirty years of slavery over! Yeah! Come on, Israelites! Follow me before Pharaoh changes his mind!
Narrator: And everything was going great for about the first five minutes.
Israelite: Aw, Moses. Why did you take us this way? The Red Sea is blocking our escape. Pharaoh changed his mind and his men are charging down after us. I wish I was back in Egypt.
Israelite: I wish I had never followed you.
Second Israelite: I wish I was dead!
Moses: Enough whining!
Narrator: So God allowed Moses to part the Red Sea, leading the Israelites through on dry ground, but the Egyptians were destroyed as the waters filled back in.
Israelite: Ha, ha!
Narrator: Over that next year, many things happened as the Israelites wandered in the desert toward the land that God had promised Abraham. The place that had come to be known as The Promised Land. God gave them the Ten Commandments to obey…
Moses: Here they are!
Narrator: …which they immediately began disobeying. They complained that they were hungry.
Israelites: We're hungry!
Narrator: So God gave them manna, which fell from the sky. They complained that they were thirsty.
Israelites: We're thirsty!
Narrator: So God gave them water from a rock. They got sick of manna.
Israelites: We don't like manna.
Narrator: So God provided quail for them to eat.
Israelites: Tastes like chicken!
Narrator: This is how it went for the year that it took to get to the Promised Land. The Israelites were disobedient and whiny…
Israelite: Aw, man!
Narrator: …and God continued to forgive and provide until at last they arrived at the Promised Land.
Moses: This is the land that God has promised us. It is a land flowing with milk and honey.
Israelite: That sounds great and everything, Moses, but does it have to be milk? I'm a little lactose intolerant and…
Moses: I have sent spies into the Promised Land to show us what we will find there.
Spy: I'm back.
Israelite: What did you find out?
Spy: Oh man, there's a ton of people living there already!
Spy: They're huge!
Spy: They'll make dangerous enemies.
Israelite: Oh man, that's just great.
Spy: We never get anything we want.
Israelite: I wish I was back in Egypt!
Spy: I wish we had never followed you!
Israelite: I wish I was dead!
Moses: That's it! You complain. God has given us this Promised Land. He said he's going to defeat our enemies, but yet you still don't believe in him.
Narrator: So God, who had lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, punished them. They were forced to wander the desert for the next 40 years. None of those who ever saw God's wonders in Egypt ever got to see the Promised Land.
Israelites: Oh, man!
Narrator: Including Moses.
Moses: Oh, man!
Narrator: To make a long story short…
All: Too late!
[End of skit]
Todd Wagner: Well, highly effective if not highly irreverent, right? There's the big idea. Let me tell you what's going on in the midst of this. What you have in this story is a God who is radically pursuing people who are consistently hard-hearted toward him. That is the main idea we've tried to communicate these last five weeks and to get you set for where you're going to go today, and you're going to see in the 36 books that now make up the remainder of your Old Testament.
The word testament simply means contract or covenant. The agreement that God has with his people is that God is radically pursuing people. In his mercy, he is constantly providing a means through which they can return to him, though their hearts have left him. We've talked about the fact that sin or disobedience to God, rebellion to God is not simply a failure to check certain boxes or to perform certain tasks, but God has been about a relationship with those who he created from the very beginning. Rebellion, sin, is adultery of the heart.
Again and again the people from Adam and Eve through their own children, Cain, through Cain's descendants up until the time of Noah and then through Noah's descendents right up through the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the time of Joseph when the people went into bondage in the nation of Israel were giving their hearts to others.
God, almost in an irresponsible way, in ways which at times can look enabling, pursued people because he loves them and because he knows that the way that he pursues them and loves them and pours out his grace and kindness on them that his name would be glorified in the heavens. Yet all the while, God was never in any way compromising his justice.
After the flood, God decided to work through one specific descendent of Noah. That comes through Noah's son Shem, the Shemites. We know them as the Semites. God elected a man who was an idol-worshipper, but whose heart by grace was made tender toward God to follow after him.
His name was Abraham. God said, "Abraham, I'm going to do something uniquely with you that will cause blessing to come upon you. I will take you from your little community of familiarity where you trust family, where you trust the provision of your own hands, and I will myself put you in a place of greatness.
Though you are embittered toward life, almost three-quarters of a century old with your wife and without offspring to carry forward your name, I will promise you a place of prosperity. I will promise you a heritage which will outnumber the stars that are in the heavens. I will uniquely bless you and make from you a nation through which all the other nations on the earth might be blessed.
Because as a people, I will call you out into relationship with me. As the blessing of that relationship encircles you, others will want to know who it is that is behind your blessing. Abraham, you are to tell them of me. There is basically what gets us to Genesis, chapter 50. We know that Abraham's great-great-great grandson Joseph was put in a position of privilege in Egypt in order that God might begin to declare his greatness.
We saw in our little drama behind me that God, in his grace at the fullness of time, decided to allow Abraham's descendents to now go into that land. When you read in your Old Testament, Israel, Cana, in the New Testament Palestine, when you get the idea of Promised Land, it's all talking about the same tract of land from Mediterranean Sea back toward the east, primarily on the west side of the Jordan River.
The land that God intended for Abraham to have covered much of the Middle East. One day it will be realized. For now, Israel was to move into that land. Let me explain to you what is going on in your Old Testament. Because so many people are overwhelmed when they get early past certain stories.
The first thing you need to understand about your Old Testament is, though there are 37 books in the Old Testament, only the first 17 are historical in their chronology. In other words, from Genesis through Ezra as you read it, you're reading the story basically as it would unfold in a history book.
After that, you get into what are called the poetical books, with Job and then Psalms and Proverbs and Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Those are poetical books, which take place in the context of Old Testament history from anywhere back there in Genesis 12 all the way through the end of your Old Testament.
After those five books, there are still 17 left. Those are what are called the prophetical books because they are men who God raised up to speak to the descendents of Abraham along the way that he might bring them to that place of blessing where he could reveal his greatness to the world through them.
God is loving people, seeking people. I think it was Philip Yancey who said when you read the Old Testament, it's kind of like listening to lovers fight through the thin drywall of an apartment complex. Yet there's always one who is betraying another and another one who is extending grace, talking about consequence, explaining why there is a break in intimacy while there are horrors in the home and yet all the while calling them back.
God is a wounded lover all throughout your Old Testament. Here's what's going on. The book of Exodus is when God lead the people out of a time of slavery. The slavery they were in was a picture of the bondage of their hearts. Because they consistently gave their hearts to another, they were constantly imprisoned by their choices. God wanted to lead them out as they followed him.
You will find this theme all the way through your Old Testament, all the way through your New Testament. In the book of Exodus, as God lead the people out and started to move them to a place where they would experience blessing, they already had a great number, about 2 million people you find at this time in history.
As he moves them into the place where they would have the land, God wants them once again to understand how they should live in order to honor him. The book of Exodus is the giving of the law of God. It's when God reveals what is right. It's when God does something he had never done before. The psalmist in Psalm 147 simply says that God has done something with Israel that he never did before.
He revealed his statues and ordinances. He showed his will and way specifically in a known way to a people like he had never done before. In Romans, in the New Testament, Paul says this in Romans, chapter 3. "Then what advantage has the Jew?" Last week's question was…Why are the Jews so significant in our world today? Why are the Jews God's chosen people?
That was the answer to one major question that we have. What makes certain folks unique in God's outworking of history? We covered that last week, but the Scriptures here in the New Testament say, "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" Which is the sign that God gave the Jewish people uniquely and specifically to show their faith relationship with him.
They said it's "Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God." There's a reason you don't find a lot of great Jewish philosophers, because the highest ideal of a philosopher, the lovers of wisdom, is that you might know the mind of God. They ask the great questions of life: Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where do we get ultimate meaning, significance, and purpose? Why is there evil and suffering? These are questions that philosophers have debated for as long as we've had writings of men, and they will continue through our age and the age to come.
There aren't a lot of Jewish philosophers, because from the very beginning God said, "You don't have to trust in the best opinions of men to make your way through a storm as a ship in the night without any way to guide yourself, trusting only in the best opinions of men. You don't need to do that because I'm going to give you the very Word of God. I'm going to explain to you things that eye can't see, ear can't hear, things which have never even entered into the hearts of your philosophers or any other men."
In fact, the Jews in Romans, chapter 2, it says were to be called to be certain folks who, "…if you bear the name 'Jew' and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth…" **And God asked them this question again and again."…you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?"**
You who know that to have a love relationship with the God who graciously provides for you. In the desert, you never hungered. In the desert, you never thirsted. In the desert, your shoes never wore out. Why do you leave me and give your heart to another as is evidenced by the way that you commit adultery, give your heart to idols, and trust in things other than me?
Now in Exodus, you have the law. You have the moral law, which shows the holiness of God that God is a God who does not act in an irresponsible, capricious way. You have the ceremonial law which God gave, which is God's way of right away making provision for the fact that we would not live in the holy way that he called people to live.
Then you have what is called the ritualistic or the hygienic law. That's given in Exodus and again shows up in Leviticus. The idea is that God gave us this to show that Israel was to be a separate people living differently in the world than any other folks. Why? Because they had a relationship with God. They would have clean homes, clean bodies, clean cities, clean hearts because they worshipped the holy God.
It's interesting to note the order of books in your Old Testament. God is taking Israel from a place of bondage to a place of freedom. He has called them to trust in him, to have a faith relationship with him. He gives them the law. Right after he gives them the law, there is a book called Leviticus.
Leviticus is where most of us lose our way as we begin to read through the Bible. Because it gets the down and dirty details of how God was going to allow Israel to be unique among the world and yet what he expected them to do to deal with the fact that they would not be as unique as he intended them to be in their daily living so he made a gracious provision that they might still enter into a relationship with him despite the fact that they were not as holy and clean in heart as he intended them to be.
As God gave them the law and he gave them the means to approach him, though they fell short of the law, God called them into a contractual agreement. There's a unique place in Scripture that we spent some time on last week that really unfolds the rest, not just of your Old Testament, but of your Bible.
It was the Abrahamic covenant, where God promised Abraham land, seed through which he would ultimately make Abraham's name great, and that seed would turn into a source of blessing to all the world. You'll find that God comes up with what's called the Mosaic covenant now, or the Palestinian covenant, which is the conditional covenant which is given underneath an unconditional promise.
God says, "If you fulfill the law, if you are a holy people, that will allow me to do what I promise I will do for you." When you get to the book of Leviticus, and if you have Leviticus, I want you to turn with me to chapter 26. Because when you read Leviticus 26, it shows up again this same chapter in Deuteronomy, chapters 28 through 30.
It's basically God telegraphing what's going to happen for the remainder of the 30-some-odd books that are in your Old Testament, in the old contractual agreement that God is going to work with people. I want to show you something. In Leviticus 26, verses 1 through 13, God tells them what will happen as they continue to give him their hearts.
This is a specific group of people at a specific time who God wants to bless so that his name might be honored throughout the nations. God is going to tell them, "This is when it will go well with you: when you give your heart to me." As evidence that you can trust him, there's another book that follows Leviticus. It's the book of Numbers.
He said, "Go ahead, and number yourselves." There's a census taken among the people. We find out there are 2 million of them. Just like he told them, "Look, I promised you that I would make your name great. I promised you that there would be many descendents. Count yourselves. From a barren woman who is 100 years old, there are 2 million of you in some 400 years. Not bad. Now I'm about to take you into a place that flows with milk and honey."
You'll find that the spies would go into that land. They found clusters of grapes that were so magnificent that the spies returned with these clusters strung on a pole between them because they were so heavy. Again, God said, "Look, is the place that I promised to take you not all that I promised it would be? Is the multitude of your family not all I promised that it would be? Trust me that if you give your heart to me, I can give you what your heart desires like nothing else can."
Now with the Jews, it was going to have some primarily physical manifestations, but you'll find out that even when they had physical prosperity apart from a heart that was wed by faith to God, that their hearts craved and there was leanness in their souls. Then God brought physical trauma into their lives in order that they might seek him again knowing that it doesn't matter how filled your house is with possessions and belongings.
If love is not there, it is a cold place to live, just as the book of Proverbs reminds us. "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife." God says quietness of the heart comes when your heart is given fully to the one who can love it well. God is seeking his lover.
In Leviticus, chapter 26, it says, "You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the LORD. If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce…" Jump down to verse 5. "…live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land…"
What does Israel continually seek? Pray for the shalom, pray for the peace, of Israel. Way back here in Leviticus, God tells them where that peace will come from. You want peace in Israel? It won't come through technology. It won't come through science. It won't come through industry. It won't come through war.
It won't come with an alliance with Egypt then or Syria then or Babylon then or the United States of America now. Peace will come in Israel when Israel gives its heart to God. God is seeking his people. They will get peace no other way. He says, "…you may lie down with no one making you tremble."
Look at verse 8. He says I will make you so great that "…five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.""Because I will be with you. I am your great protector. Trust in me. Love me." Now we're about to see a movie unfold about the Alamo where 100 brave Texans with a few transplants from Tennessee took on 4,000 of Santa Ana's men. It was legendary that they lost.
God is saying, "You want to see something amazing? You walk with me, and 100 men will make 10,000 run south." God says, "If you don't live in relationship with me, there is going to be something different than what I'm describing in these first 13 verses." So we get to verse 14, and I've highlighted some key verses for you here.
When you get to verse 14, is a very key three letter word: but. "But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you…" This, folks, is a pretty tough section of Scripture.
You will see that everything that God says he will do if Israel is an adulterous lover happened in the context of Old Testament history and continues to unfold today. Because even to this day, the people of God known as Jews continue to turn their hearts away from God as he continues to pursue them through the person of his Messiah, Jesus Christ.
That is offensive to a Jewish person because they reject that Jesus is their Messiah. Because their Messiah, they thought, would lead them from the bondage of Egypt, lead them from the bondage that Rome had them in 2,000 years ago. Lead them from the bondage now that Ishmael's descendents and the Arab nations have them in.
They look for one who will come and squash their enemies, but God says, "You don't get it! From the very beginning, your enemy has not been Pharaoh. Your enemy today is not Saddam Hussein or any other Arab leader. Your enemy is not the PLO. Your enemy is that your hearts turned from me and looked for satisfaction and life apart from a relationship with me. I am not looking for ritualistic obedience. I am looking for lovers of my heart."
God says, "From the very beginning, I dwelt in intimacy. In the very beginning, I dwelt in community and I'm inviting you in. Love me. Join in the fellowship of the Godhead." We have reduced that fellowship to some sort of protectionistic tithing, attendance, or activity. God says, "THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME."
Let me just tell you something. You're going to see in a few weeks where we fit into this story. You're going to find out that the church today does exactly the same thing that Israel did all throughout the Old Testament. What you will find out as it says in Romans, chapter 3, the theme of this entire story is not that God is irresponsible.
No. "…God be found true, though every man be found a liar…" God can put us in perfect Eden with a heart of innocence and we will turn away from him because we are not good. God can instill in us a conscience, give us a means through which we can deal with our lack of innocence, and we will not pursue him.
God will instill around us a system of protection called government, and we will violate it and trample over one another and rationalize and justify. God can bless us overtly and we will still turn to give our hearts to another. The theme of the story is the mercy of God from beginning to end and God seeking those who will give their hearts to him.
If you are here today and you are so convinced that all God wants is for you to follow his rule book, you are wrong. God gives you words that lead to life, but never does he think that your obedience to any activity would allow you to earn the grace of his presence. Let me just tell you as we get ready to tear through Leviticus 26:14 and following that in the blessings of God in verses 1 through 13, you never saw obedience to him would lead to eternal life. It wasn't there.
There was no promise of salvation through keeping the law, just like there is no threat of hell in violating the law. The Scriptures tell us that whether or not you dwell with God for eternity or are separated from him where there is nothing that will even remotely remind of that which is good (see also, hell) is based on your heart's response to God.
In keeping with your heart's response to God, to say that you love him would be to give your heart fully to be obedient to him. That is why many folks in this room that if they were asked, "Who is your God?" would say, "The God of the Scriptures, the God of the Jews who has revealed himself most fully in the person of Jesus Christ," need to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
Because only those who obey are those who love. Those who give their heart to God say, "How can I please you and serve you, not in order to earn my acceptance before you, because I could be good for a long time and still not be perfect, which is what you require. You, by grace, have made amends for me and allowed me to enter into your presence despite the fact that I don't live perfectly as I should live. But God when I make mistakes, I want to restore my relationship with you."
You see, here's the deal. My wife and I have a really good relationship, yet I hurt her. There are times that I do that which grieves her. There are times that I speak things and say things that bring sorrow to her soul, but I don't have to go back and win her hand again and ask her to marry me again. I do need to go back and say, "I see what I have done that has been contrary to what you rightly ask of me. I need to restore the relationship.
I need to confess, acknowledge, and agree that that was wrong, that that behavior was self-willed, not others-centered. I need to ask your forgiveness, make amends where I can, but require and request your forgiveness and grace to be bestowed upon me that we might move toward oneness again and share in the unity of hearts and love that I dreamt about when I asked for your hand." See, that's the way it is with God.
The Scripture says that even today, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It is not to say we come into a relationship with him, which is how that verse is typically used. It says that we can restore the fellowship in the context of relationship with him when we blow it, when we abandon the way, the truth that is the life, and when we hurt our lover who we have betrothed ourselves to as the bride of Christ and we've turned to our own way and given our hearts to something else.
God woos us back and convicts us and brings leanness to our souls. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." He says, "Trust in me as we move in greater intimacy and oneness in response to who I am." Do you see what God is after? He is after the hearts of the Jews and he is after the hearts of all of us. That's what he wants.
He's not impressed with attendance, rituals, cash, or behavior. He's impressed with hearts that gladly celebrate him through remembrances, that gladly lift up his voice in song, that gladly acknowledge that all wealth and all prosperity comes from him. You gladly share it with him in participating with the advancing of his name to the nations.
But, he said to the Jews in verse 16, " [If you fail to walk with me] I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly…and those who hate you will rule over you…" If that doesn't do the trick, "If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins." Because if there's not accountability, there is no law.
God says, "There is a law because there is a standard because I am holy. I will hold you accountable for your failure to obey the law." If there are speed limit signs that are posted and yet there are no policemen to enforce it, then there is, in fact, no law. There is accountability because we count and we matter to God. God enforces consequences upon his people because he wants their hearts to be subject to him so that they might experience the life that relationship with him alone can provide. Do you get the story?
The reason God allows us to have a bitter taste in our mouths when we taste the original sweetness of sin is because he cares for us. He doesn't want us to give our hearts to that which will ultimately leave us sick. He says in verse 18, if these things don't work, then we're going to up the ante.
"I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit. If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. I will let loose among you the beasts of the field…"
He says, "You're not going to be very happy: your children will be consumed by them, your cattle will be destroyed by them. If that still doesn't get your attention…" "…but [if you still] act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins." Why? "Because I want to call you back. I want to show you that where you're going for life is no life at all."
"I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.
Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins." It gets worse. Look what he says will happen in verse 29. "Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters…"
You will be resorting to cannibalism in order to allow yourself that sustenance. It happened in the history of the nation of Israel more than once. Yet they still didn't see the foolishness and error of their ways. You go, "How can God love a people who will eat their young?" In an almost irresponsible way, God keeps pursuing these cannibals. God keeps pursuing these rebels who give their hearts to others.
It continues throughout the rest of this chapter. God keeps saying again and again and again. There's going to be consequence when you give your heart somewhere else. Then in verse 44, he reminds them, "Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God."
I'll seek you. Now after this giving of the law, and he lays it straight out, you get to the book of Numbers. They count. They go. They see the land as what it is, and they don't trust this God. He says, "That's it! I'm going to let all folks who should've been old enough to know that I was a God worthy of being trusted because I showed them in a first-person-present way my greatness; they're going to die in the wilderness. I will raise up their children. With new individuals, with babes I will glorify myself."
At the end of time in the book of Numbers, we have what's called Deuteronomy...deuteros nomos, second law. Moses, in verses 1 through 11, lays it out for them and tells them in this little book, "Remember my goodness." In verses 12 through 26, he says, "Remember my law." Then in verse 28 through 30, he goes back over Leviticus 26 and says, "You're about to go into the land, people. Remember my goodness. Remember my law. Remember the consequences of breaking my law."
In they go. The law cannot lead them into the place of promise. The law can't get you to the place that you want to be. That's why Moses couldn't take them there. The one whose name was Yeshua, the Greek translation of which is Jesus, which means the Lord saves, takes them from a place of wandering and curse to a place of promise and rest as they identify with faith in Yeshua and cross through the Jordan, if you will. Baptized by faith in Yeshua, they move from the place of wandering and death to the place of promise.
Sound familiar? It should. God is telegraphing the story. But the nation isn't obedient. You'll find out that the book of Joshua ends, that Joshua calls the people to figure out who they're going to serve. Joshua dies. Then you get to the book of Judges. You have a series of cycles that happen right here. You have the people who are put in the place of great prosperity, and in the midst of their prosperity, they love life.
As they begin to love life and enjoy all the life that God has given them, they begin then to move to a time of rebellion. "We're great because we've made ourselves great." They leave that time of rebellion then because it gets lean and sick in their souls. As reproach comes upon them, as restitution for their sin is made, then they call out for God to forgive them. They repent. Then God, in his grace, gives them rest. In the book of Judges, a 300-year book, you have a cycle that goes just like this: sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, and then a time of sweetness.
What you'll find is in these cycles, the people keep getting more and more base in their rebellion and God keeps raising up judges who will deliver them. The last judge is a guy by the name of Samuel. When you get to 1 Samuel, chapter 8, you'll find the people come to Samuel and say, "Samuel, you're old and your sons aren't good like you are. We want a king!"
God says, "Samuel, give them their king because they are a foolish and obstinate people, but you warn them. Because they want a king, tell them their king is going to make their sons drive their chariots and work in his field and their women work in his kitchens. He's going to require from them a tax. They don't want a king. They should let me be their king, let me provide for them. They shouldn't want to be like the other nations. They are to be unique in fellowship in me, a theocracy, trusting in God, but they won't. So give them what they want."
You move into what is called a time of the united kingdom, 1050 BC. A guy named Saul is their king for 40 years. Saul has a wicked heart, so God raises up by grace a king by the name of David. David reigns from 1010 to 970. David's son comes along the line. Solomon from 970 to 930, but you'll find out that Solomon's son Rehoboam was wicked. There is a split now.
The divided kingdom comes in 930 with Jeroboam ruling the 10 tribes of the north, Rehoboam ruling the two tribes in the south. The people's hearts increasingly give themselves to other gods. God brings judgment in the form of the Assyrians in 722 BC. Then a little bit later to the southern kingdom, he brings judgment in the form of the Babylonians from about 606 BC.
They are in a time of exile all the way until about 536 BC when Cyrus and Darius and the Medo-Persians rise up and wipe out Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and allow God's people to return one more time now to the land of promise where they might serve him again. God is calling them to be obedient to him.
Let me just answer this question. Why did God give the law? Let me give you seven quick reasons why God gave the law, and I'm going to tell you where that leaves us for next week. First, the law was given in order to reveal the will of God. The law is righteous and good and holy. The Scripture says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
You will never find a group of people who are living in submission and obedience to God's Word where other folks go, "That's just not the way society should be framed." Our country is uniquely great in the history of humankind because it starts with a declaration of dependence as we make ourselves independent from another nation which told us how we had to worship.
We started by saying, "We hold these truths to be self-evident…" In other words, we said that we subscribe to the teaching of Scripture, even men who were not believers in Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life understood the value of the Judeo-Christian ethic.
They said, "There are absolute truths. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their Creator," the acknowledgement that there is a God that you must live in relationship with him, "to have certain unalienable rights among which it says are the right to life and also the right to pursue happiness." The scriptures define what happiness is: life in relationship with God as he pursues your heart.
The law is good and when you live according to it, it blesses the land. Let me just give you one quick comment. I'm going to do a Sunday sometime in the next three to four months on the issue of gay marriage. Let me just tell you something. Gay people are no more abominable in God's eyes than heterosexual disobedient people.
Gay people are no more in want or in need of salvation than those of us who struggle with gossip, exaggeration, lying, and self-love. Are there different consequences to different sins on this earth and time? Yes, but one of the ways that you can find out if something in a practice is good and true is you universalize it.
Let me universalize monogamy. Let me universalize one man for one woman who in mutual submission and love give themselves whole-heartedly to one another, serve each other, seek each other's best interests, and reproduce. Will that propagate and further a nation and bring about blessing? Like our nation has never seen.
Let me universalize homosexuality. Everybody is a homosexual. What will happen to a nation? It is its death sentence. If you ever want to know if something is good, just apply the law of universalization. You take every single law that God has given us that is moral, and you say everybody does it. Everybody loves. Everybody acts with patience and kindness.
Everybody doesn't do what is in his own best interest, but considers others interests as more important than themselves. Universalize that. What kind of land would you have? We call it utopia. You universalize other things, and you'll find that it is not good. The law reveals the goodness and greatness of God. The law is perfect.
Secondly, the law protected the nation from evil men. It told you what to do with them if they did certain things so there might not be a fungus among us. There might not be leaven in the dough, that the nation would stay pure. The law told us: this is what will happen. There is accountability. This is what execution will come from. This is why you must rid your land from these people.
Thirdly, it separated Israel from every other nationso that God might be made great and glorious. That because there is a group of people that live this way, as we as a group of folks work through conflict differently, love each other differently, shepherd our families differently, date each other differently, share meals together differently, share prosperity differently, the rest of the world should say, "Who are those people?" We should respond by saying, "We are the church. We are God's people. Come on in!"
Fourthly, the law was given that Israel might initially know and understand blood atonement, that there is a one who will substitute his life for them that they might live. That is why when John the Baptist identified this Jesus who came on the scene, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" The law taught them about the need for one who would give their life for them.
Fifthly, the law trained and protected young, childish Israel. As a daddy, we have a lot of rules in my home right now because my oldest is 10. What I'm trying to do is not have obedient children; I'm trying to raise godly adults. I'm trying to embed wisdom in their hearts. That's what we're doing here in our children's ministry. We're embedding and imparting wisdom to them.
We're sharing with them, "This is where life comes from. Don't ask us just what you're to do. Let us explain to you why this is a better way to live." The law is a nanny. It is there, if you will, to take young Israel as it learns to love God and to keep it from destroying itself in their childishness. You'll find out that Israel grows old and instead of being wise, becomes foolish. Not now making mistakes because they didn't know, but having heard the loving directive of their caring Father, they choose as fools to do otherwise.
Sixthly, it crystallized the guilt and the need of Israel for grace. That's what the law does for you and me. The law was given for this purpose. The law, if you will, is a mirror. A mirror will not clean you up, but it will sure show you that you are in need of being cleansed.
The law was a mirror saying, "This is holiness. This is righteousness. Take a look at that. You don't look anything like that, do you? Guess what? There is a God who will hold people accountable who don't look like this." "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?""Trust in the blood sacrifice of another, that you might receive life from me."
Lastly, the law was given to explain how Israel could receive the fullness of the promise that he gave them. The law was given so that Israel might know how they would receive the ultimate blessing that God promised Abraham. The Old Testament ends with a little book called Malachi that we just spent about eight weeks working our way through.
These are the last words of your Old Testament right here before me. God says, "I'm going to send you another prophet. He's going to come to you and he is going to call you back." Verse 6: "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…"
God is going to do something that will cause people to live in a way that speaks of wisdom and life. The way that God is going to do that is by bringing you the perfect Lamb who is the perfect prophet who fulfills the law that they might have a relationship with him. We celebrate that sacrifice was found acceptable next Sunday. Too fast for you? Let me review.
All: Scene Four: Wandering in the Desert or, "Get off at the next exit. I have sand in my shoe!"
Narrator: Moses died, and God chose a new leader for the Israelites named Joshua.
Joshua: Hi there!
Narrator: Joshua was humble.
Joshua: Hi there.
Narrator: And led the Israelites well. At last, it was time to reenter the Promised Land. Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. This time, they were ready to trust God and do this whole thing his way.
Joshua: Listen up, Israelites! There are many people living in this land who are going to try and stop us from moving in.
Israelite: Didn't we make a reservation?
Joshua: Pay attention! If we obey God, then we will defeat them, but if we disobey, we are going to have trouble.
Narrator: That was the way it worked. When they obeyed God and did things his way, nobody could stop them.
Narrator: But when they let sin into the picture or disobeyed God, even the wimpiest of enemies beat them.
Narrator: In this way, they eventually took over most of Canaan, the Promised Land. When they obeyed, they won.
Narrator: When they disobeyed, they lost.
Narrator: They won some.
Narrator: They lost some.
Narrator: Sometimes they…
Israelites: They get the picture!
Israelites: Scene Five: Entering into the Promised Land or, "Milk and honey? I thought he said elk and bunnies!"
Narrator: Before his death, Joshua gave the Israelites some instructions.
Joshua: I'm going to die soon.
Israelite: Die? I didn't even know he was sick!
Joshua: I'm not sick. I'm old.
Joshua: Any other questions or can I finish before I keel over right here? Thanks so much. Don't forget what God has done after I'm gone. Continue to obey him. Now that we possess almost all of Canaan, you must go around and defeat the few remaining people who live in the land.
Israelite: Do we have to?
Joshua: Yes, you do.
Israelite: But why?
Joshua: Because God knows what a bunch of schmeels you are. The people living in this land worship other false gods. He wants them gone so that this land is totally dedicated to him and so that you won't be tempted to worship other false gods.
Israelite: We won't.
Second Israelite: Yeah, we promise.
Joshua: Yeah, like I've never heard that before!
Narrator: And so Joshua died. To make a long story short…
All: Too late!
Narrator: The Israelites ignored God's command to clear out all the other people living in Canaan.
All: Scene Six: The Judges or, "Stop the ride! Going in circles like this makes me sick, blah!"
Narrator: The time of the judges was a tricky one for the Israelites. They refused to obey God and clear out all the other people living in Canaan. Because of this sin, more sin followed. Soon they were marrying people they shouldn't have been marrying and following false gods. They pretty much abandoned God, and God allowed them to be captured and taken prisoner by their enemies.
Israelites: God, help us! We've been beaten and captured by our enemies!
Israelite: Hey, isn't this kind of our own fault?
Second Israelite: You mean like if we had cleared out our enemies like we were supposed to none of this would've happened?
First Israelite: Yeah.
Israelites: God, help us! We've been beaten and captured by our enemies!
Narrator: So God sent them a leader, a judge to lead them to victory against the enemies who had captured them.
Israelites : Woo-hoo!
Narrator: This is how it went for 325 years. The Israelites would follow and obey God and he would bless them and give them victory over their enemies.
Narrator: But then they'd get kind of comfy, forget about God, and God would allow them to be beaten by their enemies.
Israelites: Run away!
Narrator: They'd cry out to God for help.
Israelites: God, help us! We've been beaten and captured by our enemies!
Narrator: And God would send them a new judge to free them.
Narrator: And on and on it went like.
Israelites: Charge! Run away! God, help us! We've been beaten and captured by our enemies! Woo-hoo!
Narrator: But as I've said, the cycle of sin and disobedience continued for 325 years. You may wonder. Where does it end?
Israelites: Where does it end?
Narrator: It ends with…
All: Scene Seven: The Kings or, "Out of the frying pan, into the fire."
Narrator: The last judge during this time was a guy named Samuel, but when he retired, the Israelites started whining again.
Israelites: We don't want a judge anymore. We want a king.
Israelite: The Philistines have a king.
Second Israelite: The Amalekites have a king.
Third Israelite: Why don't we have a king?
Israelites: We never get anything!
Narrator: When they told this to Samuel, he was furious!
Samuel: I am furious! Don't you people know what a king would be like? He'd take your sons and daughters and make them serve him: taking care of his horses, cooking in his chickens…
Narrator: Cooking in his chickens?
Samuel: Cooking in his kitchens! Maybe cooking some chickens, I don't know. Fighting in his armies, working in his palace. He'd take the best of your fields and lands and the crops that grow there for his own. You'd practically be his slaves.
Israelite: Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. Whatever. read our lips.
Israelites: We want a king and we want him now!
Narrator: So God gave them a king. He knew this wouldn't solve everything, but he saw that they would have to learn the hard way. During this time, there were many kings. First, King Saul. King Saul was a pretty good king for a while, but then he slipped into sin and disobedience, so God replaced him with David.
Narrator: Yeah, you heard me. David was a very good king. During his rule, the Israelites finally seemed to be on track, following God and being obedient. Don't get me wrong, David had his share of mess-ups, like the famous Bathsheba incident…
David: Do we have to bring that up?
Narrator: But overall, David had a great rule and was known for being a man after God's own heart. David set up the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and God promised David that his son would be the one to build the temple and that David's family would rule forever.
Narrator: So David died.
David: But I just got here!
Narrator: And Solomon became king. Solomon was a great king and did build the temple.
Solomon: That's right. I'm bad.
Narrator: But in the end, he blew it all.
Solomon: Oh, man!
Narrator: By disobeying God and worshipping other false gods, Solomon set off a chain reaction that leads to Israel's ruin.
Solomon: I did all that?
Narrator: After Solomon's death, a kind of civil war broke out between the north and the south of Israel. Israel was split as a result of Solomon's sin, just as God had warned. Both kingdoms, the north and the south, were lead by king after king after king, almost all bad kings. Further and further from God the nation of Israel grew until…
Solomon: Hey, wait a minute!
Narrator: Yes… Solomon?
Solomon: What about God's promise to my dad? You know, about our family ruling forever and ever? All those bad kings were from our family.
Narrator: It's Jesus. Jesus is the King from your family who will rule forever.
Narrator: I'm getting to it. Do you mind? You're supposed to be dead at this point.
Solomon: Okay. My bad.
Narrator: Where was I?
All: Further and further…
Narrator: Thank you. Further and further from God, the nation of Israel grew until…
All: Scene Eight: The Exile or, "We'll be back."
Narrator: During the time of the kings, God had sent prophets to warn the people. These were men sent by God to speak for him, warning the people away from sin.
Prophet: Loud horn noise. Please, folks, move away from the sin. Please step away from the sin. There's nothing to see here. Back to the God of your ancestors. I'm a trained professional. I know what I'm doing. Back to your obedient lives, citizens!
Narrator: But no dice. Nothing worked. God brought the ruin on Israel that he told Solomon he would. Northern Israel was attacked by a country called Assyria. They were captured and hauled off to Assyria as slaves and servants. Southern Israel, now called Judah, was attacked by a country called Babylon. They too were captured and hauled off to Babylon as slaves and servants. During this time, lots of interesting stuff happened.
Newscaster: In the news today, a man named Isaiah claiming to be a prophet of God announced that there is a day coming soon where God will send us a deliverer. He said, and I quote, "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Unquote. For more on the story, join us at 5.
Second Newscaster: Apparently three young men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abubblegum were thrown into a fiery furnace today…and survived! More at 11.
Third Newscaster: In a spectacular story today, a man named Daniel is thrown into a den of hungry lions and survives. These and other stories are coming up at 5 o'clock.
Fourth Newscaster: In today's top story, Queen Esther, queen of Persia, wife to King Xerxes, saved all the Jews in Persia from total annihilation.
Fifth Newscaster: Reports confirm that 50,000 Jews returned to the city of Jerusalem today. These Jews and their families were taken captive 70 years ago by Babylon but are now the first to return to their homeland. A spokesman for the Israelites confirmed that they do plan to rebuild the temple, which was destroyed. The rest of Jerusalem lies in ruins.
Narrator: And so it went. The Jews had been exiled from their homeland, but even as captives in these foreign countries, God still used his people. Time passed. To make a long story short…
All: Too late!
Narrator: Seventy years after they were taken captive, the first of them began to make their way home. There was a man named Nehemiah who was still living in Persia at this time. When reports came back from Jerusalem that the city was in ruins, he was heartbroken.
Nehemiah: I'm heartbroken! King Artaxerxes, you must let me go back and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!
King Artaxerxes: What, are you nuts?
Nehemiah: No, with the wall destroyed, the enemies of my people will be free to attack and Jerusalem will be taken back again. You must let me go back and rebuild the walls so that my God will be honored.
King Artaxerxes: Oh, all right. Go.
Narrator: And Nehemiah leads us to…
All: Scene Nine: Return to Jerusalem or, "Déjà vu. I think I've been here before."
Narrator: Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem with the help of King Artaxerxes and rallied the Jews to begin rebuilding the wall. During the rebuilding of the walls, Nehemiah became governor and he led the people in an amazing thing.
Nehemiah: The time has come, my friends, to recommit ourselves back to God. He has brought us to the Promised Land, the land that was promised to Abraham. He has brought us back home. Now we shall return to being his people and living in his ways.
Narrator: In a way, that happened. The people recommitted themselves to God and to living in his ways for the first time in many years. They didn't get it perfect, but it was closer than it had been in a long time. Years passed, about 400 to be exact. Nothing was really recorded during this time. We know that somewhere during this time, Rome was traveling the world conquering cities, came in, and took control of Jerusalem.
They didn't enslave the Jews, but they did place a Roman king over the city and he ran the place. His name was Herod. Not much else happened after that. The Jews went on with their lives, as did the rest of the world, following God but not knowing what it was really like to be in that perfect relationship with him that he had planned from the very beginning. Until…
All: One Silent Night.
Narrator: The cries of the newborn baby were heard from the depths of a filthy stable. That is the rest of the story. After all, a good writer always leaves room for a sequel.
[End of skit]
Todd: That sequel is what we will pick up with next week as we celebrate the mercy of God unfolded in its fullest form, when the perfect Lamb of God comes to take away the sins of the world and God shows that sacrifice to be acceptable by allowing it to live.
Father, I pray for my friends who are here today that they would understand why you gave us the law. Not so we could impress you by our ability to keep it most of the time but by being amazed in light of our constant rebellion at your constant pursuit. We see that you do love us, that you make provision for our failures, and that your mercy, O God, is the theme of the story. The greatness of God is the theme of this song.
What we see, Lord, is that you do want a relationship with us. In your patience, you wait and you put off final judgment that we might repent and return to you. I pray for guests and friends who are here today whose hearts are cold toward you that they would come and accept the Lamb who was sacrificed for them and that they would respond to that with their whole heart being surrendered to you.
Father, as we work our way through your Word, I pray that your Word would work its way through our hearts that you might be glorified, that we might be set apart as a people who universally submit to your will, Word, and way. Would you shake us to our core that we might be obedient from our core right through the rest of our corporal being? For your glory, in Christ's name, amen.
We all love a great story...one filled with rescue, romance, and unrelenting love...one filled with courage, heroism, and ultimate triumph. Stories like this resonate with something deep inside all of us. Why? Because there is a greater story that we are all a part of. A story so embedded in our beings that we find even a shadow of it irresistible. It is a story that makes the most audacious claims in history, and a story which uniquely and powerfully provides hope, meaning and answers to all of life's great questions.