Ananias… laying his hands on him… said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17 There are three accounts in the New Testament...
“God… [promised eternal life] before the beginning of time, and at His appointed season He brought His word to light…” Titus 1:2 (NIV)
We’re going to take a whistle-stop tour through the entire bible story, showing the splendor of God’s breathtaking purpose, and celebrating all that God has for us in Jesus Christ.
I’ve called it “The Plan” because God knows what He is doing. God is not like a scientist experimenting to see what works. He is not like a business that survives by responding to market forces. God is not like the government, responding to unforeseen circumstances, and making adjustments for unintended consequences.
Some people have the idea that God had a marvelous plan for a world, but that things went terribly wrong and God had to come up with a way to rescue the situation. But that is not the teaching of the Bible.
God’s plan is not an afterthought
“God… [promised eternal life] before the beginning of time, and at His appointed season He brought His word to light…” (Titus 1:2).
Bringing sinners to eternal life was not something God thought about after the fall. It was His plan for the universe before time began. The Bible describes Christ as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world…” (Revelation 13:8).
Christ’s death on the cross was not something God thought up when men and women failed to live up to the Ten Commandments. It was His plan from the beginning.
God’s plan is very different from our plans. Our plans are contingent. They depend on how events unfold, and whether we have the ability to bring them about. When I say “I’ll meet you for breakfast next Tuesday,” here’s what I mean:
“Assuming that I am alive and have transportation, and that I’ve not been taken hostage, and that I don’t have some other emergency to attend to, and assuming that the restaurant is open and that they are serving breakfast… I will see you for breakfast on Tuesday.”
But God is sovereign. That means He fulfills His plan in His own time, by His own power, and according to His own will. Nothing you have ever done has taken God by surprise. Nothing that has happened to you has caught Him unawares. That means that nothing you have done, and nothing that has happened to you can stop God from fulfilling His plan, or even slow Him down in the slightest degree.
That’s what it means for God to be God.
I want you to see that God knows exactly what He is doing at every point in human history, and that His plan will lead to the greatest possible display of His glory and the greatest possible joy for His people.
The plan for this series
Today we’re going to sweep through the Old Testament, where God lays out the blueprint. Next week (God willing) we will look at the Gospels, where Jesus provides all that is needed for God’s plan to be accomplished. Lastly, we will look at the New Testament letters, and rejoice in how the Holy Spirit delivers all that God has promised and all that Christ has accomplished in the lives of all of God’s people.
What is God’s plan and what is your place in it?
God Has Taken Seven Initiatives That Are Full of Promise For All His People
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” Genesis 1:1
What you create, you own. Since God created all things, all things belong to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
The first thing you need to know about yourself is that God made you.
You are His unique creation. He has never made another person exactly like you. You belong to Him. You are not an accident. Your life is not a product of random chance. You were made by God, and you were made for God.
What you create reflects your character. The creation is good because God is good. The mountain and oceans stand as a testimony to His greatness and glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech… There is no… language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3).
The whole creation reflects the glory of God, but then God did something absolutely unique. He said “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). This is why you are different from a plant, an animal, a fish or a bird. They were all made by God. You were made like God.
God made you in His image so that you could reflect the beauty of His holiness and live in the joy of His love. You were made to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
What does God promise? God promises to give life to people who reflect His glory.
When God created the man and the woman, evil already existed. The Bible never fully explains the origin of evil. It simply tells us that God placed the man and the woman in a garden where everything was good. Their food was provided on the trees. Their work was fulfilling. Their union and joy in marriage was complete. They lived in fellowship with God, who appeared to them and walked with them.
There was a tree in the Garden called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said to the man and the woman “Do not eat from the tree.” Since they already knew everything good, the only thing they could gain by disobeying God was the knowledge of evil.
A serpent came, enticing them with this “knowledge of evil,” and that is what they chose. They disobeyed God. In that act they got the knowledge of evil, and we have been stuck with it ever since, so God takes the initiative.
“God said to the serpent ‘Cursed are you…’” Genesis 3:14
God made a promise that’s full of hope when He said to the serpent “Cursed are you.” The word “cursed” means assigned to destruction.
God promised to destroy evil. He was saying to the serpent “What you have done will not stand. You will be destroyed, and all that is evil will be destroyed with you.” This is the promise of God and it is the hope of the universe.
Then God turned and said to Adam “Cursed is the ground because of you.” (Genesis 3:17). This was surprising. The ground hadn’t done anything wrong! But God diverted the curse away from the man and the woman, so that rather than being destroyed, they might be reconciled to Him. That’s the whole story of the Bible and the whole story of the universe.
What does God promise? God promises to deliver His people from all evil.
How would this happen? God says to the evil one: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The woman’s descendents would always be in conflict with evil. That has proved true for every person in every culture, in every generation.
But God says “There will be an offspring, someone who will come into the line of human history, someone born of the woman. He will be on our side. He will stand with us in this great conflict. He will be for us against all the powers of evil. Satan will strike His heel, but even as the serpent bites His heel, He will crush the serpent’s head.”
Disobeying one command of God looked like a small thing, but evil is a power that gains a grip in human lives. The first human family was torn apart. Evil does that. Cain murdered his brother Abel, and then spent the rest of his life in fear that his deed would be avenged.
As violence increased, the Bible tells us, people came together to build a city. But what started with great hope ended with disappointment as people dispersed to the north, south, east and west, driven by fear and divided by language. Then out of all the emerging tribes and nations of the world, God chose one man.
This man knew absolutely nothing about God. He was an idolater. He lived in complete spiritual darkness. But God appeared to this man, and spoke to Him. God swept into his life uninvited, and changed him forever.
The man’s name was Abraham. God said to him “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing… All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).
What is God promising now? God promises to bless people from all nations.
God made it clear that this promise of blessing to all nations would not come through Abraham himself, or through his descendents, but through one child called “the seed,” who would be born into Abraham’s line (Galatians 3:16).
That is why the Old Testament follows the story of Abraham’s descendents. Abraham and Sarah were getting old and they had no children. But through a miracle of God’s grace, Sarah conceived in her old age and gave birth to a son, Isaac. Isaac’s son, Jacob, had 12 sons who became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.
God cared for this extended family in a special way. When their lives were threatened by famine, God provided food for them in Egypt. In the years that followed, God blessed them by multiplying their number so that the extended family of about 70 grew to a community of about 2 million people.
God’s people were despised as they grew in number. They were treated with great cruelty and became slaves in Egypt. But God saw their suffering and had compassion on them.
“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt… so I have come down to rescue them… and to bring them… [into] a land flowing with milk and honey’” (Exodus 3:7-8).
God raised up a man called Moses and sent him to Egypt’s pagan king, commanding that he should “Let God’s people go.” The king did not recognize God’s authority. He refused God’s command and so he came under God’s judgment through a series of plagues, leading up to a final judgment in which death came across the whole land.
God gave His people a simple command. Each family was to slaughter a lamb. They were to take the blood and paint it on the doorframes of their houses (Exodus 12:7). God gave this promise: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13).
On the night that became known as “the Passover,” God brought His people out of Egypt and gathered them at Mount Sinai, where He made a covenant with them.
God gave them His commandments, but even as He was giving them to Moses at the top of the mountain the people were down below breaking them. God’s people need more than commandments. God gave them the sacrifices.
God made a covenant with His people. “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12). They’d been delivered from oppression in Egypt by the blood of a slaughtered lamb, and their fellowship with God would be sustained through a sacrifice offered for the sins of His people. The High Priest was appointed to offer the sacrifice and to represent the people before God.
What is God promising now? God promises to reconcile sinners to Himself, and to do this through a sacrifice offered for our sins.
God’s people wanted a king, so they chose one for themselves and it turned out to be a disaster. Then God gave them another king, a man called David, and to this king He gave an extraordinary promise:
“I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).
Then God said something even more astonishing: “I will be his Father and He will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14).
What is God promising now? God promises that His people will live under the blessing of His rule, not for a time, but forever.
The one who fulfills God’s promise will be born of a woman. He will be the seed of Abraham. He will be a descendent of David, a King who will bring the blessing of God’s rule. God will be His Father. He will be God’s Son, and God will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.
After David, there followed a line of kings—some of them good, but mostly bad. God sent messengers, called “prophets,” to call His people back to obedience. You can read what they said in the books that bear their names—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos and others.
Their message was largely ignored, and so God, whose Word never fails, moved to discipline and correct His people. The land God had given to His people was overrun by their enemies, and God’s people became exiles in Babylon.
But even in this most severe discipline, God, who never lets His people go, did not abandon His promise:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:10-11
What is God promising now? God promises that all His people will walk in His ways.
He will not abandon His people or turn a blind eye to their ways.
God was true to His promise. His people returned to the Promised Land. For 70 years this had seemed impossible.
One of the exiles, a man by the name of Ezekiel, was given a vision in order to bring hope to God’s people when they were in despair. He saw a valley of dry bones. Then the Spirit of God moved… it was like a wind that swept through the valley. The bones were drawn together. Then they were covered with flesh and skin, and these corpses came to life.
God was bringing new life from the grave. He said to Ezekiel:
“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:11-13
What is God promising now? God promises new life from the grave.
The Old Testament is the story of God’s amazing promise. I want you to see the extent of God’s promise. What does He promise?
God promises to destroy evil and rid the world of its curse. God promises to bring His blessing to people from all nations. God promises to reconcile a people to Himself by serving as our High Priest, making the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God promises to establish His kingdom forever and ever. God promises to bring His wayward people back and give them the power to live in all His ways God promises to bring new life from the grave
Who Can Do All This?
“In the beginning was the Word… The Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through Him, all things were made. The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us…” John 1:1-2,14
The Creator Himself took human form. He entered His own creation to deliver His own promise. This is why God’s promise is sure. That is why God’s plan is unshakable. God said it, and God does it.
What does God’s great purpose mean for you? What is God’s plan for the universe? And what is your place in it?
Look at what God offers to you in Jesus Christ: That you should become a new creation in Christ. That you should be delivered from the curse of evil forever. That you should enter into the blessing of God, along with every nation across the globe and across every generation in history and have fellowship with Him
That you should be reconciled to God, through the sacrifice offered for your sins. That you should live under the blessing of God’s rule. That you should walk in His ways forever. That you should receive new life from the grave
I want to encourage you to cultivate your joy in Jesus Christ: Father, thank you that in Jesus Christ I am a new creation. Father, thank you that by your Spirit you are setting me free from the grip of sin and that one day you will bring my redeemed life into a world where sin will be no more.
Father, thank you that I live under your blessing, and that in Christ, You unite me with brothers and sisters who I have never met but with whom I will share eternity in the family of God.
Father, thank you that through Christ’s blood, shed for me, my sins are forgiven, and I am reconciled to You. You do not treat me as my sins deserve. No more wrath. No condemnation. Instead, grace, mercy, love and peace are pouring into my life in Christ.
Father, thank you that you are Lord of my life. You have given me the undeserved dignity of bearing Christ’s name, showing His compassion, sharing His joy, and anticipating His return. Together with all Your people, I will serve you forever and live in the full blessing of Your Kingdom.
Thank you, Father, for teaching me how to live in this world, and for giving me your Spirit to guide me, teach me, correct me, and empower me to walk in all your ways.
Thank you, Father, that when I was deaf to Your voice, blind to Your glory and dead in my own transgressions and sins, you swept into my life, bringing me new life from the grave. Even though I die, yet I will live forever through Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life!
Do you see the sweep of why Jesus Christ came into the world? Can you see all that is yours in Him? Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!
© Colin S. Smith
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