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Stuck Truck    From My Utmost for His Highest

Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision —1 Samuel 3

I listen to sermons in my car because it’s how God speaks to me.  That probably seems weird, but it happens nearly every time.

I select them at random.  Sometimes they’re on the radio, sometimes it’s an old podcast but the truth they deliver is typically (eerily) timely. Today’s was A Covenant Relationship. This sermon that Tim Keller preached nearly seven years ago fits perfectly with struggles I’ve written about here and the devotional that Chambers wrote nearly 100 years ago. In my experience, God works like that.

I see God at work here because...

...I WANT to see Him working in my life. I cry, “Speak, Lord.”

Samuel heard God, too, and came away with a problem.  Should he tell Eli about all that God was going to do to Eli’s evil house? The law would call for telling Eli the truth about his house. But love requires grace, doesn’t it?

In his sermon, Keller points out the nature of a covenant relationship that God established with His people. On the one hand, God promises to bless Abraham and his people-“…you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you…” This looks like unconditional love.

But on the other hand, the Bible constantly reinforces that disaster awaits those who fail to comply with the Law-“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door…” This looks like love earned through obedience.

So which is it?  Are we blessed because we’re God’s people or are we blessed because we obey the Law? How can a God that cannot tolerate sin make good on his promise to bless sinners? These questions hit at the heart of what obedience requires when truth and love seem intractable.

Keller points out that to us, this seems intractable. God’s blessings are either conditional on my obedience or they’re unconditional. We must choose one or the other.

But in a strange passage in Genesis 15, we get a picture of the plan God had all along. He instructs Abraham to cut animals in half.  Culturally in this period, equals would do this to make a covenant (or, if not equals, then only the weaker of the two). In tearing these animals, the one who walked between them was saying, “If I break this covenant, may I be split and torn like these animals.”

Abraham was looking for proof that God would be faithful. He probably expected God to ask him to seal the covenant himself—promising to be faithful in return for God’s blessing. But Abraham did not walk through.

It would be unheard of for a lord to make an oath to a servant, but that’s just what happened.  The Lord of the Universe made a covenant with man, effectively saying, “I will love and protect you unconditionally, and you will obey. If I do not love or if you do not obey, then may I be torn to death. My love for you is great enough that I stand in the gap for both of us.”

And that’s just what happened. Man failed, repeatedly, forever. So Jesus came to be torn to pieces to fulfill the end of the bargain that we never could. The cross does this so perfectly—it pays the debt AND wins the debtor.

Jesus’ obedience powered by love. We tried for thousands of years to attain to this level of obedience and failed. The real mountain to be scaled, however, is to love this fiercely.

On the ground, when love and the law or grace and truth seem intractable, think of this story and lean into love.  It’s the professional choice.

I love you.

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