The reading for this sermon was Genesis 24: 1~28.
There are certain themes that scripture comes back to over & over. Some things just can't be overlooked because God himself does not overlook them. The most important of these is our covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will say it again because it is imperative we understand covenant: a covenant is cut in blood; the terms & conditions of the covenant, once entered in to, are irrevocable, unchangeable, unalterable.
Again & again throughout scripture we read of God's covenant arrangements with His people. It is there in the Old Testament & it is there in the New Testament. As Jesus pointed out: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me...
We see this very clearly when we read the New Testament but remember, Jesus had no New Testament so the scriptures he was referring to are the Old Testament.
OK, you might think. One can see this in some of the prophets, perhaps some of the psalms of David & certain preincarnate manifestations... but I tell you all of scripture points to Christ! Certainly Jesus thought so!
So I was studying up on this passage in Genesis & a very interesting passage it is because every time we read about a marriage, about a betrothal, about the maritial relationship, we are being shown something about the covenant relationship Christ has with His church because the Church is referred to in scripture as the Bride of Christ.
In this passage a dying Abraham sends his servant off to find a wife for his son Isaac. He sets out certain terms & conditions because he already has a covenant with his God concerning the land of the Cannanites in which he dwells. We also know that the one thing the Cannanites were really good at is Baal worship & so Abraham is specific that his son not marry a Cannanite woman. She would bring her idolatory with her & contaminate the covenant line with its worship & the fertility rites & sexual impurity associated with it.
Instead he returns to Abraham's homeland to choose a bride. Now watch carefully because the terms & conditions of this covenant are reflected back into the Church as the Bride of Christ. The servant comes bearing gifts. This is traditional amongst many cultures. You want to sign a contract you come with gifts ~ usually lots & very expensive, to show how highly you regard & value what you want.
Abraham's servant comes with 10 camels. Now a camel, just one, can drink about 4 galleons of water at a go ~ & there are 10 of them. Do the math. And he arrives at the outskirts of the city as the women are coming out to draw the evening water. This is a man who does not really know God for himself. He addresses God as the God of his master, Abraham. Nor does he have the Holy Spirit within him to guide & assist him so he does what Gideon will also do many years later; he lays out a fleece. If such & such then....
He sees Rebekah & the girl is a stunner! The bible is very restrained but amongst the women the servant notices this one particular girl & notes she was *comely*. But is she the one? Is this the wife God has chosen for Isaac? He asks the girl for a drink & she willingly draws water for him & revealing a servant's heart offers to also draw for the camels until each beast has drunk its fill! Oh. My.
Now pay attention. This is important. The servant has found & chosen the bride. He has even entered into preliminary negotiations about accomodation & he brings out his gifts. Trust me, at this point Rebekah knew what was going on. She knows she is being offered a marriage proposal. She is under no obligation to accept. However, as soon as she accepts the gifts being offered she is contracted.
The biblical understanding of marriage is very different to what we in the west have made of it. It is, & always has been, a contract between 2 people & in biblical terms it is a covenant contract that is sealed in blood. Understand this because this is something the church needs to understand. The Church is called to be the bride of Christ, & will be presented without spot or blemish to her betrothed ~ BUT....the Church is under no obligation to accept the contract ~ the covenant contract.
Until she accepts the gifts the church is not the covenant bride! Ouch? I was stunned as the Lord was showing me this because like most Christians I understood the Church to be Christ's bride but it is not so. The bride becomes the bride immediately, & only, if she accepts the bridegroom's gifts. Not before.
So what gifts are these? We are told over & over that when Christ sent His Holy Spirit into the world He sent Him bearing gifts that were to be imparted to the believers! Those gifts must be accepted before the terms of the marriage contract become binding.
I got this far & the Lord brought up the issue of tongues ~ which is listed amongst the gifts of the Spirit & has caused so much division amongst believers down the centuries. *sigh* I try to avoid controversy but the Lord was adamant & I will tell you why.
Firstly: the Lord is very clear that He is returning soon. Very, very soon.
That being so we need to understand that we are entering a time of great tribulation ~ not The Great Tribulation, but a time of tribulation, that will increase & increase the closer we get to the end of the church age as satan realises his time grows short & fights to destroy all he can.
Now tongues does 3 things & they are very important to a believer in any age but most importantly in this end age.
1. It allows us to pray the Father's will. When we pray in the Spirit like this it is God's Spirit who prays in us & He always prays out the perfect will of the father. We don't need to try & guess what God's will is. We don't need to end our prayers with the little appenage: If it be thy will.... We don't need to hope we've got it right or worry that we've got it wrong. We pray Spirit to spirit exactly according to the Father's will. Come on people, you know if you have the Holy Spirit in you, you have the very Spirit of God Himself living in you & you have become a temple for His indewelling!
2. If you are like me you will be praying for something seamingly impossible but you know we are to walk by faith & not by sight & so you muster up all the faith you can to not be a double~minded man who can expect nothing from the Lord & all the time your mind is listing all the reasons why it can not happen! Ugh! Frustrating. & self~defeating. When you pray in the Spirit this self~defeating exercise is circumvented. Unless we ask specifically for understanding our reason is circumvented & so cannot undermine our faith!
3. Lastly, & this is a comfort, there are things the Lord wants to share with His people, secrets he wants to confide, directions he wants to give & he doesn't want satan to know about any of it! So He want to speak Spirit to Spirit. Satan can't get in there.
There are other gifts also, some just as controversial. Most are given for the winning of unbelieving souls. Tongues is a gift given to God's covenant people, a special way of seperating them out so they can chat privately. We are asked not to grieve the Holy Spirit & not to quench Him. That He may choose to work in ways that make us uncomfortable or do not fit our doctrine should not surprise us. We only have to look at what happened to Judaism under Jesus to realise the Holy Spirit sets the world upside down because His whole purpose & intent is to turn men's gaze upon Christ & establish the Kingdom on earth!