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IN THE PROMISED LAND WE STILL HAVE RESPONSIBILITY

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist

26 MARCH 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17
            3:17-19
Exodus 12:17-18
            16:35
Numbers 11:4-7
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 15-16
Joshua 5:9-12
John 6:51
1 Corinthians 10:4

Some people picture heaven as a place where everyone just sits around on a cloud and does nothing, except perhaps play a harp.

These people look upon heaven as a place where we will no longer have any responsibility, for God will take care of everything for us.

I, for one, don't believe that.

If anything, we may well have much greater responsibility than we do now.

God has given us many things in the past, and He continues to give us many things today, and He promises to give us much more in the future.

Much of what God gives us is free for the taking; but how we take, and do not take, is our responsibility.

In our preparation verse for this morning, John 6:51, Jesus said,

51. "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."

This free gift was given to the world some 2,000 years ago, and anyone and everyone is entitled to partake; but it is our own individual responsibility to partake, if we desire to live forever in heaven.

That's why Jesus said, "…if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever..."

That is, if anyone accepts the responsibility--the responsibility to eat--for the offer is conditional.

The same thing happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17).

8. And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

9. And out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

16. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17. but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

They were in Paradise.

God had given them everything, and it was free for the taking.

But in all this wonderment, God had but one simple requirement: that Adam, and thus Eve, obey Him.

And the simple test of that responsibility was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

They failed in their responsibility and fell from Paradise.

Listen to what the Lord said to Adam (Genesis 3:17-19):

17. Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you shall eat the plants of the field;

19. By the sweat of your face

You shall eat bread,

Till you return to the ground,

Because from it you were taken;

For you are dust,

And to dust you shall return."

Now they are forced to be responsible, for if they are not, they will die of starvation.

And have you noticed that nowhere, or at any time, were they to eat animals?

See, it was easier, and required less effort and responsibility to God, for people to let animals forage for food and then kill the animals and eat them.

It was God's intent that there be no death, and the eating of meat causes death.

Thus mankind failed another test of responsibility.

And with mankind's loss of respect for the lives of the animals, it became easier to lose respect for the lives of their fellow human beings.

And to this day, we continue to fail in this responsibility.

In our Scripture lesson for today (Joshua 5:9-12), we are presented with a paradox of responsibility.

9. Then the Lord said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

The reproach of Egypt was their enslavement, and rolled it away as upon a wheel, which is the meaning of Gilgal.

They had now entered the Promised Land of Canaan, and were free to make their own choices, but they were not free of responsibility.

10. While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal, they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho.

At the beginning of the Exodus, they were commanded by Moses and the Lord to celebrate the Passover as a reminder of what the Lord their God had done for them (Exodus 12:17-18), and in this observance, they were responsible.

11. And on the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.

12. And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

And here is where the paradox begins.

If they had not eaten of the produce of the land, would the manna still have come each day?

So, were the people obedient in eating the produce of the land, or were they not?

In Exodus 16:35, we are told,

35. And the sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.

But notice also what we are told in Numbers 11:4-7:

4. And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, "Who will give us meat to eat?

5. "We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

6. but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna."

7. Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.

The manna wasn't bad tasting; in fact, it probably tasted something like a sweet roll or cake.

But the people were bored with it; they wanted something else to eat.

They failed to see the significance of the bread as coming down from heaven.

Moses reminded them of this in Deuteronomy 8. First, note verses 2-3:

2. "And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

3. “And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

The people who grumbled and complained failed the test.

They failed in their responsibility to the Lord their God, in that they failed to trust in Him.

Look also at Deuteronomy 8:15-16.

15. "He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.

Do you remember that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:4, referred to this rock as being Christ?

16. "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.

And didn’t Jesus refer to Himself as being the Bread of Heaven?

We live with the problems of today because we fail to see God in the overall picture.

Adam and Eve were not satisfied with everything they had in Paradise. They thought they needed more.

As a result, they lost Paradise.

The people were not satisfied with growing their own crops, so they resorted to killing for food, and that led to killing each other for other excuses and desires.

God freed the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt, yet they thought more of food than they did of God.

And when they entered the Promised Land, they desired the bread of the land more than the Bread of Heaven, and it stopped coming to them.

What if Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit stopped coming to us, because of the many times we were indifferent to the gifts of God our Father, and sought something better, when in fact there is nothing better.

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is closer now than it has ever been, and because we don't know the exact time, we behave as though He will never come.

But the instant He comes, it will be too late to change, and all who haven't will miss the immediate promise of final paradise, and will continue to have tribulations, and perhaps miss the final paradise all together.

God has given us His love, and yet most people don't partake of it, or share it with others.

True love is like manna; it comes from Heaven, and it will totally sustain us.

Stop looking for something else. The Lord has given us everything we need.

Look at the big picture, and see the hand of God before you.

Reach out to the Lord with arms spread as a funnel, and say, "Fill my cup, Lord," and be satisfied.

Be a responsible Christian. Live like Christ Himself.

This isn't a game.

This time it's for keeps.

Amen?

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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