Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
BEHOLD THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FIRST REFORMED CHURCH
ATHENS, NEW YORK
FOR THE MAUNDY THURSDAY JOINT SERVICE
28 MARCH 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
I have heard it said by an elderly pastor that "unless your sermon brings conviction to the hearts of your congregation, it does little or no good."
If we who stand before a congregation read the word of God and are convicted in our own hearts, and we allow the Holy Spirit to help us formulate these words into a message, it should be heard.
But there are two sides to any conversation or message: there must be both a speaker and a hearer.
And as the message of a preacher must be prepared with God, so must the hearers of this word be prepared to listen.
Tonight we are all invited to a portion of the Passover supper with the Lord Jesus. We will join Him as He serves us the bread and the wine.
And to help prepare us to receive that which the Lord serves us, let us first Behold the Blood of the Covenant.
In Exodus 24:1-8, we see a gathering much like ours tonight. Let's take a
look at this together, and see if we can detect and hopefully respond to the
1. Then He said to Moses, "Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance.
2. "Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him."
The Lord calls all his people to worship before Him; but to those who are willing, He also has special things for them to do.
It's not that the people are something special; but that by their willingness to obey, they are anointed by the Lord to do special functions.
I know that everyone who is gathered here tonight is capable of doing special things.
Not all of us can play the organ like Kathy, or feel comfortable delivering a sermon; but if we are truly convicted in our heart to do so, then the Lord will anoint us to be able to do it.
Moses had matured to the point in his life when he would be fully responsive and obedient to the Lord, and the Lord set him apart from the others.
But Moses wouldn't live forever, and others were to receive their own conviction and offer themselves for whatever service the Lord desired of them.
And by separating the elders from the people, and Moses from the elders, the Lord is trying to convict those who are further down the ladder that there is more to achieve; and at the same time convict those who are leaders of their responsibility, so that they would live accordingly.
Look at what happens next:
3. Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!"
Listen to how the congregation responds.
Isn't that wonderful?
I know that if I asked you for such a commitment, none of you would say "no" either, would you?
Those Israelites are like us. They say "yes" on the outside, but what were they saying inside themselves? And we who are here tonight, what are we really saying inside ourselves?
Aren't we all holding on to some sin that we know we are going to do, in spite of such a commitment?
So what does Moses do?
4. And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the tribes of Israel.
5. And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord.
Let's pause here for a moment and think about something.
From the very beginning, God only wanted our obedience, and there was never a mention or thought of killing or sacrifice.
It was only after our human ancestors failed to obey God, that He sought other ways of bringing His wayward children back to being truly obedient to Him, which we have never been fully able to do.
In their disobedience, the people were killing and sacrificing animals to their idols and false gods.
God then offered the people a concession to limit their sacrifices to only Him, and that the soul of the innocent animals, would make an atonement for their souls, but only for that one particular time.
Keep this in mind as we go on.
6. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
7. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!"
Here we have that commitment again.
All the people gathered together are committing themselves to the word of God.
Each of us has this word of God in our own possession, in our Bibles.
What about our own commitment?
Is it real?
Or is it just spoken forth so you feel like you are part of the crowd?
So, what did Moses do next?
8. So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."
And each of us who are gathered here tonight is having a different blood sprinkled on us.
But will it have any true and lasting effect?
If we receive the word, then we will behold the blood of the covenant, and it will have a true and lasting effect.
This is the point that Jesus was delivering to His disciples on a night such as this, nearly 2,000 years ago.
Let's turn in the word of God to Mark 14:12 and following, and like them, behold the blood of the covenant.
12. And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?"
Even though the Passover, sometimes refers to the lamb or kid, these is no killing taking place here, because the disciples could not sacrifice the animal; only a priest could.
In this case, they are only preparing the meal of other foods, and for a very special reason.
Most of us, like these disciples, recognize the things that our Lord desires.
Then we ask, as they did, "Lord what do you want me to do?"
And there, many of us stop; for we either don't like the answer we receive, or we imagine it couldn't be from the Lord.
Listen to what Jesus tells them:
13. And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him;
14. and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?" '
15. "And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and made ready; and prepare for us there."
16. And the disciples went out, and came to the city, and found it just as He told them; and they prepared the Passover.
Again we have confirmation that there was no sacrificed animal, for the killing, the slaughtering, could only take place in the Temple, and not in this upper room.
What Jesus told them was unusual, too, for it was women's work to get the water, and yet it was a man they were to meet; and to find everything already prepared for such a large group was in itself a miracle.
Yet they trusted in the Lord and went.
They were obedient in the little things, and greater things they would receive.
The celebration of the Passover was to behold the covenant of the blood; but even more than this, most of them were beginning to behold the true meaning of the blood covenant in the life of Jesus.
Do we behold the blood of the covenant?
I pray so!
But not everyone who sees the presence of the Lord beholds either the blood or the covenant.
Listen, as we continue.
17. And when it was evening He came with the twelve.
18. And as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me – one who is eating with Me."
19. They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, "Surely not I?"
And it was said even by the one who would betray Him.
It is easy to confess a belief and even a faith with our mouths, and still not really believe.
That is why James speaks of the proof of our faith as evidence, in 2:17-18.
17. Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
It is ever so much easier to confess our faith than it is to live it.
But I propose to you, by the word of the Lord, that unless we actually live our faith, we can never truly behold the blood of the covenant that saves us from hell and leads us into everlasting life.
Let's return to Mark 14:20, and hear how Jesus answers their confessions of faith.
20. And He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.
21. For the Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."
Judas had been confessing his faith before the Lord and his fellow disciples, and for three years he had done a fairly good job of faking it.
But if the disciples really looked closely, they would have seen the same things that the Lord saw in him.
I don't speak much about it, but I find it fairly easy to see the falseness in people. I still reach out in love to them, and leave their conviction to come from the Holy Spirit.
I know it does, for I see it, even when that person doesn't want to recognize it or respond to it.
And the reason why they don't recognize either the good or bad things from the Lord is because they have never beheld the blood of the covenant.
Thus Jesus shows the disciples a physical way of relating to this blood covenant, so that they would continually behold it.
22. And while they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it; and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body."
23. And when He had taken a cup, and given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank from it.
24. And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
25. Truly I say to you, I shall never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
26. And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The blood of the covenant had been poured out once for all time.
And by shedding His own blood to the point of death, Jesus departed this world.
We can not behold Him physically any more, but we can behold Him spiritually forever more.
Before us is the symbol of the blood covenant.
It's only a symbol today, because there is not longer any desire or need for any killing or blood; it has all been done once and for all time.
Are we beholding the symbol, or are we truly beholding the real and everlasting spiritual blood of the covenant, that is behind the symbol?
The covenant that forgives every truly repentant sinner and grants us everlasting life with the Lord is a spiritual covenant.
God has given us eyes and ears and a heart with which to behold the truth.
The questions each of us must ask our self are:
Do I behold the blood of the covenant?
Do I behold Jesus as my Lord and Savior?
I pray your answer is “yes.”