August 17, 2008

God's Magnificent Obsession - August 17, 2008

Service Introduction:

Today our worship service focuses on the word, “obsession”. When a person is obsessed with something, their obsession fills their thoughts, consumes their resources and drains their energies. Sometimes obsession drives a person to do what others consider unthinkable.

The God of the Bible has an obsession. Into His obsession He pours His thoughts, His resources and His energies. Into God’s obsession He pours Himself.

What is the object of God’s magnificent obsession? You, my fellow sinners. You and me. He is obsessed with rescuing us from our own personal sins which seek to drag us down to hell. He is obsessed with enriching our daily life so that it is more than breathing and eating and moving. He is obsessed with caring for us like a mother cares for her children.

May God grant us the spiritual insight to see His obsession in our readings from His Word. May His obsession with us, fill us with wonder.

Making Plans in Advance

One of the things that an obsessed person does is make plans. For example, if a person is obsessed with climbing a mountain, he might chart out his course over and over, preparing every little detail of the trip.

In our Old Testament reading God speaks to the people of Israel the plans that He has charted for them. They had stopped following the true God and had began to worship idols instead. As a consequence, they would be conquered and carried off to Babylon as slaves. But those who looked to God in repentance would not be forgotten. Those who trusted in the Lord could be sure that He had already looked ahead in time and had charted their course, preparing every little detail of their restoration.

Jeremiah 29:7-14 (NIV)

7Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

10This 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. 11For 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. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

One Way or Another

If a person is obsessed with buying something, he’ll find the money one way or another. Maybe he’ll work extra hours. Maybe he’ll get a second job, or a third. Maybe he’ll sell things that he already owns.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks to those who will carry His precious message into the world. They had already carried Jesus’ message into the surrounding villages of Israel. In doing so they had received a warm welcome, for Jesus had been popular at that time.

But now, Jesus tells them that they should not expect such warm support. They will have to get by as best they can.

Whether we have a lot, or a little, God the Father is always at work in the lives of His followers, providing what they really need in one way or another.

Luke 22:35-37 (NIV)

35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

Gifts for the Future

In the movie, “Field of Dreams” there is an old man who speaks about how his wife loved blue hats. When walking home from work he would often see a blue hat in a storefront window. He always had to buy for her. When she died, he had a closet full of hats, that he had never gotten around to giving her.

Love is an obsession of sorts. Love leads us to give good things to those we love. Sometimes love even leads us to store up good things for those we love.

In our letter reading for today, Paul talks about Christians who are made rich by sharing with others. In God’s obsession with His people, He has arranged things so that even as we give things away, we actually become richer.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.


All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,(2 Timothy 3:16). The portion of God’s Word which we meditate on today comes from…

Genesis 9:1-15 (NIV)

1Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

4“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed;

for in the image of God

has God made man.

7As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9“I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.

These are the words of God, inspired by His Holy Spirit for our learning and life. Let us consider them with deep respect for in them God lives, and through them He communicates to us.

Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Long ago astronomers believed that the Earth was the center of our solar system. From man’s point of view it certainly looks like the sun and planets are revolving around us.

But over time the truth of the matter came out. It is the earth that is circling the sun. Mankind is not the center of the physical universe. But in God’s heart, mankind certainly is at the core. The theme for our meditation today is God’s Magnificent Obsession: Mankind.

The words of our text were spoken to Noah and his sons right after they had stepped off the ark. That huge ship had kept Noah’s family safe from a world wide flood for over a year. While they had bobbed around on the surface of the waters, the rest of the world had been destroyed. Only eight people in all had been kept alive in the ark.

As they stepped onto stolid ground again, God spoke to Noah and his sons. He blessed them and told them to have children and populate the earth once again.

This was the same thing that God had told Adam and Eve at the very beginning. After God had created the first two human beings He told them…

…Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28b NIV).

Many in our modern culture want to tell us that we have evolved from animals. They says that the earth is our mother, the animals our brothers and sisters, and that everything that we see around us is the result of huge series of cosmic accidents.

But God tells us the opposite in the Bible. The creation account of Genesis tells us that God created all the things that we see, for us. Human beings were created after everything else, not because they were an afterthought, but because human beings were the finishing touch. Mankind was the jewel in the setting of God’s creation. Mankind was created high.

This fact is re-emphasized in the account of Noah and his sons getting off the ark. God tells them to have kids. To fill the earth back up with people. God wanted a planet that was green with plant life, but God also wanted it filled with the varied and vibrant colors of the human race.

God wanted the earth to be filled with animals again, but these were not the brothers and sisters of man. The animals were originally created for man to enjoy.

After the flood, God changed the animal kingdom in two major ways. First, he instilled a fear of mankind in the animals which is easily seen to this day. Animals don’t want to be around humans. Only through ongoing contact with people do animals become domesticated and unafraid of man.

After the flood God change the animal kingdom in another way. He gave man permission to kill and eat animals as a source of food.

Now this doesn’t mean that people had never eater meat before, but now God was actually authorizing Noah to have a steak. Clearly, animals are not on the same level as mankind. This is made abundantly clear by the next thing God says.

At the same time that God gives mankind permission to kill and eat animals, God also says that any animal that kills a man will be held accountable by God. Just as God would hold animals accountable for shedding man’s blood, so also God would hold every person accountable for shedding human blood.

Man was not created like the animals. He was created in the image of God. Originally Adam and Eve were sinless. Originally they had a perfect knowledge of what was right and wrong. They knew God’s will instinctively and perfectly. In their sinless perfection they resembled God who had made them.

Mankind had been created high, but mankind fell low when Adam and Eve sinned against God. But even after they had lost the sinless image of God, they were still to be respected.

When a dictator is overthrown by the people of a country, a common thing to see on the news is a big group of people toppling a statue of that dictator. They don’t really care if the statue is a perfect mirror image of the dictator or not. Their act of defying him is obvious by what they are doing.

In the same way, when one human being kills another, it is a direct act of defiance toward God, even though that person has already lost the perfect sinless image of God.

God warned Noah and his sons that a murder would not escape without judgment. The fact that God has to remind Noah and sons not to kill their fellow human beings is a clear reminder of how the human race had fallen low by their sins against God.

The flood itself is among the Bible’s most vivid reminders of how seriously God takes man’s sin. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin must be punished by God. The world wide flood came from God as a judgment on mankind for his widespread and ongoing wickedness.

Before the Great Flood God looked out over the world of people that lived on planet Earth and was sad. Everywhere God looked he saw people hating each other and hurting one another. God saw that the ways that they talked to each other were rude and mean. They told lies and stole from each other. Almost nobody worshipped Him anymore.

In the Bible it says,

“The LORD saw that the people on earth were very wicked and in their hearts were always thinking only evil. Then the LORD was sorry He made people on the earth, and He was grieved at heart. ‘I will wipe off the ground the people I created,’ the LORD said, ‘people, cattle, creeping things, and birds of the air, because I’m sorry I made them’” (Genesis 6:5-7 AAT).

But not all of the ancient world was destroyed. There were a few people left who trusted that God’s Savior would someday come to redeem them.

These people were still sinners like all the rest, but the forgiveness that Jesus Christ would win for them was already theirs through faith. Their Heavenly Father would not abandon them to be destroyed in the flood. He loved them with a deep love and would save them.

And so into the Ark went Noah and his wife. Into the Ark went Noah’s three sons and their wives.

After Noah came out of the Ark, God gave him and his family a promise of eternal mercy, and a sign to go with it.

God said,

13I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:13-15 NIV).

A covenant means an agreement between two parties. Most of the time a covenant has certain things that both parties have to do for the covenant to be binding. But this covenant by God is a one sided covenant. Noah’s family didn’t have to do a thing. God simply said, “I won’t send a world-wide flood ever again. And the rainbow will be the symbol of my promise.”

First came mankind’s sin. Then came the flood as God’s judgment on mankind’s continued wickedness. Then came God’s merciful saving of Noah’s family and God’s promise of on-going mercy symbolized by the rainbow.

This ought to remind us of our experience with Jesus. First came our sin. Then came God’s judgment on our sin, but because of God’s mercy that judgment fell on Jesus, not on us. We will never feel the wrath of God because Jesus shielded us from it when He suffered and died on the cross of Calvary.

After the flood of God’s judgment had gone down and after Jesus had come out of the tomb, God then gave us a promise of eternal mercy, and a sign to go with it.

The symbol God has given us to remind us that our sins are forgiven is the empty tomb of your risen Savior. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we know that our sins are forgiven. Because He lives forever, we will live forever too.

We are the object of God’s magnificent obsession.

The Father planned our salvation long before the world was created. He provides for us in this life in one way or another.

He has piled up gifts for us to open in this life and in heaven.

He has even done the unthinkable, He has taken away our punishment by His own suffering.

We have been saved from Hell…

…by the Father’s plan,

…through the Son’s blood payment,

…by the Holy Spirit’s working faith in our hearts.

God’s obsession, has made us His possession.

When you’re out enjoying God’s creation, remember that it was made for you. When in that creation God’s rainbow appears, be reminded of God’s judgment on sin, and His promise of eternal mercy that was made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ.


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