“But these Three Remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.”
January 25, 2024
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: 1 Corinthians 13
We had an elaborate plan for the day. But there’s an interesting thing that happens when you ask the Holy Spirit to lead the church. Sometimes He does. We were singing this song, and there’s a phrase, and it says, “Lead and teach me.”
It’s not that I think the plan we had today wasn’t cool. We’ll do it maybe next week. But we felt like the Lord taught us something this morning. How many have ever encountered something in scripture you had never seen before? After seeing it, you think, “How did I miss that?” First Corinthians 13 says, “There are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.”
“Three things that will endure.” I love that. Go to Hebrews nine, verse one with me. It says, “Now, in that first covenant between God and Israel, there were regulations for worship and a sacred tent here on earth. There were two rooms in this tent. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and loaves of holy bread on the table.”
It’s interesting that in the first room, there’s a lampstand. I think it’s this promise from the Lord that you’ll never have to be in the dark because they were never to let it go out. It was His constant reminder that in the presence of the Lord, there would always be light.
And the table, what’s that for? I think it’s symbolic of an invitation from the Lord to know, I’m always ready to meet with you. There’s a table set, at any given time, it will always be there.
Then there are loaves of bread. You never have to wonder if I have something to feed you.
I would say we could stop there and be like, “That’s a really good teaching.” This is something the Lord took us to in the first gathering and it was not on the agenda. So those of you that know how much I love things that are planned, you know what I’m feeling right now. But if we read on, this was called the holy place. There was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the most holy place.
In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. How many as soon as I say, Ark of the Covenant, think about Raiders of the Lost Ark? That’s the picture in our culture that we get. We all know in Raiders of the Lost Ark, what do you not do? You don’t look into the Ark, because then your face melts off, like all the people in the movie.
So what happens if, because of that culture, we have this mindset that’s maybe in our humanity, and that is that the Ark is not to be looked upon? This most holy place is a place to be fearful and dreadful that we’re to be terrified of because there’s so much power contained in this place that it takes a moment, and He lashes out. How many of you honestly would say, “Sometimes I think I approach the Lord that way?” Catch this where it says there are three things hidden in this Ark. Inside the Ark was a gold jar, containing some manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant with the Ten Commandments written on them.
The glorious cherubim are above the Ark, their wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we can’t explain these things now. Well, we’re going to explain these things. Now, remember what I said? Three things remain: faith, hope, and love. Isn’t it interesting? There are three things in the Ark.
The manna. Manna was provisioned. If you don’t know what manna is, that’s literally what the word means. What is it? Manna was a food source. Israel’s in the desert, and they’re starving, and they’re hungry. The Lord says this to them: I know that right now you have no idea how you’re going to eat, you have no idea what’s going to be provided for you. You don’t even know if you’re going to make it. But I’ve got this covered, I will provide it for you. In the morning, manna will be on the ground and you can go grab it.
They’re like, what is manna? Nobody’s ever seen it before.
So they walk out in the morning, look at it, and wonder, what is it? That’s how the name manna came about. The thing about manna that we read in the scriptures is that manna was given with a 24-hour expiration date. They were able to pick it up, utilize it for that day, and then it would spoil. But all of a sudden, here in the Ark, there’s a gold jar with manna in it that has somehow been preserved through all eternity.
Why? Because it’s a picture of us that we can trust in the Lord’s ability to care for us–that it endures. He transcends space and time. There’s never going to be a situation we’re ever going to face that He can’t triumph over. So He puts this manna in the Ark and says, inside the Ark of Covenant, I want you to never forget, I can take care of you. I will be able to provide for you when you are incapable of providing for yourself, when you know you didn’t earn it, I will do it for you. Because this is how I want to love you.
For the record, the Lord chose for these things to be preserved. It wasn’t us saying we need memorials. It was Him saying, I want you to hold on to this memory. I want you to know these things. Why? Because you are to learn from them. Because there’s going to come a day when I’m going to give my son and I want you to be able to remember what’s hidden in that covenant for your life.
The second item in the Ark was Aaron’s rod, an almond branch. How many understand the basics of horticulture that when you cut a branch off from the tree it’s connected to, it no longer can bud? But somehow, this branch keeps budding eternally. It never dries up. It never gets brittle. It stays alive, even though it’s disconnected. For Aaron, it was to be a picture of hope that you can trust the Lord will always be able to do things that are impossible for you.
You can rest assured in this hope. When you put your hope in the Lord, it will never be discouraged. It’s not the wrong place to put your hope. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put a rod, a piece of wood that is budding at all times disconnected from its source, in front of you. I’m going to put it into the Ark so you never forget that I can do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it, and you can hope in that.
The last one. “Faith, hope, love.” There are these Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are God’s law given to humanity. They were the rules that He gave Israel to live by. The violation of these rules required a penalty. How do you get love out of that? He does something by putting these rules into the Ark. We must understand that all three of these things are contained in this mechanism that has overtopped it–something called the mercy seat–which is the cherubim, and the blood would be sprinkled over this to create atonement. Hebrews says that the New Covenant we’re in is better than the Old Covenant.
This New Covenant says that these things, these promises, faith, hope love, are contained within the seal of Jesus’s blood. Go back to those tablets. What He says is this, you will never again be held accountable for the law. I love you enough to remove from you the requirement to keep the law for salvation. For the rest of your days, the law is secured by My blood, not by your obedience.
Pastor Gary, in the first gathering, was sharing this and he just stopped, going, “How have I never seen this? That in the blood of Jesus, we have the promise of provision.” It was put in the Ark so we will not forget it. We have the promise of hope. He can and will do whatever He wants to do for us whenever He wants to. We have the promise of love. No matter how often we goof up the law, His love never ceases and never changes and never fades away. His covenant towards us is sure.
There are some of us in here who desperately need provision. You’re facing things where you need a miracle. My goal in this was to stir up enough truth and faith that you will go, “Because of Jesus and my relationship with Him, I have every right to ask for provision. I have every right to expect it. We sang a song earlier: “You’re a provider.” I loved it when my kids were young. We were at the dinner table. I was leaving the job I was in, and we sit down to have a family meeting. I explained to them that I was a worship pastor but felt like the Lord had asked me to resign. I didn’t know what to do now. I’m a business guy at heart. So the best time to leave a job is when you have a job. I’ve lived my entire life that way. I always had like a backup of a backup plan. The Lord had just said, I want you to do this. It took me nine months. I was a worship leader. What it took was the Lord stripped my ability to sense His presence away and said, are you going to obey Me or not? I was like, okay.
So I’m sitting down with the kids and with Belinda. We’re sharing with them that we’re going to go on this adventure. Now, because they’re raised in a very pragmatic home, my oldest at the time, his question was, “So we’re going to be homeless?” The youngest, a little more focused on the needs at hand, says, “So we’re not going to be able to eat?” I made this statement, it just kind of came out. It was one of those where it came out, and I’m like that for sure wasn’t me. I said, “Guys, we’re going to be fine. Because if He fails us, we’ll be the first people in the history of the world He’s ever failed.”
So run that back in your life. Whatever you’re facing right now, if He failed you, you’d be the first person in the history of the world He ever failed. He doesn’t have it in His constitution to fail you. He gave this manna, forever to be preserved, as a picture, I will take care of you. Not as a picture of, “I can take care of you,” but a promise of, “I will take care of you.”
That’s not fair. He doesn’t have to do that. What in this thing is fair? At what point is it fair for the Son of God to give His life as a ransom for humanity? We sing, “He who knew no sin became sin.” There was never to be a fair exchange here. It was always to be something supernaturally gracious that He would do for us when we couldn’t do for ourselves.
Here’s what I’m here to tell you today. Part of that is provision. Some of you here are incredibly hopeless. You’re kind of at your wit’s end. You’re at the place where you’re like, “I don’t see a way forward.” Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s business. I don’t know what it is. In the Ark, there’s this almond branch that is cut off from its source, removed from its right environment, all those things. You fill in the blanks, however you want to describe it. It’s still budding because His answer is, you can hope in Me. I will see you through. Your ability to make it is not based on you. It’s based on Him. If you would, you could lean into Him. He’ll become the strength you need to make it. He’ll bring life where there’s death. He’ll bring increase and bud to places where you feel like you’ve been cut off. You don’t have to live in that condition. You have this living memorial in the Ark that says you could ask for this. You could speak to and say, “Lord, this thing is dead, but I’m declaring life over this because you showed me You could keep anything alive.”
Some of you are living so cursed because you’re holding yourself to the law. “I’ve screwed up,” “I’ve done this,” “I can’t do this,” and you got a list that’s a mile long of all the reasons why God can’t use you, won’t use you, and doesn’t want to use you. I’m here to tell you that the Ten Commandments, that stone tablet, is in the Ark for one purpose: it is to remind you that you were never going to be able to keep that law. You were never going to be able to do it. It was always going to have to be His blood in the Mercy Seat overtop of it.
From here on out, you should stop trying to be perfect before Him and start walking in this grace. It says, “I’m not perfect, but I’m not going to quit living for Him.” These three things remain: faith, hope, and love. You might say, “I need all three,” but maybe you’re like, “I need faith. I’m facing some stuff. I desperately need the people around me to help me believe for what I’m facing.” If you’re here today, and you’re like, “I’m facing something big,” and you don’t get prayer for that, you’re crazy.
If you feel like you’re seeing death all around you, then maybe you should look at the almond branch, and go, “Hey, you’re the one that brings what’s dead to life. You’re the one that keeps what should be dead alive. Lord, I’m going to put my situation in Your hands and invite You to breathe life into it.” Maybe you’re here, and you’re like, “I’ve been trying to just keep the law and I can’t.” Maybe for you, it’s the first time you’ve given your life to Jesus. Maybe you’re here, and you’re like, “I’ve been a believer, but I’ve been a believer in my own ability to keep the law, and I need just to learn how to lean into the grace of God, the kindness of God.” If you’re in any of those categories, stand up.
Those of you who have been here for a bit know how we roll. We’re going to get around you. We’re going to ask for some information, and we’re going to start praying creative miracles because we believe the Lord is here for the purpose of meeting needs. Keep putting your hands up now that everyone stood up. That way we don’t lose you when we all stand up. There we go. Where there’s a hand, let’s get around them. Let’s dig in. Let’s find out what needs to be prayed for, and let’s go.
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