Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Your Invitation to a Love Story

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Leslie Basham: Erika VanHaitsma says you’re living in a love story whether you feel like it or not.

Erika VanHaitsma: You may not see it at this moment. You may not feel it at this moment. The struggle you are going through in life may seem so huge you’re not sure God is still hanging around. Can I assure you this morning? He is.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for March 26, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Welcome back to Revive Our Hearts. This is a really special week in the Christian calendar as we celebrate the passion of our Savior. And we’re going to learn more about what that whole concept means, what this week means, and some of the biblical Old and New Testament aspects of what we celebrate this week that I think are going to give a whole new understanding and meaning to many of us as we listen this week to a guest teacher.

We don’t do this very often on Revive Our Hearts, but I got to hear Erika VanHaitsma and her husband Bryan, who serves as our Social Media and Digital Director for Revive Our Hearts. That’s a big fancy word that means, if you’re listening to this podcast, that’s because Bryan has a team that’s putting it together and making it available.

Bryan serves here on our Revive Our Hearts team. I got to hear Bryan and his wife Erika teach some time ago at a staff chapel. I thought they have such a depth of understanding of the land of Israel and the history of the Old Testament that gives beautiful light and understanding to the New Testament, especially this matter of the Passover Week and the passion of Christ as we come to celebrate Good Friday and then Resurrection Sunday, just a few days from now.

So I asked Erika if she would come and teach us this week. You’re going to love what you hear, and you need to hang in for the whole series because it’s like a story. It’s going to unfold over these next five days. So get your Bible ready. Get your heart ready.

Let me just pray for Erika and for us as we get started.

Thank You, Lord, for the wonder of Your Word, Your amazing grace, and for our Savior Jesus Christ who came as a result of a covenant-keeping God who wants to come near to us and draw us near to Yourself.

So we commit this week to You in our worship and our celebration and our observance of these holy days. We pray that through this series, You’ll give us new understanding and a fresh sense of wonder at what You have done, what You are doing, and what You will continue to do until this story is complete. We pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Welcome, Erika, and thank you for being with us this week.

Erika: Thank you, Nancy.

It is the classic love story. You have the damsel in distress, the hero—the good guy who will overcome any obstacle to be with the one he loves, and the villain—the bad guy who’s going to keep them apart. But I love that happy ending where the good guy wins, and he gets to be with his beloved.

I love a good, happy, love story, which is one reason why I have fallen in love with the Bible and the God that I have found there.

It is an honor to be with you this week, and I have been praying God’s blessing and God’s love would be felt in our time together.

There are many themes in Scripture, many truths that it’s trying to portray. But one huge thing that I have come to learn and see is that the God we serve is a lover, and His desire to be with His beloved means He will overcome any obstacle that stands between Him and the one He loves.

The Jewish teachers of old loved to compare the Bible to a diamond, and they would say you can hold a diamond up to the light, and you can turn it this way and that, so that the light shines through each side just a little bit differently, but it’s still the same diamond. So you can take that Bible, and you can take these verses and hold them up to the light and different truths will come through, but it’s still the same Word of God. It’s still the same Bible but with a new depth and beauty that you may not have seen before.

We’re going to walk through a level of Scripture you may not be used to walking through this week. We’re going to take the Word of God, and we’re going to hold it up to the light, and we’re going to see what new beauty, what new truths we can learn.

I’m going to start with a story you probably know. It’s found in the book of Exodus, and it tells of God setting Israel free from Egypt with many signs and wonders, and then finally He brings them to Mount Sinai, where He enters into an intimate relationship with them.

But before we can get to Exodus, we need to answer a few questions:

Who is this God? What does He want? Who are these people, the Israelites? Why does this God set this group of people free? Because there have been many enslaved nations throughout the history of the world, and as far as I know, no God has ever come to set any other nation free like this God did with the nation of Israel.

So let’s answer that first question: Who is this God?

If you’d like to turn to Genesis 1:1, we will answer that question. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And then through the rest of the chapter, as you read it, you will see this God really is creating everything, including mankind, which means, as Creator, everything belongs to Him to do with as He sees fit.

And what does this Creator God want? He has a very specific desire—to dwell with His creation as a lover with His beloved.

As this Creator God is making the world, He blesses it at the same time. You see this in Genesis 1:22 and verse 28: God creates, and God blesses.

Then God gives this ultimate blessing of entering into covenant with His creation. You can think of covenant as an unbreakable promise, a binding oath between two parties. In fact, part of making this covenant is to ask God to kill you should you break it. This is a till-death-do-us-part promise. So God enters into that binding oath with His creation, and you see it in Genesis 9 with Noah and then in Genesis 15 with Abraham.

So we learn God creates. God blesses. And God covenants with His creation. And the point of covenant, the point of this promise is to dwell intimately with His people. He desires a relationship with you. From Genesis through to Revelation, you will see this consistently. God’s desire is to come down and dwell among men.

In Genesis, God walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden. And even when they sin, He doesn’t leave them, does He? He doesn’t destroy them and start over. He doesn’t say, “Well, now you’re on your own. You screwed up.” He comes back. And, in fact, He promises, “I will fix what you did wrong. My Deliverer is coming. I’m going to set you free.”

Set them free from what? Just wait. We’ll hit that in the next few days as the story keeps going.

So now we know who this God is: He’s the Creator.

We know what He wants: To dwell with His creation.

But why the nation of Israel?

Well, fast forward after Adam and Eve hundreds and hundreds of years, and you get to a man named Abraham. Abraham is a unique man at that time. He actually listens to and obeys this God. He becomes known as God’s friend.

So in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15, God comes to Abraham, and He says, “Abraham, I’m going to bless you. I’m going to choose your family, Abraham. I’m going to give you many descendants. I’m going to know them. They’ll be My people, and I’m going to be their God. And I’m going to bless this world through your family.”

Now, think about that for just a minute.

What if God came to you and said, “Sarah, I’m going to bless you. I’ve chosen you, Sarah, special. I’m going to know your kids, and I’m going to know your grandkids and your great-great-great-great-great-grandkids by name. Their joys and sorrows will be My joys and sorrows. They’re going to be Mine. I’m going to bless the world through you.”

That would blow your mind. I mean, Abraham must have just, “Wow! God, why me?” But that’s what God does with Abraham. He enters into this binding oath with Abraham’s family.

Well, now you have to fast forward again hundreds of years, and now we get to the book of Exodus. So feel free to turn to the book of Exodus chapter 1. And verse 7 states, “The Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous the land was filled with them.”

In other words, you’re learning God has been faithful to His end of the covenant. Abraham’s descendants have multiplied. It cracks me up because in the Hebrew, the picture it gives is this idea of a swarm—like the land is just overflowing with these people. They are everywhere. You keep bumping into them.

But they’re in trouble, aren’t they?

We learn a few verses later, in verses 9 and 10, that they are enslaved to the most powerful nation in the known world at that time—the land of Egypt. Life is miserable for the descendants of Abraham. Pharaoh has decreed that this group, the nation of Israel, belongs to him to do with as he pleases, what he wants. And what Pharaoh wants for this group of people is to use them, abuse them, and because they scare him, to lose them.

Now, as the reader, we’re supposed to struggle with this because—“Wait a minute! We learned already way back in Genesis God’s already claimed these people for His own. So who do these people really belong to? Do they belong to Pharaoh? Or do they belong to God?”

And we’re supposed to struggle with this as we read through the beginning of Exodus: Who’s the master here? And if God really is the master, what’s He doing? Why is He not coming to help these people? Is He unable to stand against the mighty Pharaoh?

The question hangs in the air as you read: Where is the God of Genesis 1? Genesis 15, this Creator God, this covenant-making God?

Until you come to Exodus chapter 2, verses 24 and 25, and it states: “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and [he knew].”

In the Hebrew, the word “to remember” does not mean God forgets. He didn’t forget His covenant. He didn’t forget His people. It carries the idea of action. In other words, it means, “Just watch. God’s about to move.”

It’s right here that God says, “These people are Mine.” And I love the phrase, “He knew.” God sees their misery. He hears their cries, and He knows. Watch out, Pharaoh, there’s a storm coming.

But we get to dive into that tomorrow. First I want to answer that final question: Why does God come to Israel’s defense? Out of all the enslaved nations, out of all the history of the world, why does this God come to this people’s defense?

Partly because He is in covenant with them. He made that unbreakable promise to Abraham. And the God who created the heavens and the earth not only makes covenants, He keeps His covenant.

I once heard the statement, “If God were to break His covenant, the universe would crumble into dust because the one upholding it would cease to exist.” God has to keep His covenant.

God is faithful, 2 Timothy says, even when we are faithless. Faithful in the Hebrew carries the idea of loyalty, a steady perseverance. “God does not change,” the Bible declares. What He has promised will come to pass. What He has said, He will do. So God must come to their defense, which is an encouragement for us as well because you also are in covenant with this God.

As He was faithful to Israel, He will be faithful to you. Even when we struggle, even when we fail, God is faithful. God perseveres. He is steadfastly loyal. He does not change. He will hold His children, whether you see it or not.

God’s faithfulness may not always look like what we think, though, does it? But that’s okay because that’s where our faithfulness comes in.

My family went through a time several years ago where we did not see God, and we were going through a very painful time. I can remember crying out to God, “I don’t see You right here. I don’t see Your face.” But when I looked back, I saw His hands carrying us. He is faithful. Even if I don’t see it, I will walk this out, trusting the God who loves me is here with me.

Or maybe you’re not even sure God hears your cries. Exodus 2:23 states that Israel cried out, but it specifically does not say they cried out to God. You could almost see it that Israel herself had forgotten the covenant, or maybe she thought that Abraham’s God had forgotten it.

Maybe Israel was so wrapped up in Egypt they didn’t even know who to cry out to anymore. They had been enslaved for hundreds of years by this point. They’d seen the Egyptians worshiping in their temples to their fake gods over and over again. They saw the sacrifices. They heard the songs, the chantings, the temples, the idols. Which God does Israel turn to for help? Israel didn’t know. But, you know what? God knew. Pharaoh himself later declared in the book of Exodus, “I do not know this God.” It’s okay, Pharaoh. God knows you.

You may not see it at this moment. You may not feel it at this moment. The struggle you are going through in life may seem so huge you’re not sure God is still hanging around. Can I assure you this morning? He is. He knows. He is in covenant with you, and He never breaks His covenant.

But there’s another reason God comes. There’s another level to this story. It’s more than just this sense of duty and commitment that causes God to move on His people’s behalf. That’s part of it. But there’s a reason God made a covenant with Abraham in the first place.

Our God is a lover, and now there’s a barrier between Him and His people. So tomorrow we get to look at what God does to set His people free, and we’re going to dive into that next.

Nancy: You’ve been listening to Erika VanHaitsma guest teaching on Revive Our Hearts during this Passion Week. I know you want to hear the rest of this story as it unfolds, but I want us to just stop for a moment and think about how what we’ve just heard speaks to where we live right now.

Thank you, Erika. What a powerful basis this is for our Christian faith today. I love that line Erika quoted that she heard somewhere else: “If God were to break His covenant, the universe would crumble into dust because the one upholding the universe would cease to exist.”

My friend Carrie Gaul, who’s also served on our staff here at Revive Our Hearts for many years, is with us in the audience today. We were sitting next to each other, and Carrie, as we were listening to Erika, I’m thinking, This subject of covenant is one that is really precious to you. You’ve studied it a lot. You’ve taught it. As you were listening to Erika, where was your mind going?

Carrie Gaul: Oh, I'm so thankful, Erika, for everything that you’re sharing with us. The study of covenant has changed my life, Nancy. The relationship that we enter into with Jesus Christ, and what that means, and how it’s all tied from Genesis 1 all the way to the end of Revelation.

One of the things I was thinking was it kind of turns my world upside down that the God of the universe obligated Himself to us in covenant. A covenant is a promise, as Erika shared. But it’s so much more than just a promise. It’s the God of the universe saying, “No matter what happens, I am God, and this changes nothing. I am committed to you for the rest of My life.”

And that whole idea, Erika, that you mentioned of the covenant that we see with Abraham and the pieces of the animals being slain in two, meaning, as they walked between it, “You have the right to kill me if I break this covenant.”

And so, the realization that every day I break the covenant. Every day my sin breaks covenant with God. And so every breath that I take is a gift of His favor because He has the right, but He doesn’t do that because He’s the faithful God even when we’re unfaithful.

Nancy: And that faithfulness of God, I think, all of us sitting in this room are aware. We’re thinking of times when we’re not faithful but also times when it doesn’t look or feel like God is remembering us, like, maybe He’s forgotten His covenant. We know theologically He doesn’t, but we go through seasons where we can’t see what we know in our heads is supposed to be true.

And I know, Carrie, that you and your husband have been walking through a time where there have been some huge challenges, some changes, some upheaval in your world, and things that you’d come to expect were normal have changed. A long, big long story, as we all have somewhere in our lives. How are you, in the midst of upheaval, assuring your heart of God’s faithfulness and keeping your heart trusting and clinging to Him when it may look like He’s not doing what you would have thought He might do?

Carrie: You know, Nancy, I think the beauty of having the understanding of covenant deeply woven into the fabric of who I am and my relationship with Jesus and in this season realizing that that covenant-keeping God is Immanuel, God with us, has come to mean things. It’s not just a theological truth. It’s not just good news for others. It’s for me. It’s for us. And it’s right now.

His awareness of the pain that we’re going through. His awareness of every detail, things we don’t even realize in our own hearts. And that He’s fighting for us because He’s obligated to us in the beauty of that covenant. And as Erika said, He’s the lover, and He is furiously, fervently . . .

Nancy: . . . pursuing our hearts.

Carrie: Pursuing our hearts. There’s nothing greater than that. Everything else pales in comparison to His desire for us to be with Him as His Bride, purified, set free of the things that bind us. So Immanuel, God with us, means something different.

Nancy: And He’s still there even when we can’t see what He’s doing.

Carrie: Amen, amen.

Nancy: And He’s still working to accomplish those purposes even when it looks like Pharaoh’s in charge or the world is greater or more powerful than God.

Carrie: Yes.

Nancy: I love that passage in Exodus Erika pointed us to that says, “God saw. God heard their cries”—even though they weren’t sure who they were crying to or how to cry out—“God heard their cry, and God remembered His covenant.” And then God, as we’ll see in the days ahead, sent deliverance. And we know that ultimate deliverance He sent is Christ our Savior.

So we have in this room today and listening to this program people who feel like they’re in Egypt, under great oppression. Maybe it’s a home situation. Maybe it’s a work place situation. Maybe it’s a personal challenge. But you feel like the world forces are so powerful, and God seems to be distant or non-existent.

I think the word to our hearts today is: God is here. He does hear. He knows our cry. He knows our difficulty. And He remembers His covenant. He has sent a Deliverer, and He is always, always at work in the process of sending deliverance. In His way and in His time, He will bring His people out—out of slavery, out of bondage, out of oppression into that good place.

And so, Father, we bow our hearts before You. All of us are in different situations and circumstances and life places and challenges, but I know there are some really heavy hearts listening right now. I just pray by Your Holy Spirit that You would assure each of us and give us the faith to lay hold of this truth that You are here. You do hear our cry. You know our circumstances, and You remember Your covenant. You are at work. Even in this desperate, difficult, desert, dire circumstance, You are at work to accomplish Your purposes, to set Your people free and to pursue that more intimate love relationship with us.

So when we can’t see, help us to trust and to counsel our hearts according to what we know to be true. Encourage and strengthen the hearts of Your people this day with these promises, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth praying with Carrie Gaul. Earlier we heard from our guest teacher this week, Erika VanHaitsma. She’s been showing us how the Old Testament celebration of Passover is such a picture of a love story, and all of us are invited.

This week’s teaching is going to make this weekend’s Easter celebration resonate in a special way. And, Nancy, I’m reminded again that we’re able to provide this kind of teaching on Revive Our Hearts thanks to our Monthly Partners.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie. I’ve often called this Monthly Partner Team the lifeblood of our ministry. They encourage us. They pray for us. They support the ministry. And their financial support keeps our ministry strong and steady through financial ups and downs that happen throughout the course of the year.

So right now, as I’ve been sharing with you in recent weeks, we’re asking the Lord to provide at least 400 new Monthly Partners by the end of April. Many have already signed up. We’re so thankful for each one of you. But we’re asking the Lord for many more. And, really, this will be a joy for you. It will be an encouragement to us, but it will be a joy for you as you’ll get the reward and the benefit of ministering into the lives of women around the world.

So would you ask the Lord if this is a part that He would want you to play in this ministry? Thank you so much for prayerfully considering giving, supporting, encouraging the ministry through our Monthly Partner Team. We’re so grateful for you.

Leslie: This is a perfect time to join the team because this month we’re making a special offer when you join: You’ll get two copies of Nancy’s updated book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, plus two study guides, and two bookmarks. That will let you keep one and give one to another woman you may know. We hope you’ll go through the material together. We’ll also send you Nancy’s teaching about lies and the truth on CD so you can listen together.

For all the details on joining the Monthly Partner Team, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

In busy seasons of life, a married couple has to fight for date nights, time to focus on one another. Erika VanHaitsma says God set up a date night with His people. She’ll tell you how He did that and invite you into greater intimacy with Him. That’s tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to join an amazing love story. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NIV.