THRESHOLD COVENANT

 

ALMOST EVERYONE IN THIS ASSEMBLY KNOWS WHAT A DOOR THRESHOLD IS AND WHERE IT IS. 

 

a)      We walk across door thresholds day after day.

b)      About the only time many people pay attention to them is when there is a problem.

c)      Sometimes we put weather-stripping on them.

d)      For the most part, the majority of society is not too interested in door thresholds.

 

2)      If we had lived a long time ago, we would have paid a lot of attention to a door’s entryway.

a)      In ancient times, people often used this area as a place for sacrifices.

b)      Pagans worshipped their gods at the entrances of their homes.

 

3)      If you went to an ancient person’s house, that person might slaughter an animal on their doorstep.

4)      Homeowners did this to ask his god to protect you as you were at their home.

5)      The most expensive the sacrifice at the door entrance, the more he thought of you:

6)      Expensive animal, honored guest.  Cheap animal, well, at least you were being welcomed.

 

7)      Details about the actual sacrificial process used by ancient people have been recorded.

a)      First, an animal such as a lamb or goat was selected by the homeowner.

b)      Then the selected creature had its feet bound together.

c)      After the creature was immobilized, it was laid on the door threshold.

d)      The animal would be held by the left hand while the right hand was used to slit the animal’s throat.

e)      The person doing the sacrifice held the animal until all the blood had run out.

f)        It was at this point that the guest crossed the threshold.

g)      By crossing the doorway the guest understood he had a type of “agreement” with the family.

h)      The homeowner was essentially creating a “covenant” with his guest(s).

 

8)      Knowing this begins to shed some light on some well known events.

9)      First, think about a common wedding tradition.

10)  Brides are sometimes carried across the door threshold; where did that idea come from?

11)  It seems the practice is based on what was just described.

12)  Brides crossed a door threshold, though there was not always blood on the threshold.

13)  When blood was there, some of brides jumped it.

14)  By crossing the threshold a woman was indicating the agreement she had made in marriage.

15)  A similar event is found in Gen. 19.

a)      By this time in the Genesis account Lot was living in Sodom.

b)      He had a home in this city, and some divine visitors came to that town.

c)      The visitors (Gen. 19:2) said they would spent the entire night on the street.

d)      Lot knew that was a bad idea so he urged them to come into his house.

e)      These visitors did, and the Sodomites soon came knocking on his door.

 

16)  Listen to Gen. 19:8 – READ.

17)  These men had, as it were, had “crossed the threshold” into Lot’s house.

18)  While there is no mention of blood, there is still the sense of agreement; a covenant.

19)  Because this agreement was so binding Lot offered a shocking alternative to the people of Sodom.

20)  Lot intended to protect these men at any cost.

 

IF WE THINK ABOUT ANCIENT PEOPLE USING A DOOR THRESHOLD AS A TYPE OF ALTAR, WE BEGIN TO WONDER ABOUT SOME OF THE OTHER THINGS WE READ ABOUT IN THE BIBLE.

 

a)      For instance, consider the scripture reading, Ex. 12:7-13.

b)      God promised to send the death angel through the land of Egypt (the destroyer, Ex. 12:23).

c)      If a household was not protected by God, the first born of man and beast associated with it would die.

 

2)      The blood around the doorway was essentially an agreement between God and people who wanted to obey Him.

3)      Israel basically made the kind of “threshold covenant” being described today.

4)      Their covenant included blood.

 

5)      For ancient people, doorways were really seen as a sacred area.

6)      This was the place where agreements were formed as we saw in the case of Lot.

7)      This was the place where the God of Israel said He would make an agreement with the Hebrews, Ex. 12.

 

8)      If this sounds a little far fetched, let’s tie in another Old Testament passage.

9)      This reference comes from 1 Sam. 5.

10)  Many of us have read the story in this chapter again and again.

11)  Maybe in all our consideration of this passage we have missed something.

 

12)  The Philistines had taken the ark of God to a city called Ashdod.

13)  It was then taken into a pagan temple that was dedicated to a pagan deity named Dagon.

14)  The next day Dagon’s followers went into his temple – verse 3 – READ.

a)      A pagan god had been toppled, but his worshippers put him back to the proper place.

b)      When we read the next verse, some things should start coming together.

c)      Verse 4 – READ.

d)      Why would God remove the hands and head of this pagan deity and put them upon the threshold?

e)      Why not cast these parts outside the temple or just make them disappear?

f)        Was this just a matter of chance and coincidence, or was their a divine purpose in what is recorded?

 

15)  We don’t have to guess – look at verse 5 – READ.

16)  For ancient people, thresholds were sacred areas.

17)  Dagon’s followers didn’t want to cross this area because Jehovah demonstrated that He it.

 

18)  If this passage isn’t enough, here are some others to consider.

a)      2 Kgs. 22:4 says there were “keepers” of the “threshold” for God’s temple.

b)      Jeremiah 35:4 lists one of these “keepers” by name.

c)      2 Kgs. 12:9 refers to “priests” of the threshold.

d)      In ancient times, thresholds were far more important than simply keeping out the cold.

 

19)  Most of us know the story about Elijah and the false prophets of Baal.

20)  God’s prophet asked, “How long will you go limping between the two sides.”

21)  It has been suggested that a more exact thought is,

22)  “How long will you leap over both thresholds.”

 

23)  Knowing about the importance of a threshold explains some verses in the New Testament.

24)  One of these passages is from the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 6:19-20.

a)      Before Jesus said what He did in these verses He warned about the Pharisees.

b)      He said these people put on a religious show for others, but it was all fake.

c)      Jesus then began to talk about money.

d)      In His recorded teachings Jesus talked about wealth again and again.

 

25)  Here is what He said in Mt. 6:19-20 – READ.

a)      Most translations render the thought as “break through and steal.”

b)      When we see those words, we probably think about theft in America.

c)      We might automatically assume that “break through” has the sense of break in.

d)      Today people break in any way they can.

e)      Break a window; break down a door, jimmy the lock…get in the easiest way possible.

 

26)  There is a small distinction in Jesus’ point that is easy to overlook.

27)  Some of you probably have a footnote that says “dig through.”

28)  The word Jesus used has the sense of actually digging through something.

29)  This something would be the sun dried brick walls that were used to make buildings.

a)      Why would a thief go to the time and trouble to dig through a sun baked brick wall?

b)      Why not go through the front door?

 

30)  I would answer this question with one word:  covenant.

31)  People saw the entryway to a house as sacred.

32)  It probably sounds pretty strange to us, but Jesus knew the people’s mentality was something like this:

33)  If I am going to steal, I must enter the house some way besides the front door.

34)  A similar reference is found in Lk. 12:39; there Jesus used the same term.

35)  READ.

36)  Ancient people didn’t go through the front door and steal things.

37)  I would like it to a thief today who says, “I don’t steal from my relatives.”

a)      “I will steal from my employer, neighbor, and all my friends.”

b)      “Under no circumstances will I steal from a family member.”

 

38)  A man who visited Saudi Arabia reported a strange sight.

a)      He saw guards at tents, but these guards were not where he expected.

b)      The flap at the front of the tent was open and completely unsecured (i.e. no guards).

c)      Guards were at the back of the tent, even though the rear of the tents were not open.

d)      Ancient people respected covenants and thresholds because this was where agreements were often made.

 

39)  Earlier I mentioned the Passover from Ex. 12 and I want to return to that subject.

a)      When the Hebrews put blood at the doorway to their house, they were cementing an agreement.

b)      They were saying they wanted God’s friendship, protection, and help.

c)      What about those who didn’t take advantage of the blood provision at the door?

 

40)  Their lack of obedience was essentially a message of disobedience and defiance.

41)  Not relying upon the blood was saying to God, “You are not welcome in our lives.”

42)  “We don’t want you.”

43)  We know the results of both choices.

 

44)  In the houses which made an agreement with God, the people suffered no losses.

45)  Those who refused to be part of heaven’s agreement suffered just as God said.

46)  Today this same basic principle applies.

47)  We can either be part of God’s covenant and follow its terms or we can say “no” to it.

48)  Both choices lead to some very definite and certain consequences.

49)  Being obedient means being blessed; disobeying means facing the wrath of God.

 

50)  Our threshold, as it were, is the cross of Christ.

51)  What Jesus did on a piece of wood is our doorway to God.

52)  This was why Paul said He “preached Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

53)  Col. 1:20 says there is “peace” through the blood shed on the cross.

54)  God has a house; it is called the church, 1 Tim. 3:15.

55)  If we want to be under His roof (care, love, and protection), we must come to the cross.

56)  This is our doorway to God and salvation.  Have we gone to that place?