"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.'"
In Exodus 19:4-8, God establishes a new covenant with the nation of Israel. The basis of the covenant was His rescue of the nation of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. He tells Israel, "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." This covenant is different from the covenant God established with Abram. God's covenant with Abram was unconditional; God declared what He would do (Genesis 15:1-18). Obedience is the conditional basis of the covenant God is establishing with the nation of Israel. In Exodus 19:8, 24:3, 24:7, all the people of Israel say, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient."
Thank the LORD Jesus; salvation comes from the promise made through Abraham, not through my ability to do everything God commands! Yet, I know what God says to do is perfect, sure, right, pure, endures forever and righteous altogether. Therefore, my longing, aspiration, desire, goal, ambition, and objective is obedience.
Two words jump off the page in John 3: born and believe. In the first eight verses, born is used eight times. Jesus uses the word "believe" seven times in His response to Nicodemus' question "How can these things be?" Believe is also used in the last verse, which is a summary of the entire chapter, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
Nicodemus is proof of John 2:23. He came to Jesus believing He was a teacher sent from God for sure, but still just a teacher. Jesus goes directly to the heart of the issue by saying unless you become a new creation you cannot even see the kingdom of God, much less gain entrance. "How?" Nicodemus asks twice (John 3:4, 9). Jesus' response is to compare physical birth to spiritual birth.
The Holy Spirit, like the wind, goes wherever He desires and does whatever He wants. We are at the mercy of the Sovereign Spirit of God. The new birth is not man's doing. It is the supernatural work of the Spirit. Man does not initiate his new life any more than Lazarus caused his resurrection.
After explaining the sovereign activity of the Holy Spirit, Jesus explains man's responsibility. Man must believe in the only Son of God. Just as those bitten by the fiery serpents in Numbers 21:4-9 were required to look at the bronze serpent on a pole to live, so too does man have to look at the Son of Man, who is lifted up, to have eternal life. Man's problem is unbelief. Light came into the world, but men loved the darkness.
Sovereign Lord God, I confess like the man in Mark 9:24, "I believe, help my unbelief." Sovereign Holy Spirit, thank You for giving me new birth. Sovereign Lord Jesus, thank You for allowing Yourself to be cursed by being hung from a tree so I might have eternal life.
"They showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him."
Boy, that sure messes with a lot of the 21st-century American church theology, doesn't it? You don't hear this taught and praised a lot, do you— The LORD will bring trouble to you for His glory?