45 “But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God:
I am the LORD.”
“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
On the surface, a covenant seems to be a contract between two people, a promise between them that carries conditions and consequences. But as a wise friend of mine recently pointed out, in the Bible, a covenant is quite different from what we normally think of as a contract. As my friend noted, in a contract each party is looking out for his or her own interests, and the “payment” within the contract is conditional upon services provided. But in a Biblical covenant relationship, the idea is reversed: the two parties have each other’s concerns at heart, and the agreement between them is not to expect payment but to abide by standards that are beneficial to both. Rather than signing a contract, the members of a Biblical covenant participate in a sacrament – e.g. marriage, baptism, or communion – which seals the agreement. By His very nature, God will always abide by the covenant He has made with us, never failing in His promises. However, there is a word in the Bible that describes when WE fail to live up to our role in the covenant with God: “sin.” And yet, despite our backsliding and sin, God is true to us and He leaves the way open for us to rejoin Him in the covenant relationship and return to the blessings He has promised. In fact, God has even offered to help us return to our proper relationship with Him:
“Return, you backsliding children,
And I will heal your backslidings.”
The simple truth is that God loves us and desires that we return to Him. He wants us to give up our evil ways (Isaiah 1:16-17) and come back to Him, and in thousands of years He has never gone back on His promises to Abraham:
1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 “I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 “I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.
2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”
What is God’s side of the covenant? He will bless Abraham, and in Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (That includes you and me!) What is Abraham’s and OUR side of the covenant? We agree to be obedient, to leave our “home” and go to the place the Lord God will show us, and we agree to walk blameless before the Lord. God has never forgotten that covenant, nor ever will. Only we inherently sinful creatures – weak in the flesh and never so faithful as God – are prone to forgetting that great promise God made to Abraham.
The remarkable thing for us today is that the promises of God are written down in His Holy Bible for all to see. If we forget, we can always refer to the Book. The covenant is in God’s Word, set down in black and white, as literal and clear as the articles of any worldly legal covenant.
18 For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19 “I have not spoken in secret,
In a dark place of the earth;
I did not say to the seed of Jacob,
‘Seek Me in vain’;
I, the LORD, speak righteousness,
I declare things that are right.”
God’s covenant is not a secret thing, not filled with hidden codicils and esoteric legal language. Read His Word, and you will see there the great depth and height and breadth of God’s love for us. (Don’t all Christians have John 3:16-17 memorized by now?)
We may forget the terms of the covenant, and we may fail to live the life He has so wanted us to live. But despite our failures, God loves us and He remembers the covenant. Now it is our turn to remember the covenant and abide by it for the rest of our lives.
Almighty God, Your ways are not our ways nor Your thoughts our thoughts, but You open Your heart and will to us through Your Holy Word. Thank You for bringing us the promise of Abraham through Your beloved Son. Help me to remember my side of the covenant, to never forget nor neglect my faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.