“Covenant” – Ezekiel 16

April 13th, 2014 — Palm Sunday

Ezekiel 16

“Covenant”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:   Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. —  Hebrews 10:23

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why in the world is Pastor Keith talking about marriage, covenants and promises on Palm Sunday?

 

Answer:  Palm Sunday, lamb selection day, is when Jesus  (the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world) came into Jerusalem to accomplish the work God gave Him to do to restore His people back to Himself.  But, we must be willing to choose Him as our King, our Groom, our redeemer if we hope to be restored.  Why would we choose Jesus?  Because He is faithful to keep His covenant promises.   Are we?

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Covenant

 

And three days after that, he was explaining to two disciples on the road to Emmaus that the redemption of Israel which they were hoping for had indeed been accomplished through his resurrection on the third day.  A messianic king, a new temple, a new covenant, a new Passover, a redeemed Israel; and all in the space of a week between Palm Sunday and Easter Day!  (Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 164)

 

Three questions I believe we need to attempt to answer that are crucial for becoming more comprehensively human:

I.  What is a covenant? (Gn ch 15; Dt 23:21-23; Ps 145:13; Prv 20:25; Eccl 5:4-6; Rom 4:13-25; Heb 10:27; Jas 5:12)

 

Covenant = “come to terms”, “bond”, “partnership”, “fetter”, “to agree”, “pledge”, “promise”, “to put together”, to eat bread with”, “to keep the community of a meal with”. (TDNT & Zondervan + International)

 

No worship could be more pleasing or acceptable to God than the worship of marital love, of two lives being played out against one another in a covenant of loving cooperation.  (Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 26)

 

A person cannot promise to love another person:  he can only vow to do so.  A vow is, per se, a confession of inadequacy and an automatic calling upon the only adequacy there is, which is the mercy and power of God.

To keep a vow, therefore, means not to keep from breaking it, but rather to devote the rest of one’s life to discovering what the vow means, and to be willing to change and to grow accordingly.  It might almost be said that the sign that a vow is being kept is the realization of how far one is from keeping it.  In a very real way it is the vow which keeps the man rather than vice versa.  (Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 116)

 

Why do we say that marriage is the most deeply covenantal relationship?  It is because marriage has both strong horizontal and vertical aspects to it.  In Mal 2:14, a man is told that his spouse “is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (cf. Ez 16:8).  Prv 2:17 describes a wayward wife who has “left the partner of her youth, and ignored the covenant she made before God.”  The covenant made between a husband and a wife is done “before God” and therefore with God as well as the spouse.  To break faith with your spouse is to break faith with God at the same time.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 86)

 

Love needs a framework of binding obligation to make it fully what it should be.  A covenant relationship is not just intimate despite being legal.  It is a relationship that is more intimate because it is legal.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 88)

 

To say, “I don’t need a piece of paper to love you” is basically to say, “My love for you has not reached the marriage level.”  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 80)

 

“From this day forward it is not your love that will keep your marriage alive, but it is your marriage that will keep your love alive.”  (Deitrich Bonhoffer in a letter (from prison) to his niece on her wedding day.)

 

Then the glowing furnace moved, gliding down the aisle lined with the animal parts that glistened in the fire’s light.  Surely an ecstasy gripped Abram’s soul!  He had not been asked to join in the pageant–to pass with God between the pieces.  It was God alone.  This was an unconditional, unilateral covenant.  God (with astounding condescension) was symbolizing that if he were to break his word, he would be sundered like the butchered animals.  It was an acted-out curse, a divine self-imprecation guaranteeing that Abram’s descendants would get the land or God would die.  And God cannot die.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Genesis, 234)

 

In the silence after the oracle, a fearful light burst the darkness.  Searing lightning passed down the aisle formed by the divided pieces.  The same terminology used in this account to describe both the darkness and the fire is used later to tell of the fire of the Lord at Sinai, where God appeared in fire and cloud (Gn 15:12, 17; Ex 19:18; 20:18, 21).  The symbolism is clear from the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer 34:18-20).  To walk between the divided parts of an animal sacrifice is an oath-taking ceremony.  The oath is plainly self-maledictory in its symbolism: “If I do not keep the oath that I swear, may I be divided as this animal has been.”

The wonder of this vision is that God Himself takes the oath.  He swears to Abram by His own life that He will perform the word that He has promised.  (Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, 47)

 

Of course the idea of God taking an oath against himself is inconceivable.  But that Abraham should in his vision see God–or rather the two mysterious fiery objects which represented him–passing between the separate pieces of the animals he had laid out was clearly to him, as it would be to every Hebrew after him, a highly significant symbolism.  It was the sign he had craved.  It meant that God was entering into a treaty or, as the Bible usually says, a covenant with him.  By his willingness to go through in front of his servant a procedure similar to the one by which men sealed their human bargains, God was letting him know that nothing could stand in the way of the fulfillment of his promises, for his own divine honor was at stake in the matter.  (John C. L. Gibson, The Daily Study Bible Series, Genesis, Vol. 2, 55)

 

Death and covenant clearly relate.  They relate concretely in two ways.  First, the death of the covenant-maker receives symbolic representation at the time of the inauguration of the covenant.  The covenant-making procedure is not complete without this pledge-to-death aspect.  Secondly, the death of the covenant-violator receives historical actualization when covenantal judgment is executed.  Once a transgression of covenantal commitment has occurred, death is inevitable.

So both “testament” and “covenant” involve death.  Death activates a testament.  Death inaugurates and vindicates a covenant.  (O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, 139)

 

Marriage is recognized throughout the world, in nearly all cultures, as the only means of establishing a blood relationship with someone outside of one’s immediate consanguineous family.  It is a true joining in blood, through a solemn exchange of promises, of two beings who were not previously related.  And in this way it bears an uncanny correspondence to the new relationship which comes about between man and God through the promises of faith sealed by the blood of Christ.  For by bleeding for us, God in His Son Jesus solemnly joined Himself to humanity, enabling Christians to become His Own blood relatives and thus inheritors of His Kingdom.  Nothing, therefore is stronger than blood and covenant, for these have been the Lord’s Own means for bringing the human race into relationship with Himself.  (Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 180)

 

Sacrificial love has transforming power.  Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional.  The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.  This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present.  It if is, so much the better; but if it isn’t, the commitment to love, the will to love, still stands and is still exercised.  Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love.  I may meet a woman who strongly attracts me, whom I feel like loving, but because it would be destructive to my marriage to have an affair, I will say vocally or in the silence of my heart, “I feel like loving you, but I am not going to.”  My feelings of love may be unbounded, but my capacity to be loving is limited.  I therefore must choose the person on whom to focus my capacity to love, toward whom to direct my will to love.  True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.  It is a committed, thoughtful decision.  (Dr. M. Scott Peck)

 

As salt was regarded as a necessary ingredient of the daily food, and so of all sacrifices offered to Yahweh (Lv 2:13), it became an easy step to the very close connection between salt and covenant-making.  When men ate together they became friends.  Cf. The Arabic expressions, “There is salt between us”; He has eaten of my salt,” which means partaking of hospitality which cemented friendship; cf. “eat the salt of the palace” (Ezr 4:14). Covenants were generally confirmed by sacrificial meals and salt was always present.  Since, too, salt is a preservative, it would easily become symbolic of an enduring covenant.  So offerings to Yahweh were to be by a statute forever, “a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord” (Nu 18:19).  David received his kingdom forever from the Lord by a “covenant of salt” (2 Ch 13:5).  In the light of these conceptions the remark of Our Lord becomes the more significant: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mk 9:50).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 794)

 

In the case of the Abrahamic covenant, God the Creator binds himself to man the creature by a solemn blood-oath.  The Almighty chooses to commit himself to the fulfillment of promises spoken to Abraham.  By this divine commitment, Abraham’s doubts are to be expelled.  God has solemnly promised, and has sealed that promise with a self-maledictory oath.  The realization of the divine word is assured.  (O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, p. 131)

 

In the ceremony the two contracting parties then passed between the rows, symbolizing their unity, as well as the fact that if one violated the agreement, he would be slain like the animal victims (so Jer 34:18).  (Charles T. Fritsch, The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, 61)

 

Under the idea of baptism being a covenant sign, Meredith Kline advocates an understanding of baptism as judgment.  In By Oath Consigned, he demonstrates how circumcision served as the ratifying sign of God’s covenant with Abraham.  The ratification invokes sanctions and punishment for breaking those sanctions.  Thus, circumcision was a sign of judgment should the covenant be broken.  Water baptism serves the same purpose.  Kline explains how water served as a judgment sign in the OT, using the Noahic flood and the Red Sea crossing as examples.  They are instances of “redemptive judgment.”  The waters exercise judgment on the condemned and save the redeemed.  Kline appeals to 1 Pt 3:21, which links baptism with the Noahic flood, and 1 Cor 10:2, which does the same with the Red Sea crossing, to contend that Peter and Paul viewed baptism in the same manner.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 176)

 

Many of us have sought to overcome self-doubts by giving ourselves to our careers.  That will mean we will choose our work over our spouse and family to the detriment of our marriage.  Others of us hope that unending affection and affirmation from a beautiful, brilliant romantic partner will finally make us feel good about ourselves.  That turns the relationship into a form of salvation, and no relationship can live up to that.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 73)

 

Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.  A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now–that can safely be assumed.  Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 91)

 

When unmarried people live together, they certainly see one another “up close,” but each party knows that the other one does not have the same claims on him or her that would be true if they were married.  They don’t merge their entire lives–socially, economically, legally–and so either one can walk away with relatively few complications if they don’t like what they are being told.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 151)

 

Marriage is fundamentally a contractual arrangement (called in Mal 2:14 a marriage “by covenant” and not a sexual union.  Marriage is a formal (covenantal) arrangement between two persons to become each other’s loving companions for life.  In marriage, they contract to keep each other from ever being lonely so long as they shall live.  Our modern wedding ceremonies should stress this point more fully than they do.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 13)

 

The marriage union is the closest, most intimate of all human relationships.  Two persons may begin to think, act, feel as one.  They are able to so interpenetrate one another’s lives that they become one, a functioning unit.  Paul, quoting this verse in Eph 5:28-31, says that the relationship is to be so intimate that whatever a man does (good or evil) for his wife, he also does for himself since the two have become one flesh (person).

Even in 1 Corinthians 6, where, at first, one might think of the use of the verse as confirming the sexual aspect of marriage, a more careful reading shows otherwise.  Paul distinguishes three sorts of unions:

1.  One body (v. 16)–sexual relation with a harlot = a closer union

2.  One flesh (v. 16)–the marriage union = a closer union

3.  One spirit (v. 17)–union with Christ = the closest union

(Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 17)

 

The meaning of the marriage vows finds its deepest resonance, then, in the biblical concept of covenant, in which two parties so bind themselves to one another that the simple maintenance of their relationship becomes the most important and central thing in all of life, the basis from which everything else flows.  (Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 128-29)

 

As circumcision signified the covenant made with Abraham for his descendants, so baptism signifies the covenant made with Christ for his.  But here is the key difference: Christ through his body bore the guilt incurred in the first covenant and ratified the second.  Thus, when we enter the covenant, our baptism signifies the work that Christ has already done to fulfill its conditions.  It is a sign that points us to the finished work of our Redeemer.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God; A Vision for Reforming Worship, 175)

 

Covenant with Adam (Gn 2:15-17; 3:15)

Covenant with Noah (Gn 9:9-17)

Covenant with Abraham (Gn 15:8-18; 17:1-14)

Covenant with Israel (Ex 19-24; Dt 29-30; Josh 23-24)

Covenant with David (2 Sm 7:12-17; 23:5; Ps 89:3ff; Isa 55:3ff)

 

II.  Why is covenant important to faith, marriage and life? (Ps 106:31; 119:116, 162; Mal 2:10-16; Rom 3:21-22; Ch 4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:6; Heb ch 11; Jas 2:20-24; 2 Pt 3:13; 1 Jn 2:25)

 

Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities—a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel.  (Hannah Arendt http://quotes.dictionary.com)

 

You have as much laughter as you have faith!  (Martin Luther)

 

In God’s faithfulness lies eternal security.  (Corrie ten Boom)

 

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is.  I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil.  I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety.  In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air.  But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.  A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.”  But I, who am simple of mind, think I know:  We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear.  God made us that way.  To live by worry is to live against reality. (Dr. E. Stanley Jones; Transformed by Thorns, 95)

 

“Nothing but a scrap of paper—that’s what a marriage license is!”  This kind of extravagant statement is a symptom of the spirit of our age.  With increasing frequency, marriage is being put down, cast aside, and overturned.  But wait a minute!  Aren’t scraps of paper important?  Is it not one of the marks of civilized men that they protect themselves against their savagery by scraps of paper?  Sure, a wedding license is a scrap of paper, but so is an employment contract, your paycheck, a twenty-dollar bill, the deed to your home, and the Constitution of the United States.  (Dr. David Hubbard, Homemade, July, 1989)

 

Every enduring marriage involves an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.  (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 108)

 

Nothing better communicates this grace of God to our spouses than our unconditional love of them.  A husband who cherishes his wife simply because of the relationship they established together before God honors both his God and his wife.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 50)

 

Someone who says, “I love you, but we don’t need to be married” may be saying, “I don’t love you enough to curtail my freedom for you.”  The willingness to enter a binding covenant, far from stifling love, is a way of enhancing, even supercharging it.  A wedding promise is proof that your love is actually at marriage level as well as a radical act of self-giving all by itself.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 89)

 

When dating or living together, you have to prove your value daily by impressing and enticing.  You have to show that the chemistry is there and the relationship is fun and fulfilling or it will be over.  We are still basically in a consumer relationship, and that means constant promotion and marketing.  The legal bond of marriage, however, creates a space of security where we can open up and reveal our true selves.  We can be vulnerable, no longer having to keep up facades.  We don’t have to keep selling ourselves.  We can lay the last layer of our defenses down and be completely naked, both physically and in every other way.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 89)

 

During an especially trying time in the work of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor wrote to his wife, “We have twenty-five cents—and all the promises of God!  (W. Wiersbe; Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, 242)

 

Husbands require the support and influence of wives.  The more capable the wife, the stronger and more appropriate will be her aid.  The man who understands this divine design for his own development delights to build up the woman who makes him more able to be what God wants.  He recognizes that the regard he gives his wife defines and develops him.  Real men respect women.

If husbands will not commit themselves to their wives’ growth and good, then the men are diminished.  Men were designed to be made whole through the full expression of their spouses’ gifts and abilities.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 53)

 

Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole.  If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter.  You will be able to move out into the world in strength.  However, if your marriage is weak, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are marked by success and strength, it won’t matter.  You will move out into the world in weakness.  Marriage has that kind of power–the power to set the course of your whole life.  It has that power because it was instituted by God.  And because it has that unequaled power, it must have an unequaled, supreme priority.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 144)

 

Longitudinal studies reveal that two-thirds of unhappy marriages will become happy within five years if people stay married and do not get divorced.  Two-thirds!  What can keep marriages together during the rough patches?  The vows.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 91)

 

In Romans 1-8 Paul demonstrates that our salvation depends entirely on God and not ourselves.  Specifically, it depends on God’s grace and God’s promise, as the Hebrew scriptures so clearly proved.  But then the question arises, How can we trust God’s promise to ourselves if God has failed to fulfill his promise to Israel?  If it were true, as appearances suggested, that God had just abandoned Israel in spite of all his covenants and promises, then why on earth should the Gentiles have any confidence in the promises of such a God?  Unless Paul can show that God had not failed Israel, all his talk about salvation for the Gentiles would be hollow and baseless.

So Paul sets out to prove two affirmations:  that God’s promise had not failed (Rom 9:6), and that God had not rejected Israel (11:1-2).  (Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 170)

 

The only way for you to be truly free is to link your feeling to an obligation.  Only if you commit yourself to loving in action, day in and day out, even when feelings and circumstances are in flux, can you truly be a free individual and not a pawn of outside forces.  Also, only if you maintain your love for someone when it is not thrilling can you be said to be actually loving a person.  The aesthete does not really love the person; he or she loves the feelings, thrills, ego rush, and experiences that the other person brings.  The proof of that is that when those things are gone, the aesthete has no abiding care or concern for the other.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 103)

 

What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness.  You’re committed to his or her beauty.  You’re committed to his greatness and perfection.  You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God.  That’s your job as a spouse.  Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 135)

 

When I came face to face with the concept of “honor” in a home, I suddenly understood why a major part of my prayer life was being hindered.  When it came to Norma, the person who from an earthly perspective should receive the “highest value” I could give, I put a hundred things ahead of her.  Work projects were more important to me than my mate, and while it’s to my shame to admit it, there were countless times that a mountain trout, a small white golf ball, numerous church meetings, close friends and acquaintances–and almost anything “interesting” on television–took the place of honor which should have been reserved for Norma.  (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 22)

 

Jesus came as our Savior/Lord–totally surrendering himself to our needs though he had absolute authority (Mt 28:18).  Because he who has all authority in heaven and earth came to serve rather than to be served (20:28), we know that sacrifice does not erase authority.  Instead, when authority serves the interests of another, it masters the purpose for which God ordained it.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 36)

 

As the head of the church, Jesus sacrificed himself so that his people could know their value to God (cf. Mk 10:45; 2 Cor 8:9; Ti 2:14).  This redeeming work continues through the way God organizes families.  Husbands who reflect Christ’s headship use their authority as he did, seeking for their wives to know and reflect their preciousness to God.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 41)

 

Because two people who marry are to be one, if either party damages, demoralizes, or degrades the other, then neither will be completely whole.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 51)

 

The New Covenant.  Several passages in the prophets, but most explicitly in Jeremiah, speak of a new covenant in the messianic age (Isa 42:6; 49:6-8; 55:3; 59:21; 61:8; Jer 31:31, 33; 32:40; 50:5; Ez 16:60, 62; 34:25; 37:26; Hos 2:18).  If God’s promises were eternal, then even if historic Israel failed and suffered the curses of the broken covenant, the promise of God could not fail.  There would be a remnant in whom, by way of judgment and repentance, God would honor His promises.  He would make a new covenant, not new in essence, but new in fulfillment.  His law would be written on hearts of flesh.  In that day the throne of David would be occupied by one of David’s line and the people would enjoy an everlasting covenant of peace (Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5f.; 32:37-40; Ez 34:23; 37:25f.), in which the nations would also share (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 55:3-4; cf. Zec 2:11; 8:20-23; 14:16; etc.).  In those days worship would be purified (Ez 40-48), true theocratic government would be established, and peace would be universal.  It is very evident that in this picture the original Near Eastern metaphor has been completely transformed.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. One, 792)

 

In the same Psalms that commemorate this Massah-Meribah trial, the name “Rock” is used for God: “the Rock of our salvation” (Ps 78:15, 20, 35; 95:1).  God, the rock, identifies Himself with the rock by standing on it.  Israel would put God on trial for breaking His covenant with their fathers.  God stands in the place of the accused, and the penalty of the judgment is inflicted.

Is God, then, guilty?  No, it is the people who are guilty.  In rebellion they have refused to trust the faithfulness of God.  Yet God, the Judge, bears the judgment; He receives the blow that their rebellion deserves.  The law must be satisfied; if God’s people are to be spared, He must bear their punishment.  (Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, 124-25)

 

Going to Egypt and thus leaving the land have potential of putting the land in jeopardy.  The family also comes into jeopardy when Abram’s wife is taken from him and added to Pharaoh’s harem.  As Abram sits alone and vulnerable in his tent in Egypt, the promises are in shambles; the covenant dangles from a frayed thread:  no land, no family, nothing that looks even remotely like blessing.  In this way, chapter 12 sets the tone for the next ten chapters as advance and jeopardy are intertwined.  God will demonstrate again and again his ability to overcome obstacles and resolve jeopardy as he fulfills promises and provides what is necessary for the covenant to move forward.  (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, 398)

 

Israel’s covenant relationship with God became the basis of interpreting her history.  The argument of Jgs 2 and 2 Ki 17 may be discerned in many places in the OT, namely, that when the covenant people transgressed the covenant, failed to hearken to God’s voice, and turned aside, national calamity fell upon them.  It was the operation of the curse.  The only hope of deliverance was repentance and faith.  But when they turned from their evil and sought the Lord, He forgave them in His mercy and restored them to the fellowship of the covenant relationship.  Such a theology of history lay behind the books of Kings and Chronicles, but it is clearly evident also in the preaching of the prophets.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 792-93)

 

The failure of Israel to live loyally as the covenant people led to the development of eschatological hopes in the prophets.  Pre-exilic prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah saw not only impending judgment and exile, but also looked ahead to days of restoration.  When the Exile came, Ezekiel pointed to the eternal character of God’s covenant and spoke of restoration and renewal.  With the end of the Exile and the return of the Jews to their land, new disappointments were experienced.  The new age did not seem to dawn the way the people expected, but rather there was famine, opposition, and frustration on every hand.  Once more it was the prophetic voice that gave hope.  Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi taught that restoration of full covenant fellowship with its attendant blessings was only delayed because of the sin of the people (Hag 2; Zec 2).  God’s covenant was eternal, and the people would yet witness the breaking in of the age of that everlasting covenant of peace.

These hopes continued through the centuries.  The darker the hour, the brighter the hope.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 793)

 

The passage is commending Abraham’s faith in God’s promises or, to put it at its simplest, his conviction that things would turn out God’s way even when all the evidence pointed in the opposite direction.  Abraham had been sorely tempted to abandon his faith and dispose his affairs on the assumption that he would have no son to follow him.  His own and his wife’s age told him that this was the sensible thing to do.  But after his visionary experience he recovered his faith and, we must assume, revoked his deed of will in Eliezer’s favor.  (John C. L. Gibson, The Daily Study Bible Series, Genesis, Vol. 2, 51-52)

 

“What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.  For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God.   Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.  To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.”  (A. W. Tozer)

 

Hope is a commodity in short supply in a world without revelation.  (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, 408)

 

Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment?  I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering.  The issue, I learned, is that our circumstances don’t determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 101-02)

 

Serving each other begins with the most practical and menial tasks.  If the wife is largely or fully engaged in childcare and housekeeping, that may entail the husband’s participation in that work as much as possible.  For example, it means happily changing diapers or helping with the house cleaning without being asked.

But serving your spouse also means showing him or her great respect.  It means giving your spouse the confidence that you will always speak up and stand up for him, that you will show loyalty and appreciation for her before other family and friends.

Serving your spouse also means showing that you are committed to his or her well-being and flourishing.  This kind of love is given when you seek to help your spouse develop gifts and pursue aspirations for growth.

One of the greatest expressions of love is the willingness to change, to make a commitment to change attitudes and behaviors in yourself that trouble or hurt your spouse.  There must be an ability to take correction and to be accountable for real concrete changes.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 177-78)

 

I used to believe that marriage would diminish me, reduce my options.  That you had to be someone less to live with someone else, when, of course, you have to be someone more.  (Candice Bergen; Reader’s Digest, 05/09, 184)

 

Old Spanish Proverb: He who does not love the faults of his loved one, does not love at all.

 

All prospective members must complete a membership class and are required to sign a membership covenant.  By signing the covenant, members agree to give financially, serve in a ministry, share their faith, follow the leadership, avoid gossip, and maintain a godly lifestyle, among other things.

…I’ve discovered challenging people to a serious commitment actually attracts people rather than repels them.  The greater the commitment we ask for, the greater the response we get.  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church 54)

 

To have peace with God, to have strength to walk before God, is the sum of the great promises of the covenant of grace. (J.I. Packer ; The Mortification of Sin, 112)

 

III.  How can us choosing to have a relationship with Jesus allow us to be better covenant keepers? (Dt 30:1-4; Isa 42:5-7; 49:8-12; Jer 31:31-34; Ez 16:59-62; Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Rom 11:27; 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 3:13-14; Eph 1:13; 2:8-10; 4:30; Heb 6:13-17; 7:18-28; 8:6-13; 9:15; 10:16; )

 

 

This new covenant established by Christ was foreshadowed by the prophet Jeremiah, who uses the very word “new covenant” in describing it; and very likely Christ had that description in mind when He used the term, and meant His disciples to understand that the prophetic interpretation would in Him be realized.  There is no doubt that the author of Hebrews had the passage in mind, for he leads up to the previous statement by quoting the whole statement of Jer 31:31-34.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 796)

 

Paul insists that Christ is “the end of the law” (Rom 10:4), who fulfills its promises (2 Cor 1:20).  Indeed, through its stress on external written revelation and through its more limited appreciation of the internal, infilling power of God’s Holy Spirit for all believers (cf. Jer 31:33, 34), it could be said of the older revelation that “the letter killeth” in contrast to the newer testament, through which “the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor 3:6).  For, even as the OT validates its testamentary promises of the Redeemer who would come to Zion by referring to a continuing presence of the words of God in the mouths of His prophets (Isa 59:21; cf. Rom 11:26, 27), so too the NT emphasized “the reading of the old covenant” (2 Cor 3:14), meaning “Moses [v. 15] in the form of the OT Scriptures” (NIC, 2 Cor. P. 111).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. One, 999)

 

 

By what figure could God have demonstrated his commitment more graphically to Abram?  How could it have been displayed more vividly?  The only way would have been for the figure to become a reality, for the ever living God to take on human nature and taste death in the place of the covenant-breaking children of Abram.  And that is precisely what God did in Jesus Christ.  On the cross, the covenant curse fell completely on Jesus, so that the guilty ones who place their trust in him might experience the blessings of the covenant.  Jesus bore the punishment for our sins, so that God might be our God and we might be his people.  (Iain M. Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality, 59)

 

It is most significant that Christ here connects the “new” covenant with His “blood.”  We at once think, as doubtless the disciples thought, of the transaction described in Ex 24:7, when Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people,” indicating God’s undertaking on behalf of His people and what He required of them; “and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken will we do, and we will be obedient,’” thus taking up their part of the contract.  Then comes the ratification.  “Moses took the blood [half of which had already been thrown on the altar] and threw it upon the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (v. 8).  The blood was sacrificial blood, the blood of the animals sacrificed as burnt offerings and peace offerings (vv. 5f.).  The one half of the blood thrown on the altar tells of the sacrifice offered to God, the other half thrown on the people, of the virtue of the same sacrifice applied to the people; and so the covenant relation is fully brought about.  Christ, by speaking of His blood in this connection, plainly indicates that His death was a sacrifice, and that through that sacrifice His people would be brought into a new covenant relationship with God.  His sacrifice is acceptable to God and the virtue of it is to be applied to believers–so all the blessings of the new covenant are secured to them; the blood “is poured out for you” (Lk 22:20).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 795)

 

Covenantal restoration, according to the NT, occurs only through a man’s identification with the righteous life, substitutionary death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (Mt 3:15; Phil 3:21; Col 1:27; 1 Pt 2:24; cf. Jn 14:6); and this fact applies equally to the saved of all ages, to those of the OT as well as of the NT (Heb 11:40).  OT Israel stood quite literally under the blood (Ex 24:8; Heb 9:19), and the effectiveness of the blood lay not in bulls and goats (Heb 10:4) but in its anticipation of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (v. 12).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. One, 1004)

 

As circumcision signified the covenant made with Abraham for his descendants, so baptism signifies the covenant made with Christ for his.  But here is the key difference:  Christ through his body bore the guilt incurred in the first covenant and ratified the second.  Thus, when we enter the covenant, our baptism signifies the work that Christ has already done to fulfill its conditions.  It is a sign that points us to the finished work of our Redeemer.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 175)

 

“The Mosaic covenant explicitly assured that repentance would lead to restoration to the land (see Dt 4:29; 30:1-3).” (Richard Pratt, Jr.; 1 and 2 Chronicles, 239)

 

The family altar can be the most powerful single influence in the home.  The couple who comes together already experienced in prayer knows the value and benefits of a prayer time.  However, even if one or both partners are inexperienced at prayer, the ideal place to learn to pray is with each other at home.  The family altar is also the best place for children to learn to pray. . . . A family altar is not an ethereal or mysterious experience, but a very simple and practical matter of reading the Bible and praying with family members.

. . . According to a survey of Christian marriages taken by Dr. Pitirim Sorokin of Harvard University, where “the family practice of Bible study and prayer is daily observed, there is only one divorce in every 1015 marriages.”  It appears that not only is divorce practically eliminated from families that have a family altar, but that much of the heartache and unhappiness associated with present-day marriage finds no place in their homes. . . . Set a regular time for family devotions and make no exceptions unless absolutely necessary. . . .Read a passage in the Scriptures and, as you feel led, discuss it.  Before children come, a chapter a day would be an ideal goal.  After children arrive, it is probably better to read less and make what you read meaningful to them. . . Have prayer by both husband and wife, joined by each of the children as they mature.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 48-49)

 

The essence of Satan’s strategy, however, is to weaken a Christian’s faith in such precious and great promises as, e.g., Rom 8:28 (“in everything God works for good with those who love him”), by means of the lie that the tribulations and misfortunes that befall Christians can deprive them of any hope for a bright future (1 Thes 3:2-5).  Satan’s game plan is to destroy the Christian’s confidence that God’s plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).  So to be victorious against Satan, Christians must understand the necessity of being armed with “the shield of faith” i.e., of having an arsenal of promises from God’s word (cf. Rom 10:17) ready for use as a shield to quench all the fiery darts of Satan (Eph 6:16).  According to 1 Pt 5:9 Christians must resist the devil steadfastly in the faith.  Since the promises of Scripture are the proper object of faith (Rom 4:20), Christians must use, against each temptation to become discouraged, at least one of God’s “many and very great promises” (2 Pt 1:4).  If tempted, e.g., to be covetous and despondent about not having enough of this world’s goods to be financially secure, the Christian must “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tm 6:12) by affirming that, since God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5f.), covetousness is totally contrary to childlike faith in God.  By meditating on this and similar promises of “the faithful God” (Dt 7:9; cf. Heb 10:23; Ti 1:2) until filled by “all joy and peace in believing” (Rom 15:13), Christians perform the essential task of holding their “first confidence firm unto the end” (Heb 3:14).  (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Volume Four: Q-Z, 343)

 

I can’t brag about my love for God because I fail Him daily.   But I can brag about His love for me because it never fails.   I love God.   (Lacie Keef e-mail 3-3-14)

 

Why Moses and Elijah [in the transfiguration]?  These two are significant not only because of the mysterious character of their respected departures from earth but because of the roles they played in the OT.  Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant as Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant.  Elijah, whose return was promised in the last prophecy of the OT (see Mal 4:5), was one of the most important of a long line of OT prophets.  Moses and Elijah together represent the Law and the Prophets.  The much-used phrase “the Law and the Prophets” served as a summary for the teaching of God in the OT. (R.C. Sproul; The Glory of Christ, 117)

 

The Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone, yet ultimately there is only one way anybody is ever saved in the presence of God, and that is through works.  The question is not whether we are going to be saved through works; the question is whose works.  We are saved through the works of the one who alone fulfilled the terms of the covenant of works.  That is why it is not just the death of Christ that redeems us, but it is also the life of Christ.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 178)

 

The resurrection isn’t just a surprise happy ending for one person; it is instead the turning point for everything else.  It is the point at which all the old promises come true at last: the promises of David’s unshakable kingdom; the promises of Israel’s return from the greatest exile of them all; and behind that again, quite explicit in Matthew, Luke, and John, the promise that all the nations will now be blessed through the seed of Abraham.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 236)

 

But if Jesus has been raised, then this is how the OT has to be read:  as a story of suffering and vindication, of exile and restoration, a narrative that reaches its climax not in Israel becoming top nation and beating the rest of the world at its own game but in the suffering and vindication, the exile and restoration, of the Messiah–not for himself alone but because he is carrying the saving promises of God.  If the messenger bringing vital news falls into the river and is then rescued, he is rescued not for himself alone but for the sake of those who are waiting in desperate hope for his life-giving message.  If Jesus is raised, Luke is saying, he really was and is the Messiah; but if he’s the Messiah, he is God’s messenger, God’s promise-bearer, carrying the promises made to Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets–promises not only for Israel but also for the whole world.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 256-57)

 

God tells them, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”  “Treasured possession” is the phrase a groom would call his bride.  More wedding language. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 132)

 

Worship point:  When you realize the security and significance God brings to our lives as a result of his being a perfectly complete covenant keeper, it not only allows you to worship but it also makes life more rich and fulfilling.

 

You can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Know the promises of God to His people.  See the fulfillment of those promises in your life as a believer.  Allow the Holy Spirit to motivate and nurture you to become more like Jesus in your covenant relationships and promise keeping and to learn to trust God and His covenant promises implicitly.

 

This is what impressed God about Abraham.  He did not simply believe.  In taking God at his word, he embraced faith.  That is not to say he adopted a faith system–he simply had faith in God.  God is always impressed with faith.  We learn here, then, what impresses God.  Do you seek to impress God?  Have faith.  Our sacrifices of time or resources to not impress God unless they are motivated by faith.  And then it is our faith that impresses him, not our sacrifice.  (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, 441)

 

God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.  (Augustine)

 

 

Christ:

the First & Only

Promise Keeper

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