Posts Tagged With: covenant

Children of the Covenants

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Christian is a citizen of a cosmic kingdom. Our citizenship is in heaven. While we currently live in the physical world, our true home is in a very different perfect world. Although we have numerous relationships in this world (family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, enemies, and general nuisances), many of those relationships are temporary. We are already in fellowship with those who have gone before us, the “righteous made perfect.” We will live eternally with them and with the Lord. Those “righteous made perfect” constitute a “great cloud of witnesses” who are already celebrating our spiritual victories and encouraging us to stand up when we falter.

The church is a covenant community, united under Jesus. That covenant is eternal. That covenant community received instruction from Jesus that is preserved in the Gospels. The covenant was sealed in His body and blood, given on the cross for our sins. Its promises were secured in Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Ancient Israel was part of a covenant people who received their instructions at Mount Sinai. On that mountain, God showed His power: fire, a loud voice. The message was clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The same God who had rescued the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea had destroyed the Egyptian army in the same sea. You cannot play games with God and hope to get away with it. “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am filled with fear and trembling’” (Hebrews 12:21).

On Calvary, Jesus forged the New Covenant, which showed another aspect of God’s power. Here, Jesus showed His mercy. Yes, God revealed His power that day: darkness covered the land, an earthquake occurred, and the veil of the temple was torn asunder (Matthew 27:45-54; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-47). Onlookers saw the power of God on full display. But, Jesus willingly surrendered His life. The One who created the universe subjected Himself to humanity’s ability to destroy life. Yet, at that moment, He conquered death. A preview of His power to conquer death was seen as several Old Testament saints rose from the tombs and appeared to people around Jerusalem. (Some readers are probably imagining a zombie apocalypse like “Dawn of the Dead,” but I doubt it was anything that morbid: Perhaps a little unnerving, though, especially if they appeared to people who had known them while they were alive.)

By faith in Him, we come to a spiritual Mount Zion, the “heavenly Jerusalem.” “You have come,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. We are not looking forward to our heavenly destiny. It is not something we hope for with uncertainty. Our destination is guaranteed in Christ, as certain as if we are living in it now. Yes, suffering surrounds us, but we can live in victory because the One who dwells in us is more powerful than the forces of hell and evil (1 John 4:4).

Today, those of us who follow Jesus are part of that righteous community. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, “the righteous made perfect.” One day, we will shed our mortal flesh and be fully united with them. This is our goal. Let us take comfort that God, in His power, has given us righteousness and mercy, which can guide our steps as we journey through life to the spiritual Mount Zion where we live forever in His presence, glory, and joy.

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Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scripture Sabbath Challenge—Genesis 17:1–6

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.” Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.” [Genesis 17:1–6. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

This week, the Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office readings have guided readers through the story of Abraham. Abraham’s life was a turning point in God’s dealings with humanity. Beginning with Abraham, God chose a people to whom He would reveal Himself. Through that group of people (the children of Israel), God would bless the world (Genesis 12:1–3). That blessing would culminate in the coming of the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through that covenant, God took a “nobody” and transformed him into a “somebody” whose life and faith still impact our world.

Genesis 17 is the third time God called Abraham (originally named Abram) into covenant relationship with Him. Each calling was not so much a new covenant; it was, instead, a reminder or a clarification of the covenant. In Genesis 12, God promised to make Abram into a great nation. In Genesis 15, God promised that this great nation would be his own descendants. However, since Abram’s wife Sarai (or Sarah) was already past child-bearing, they assumed that he needed to take matters into their own hands; instead of believing that God could do the impossible, Sarai suggested that Abram marry a second wife to bear children.

In Genesis 17, God reaffirmed the covenant. Abram was basically a nobody: a Middle-Eastern nomad wandering through the world he knew. Countless nomads wandered the lands of the Middle East throughout the centuries, herding sheep and surviving as he did, only to be forgotten by history. In many ways, he was not the kind of person we may view as a “hero”: at times dishonest, sometimes doubting God. In spite of all that, God chose to establish His covenant with Abram.

Three key thoughts are worth considering regarding this covenant. First, God initiated the covenant. Abram was not a great philosopher or wise man who could ponder his way to an awareness of the divine nature. Left to himself, Abram probably would have wandered around the ancient world, herding sheep, fighting feuds over watering holes, and worshipping his father’s idols. Abram would not have found God; instead, God found him. Let us always remember that we do not find Jesus; the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us. He finds us.

Second, God defined the covenant. God determined how He would bless Abram. The blessings of the covenant were decided by God. Abram did not bring God a list of terms, proposals, or counter-offers. God offered the blessing, the terms of the covenant, and the sign of the covenant. God called Abram to accept circumcision as a sign of the covenant; I’m sure Abram could have thought of some less-painful options, but he obeyed without offering a compromise suggestion.

We, too, should accept the call to follow God on His terms. Faith in God is not like dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet (take what you like and leave the rest). God calls us to accept a relationship with Him on His terms, grounded in faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our Lord—not our motivational therapist, buddy, or just someone we can call when we think we need a little help.

Finally, God chooses the recipient. We do not earn salvation. He calls us. Salvation begins with conviction by the Holy Spirit. If you think you need to get your life in order before coming to Jesus, you are wrong. He is calling you (even if it is through something as simple as this blog post), come to Him. He will start a work in your life and bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

God found Abram, an anonymous nomad whom history should have forgotten, and called him into a covenant relationship with Him. He transformed that nobody into Abraham, the father of many nations, patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions, and ancestor of our Saviour. If we recognize God’s invitation and choose to obey, He will guide us to a destiny far beyond our expectations.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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