Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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18 Resting in His Covenant

Psalm 132:13-14 – “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.”

Psalm 132 is divided into two sections: verses 1–10 is David’s vow and prayer to the Lord where he swears an oath to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, a story told more fully in 2 Samuel 6, and verses 11–18 God’s response of promise to David’s prayer. This dual prayer and promise reveals something about the nature of their relationship, one that includes responsibilities, promises, and blessings. At the heart of this psalm is something that lies at the heart of our relationship with God and how He has chosen to relate to us, the idea of covenant. In order to understand a covenant we first have to discuss what it is not. Lots of people lump the idea of covenant together with that of a contract, yet in reality the two ideas, while related and similar, are very different. Especially when it comes to the kind of relationship they each reveal. In a contract, the focus is on the individual, its underlying principle is individualistic, you make a contract with someone else so that your life will benefit. Contracts are formed out of questions like: how will this benefit me? How will this improve my life? How can I get out of this what I need to? Contracts tend to have built in exit clauses, they can be bent broken. The kind of relationship envisioned in a contract is completely utilitarian, based on my needs, where the other person becomes a means to an end. Unfortunately today many are treating marriage simply as a business contract, founded on the same kinds of questions and priorities. So I have to ask what kind of relationship is envisioned when an engaged couple agree to a pre-nuptial contract? Many in our culture have contract marriages, thinking primarily of themselves, while lots don’t even both with marriage, choosing instead just to live together. We believe that we are a smarter society, more emotionally evolved, so we say, “we can try the relationship out first, just live together and see if we are compatible, if it doesn’t work, that’s ok, no harm done.” Sounds logical right? Wrong, its not logical its ludicrous. If it was so brilliant and really worked, then why can’t I try out that new truck or car that “might” work for me? Why is it that they wont just let me drive it for a year and see if its a fit before I make a commitment? If it doesn’t work economically why would it work emotionally? Today we have a culture that is ok with commitment to riches just not relationship? Taking a temperature of our times reveals the dysfunction of a fevered people, who in their delusion have traded the true riches relationship for trinkets. A selfish society devoid of commitment, desperately trying to deny the costs of their choice, while their children try to deal with the disaster of divorce. We have traded commitment for a contract and now we have traded that for convenience, and all in the name of choice! A covenant is different, it is about our willingness to enter fully into a relationship with someone else. Where a contract is self-centered, a covenant is other-centered, a contract focuses on convenience where a covenant sees commitment. In the Bible we discover that God has made several, overlapping covenants throughout history. He made a covenant with Noah that he would never again flood the earth and destroy all life. He made a covenant with Abraham to bless him and make him a great nation and give him many descendants. He made a covenant with Moses in the form of the Law. He made a covenant with David that there would always be a descendant on David’s throne. All of these covenants tell us at least two things. First, all of the covenants are rooted in God’s character not our capability. While all other covenants in the ancient world were carried out between two equal parties, this is never the case when it comes to a covenant between God and His people, because His covenants are never based on the merit of us. It is God that has chosen to covenant, He has chosen to establish the relationship. They are based solely on God’s grace, founded on His faithfulness, on who He is and not on who we are. Second, God’s covenants show His unconditional commitment to His people, and while God’s people also have responsibilities and commitments, such covenants are not conditional. Yes his people were called to worship the Lord alone and be loyal to Him in every sphere of life, but at the heart these covenants are not based on Israel’s response to God. In Isaiah 49:15, the Lord asks: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” God’s covenant paints a picture of a parent and a child, where the child’s failure does not destroy the relationship. A covenant puts no conditions on faithfulness, rather it is the unconditional commitment to love and serve. Today I wonder how many see Christianity as a contract, with Christ as a contract-god, that if they live up to their end of the bargain, then they will get into heaven? How many people believe that because they’re not living lives pleasing to God, they can never come into His church, that to come they have to clean themselves up first. But we don’t have a contract-God, we have a covenant God, establishing a relationship with us based on who He is. Based on His grace, His steadfast, unconditional love that we could never hope to earn, nowhere do we see this more clearly than on the cross. Reading the bible it doesn’t take long to discover that God’s people never fully responded to God through relationship, choosing instead to rebel. But God persisted, our faithful Father continued to pursue, giving us these words in Jeremiah 31:31–34: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the last of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” Psalm 132:11 reminds us that, “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back.” Even if we have not kept our promises as God’s people, God keeps His promises, revealed through our Redeemer Jesus Christ. In Christ alone, on the cross, is the culmination and completion of every covenant. God promised Noah that He would never again destroy all life; Jesus is the source of all life. God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him; through Jesus’ blood God is ransoming saints from every tribe, nation, language and people. God gave Moses and Israel the Law; in Jesus the Law is fulfilled. In our Psalm God promised David that “one of the sons of your body I will set on your throne”; to Jesus God gave the throne of his ancestor David. Every promise, every pledge, that God ever made has come true in Jesus Christ. Through covenant God has promised to provide and bless His people, so today will you rest in His covenant relationship?