The Christian life is based on covenant. A covenant of love between the God of the universe and His creation.
A covenant binds and protects. It’s an agreement; a legal contract. A covenant outlines terms that all parties are expected to fulfil.
Christians have a covenantal agreement with God through Jesus Christ. But do those of us who are believers live today as though we understand it? A covenant is formed between people to bind them together and fulfil expectations. How many Christians really think about the God of Israel as their highest King? Their highest authority? For those of us who do, how often do we really think about it in the function of everyday life? How much do we carry the reality of what it means in our thought life and in what we do?
In the Old Testament, there were dire consequences for the Israelites if they disobeyed God under their covenant conditions. Yet, God always forgave them if they repented and sought His forgiveness and pledged to become accountable to Him again. He never allowed them to be annihilated by other nations. He always made sure there was a remnant. The faithful remained.
Now, believers live under a new covenant with Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of His pure life means He covers our wrongs, as long as we live with repentant hearts. But the fact is we still live under a covenant; an agreement of accountability. This leads us to want to please Him by what we ought to do under that agreement. Do we think about this in literal, ready terms?
I’m reading through Jeremiah at the moment. Full of false prophets and a nation who wanted to listen to lies because they sounded pleasant, Israel was far from God’s covenant and His covenantal blessing. They wouldn’t listen to Jeremiah, who paid so dearly a personal price for being a faithful man of God. God even told him not to marry and produce children because it would cause him too much heartache. Because of his heart that was repentant and accountable to God, He was compelled to continue prophesying the truth despite the ordeals this brought into his life from the Israelites own hands.
In Jeremiah 14:9 he calls out to God, “we bear your name; don’t forsake us!”
Living under the name of God meant to live under his covenantal protection and presence. But God replied to him in 14:11-12 “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings, I will not accept them.” (NIV) They were doing things out of duty, rather than obedience. They were choosing to listen to lies because it allowed them to live in whatever way pleased them. They weren’t living to please the one they were under covenant with. God was their King, but they didn’t want Him.
Under the priest Samuel’s stewardship, they demanded an earthly king. Samuel argued with them that they would have to come under limitations and enslavement but they refused to listen. Finally, God conceded to their wishes. What a rejection of His protection and provision for them. What a rejection of His love. They opted for a person king rather than a Godly King.
We still live under a covenant with God as Christians, whereby we agree to live accountably to the instructions in the bible. But how many Christians are truly living purely, in a way that pleases God? Not just our lifestyles, but our thought life and considered intent in the things we do or rule out of our lives.
Living under the covenant that God outlines with His own people (based on a suzerain-vasral covenant typical in ancient near Eastern treaties whereby inferior groups pledged obedience to superior protectors) means understanding there are legal parameters that dictate behaviour and outcome.
Exodus 19:4-6 (NIV)
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”
What an amazing trade.
In the NIV woman’s study bible footnotes of Exodus 19:5 (p.118) it describes the outline of this kind of kingdom covenant between nations, which can be seen between God and His people.
It identifies the giver of the agreement and the historical, beneficial actions taken by a king (Exodus 20:2 – the God who brings His people out of slavery); it describes stipulations (Exodus 20-23 – beginning with the ten commandments and continuing with further laws, clearly explaining what is right and wrong. To be a loyal subject, Israelite lives needed to reflect the identified code of conduct); it describes the requirement of total allegiance (Exodus 20:3, 23:13,24,25); and a formal seal of the covenant (Exodus 24:8-12). For us as believers that formal seal is Christ Jesus - John 6:27.
Seals are of legal importance – see 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 6:9; 7:2-4; 9:4.
Perhaps for application, we might recognise the legal significance of a seal in the form of a signature, or an identifying mark such as a company letterhead or any form of insignia or branding. Greater than this type of branding, seals or identifications will be borne out in the end days when the mark of Satan will be forced upon people on the earth for buying or selling, but the people of God are not to take this – it is a seal that cannot be revoked – Revelation 13:16-18, 14:9-10; just as the seal of the Holy Spirit remains until the day of Jesus Christ – Ephesians 1:13-14, God will put His own seal on His people – Revelation 14:1.
God is a King of covenant. Jesus Christ is our King and we are still called to follow Him in principled worship, rejecting all other influences. If we have areas of our lives that we know are not submitted to His authority, it’s important we recognise this and reject what is against God’s Kingdom – against the knowledge of God in our lives. The bible even speaks about presumption.
Psalm 19:13 says, “Also, keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”
We cannot rely on the grace of God to pass. That is offensive to His holiness. Presumption that He’ll forgive us as we carry on thinking a certain way or justifying ungodly behaviour, is pride and rebellion.
In order to overcome sinful thinking or behaviour, Dr. Ed Young Snr advises, ‘Starve it out, cut it out and crowd it out’. He says in a devotional 22.10.22, “Before long, your “oughts” and your “wants” will become identical, and you will experience the Holy Spirit operating in your life and confirming that you are growing in your relationship with your Heavenly Father.”
Smith Wigglesworth said if you’re not growing in God every day, you’re backsliding.
Have your “oughts” become your “wants”? Our “oughts” lead to ready obedience under God’s covenant through Christ.
Obedience is our side of the covenant. Protection and provision are God’s side.
Do you fulfil your side so that you benefit from God’s side to the extent that He wants?
How good it is to consistently live in the felt presence of God; tucked inside His grace every moment of every day, knowing that as we deliberately determine to act in godliness, He reaches out to us to draw us closer. Living intentionally toward an obedient life that pleases the Lord God and fulfils our covenantal bond in all we think, believe about others, do and say towards others, cutting out things that do not glorify Him, keeps the way clear for our intimacy with God to flourish.