October 8, 2012

Covenant


This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (vs. 9&10)
If you've spent any substantial amount of time here on the blog with me you ought to know by now, that I'm BIG on this topic of covenant. Covenant is a theme that woven throughout the entire Bible. If you don't seek it out in reading the scriptures then you're missing out. You and I, God's children, are to be a covenant people, with one another and with Christ.

In the Hebrew there are numerous words to describe various covenants in their given contexts, but probably the most basic covenant word is 'berith'. Essentially, berith means making an oath with a "life-or-death bond." But then there's another covenant word as well: hesed. I'm a crazy fan of this word people. I call dibs! In explaining hesed, these two definitions are by far the best:
God's loving kindness--the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, one-way love of God. It is often translated as covenant love, loving kindness, mercy, steadfast love, loyal love, devotion, commitment, or reliability... it refers to a sort of love that has been promised and is owed--covenant love (Doctrine, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears).
God's "never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love" (The Jesus Storybook).
I pray that Christ etches and engraves this deeper and deeper into my heart. That I may never forget it.

Noahic Covenant in a Nutshell. There are many different covenants made and shown in scripture, but in this particular passage of Isaiah, God specifically points Israel back to the Noahic covenant (covenant between Him and Noah in Genesis chapter nine). We need to keep in mind that the Israelites were in captivity for their idolatry and disobedience in the first place. But even in the midst of their disobedience God reminds them (and rightfully us) of His compassionate love (as we saw earlier) and His covenant. Calling to mind the Noahic covenant is His effort in "assuring us of His grace."
This is like the days of Noah to me... (Isaiah 54:9)
In Genesis 6 we read that during Noah's life the people had become "corrupt in God's sight, and... filled with violence... for all flesh had corrupted their way..." (verses 11&12). Human depravity visits every generation in different forms (due to living in a fallen world), because here in Isaiah 54 Israel was living in similar circumstances (I'd argue we live in a culture that mirrors just as much corruption as well). Many of us know the rest of the story as we recall the felt board in Sunday school: God calls Noah to build an ark because He's going to send a flood to destroy everyone for their wickedness, Noah obeys, God sends animals to board onto Noah's massive ship (probably would've made the Titanic look like kids play... especially when you consider how Noah had to build that ark with his hands), Flood comes and wipes out everyone, Noah and his family eventually come out walking on dry land. When we keep reading, we see Noah offering a burnt sacrifice shortly afterwards, to which God's response is entering into covenant with Noah, promising to never flood the whole earth again… that God's response to our sin would be one of grace through atonement (sacrificial offerings in the Old Testament, leading to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross in the New Testament). The sign was to be a rainbow representing a covenant that "God would restore his intentions to bless people" (Doctrine, 183). In Isaiah God is echoing that same promise again. God isn't going to let the Babylonians totally destroy His people because He's going to continue to preserve their lives in order that they may become fruitful in the future again.
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed… (verse 10)
Mountains and hills in this context signify that which sways or is unstable, particularly great men/leaders, but God's covenant is immovable. It's always constant, it's always solid, it's always persistent, it's always trustworthy. 

Verses 9 and 10 deal with God's steadfastness in the midst on rebellion, discipline, and hard times. That can be hard to swallow. That God would discipline His children. I don't particularly like to talk about it, and I don't think I'm the only one, as it's not a subject we're accustomed to hearing much of in the church. (Plus, so often we confuse discipline with punishment, when they are two totally different things.) But even in discipline, rooted in love, God has not forsaken us, but is molding our hearts and preparing us for fruitfulness. One Bible commentator said that "God's love for His people is not just a little greater than his wrath; it is massively greater and eternally unchanging." His love, His covenant is binding, and will not be removed. And through the discipline, the struggle, even the rebellion we ultimately get more of Him. Nothing could be of more importance or of more value. He's our unmovable, enduring mountain of strength that we can put our trust and hope in:

The Lord does not rise and fall in His love like the waves of the sea, but His firm affections stand fast like the great mountains and are as stable as the everlasting hills. You have no right to infer from the greatness of your griefs that God is ceasing to love you, or that He loves you less! On the contrary, I am persuaded that if all the griefs which are possible to men could be heaped upon one child of God... If all God’s waves and billows went over him. If he were to descend into the deeps of affliction so low that the earth, with her bars seemed to be about him forever. If not one ray of light came into his soul, but he was tormented with temptation and afflicted by Satan, and deserted by man—and body and soul were, alike, in grief and pain—yet would all this only be a token of Divine love to him and part of the process by which love would supremely bless him!  ~Charles H. Spurgeon
The overarching theme of these two verses is one of Christ's steadfastness through covenant. As sinners, you and I cannot possibly keep our covenant to God perfectly. Our hearts often wonder, worshipping idols. Calvin said that the human heart was an idol factory, we produce one after the other. The message to be conveyed here is one of repentance… to bind our wandering hearts to Jesus alone.  If we have idolatry in our hearts we should repent of our sin, turning away from it, and chasing after Christ, the one who kept our end of the covenant perfectly by His life, death on the cross, and resurrection, and not because we can solely get more of His blessings (as awesome as they are), but because we'll get more of Him!

When God offers a covenant in Scripture, essentially He is offering Himself… His covenant love, then, seems to indicate He wants to be loved in return. He doesn’t need our love or need us to feed His ego, but He calls us to obedience because He knows that when we follow His ways, we will experience Him fully. ~Christine Hoover in 31 Days of Love Letters
Related Stuff to Check Out...

2 comments :

  1. Covenant is one of my favorite topics also! You did a great a job impressing the steadfastness of God. It reminds me - I was reading Ps42 last night and came across v8 - "by day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me." And that Spurgeon quote echoes v7 "deep calls out to deep." Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great series Natalie. Each post has given me a lot to think about and read and research. Thank you for taking the time to put this all together.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for leaving me your thoughts, comments, and encouragements! =) I do monitor every comment I get so that I can comment back as much as possible.

Any comments I personally deem as inappropriate or disrespectful (and any spam) will be trashed.