Today I want to speak to the topic The covenant-keeping God and our understanding of how this covenant-keeping God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—should inform our devotion, love, and service to him. We will take two main scriptures from Genesis 22.6-18 and Hebrews 6.7-20.
Two things concerning God’s covenants and promises
Two things that come out clearly when we examine the scriptures with regard to God’s covenant and promises are
1. God’s power to do what he promises he will do
2. God’s faithfulness to do what he has promised to do
God’s faithfulness should give us hope in the changing scenes of life
God’s faithfulness will not allow him to change his mind. You can have a human being who has the power to do all you need but there comes a time when he changes his mind and is not able to do what he promised. However, when you examine the totality of the scriptures, we don’t see that with God. When he says I will do this, he does it. When he says I will increase or protect you he does it. Not only does he have the power to deliver, he is faithful so that he will never falter with the promises he has given. The fact that God has the power to do what he has promised to do and the fact that he is faithful to do all he has promised should give us hope as believers in the changing scenes of life.
It was that understanding that made Habakkuk say that,
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be nor herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk 3.17-18 NKJV
It is only the one who has tested and known the reliability and faithfulness of God in the context of total darkness—in the face of emerging destruction—who says that even though I don’t see what I expect, because God is faithful, I will still hang on. Having known that God is faithful and will by all means see to the delivery of his promises, when you are confronted with all the changing scenes of life, you will still agree with Habakkuk and still have hope.
Confront your challenges with faith that God’s word cannot fail
This should be the basis of our faith and confidence. God’s covenants and his promises cannot fail. And in the light of God’s promises, the believer must know that such trials of life do not last. God has said the latter days will be greater than the former—it does not only apply to the people of Israel but to all those in a covenantal relationship with God. So, when your present situation is worse than you have had before, you must confront it because God has said your latter days will be more glorious and fulfilling than the former. Address the situation until change comes because change will always come.
Understanding of this reality will lead us to deeper faith and conviction in the God we serve. The covenant-keeping God that has power and he is one who, because of his faithfulness, can never turn his back on his children.
What then is a covenant?
It is a binding and solemn agreement between two or more parties. In every covenant, both parties have obligations and responsibilities. When you look at the Old Testament as a whole, you can identify five main covenants but this morning we will concentrate on two. The five covenants are
1. The Noahic covenant
2. The Abrahamic covenant
3. The Davidic covenant
4. The Mosaic covenant
5. New covenant referred to in Jeremiah 31
Because the Abraham and Davidic covenant have direct relevance for the believer today, I will dwell on those two.
When it comes to covenants and the human experience, we know that human beings are covenant-breakers. When you study the encounter between God and the people of Israel, they constantly disobeyed God and there was retribution, then repentance, and then restoration.
God is faithful. He has said he will bless the people of Abraham in spite of their unfaithfulness. May God remember his covenant with you or the covenant of our ancestor Abraham that you have tapped into. In the midst of the bleakest situation of the human experience and God’s punishment, God will always relent.
The Abrahamic covenant
Four main chapters speak to the Abrahamic covenant:
1. Genesis 12.1-3, where God told Abraham to get out of his father’s household to a place he would direct him. He promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed.
2. Genesis 15, where God delivered the land of Canaan to Abraham. That was the second encounter that God had with Abraham.
3. Genesis 17, where God told Abraham to walk before him and be perfect and where the covenant of circumcision was introduced. He also said it was by walking before him in faithfulness that his promise to bless all the nations through him would be established. Every male was supposed to be circumcised and though Abraham was very old at the time, he was committed to keeping this covenant.
4. The last one is in Genesis 22. That is the critical point where all the various encounters God had with Abraham finally culminated. The angel spoke directly to Abraham saying,
“By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22.16-18 NKJV)
Inasmuch as we want to enjoy the blessing of Abraham—we should note that there is a critical component of that covenant that calls for total and unflinching obedience and total love—without bound or limit. That is what we find in Deuteronomy 6.4 that,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6.4-5 NKJV)
So love him with all your heart, soul, and mind. I cannot put that aside and want to be blessed by God. Inasmuch as he told Abraham to walk before him and be blameless, so it is for every believer. It is with our faithfulness that we tap into the blessings of God.
The Davidic covenant
The second covenant that concerns us is the one with David. When you study God’s covenant with David, it is so amazing. It gives conviction that indeed God is a promise-keeper. This is where God told Abraham that out of his seed he would bless all nations. David was a descendant of Abraham and, out of David, we have Jesus; and it is through Jesus that we are reconnected to Abraham. The relationship between David, Abraham, and Jesus is critical for the fulfillment of our covenantal purposes.
And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7.16 NKJV)
Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever. (2 Samuel 7.29 NKJV)
What is the key for the actualization of this promise God gave to David that his house and kingdom will be established forever? Three scriptures shall guide us:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. (Jeremiah 23.5 NKJV)
There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11.1 ASV)
In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. (Isaiah 11.10 NLT)
Connection to the fulfillment of God’s promises
What is the essence of these three main scriptures with regard to the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and the birth of the Messiah whose birth we are celebrating?
That God will fulfill his promise to Abraham by honoring his promise to David by raising a descendant of David, metaphorically referred to as a branch, from the root of David. Another metaphor used to refer to Jesus in reference to David is a shoot of Jesse. (Isaiah 11.1)
Part b of Isaiah 9.7 says how God will make it happen—how the branch will be born; how the prophecy about the shoot of David will be fulfilled. It says, “The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make it happen!”
Normally when we read Isaiah 9.6-7 we parrot all those things and somehow lose sight of the import and impact of part b of verse 7. God is saying prophetically that, with regard to the fulfillment of his covenantal plans with Abraham and David, he is the only one who will make it happen and he is so passionate about it and committed to it that he himself will watch over those promises and make sure that they are fulfilled. So, in the Old Testament, we have a complex array of messianic prophecies including the birth of the messiah, referred to as the king of Israel or the king of the Jews. But how were these to happen?
The answer is that the passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make it happen!
Connection to the fulfillment of our own destinies
When it comes to the fulfillment of our own destinies, it reaches a time when we are helpless and powerless but God himself will watch and ensure its ultimate realization. So, whether there seem to be contradictions or not, one fact remains—that God himself is committed to it and it is his passionate commitment that will bring about his promises to you and me. Thus, we should rest assured knowing that the covenant-keeping God has the power and will make it happen. That should be our courage and confidence.
God has revealed himself in the scriptures as the covenant-keeping God
When it comes to covenants and promises, God has presented himself in the scriptures as one who is able to do what he has said.
Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. But He directly pays back and destroys those who hate Him. He will not hesitate to directly pay back the one who hates Him. (Deuteronomy 7.9-10 HCSB)
“This is what the Lord says: If you can break My covenant with the day and night so that day and night wouldn’t occur at the proper time, then also My covenant with My servant David may be broken so that he will not have a son reigning on his throne, and the Levitical priests will not be My ministers. (Jeremiah 33.20-21 HCSB)
In case you can change the fact that after day comes night—these are times and seasons God has appointed—if we can change this then his covenantal promise with David will change. But, if we cannot change that, his promises to David cannot be changed and, by extended application, his promises to us are final, total, and complete and he will ensure that what he has said concerning us will come to pass.
I will not violate My covenant or change what My lips have said. (Psalm 89.34 HCSB)
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I sent it to do.” (Isaiah 55.10-11 HCSB)
The last scripture confirming God’s reliability when it comes to covenants is from Numbers 23.19.
God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23.19 HCSB)
God’s faithfulness is clearly revealed so we need to hold on to him by faith
Brothers and sisters, what we need as individuals is faith to believe that indeed God will do what he has promised he will do. It is abundantly clear from the scriptures that God has the power to deliver on his promises and he is faithful to see to the fulfillment of his covenants and promises. If that is the case and this cannot be altered, then I need more faith to believe what God has said he will do because without faith it is impossible to please God. The Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11.6)
One clear evidence that God’s word is reliable is its internal consistency and the fulfillment of prophecy. In Genesis 3.15 we are told the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent. For thousands of years God was watching to see its fulfillment. Then Abraham appeared on the scene and God told him that from this seed the nations will be blessed.
When David came, that concept of the seed was amplified and there were countless prophecies concerning the birth of this Messiah. When you look at the New Testament position it is abundantly clear that the birth of Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies with regard to God’s plan for the redemption of the world. So, in Matthew, we see the wise men from the east asking where his he who had been born the king of the Jews was. (Matthew 2.2)
Genesis 3.15 and the prophetic books prophesied; so also did Isaiah 11, 9.6 and the rest, and now the thing was to be fulfilled so in Luke, the angel Gabriel tells Mary,
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, (Luke 1.32-33 ESV)
So, the connection between David and the Messiah—the fulfillment of prophecy—is seen.
The angel assures the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be fore all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2.10-11 ESV)
John also presents a testimony that, indeed, the birth of Jesus is a fulfillment of the prophecy in the Old Testament.
Andrew told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). (John 1.41 ESV)
Philip also told Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1.45 ESV)
“Rabbi you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1.49 ESV)
But we know that Jesus was more than a national king—more than the king of Israel or the king of the Jews for Isaiah prophesied that he shall be a banner of salvation all over the world. (Isaiah 11.10)
It had been prophesied so it had to be fulfilled and God watched over the prophecy for its fulfillment. Today, scholars have observed that the center of gravity of Christianity has shifted to the non-Western world. In a conference in 1810 in Edinburgh—the center of gravity of Christianity was in the West in those days—they were wondering whether Muslims would take over the territory. But today, it has been demonstrated that the center of gravity has shifted. The Western world had the huge cathedrals but they are being converted into other things. But when you come to the non-Western world, especially Africa, people are struggling even to find classrooms to worship. That is a fulfillment of prophecy.
The king of the Jews was rejected by the Jews but accepted by others
Isaiah 11.10 says the nations will rally to him but, when he came, he was rejected by the Jews. (John 14.6)
When the king of the Jews was born, the revelation was not given to the Jews. The chief priests and scribes were in Jerusalem—the chief pries were the custodians of the temple while the scribes interpreted the Old Testament but the coming of the Messiah eluded them. God went 800 miles away to the Magi and revealed to them that the king of the Jews had been born and they were willing to travel all the way from Babylon to Palestine. We can imagine that they went in their numbers over this long journey. They were foreigners but their main purpose was to worship the Messiah. And when they went there they bowed and worshipped and afterwards gave him gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The gospel is universal
He was crucified by the Romans on the insistence of the Jews but it was the foreigners who came to worship him. When it became abundantly clear that Herod was determined to kill baby Jesus, God made a way for him to go to a foreign land. That demonstrates the universality of the gospel. Thus, God’s word is not limited to one denomination. The gospel is a universal gospel transcending tribes and nations.
He came to his own but his own rejected him. However, to as many as received him, he gave power to become the children of God. That is my Jesus. The kingdom of my Jesus, the king of kings and lord of lords, the king of the world, the redeemer of humanity, the son of God, and the promised Messiah stretches from shore to shore and it is through this Jesus Christ that I have inherited the promises of Abraham. So, without Jesus, there is no life. Without Jesus we cannot inherit the promise of Abraham. The connection to Abraham is by the Jesus factor.
Through him, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessings as Abraham, undiluted
Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3.14 NLT)
So you must not see yourself as an ordinary person.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
That is the good news.
So what should our responsibility be?
Just as Abraham was to walk before God and be blameless, so are we expected, as heirs of the promise, to walk before him blamelessly. Just as Abraham was willing to obey God to the extent of sacrificing his own son Isaac, so must we not consider any legitimate sacrifice too big. The response of the Magi should inform the extent of our service and devotion to the king of kings and lord of lords. Those who were supposed to see it didn’t but those far away traveled all the way to Palestine at their own expense to worship and went back on the same journey to their homes.
The love to see and worship the king should influence our attitude to service. We must see our service to the king of the universe as a privilege, not a burden. If others could travel that long then if there is any legitimate sacrifice brought be bear on us, we have no right to say no. If we don’t sacrifice for him, others will; if we don’t serve him, others will; if we don’t sacrifice time and talent in furtherance of the kingdom, others will for God is not a respecter of persons. So, nothing should be allowed to take our devotion to the king of the universe.
Our commitment to God must be unflinching and singular
That is why the sh’ma says there should be no other gods before God. He is God, even in the pantheon of gods. Our love and commitment to God must be unflinching and singular. If there is anything attached to our heart that does not allow us to devote ourselves totally to God, may the fire of the Holy Spirit remove it so we can indeed tap into the promises of Abraham. All the promises of God come with the obligation to talk in obedience to him.
May God help us to fulfill our portion of the covenant.
We have the responsibility to serve with all devotion and a love that is sacrificial.
God bless you.
Genesis 22.6-18, Hebrews 6.7-20
Other major references
Galatians 3.13-16, 29, Psalm 89.19-27, 2 Samuel 7.1-25
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