Blue Run post: Introduction Built in to the legislature: The Ten Commandments, symbolic of the covenant with Moses, are literally built into the Texas State Capitol, making a statement about the partnership between God’s purposes and man's.
What is covenant?
THE idea of covenant is frequently talked about in the Bible but it isn’t a term we use a lot in everyday life, except perhaps the matter of giving to a charity so that they can reclaim the income tax paid on your gift. When we enter into a ‘covenanted giving’ agreement, that means to the Inland Revenue that you have agreed to give regularly as a permanent arrangement (or for a specific period of time anyway).
So in this instance, we do the giving and it is an agreement to give or to provide. You can’t change your mind next month or alter the terms somehow (although there is a let-out clause).
How does covenant play out for us?
The covenant that God establishes with us is like that — only bigger. And it is really permanent! No let-out clause. Even if we default, He never will.
Starting where we are, the covenant relationship we have with God is through Jesus. Once He is ours, and we are His, because we are accepting and honouring Him for what He has done for us, giving His life for ours literally, what the Bible calls the New Covenant in Jesus is established between us and Almighty God.
Before Jesus, the special relationship with God was held by the Jewish nation, and in particular, the Levite priesthood. This dated all the way back to promises made to Noah, and then Abraham, and then at the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments, to Moses. Among the many words expressing and defining that agreement, “I will be your God and you will be My people” is a phrase that comes up again and again, as the prophets reminded people and called them back to the their promise to live under God’s promise.
The last of these prophets was Malachi – his name was probably a tag rather than a proper name and it means ‘messenger’. Some people would say that John the Baptist was the last of this long line of prophets of the Old Covenant, and he probably was. However, Malachi’s message was the last one to form a book of the Old Testament.
Malachi’s message is all about reminding the Jews of his time, who were returning from exile to re-populate Jerusalem, still broken down after being sacked 100 years earlier. The Jews were returning to their symbolic and treasured place of worship and the Temple had already been rebuilt – a splendid, towering structure. However, they were returning with mixed attitudes: keen to return, but full of resentment at God for allowing Jerusalem to be conquered and the people deported. They were conveniently forgetting that it was their nation’s disobedience to God over centuries that had culminated in disaster. The prophets sent by God – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others – had warned this would happen, again and again.
Moving from religious duty to joyful relationship
Their worship was dutiful, not joyful. Their offerings to Him, part of their worship, were stingy and inadequate – not honouring at all. Malachi picks this up and says, in effect: “Come back to the covenant. God has loved you! Where is your honour of Him? Come back into that loving relationship with Him.”
Not unlike some nations in the news now, the people had defaulted on their side of the covenant. However, God will not break His. He wants the relationship to continue.
He just wants His people to come back to Him, to walk with Him, to learn to live out their lives with Him, in peace and uprightness:
And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
Better – far better!
We have a better covenant because of Jesus. The call to us is not to come back to religion, but to come back to knowing that we are loved and looked after. We all wander off-track and get a bit independent – or perhaps we have never quite got ourselves on-track with Him. No matter: the point is, there is always a way back. There is always a welcome. Bad things can always be put right. That’s what our Father is like. Generous doesn’t come close!
Father, I come to You, Almighty and Holy God, through Your Son Jesus who made a way for all of us stumbling, confused and often wrong-headed people to come to You. I want to know your love again. And I want to enter into a relationship with You where You can be my God and I can know the assurance of being Yours. I need Your guidance. I need your help. I need meaning in my life. I know that walking with You is how it happens. Thank You for Malachi’s reminder that there is a way back – that there is a call to return to You and Your ways which are good ways. Help me to make that return sure and continuing. In Jesus name, Amen.
Covenant explained (Bible Study) – Red Run
Covenant and the promise of revival – Black Run