Covenant of Love
Covenant of Love
When my daughter got married, I walked her down the aisle. At the front of the church, before all their family and friends, in their overflowing love for each other, she and her husband promised exclusive loyalty. They made a covenant of love. It was a love-filled occasion.
A covenant is two people, or two parties, entering into a formal agreement. The making of covenants was a common feature in the ancient world. A covenant would often be made with a solemn action, such as a blood sacrifice.
The idea of covenant is so important in the Christian Bible that the two parts came to be called the Old and the New Testaments (‘Testamentum’ being the Latin word for covenant). Although the new covenant was different from the old one, both covenants come from God’s abounding love for you.
Praise God for his intimate friendshipPsalm 148:7-14
Do you know that you can be an ‘intimate friend’ of God? This is what it means to be part of ‘his very own people’ who ‘love God’ (v.14, MSG). This is what God’s covenant of love is all about.
As a result of God’s love for him, the psalmist’s heart is bursting with praise. He calls the whole created world to praise God, as well as the whole of humankind (vv.7–12): ‘Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted’ (v.13).
The psalm reaches its climax: ‘He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart’ – ‘intimate friends of God’ (v.14, MSG).
A ‘horn’ symbolises the strength of the Lord, and found fulfilment in Jesus: ‘He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David’ (Luke 1:69). He did this out of his great love for us; he made a covenant of love because he wants a people close to his heart. No wonder the psalmist finishes with a shout of ‘Praise the Lord!’ (Psalm 148:14).
Lord, thank you that you make a covenant with me, that you draw me close to your heart and call me your intimate friend.
Thank Jesus for paying the priceRevelation 19:11-21
God’s covenant comes at a price. But the price is paid, not by us but by God himself in the person of Jesus, whose blood was shed for you. John sees Jesus riding a white horse. He describes him with four names:
Faithful and True
‘With justice he judges’ (v.11). He pierces the secrets of our hearts (‘his eyes are like blazing fire’, v.12a). He has universal authority (‘on his head are many crowns’, v.12b). Yet in spite of our unfaithfulness, he is ‘Faithful and True’ (v.11).
Throughout the Bible we read of the faithfulness of God to his covenant and promises. Supremely the faithfulness of God is seen in Jesus – the one who is ‘faithful and true’.
The name only Jesus knows
‘… he has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself’ (v.12c). God’s revelation of himself in Jesus will not be completed until we see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The Word of God
‘… his name is the Word of God’ (Revelation 19:13). The Word of God is how God communicates with us. The supreme revelation of God is in the person of Jesus – the Word of God (John 1:1).
‘He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood’ (Revelation 19:13a, MSG). This is the evidence of his abounding love for you. This is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (Matthew 26:28). The blood of Jesus was shed for you.
King of kings and Lord of lords
He is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). This is the name written on his robe and on his thigh. He leads the church ‘dressed in fine linen, white and clean’ (v.14). This is the one before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9–11).
No evil can stand before Jesus. Ultimately, all evil will be destroyed. The final battle (Revelation 19:17–21) will not be a battle at all. The demonic powers will be thrown into ‘the fiery lake of burning sulphur’ (v.20), and God’s enemies that opposed Christ will be stripped of their power once and for all (v.21). The dramatic imagery is there to show us how total the victory of Jesus will be.
The great victory has already been won by him who is faithful and true. Through the cross and resurrection, he has already defeated all the powers of evil (Colossians 2:15). The victory we read of here is a forgone conclusion when Jesus arrives on the scene.
Lord, thank you for your sacrificial covenant of love and that you are faithful and true – abounding in love – and that one day we will see you face to face.
Trust God for his provisionNehemiah 9:1-37
Do you ever find yourself in a desperate situation, crying to God for help and making all kinds of promises of what you will do if he answers your prayer? Then, when God does answer, you forget and begin to drift away from him again?
The history of the people of God is very similar. When God blesses us, we can become complacent, start to compromise and fall into sin. Then we cry out to God and he delivers us and has mercy on us. Then we become lax again. Certainly, I have sometimes found this to be a pattern in my own life. But this is not how we are meant to live.
God made a covenant with his people – starting with Abraham (v.8). It was a covenant of love (v.32). He promised to provide ‘bread from heaven for their hunger’ and ‘water from the rock for their thirst’ (v.15, MSG). He wanted them to live by faith in his provision.
God wants you to trust in him. Make a decision today not to worry about tomorrow. Trust him to provide for you every day, one day at a time. God does not just love you; he abounds in love for you. He loves you as if there were only you to love.
The walls have been rebuilt. The Law has been read. Now the people recognise the abounding love of God and his covenant of love with them. They realise that God has blessed them in an extraordinary way. Yet, when they think about their own lives, they see how undeserved it is.
They come together with fasting and prayer. They stand and confess their sins and wickedness (v.2). They ‘read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day’ (v.3). No doubt, as they hear the words, their sins are brought to light. They ‘spent another quarter in confession and in worshipping the Lord their God’ (v.3).
Their prayer is a model prayer. It starts with worship. Having praised God for his abounding love in creation (vv.5–6), they praise him for his abounding love in history (v.8). They recall his covenant of love and faithfulness to Abraham, Moses and the people (vv.7–15).
They recall that in spite of all God’s abounding love and generosity, the people were ‘arrogant’ and ‘bull-headed’ and ‘wouldn’t obey’ (v.16, MSG). Sometimes, like them, I fail to remember the miracles God has performed among us (v.17).
Yet God’s love abounds: ‘a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, incredibly patient, with tons of love... amazing compassion... showed them the right way to go. You gave them your good Spirit to teach them... You never stinted... You supported them... they revelled in your bountiful goodness’ (vv.17–25, MSG).
As they rehearse their history, the same pattern is repeated over and over again. God blesses them, ‘But then they… rebelled... You… made life rough for them. But when they called out for help in their troubles you listened from heaven… But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it – more evil... They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again… You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion... loyal in covenant and love’ (vv.26–32, MSG).
It was because the people were unable to keep their side of the covenant that God promised he would make a new covenant. The new covenant is sealed by the blood of Jesus and involves the Holy Spirit coming to live within you to help you to keep your side of the covenant, and to abound in love for God and for others.
Father, thank you that you have made a covenant of love with me, which was sealed by the blood of Jesus. Thank you that you have given me your Holy Spirit to help me to abound in love for you and for others.
The people of Israel just seem to go around in circles: they rebel, get oppressed, cry out to God, get rescued, forget God, rebel again. I would have thought God might have got fed up. I don’t suppose I am much better. I’m so glad that our God is ‘forgiving’, ‘gracious’, ‘compassionate’,’ slow to anger’ and ‘abounding in love’.
Verse of the Day
‘gracious and compassionate,
Incredibly patient, with tons of love…’ (Nehemiah 9:17, MSG).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.