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Chapter 1 A COVENANT GOD
"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments" Deuteronomy 7:9.
Men know the advantages of making covenants. A covenant has often been of unspeakable value as an end to hatred or uncertainty, as an agreement of services rendered, as an assurance of good quality and honesty, and as a basis for confidence and friendship.
God's Covenant In His infinite descent to our human weakness and need, God's pledge of faithfulness goes beyond the ways of men. He gives us perfect confidence in Him and the full assurance of all that He, in His infinite riches and power, has promised to do. He has consented to bind Himself by Covenant, as if He could not be trusted. Blessed is the man who truly knows God as his Covenant God and knows what the Covenant promises him. What unwavering confidence of expectation it secures. All its terms will be fulfilled to him. What a claim and hold it gives him on the Covenant-keeping God Himself.
To many who have never thought much about the Covenant, it would mean the transformation of their whole life to have a true, living faith. The full knowledge of what God wants to do, the assurance that it will be done, and the being drawn to God Himself in personal surrender makes the Covenant the very gate of heaven. May the Holy Spirit give us some vision of its glory.
When God created man in His image and likeness, it was so that he would have a life as similar to God's as possible. This occurred by God Himself living and working all in man. For this, man was to yield himself in loving dependence to the wonderful glory of being the recipient, bearer, and manifestation of a divine life. The one secret of man's happiness was to be a trustful surrender of his whole being to the willing and the working of God. When sin entered, this relationship to God was destroyed. When man disobeyed, he feared God and fled from Him. He no longer knew, loved, or trusted God.
Getting Man To Believe Man could not save himself from the power of sin. If his redemption was to be affected, God had to do it all. If God was to do it in harmony with the law of man's nature, man must be brought to desire it, yield to it, and entrust himself to God. All God wanted man to do was believe in Him. What a man believes, moves and rules his whole being. It enters into him and becomes part of his very life. Salvation could only be by faith. God restored the life man had lost. Man in faith yielded himself to God's work and will.
The first great work of God with man was to get him to believe. This work cost God more care, time, and patience than we can conceive. All the dealings with individual men and with the people of Israel had this one object-to teach men to trust Him. Where He found faith He could do anything. Nothing dishonored and grieved Him so much as unbelief. Unbelief was the root of disobedience and every sin. It made it impossible for God to do His work. The one thing God sought to waken in men by promise, mercy, and judgment was faith.
The main way God's patient grace awakened and strengthened faith was the Covenant. In more than one way God sought to effect this by His Covenant. First of all, His Covenant was always a revelation of His purposes. It held out, in definite promise, what God was willing to work in those with whom the Covenant was made. It was a divine pattern of the work God intended to do in their behalf so that they might know what to desire and expect. It was a pattern so their faith could nourish itself with the very things, though as yet unseen, which God was working out. Then, the Covenant was meant to be a security and guarantee. It was to be as simple, plain, and humanlike as the divine glory could make it. The very things which God had promised would be brought to pass and worked out in those with whom He had entered into covenant. Amid all delay, disappointment, and apparent failure of the divine promises, the Covenant was to be the anchor of the soul, pledging the divine truthfulness, faithfulness, and unchangeableness for the certain performance of what had been promised. So the Covenant was, above all, to give man a hold upon God, as the Covenant-keeping God. It was to link him to God in expectation and hope. It was to cause him to make God alone the portion and the strength of his soul.
Unbelief Holds Us Back If we only knew how God wants us to trust Him and how His every promise will be fulfilled for those who do so! If we only knew that it is our unbelief that prevents us from entering into the possession of God's promises. Because of this, God cannot do His mighty works in us, for us, and through us! One of the surest remedies for our unbelief-the divinely chosen cure for it-is the Covenant into which God has entered with us! The whole dispensation of the Spirit, the whole economy of grace in Christ Jesus, the whole of our spiritual life, and the whole of the health, growth, and strength of the Church has been laid down, provided for, and secured in the New Covenant. It is a great shame that the Covenant and its wonderful promises are so little thought of. Its plea for an
abounding, unhesitating confidence in God is so little understood. Its claim to the faithfulness of the Omnipotent God is rarely tested. No wonder the Christian life misses the joy, holiness, and heavenliness which God meant and so clearly promises that it should have.
Take God's Promises Let us listen to God's Word which calls us to know, worship, and trust our Covenant-keeping God. Maybe we will find what we have been looking for: the deep, full experience of all that God's grace can do in us. In the text Moses says, "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him" (Deuteronomy 7:9). Notice what God says in Isaiah, "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee" (Isaiah 5 4: 10). The fulfillment of every Covenant promise is more sure than any mountain. In Jeremiah God speaks of the New Covenant, "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me" (Jeremiah 32:40). The Covenant secures that God will not. turn from us nor we depart from Him. He undertakes both for Himself and us.
Let us earnestly ask whether the lack in our Christian life, especially in our faith, is due to neglect of the Covenant. We have not worshipped nor trusted the Covenant-keeping God. Our soul has not done what God called us to-"to take hold of His Covenant... to remember the Covenant." No wonder our faith has failed and comes short of the blessing. God could not fulfill His promises in us.
If we begin to examine the terms of the Covenant as the deed of our inheritance and the riches we are to possess even here on earth, we will be different. If we will think of the certainty of their fulfillment and turn to the God who has promised to do it all for us, our life will be different from what it has been. It can and will be all that God desires to make it.
We Need More Of God The greatest lack of our faith is that we need more of God. We accept salvation as His gift. We do not know that the main blessing of salvation is to prepare us for and bring us back to that close fellowship with God for which we were created. All that God has ever done for His people in making a Covenant was to bring them to Himself and to teach them to trust in Him, delight in Him, and be one with Him. It cannot be otherwise.
If God is the very fountain of goodness and glory, beauty and blessedness, the more we can have of His presence, conform to His will, engage in His service, and have Him ruling and working in us, the happier we will be. Only a true, good Christian life, which brings us nearer to God everyday, makes us give up everything to have more of Him. No obedience can be too strict, no depen-dence too absolute, no submission too complete, no confidence too implicit to a person who is learning to count God its highest good and exceeding joy. In entering into covenant with us, God's one object is to draw us to Himself. He wants to make us entirely dependent upon Him, to bring us into the right position and attitude so He can fill us with Himself, His love, and His blessedness. Let us study the New Covenant. God is at this moment living and walking with us. Let us go to God with the honest purpose and surrender to know what He wants to be in us, and to have us be to Him. The New Covenant will become one of the win-dows of heaven through which we see into the face and very heart of God.