I want to begin by revealing a pitfall that is common to many bible readers, but also one that isn’t often recognized as being a pitfall; in fact, one often doesn’t even recognize that he or she may be approaching reading in this manner. And, secondly, I want to highlight a reality taught in God’s Word, the truth of which, when fully realized, can engender such an abiding trust in God’s care.
The pitfall I’m referring to is the tendency to bring our individual prejudices and mindsets to our reading of scripture, to transfer our human sense of morality and the attributes of our nature to our understanding of God and His nature and to assume that He is the way we are, which often leads to at the least, a limited, and at the most, a mistaken understanding of God’s nature and workings. .
Secondly, the reality taught in scripture that I wish to highlight, is that God is a ‘covenant’ God’ with his people, who will not go back on His word, and in fact, who will go to inexhaustible lengths to uphold his covenant. I’ll explain this more fully as I proceed
Both pitfall and reality played out with me recently. I’ve been reading the book of Judges and kept noticing the strong, definite pattern of God’s love, care and faithfulness in relation to his people therein.
The pattern goes like this: God blesses his people; after God’s blessing his people quickly go astray; God then sends various judgments: defeat at the hands of their enemies, calamity, etc., to turn them from their ways; his people repent in the midst of their difficulties, cry out to God; and He sends his deliverance, often in the form of a leader or deliverer who would intercede on behalf of the people. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
This is where my prejudices and sense of morality kick in. The pattern almost seems surreal to me, like an absurd comic book plot and the abiding question on my mind , my inner attitude to what I’m reading is to question why God wouldn’t just get fed up with his forever wayward people and say, ‘forget it, I’m not going to listen to you. You’re too wrongheaded, obstinate and error prone’. I say within myself, ‘if I were you God I’d just forget the lot of them and be done with it and save myself and them a whole lot of hassle. Why do you do it? ‘
Later that same day, I must have been unconsciously thinking of the matter, because as I was doing some totally unrelated physical work, not even really thinking about the Lord, let alone this issue, the Lord spoke to me out of the blue, saying, “I do it because I’m a covenant God”. And I was bowled over. I got his point. He didn’t have to say anymore. I had my answer.
That’s all he needed to say: Of course. God had made his covenant concerning his people with Abraham, and ultimately with all the families of the earth; He then renewed this covenant through Moses, etc. and He, God, was sworn to that covenant. It wasn’t’ so much about what God’s people did or didn’t do; it was, and remains, a question of what God has done, what He has covenanted: No matter how many times his people erred, repented and returned to him he would forgive and deliver because that was a major part of His covenant with them.
Today we wouldn’t so much use the word ‘covenant’, we would probably use the word ‘contract’, which I think most closely conveys the meaning of the original word; the point being that a covenant or contract is a binding agreement between two parties.
And as God’s Old Testament relationship with his people was to be a picture, a type, and shadow of what Jesus would ultimately do in the new relationship, the new covenant of New Testament times, so we have our very same ‘covenant’ God, our Savior, Deliverer, and Advocate, who ‘ever lives to make intercession for us.’
Thank God his actions are not based on our righteousness or lack of righteousness. His actions are based on His faithfulness, His abiding truth, His covenant through Christ.
My friend is in the midst of difficult times personally, having to face the consequences of a series of poor past decision on his part, while not knowing what the future holds and where he stands with the Lord presently; whether God would still be gracious and merciful with him even in the midst of personal error.
I shared with him the very words that God had earlier given me; that He, God, was ‘a covenant God’ and I then did my best to explain this truth to him. My friend needed to know that he stood covered in God’s covenanted graciousness and not on the questionable grounds of his own merit or lack thereof.
I didn’t even know whether I had in fact shared things clearly enough but from this phone reaction I could see that God had used my efforts to bring this truth to bear in his situation.
A mini studies article from Through the Bible in 52 Weeks
Copyright © 2014 by John Hislop