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Cry of the Covenant
By Dr. Mary Craig
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. All that God created, He called "good." He created man, male and female, in His own image. His plan was and is relationship, covenant relationship, with His creation. He sought and seeks for loyalty, and so, God covenanted with Adam in what we now call a covenant of works. It was, as it were, a loyalty test, for in it Adam had an obedience to keep. If Adam trusted and believed God, he would demonstrate that by doing what God said and not doing what God said not to do. Adam came to believe a lie, another word, and so disobey God.
That action plunged humanity into an "estate of sin and misery." But God is just, and biblical justice means more than mere conformity to legal norms and a system of laws. God in His justice shows Himself merciful, kind, full of lovingkindness, and faithful to His covenantal promises, despite His peopleís sins.
To demonstrate the nature of His character, God first gave the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3.15) and then an enfolding of what we call the covenant of grace. All along, whether it be Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, or the new covenant in Christ, God desires justice, i.e., loyalty or faithfulness to the relationships of the created order. He desires men and women to be rightly related to Him as Creator/Redeemer and rightly related to each other and to the creation.
Thus, the just are those who wait for God, hope in Him, seek after Him, trust in Him, know and fear Him, love His name, and cry out to Him. (Isaiah 33.2; Psalm 69; Psalm 52; Psalm 103, e.g.) They are to see themselves as oppressed and needy with the LORD as their sole refuge. (Psalm 140) God is after those who bow before His decisions, or judgments, acknowledge their sin, and offer Him a broken spirit and contrite heart. (Psalms 32, 51, 94, 118)
The one who has faith in God is just in the sight of God. (Habakkuk 2.4) Likewise, the just shall live by faith. So, in demonstrating relationship with God, Godís people were and are to have dominion over the creation, not domination. They are to nourish, build, replenish, exercise kindness and compassion over all creation, not mistreat, oppress, exploit, rob, or devour. (Exodus 22, Deuteronomy 10 and 23, Psalm 76, Psalm 112, e.g.) Justice cannot be separated from mercy, care for the afflicted and the poor. So, biblical justice consists in hope and trust in God in the vertical relationship and in deeds of compassion and alms-giving and mercy in the horizontal relationship.
The people, however, only demonstrated their faithlessness in both dimensions of covenant relationship. The prophets championed social justice issues and argued that the people had forgotten the stories of the mighty redemptive acts of God in their history. The people had a continual bent toward idolatry and greed.
God manifested His heart in the cry of the covenant. "I will be your God, and you will be My people." If you listen or ask Him, you can hear the cry of Godís heart for a people with whom and in whom He might dwell. Since before the foundations of the world, it was Godís plan that man might be His dwelling place. In Leviticus 26.12, we read, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people." Godís people were to serve Him as evidence of their worship.
Likewise, Israel was given a king, whose chief function was to rule, or judge, to execute decisions. The king administered justice especially by coming to the aid of the oppressed. "This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." (Jeremiah 22.3) Godís covenant with David meant much to the people of Israel, for the prosperity of Israel was bound up with their king. (2 Samuel 20.1; 2 Samuel 24; Psalm 89)
A perfect king would mean all the blessings of God would be bestowed upon the people in full measure. Psalm 72 shows us that this would mean intangible gifts of peace and security as well as material gifts of supply and fertility, i.e., life in its fullness. It was Israelís hope to have a Messiah, an Anointed One, a ruler who would restore to them all of the goodness of the creation. (Psalm 72, Isaiah 42.1-7, Jeremiah 23.5, 6)
Hosea exemplifies Godís holy heart. Israel is unfaithful and begets violence and treachery. They have forsaken the LORD, so God will render His decision and execute it. Yet His mercy triumphs, for though His heart churns within Him, His solaces yearn together. Get this:
My people are prone to apostasy: though they called them to the most High,
None at all should exalt Him. How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall
I buckler you, Israel? How shall I give you as Admah? How shall I set
You as Zeboim? My heart is turned within Me, my solaces yearn together.
I will not execute the fierceness (fuming) of My wrath, I will not return to
Destroy (ruin) Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the
Midst of you: and I will not enter into the cityÖ (Hosea 11.7-9)
God is after relationship. So He will lay a fresh foundation: righteousness, justice, mercy, faithfulness, steadfast love. Why? "And you shall know the Lord." (Hosea 2.20)
The cry of the covenant leads us to Jesus Christ, Messiah and Savior, King and Suffering Servant. God had to come because only God can save and only God can make good on His promises. Over and over God had intervened into human history. In Jesus Christ, God came incarnate, Immanuel "God with us." Jesus took our human nature in order to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. He obeyed perfectly, personally, and perpetually. That means all the time, in thought, word, and deed. Howís your life going so far as to meriting eternal life? (Probably a lot like mine!)
Out of His justice, with its mercy built into the system, God sent Jesus to fulfill both sides of the covenant. Jesus is both Lord and Servant. As the Lord, He claims His people for God, and as the Servant, He claims God for His people. Now as Jesus kept Godís law perfectly, there is righteousness for everyone and anyone who believes. (Romans 10.4) God is just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus. (Romans 3.26)
In Jesus, the heart of God found fulfillment. Godís desire has been and is to make His abode within the heart of every believer. (John 14.17, 23) "Here I will dwell; for I have desired it." (Psalm 132.14) In the OT God inhabited the praises of His people (Psalm 22.3), but something happened on the cross of Calvary to change everything so that under the new covenant, God inhabits His people. (Ephesians 2.19-22)
Jesus demonstrated a reign of justice contrary to human justice. His is not a justice that gives people what they deserve, but rather a justice in which Godís determination and commitment to come to the aid of all who are oppressed is realized. (Acts 10.38) It is Godís justice expressed in mercy, a justice bringing salvation to those who sit on the ash heap of human misery. Though He lived within the veil, Jesus died without the camp.
Donít ever doubt Godís love for you. 2 Corinthians 5.21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." At some point, God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son. God is too pure to look upon iniquity. (Hab. 1.13) We hear Christís spiritual pain in the cry of abandonment: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?"
Jesus quotes Psalm 22. Read it in its entirety. Pray to get a grasp on the cry of the covenant. For the Fatherís desire to love, to inhabit a people, to be their God and for them to be His people, sent the obedient Jesus to the cross. "He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53.5)
He took the penalty of divine wrath, the curse, all the way back from the Garden. Jesus received different kinds of wounds in His body as He suffered and died. He was smitten with a rod upon the cheek. (Micah 5.1; Matthew 26.67; John 18.22) This is the contused wound produced by a sharp instrument. Romans used the cat-of-nine tails to scourge criminals, i.e., nine pieces of leather to which were attached sharp ivory or metal balls with protruding nails. The whip tore out pieces of flesh, lacerations produced by a tearing instrument. (Psalm 129.3; Isaiah 50.6; Matthew 27.20; John 19.1) Plucking His beard, beating Him with their fists, mutilated Him. (Isaiah 50.6; Matthew 26.67; Matthew 27.30)
The crown of thorns pressed upon the head of Jesus would have caused penetrating wounds, deep wounds caused by a sharp, pointed instrument. (Matthew 27.29; John 19.5) This, however, did not satisfy the blood lust of the crowd. So they took Him out to crucify Him. As the stake lay upon His lacerated, bleeding back, Jesus stumbled and fell. His body received even more bruises and sores. (John 19, Luke 23)
They pierced His hands and His feet. (Psalm 22.16; Zechariah 13.6) Along with this perforating wound, Jesus suffered the incised wound. One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19.34; Zech. 12.10)
Jesusí heart is believed to have burst. Psalm 22.14 says, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me." His back, His hands, His feet, His head, His heart all delivered over to the suffering of the cross. Why? Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. (Leviticus 17.11, 14) It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Hebrews 9.22)
The blood of righteous Abel cried out for justice, but it was a justice of vengeance. Jesus surpassed the law, coming in grace and truth. His Blood cries out for mercy on the judgment seat over the law. It cries out triumphantly in its victory over devils, disease, and death. To many, the Blood is offensive. They wonít hear of it, speak of it, preach it or teach it. But the truth is that the Blood of Jesus Christ accomplished salvation for those who believe.
Through the Blood, every believer receives:
- forgiveness of sins according to the riches of Godís grace (Ephesians 1.7)
- redemption (1 Peter 1.18, 19; Acts 20.28)
- cleansing of all unrighteousness and loosing from our sins (1 John 1.7; Revelation 1.5)
- justification and propitiation so as to be saved from wrath (Romans 5.9; Romans 3.24, 25)
- peace with God (Colossians 1.20) overcoming alienation
- access to enter the holiest boldly (Hebrews 10.19, 20)
- divine healing (Isaiah 53.5; 1 Peter 2.24)
- victory over the devil (Revelation 12.11)
- sanctification (Hebrews 13.12)
- purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9.14)
- eternal glory as God shall dwell among His people (Revelation 7.14-17)
Will you respond to the cry of Godís holy heart? Will you listen to the cry of the covenant calling you to faith in Jesus Christ? Are you willing to acknowledge and honor the Blood of Christ shed as the Lamb of God for the remission of sins that you might live in the promise of the covenant? This is how it all ends:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earthÖand I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,Öand I heard a loud voice from the throne say, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain; the first things have passed away."Ö "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." ( from Revelation 21.1-7)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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