Sep 19 2012

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Keeping Covenant

Guest writer Heather Johnson lives in Joplin, Missouri with her husband Dustin.

I have found that this is a topic that isn’t talked much about. I am not sure why. It could be that people are afraid of offending someone; they don’t know it is there, or maybe they are in denial about it. Whatever the reason, I have felt that this is a topic that needs to be talked about in our churches and amongst our church going friends.

I am the type of person that likes to look at the big picture of the Bible then zoom in when needed. I never want to lose sight of what the overall purpose of what the Bible is really trying to get to and that is God’s coming Kingdom. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the details we lose sight of that. We lose sight that this was a piece of literature written to Jews during a time when things were going on. That when understood a lot of things they say and do makes more sense when they are put in context. I am not saying going into detail is a bad thing. I do it all of the time, just as long as we don’t lose sight of what the real purpose is and what the context is of everything.

So here we are, all working toward being a part of God’s coming Kingdom, but what does that mean and how are we to get there? The best place I like to start is near the beginning and work my way forward through the Bible, because what we find is a continuous line that is being built through one story. Not a bunch of stories thrown together at random for little ‘Confucius says’ reasons.

We are in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. Chapter 27 is when God lays down a covenant that he makes with Israel, one of many. A covenant is not just a promise, where God promises us the world, but it is also a contract. He expects something from us also. Now don’t forget faith is a huge part in this because James speaks in the New Testament of this very thing. How can we have works without faith and faith without works? You need both. Your life has to reflect that which you believe. Remember that popular saying in the 90’s if “you talk the talk you should walk the walk.”

Chapter 28 then goes into great detail after the covenant is laid out. It is popularly known as the “blessings and curses” chapter. God tells Israel that if they obey his covenant then he will give them a Kingdom and they will be blessed and he lists how they will be blessed. Then he continues, if they do not keep this covenant then they will be cursed. They will not be a part of kingdom and other countries will rule over them and make them slaves.

Which as we read the Old Testament we see that exact thing happen. Israel decides to not follow his commandments and they worship idols. We see country after country conquer and destroy them as a nation: Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and then Rome. We have the prophets crying out to them, or yelling at them to turn from their ways to go back to the covenant, to not be like their fathers so that they can be a part of that Kingdom that was promised.

During this time period we have a promise of a Messiah, which was a title not a name. It was a title that had a lot of history tied to it in the Jewish culture. In Hebrew it is Mashiach or in Greek it is Christos, which means to be anointed with oil. There are many examples within the Old Testament of men who held this title, but I am going to focus on the most famous of these men in the Jewish culture who was before Jesus and that was Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34. He is referred to by Zechariah in 12:10-14. Zechariah was talking to Israel of a future Messiah who was going to come and bring them back into covenant with God. He uses Josiah as a point of reference; someone that everyone in the Jewish nation would have known and understood.

Most people when reading this think he is prophesying about Jesus and he is to some degree but he is really pointing backward to an event that actually happened and said that what Josiah did as a king the future Messiah will do the same. He is giving the title Messiah a job description. Josiah, when he became king, the nation was not obeying the covenant and had not been for some time. One of his priests happened across some scrolls and brought them to him. When they were read to him, he broke down and wept and realized what they had done. He had all of Israel repent, destroy their idols and come back to the covenant. He was then killed in battle, in the field of Armageddon pierced by an arrow when fighting the Egyptians. All of Israel wept for his death.

In John 19:37, John references the description that Zechariah used to describe the past and future Messiah, to say that Jesus is the Messiah that Zechariah had spoken would come to bring Israel back into covenant. So here we have a line being created and a huge grandiose picture.

The backdrop is set and now we come to many different verses that are said in the New Testament. Galatians 5 lists a ton of sins and says that if you do these things you will not make it into the Kingdom. 1 John 1-2, “We cannot say we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true….” Mathew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…”

Each one of these clearly say that we have to live in his covenant that he has made with us for us to be in his Kingdom. Yes, there is forgiveness when we mess up which 1 John 2 speaks about. We have the Holy Spirit who is meant to help us keep this covenant that was prophesied back in Ezekiel 36. We are to support our brothers and sisters from sinning. They are our support team and we are theirs, which Paul speaks about many times in his writings.

This is a system not to be abused though. In Hebrews 10:26 it clearly says,

“For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy ‘on the testimony of two or three witnesses’ How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

There is still a covenant that we must keep. We are to live our lives loving our neighbor, even our enemies, and our God. We have to rewire how we live our lives and stop thinking that we can’t help but sin because that is the wrong way of thinking and all of this clearly points that out. We can not sin when we have the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, and a support system (i.e our church and friends). We have the greatest example that this is possible. God became man to show us this is possible and that was through Jesus. He set the example. By rewiring our brains and focusing on that we can do which is help the sick and the poor; loving our neighbor, even our enemies, and have faith in his coming Kingdom. We can keep his covenant and be in his grace and one day be a part of his Kingdom.

— Heather Johnson


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