Psalm 89 reveals something about a conversation that happened before the world began. The psalmist starts out talking about David but as the psalm progresses he begins to prophesy this incredible revelation.
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him for ever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line for ever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. Psalm 89:20-29
What’s amazing about this is that before God ever made a covenant with man, he made one with himself. For some of us the Trinity can make our head spin but here is the Father making a covenant with the Son. We understand that God took a risk when he created us. Why? Because he created us with the capacity to choose. To choose to love Him as He loves us or the choice to reject Him.
Adam and Eve chose to reject Him, and we know that because of this sin came into the world. Maybe sometimes we begin to think that God was somehow surprised by this but No! The ultimate plan was always in place and it was there before the risk was taken. Take a moment to reflect on these incredible verses:
but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, 1 Peter 1:19-20
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world Revelation 13:8
The original covenant, the one between the Father and The Son that the Father was going to make man in His image and give them the capacity to choose Him. But if all went wrong the Son would leave his eternal throne and humble himself, taking on the nature of a servant and in doing so the Father promised that He would establish the sons line, the ‘second Adam’, and it would be an eternal line that any of us who choose to accept his sacrifice for us get to become part of. What love! What grace! What sacrifice!
Covenant is the way that God does relationship. His word once given for those that accept it releases attached blessings that can only be received by those who accept the word that He gave to them.
If that’s how Jesus does relationship with the Father and with us, should we not consider this principle of Covenant as perhaps the heart and foundation of our relationships?
So how should this idea of covenant impact our relationships?
One of the obvious ones is that the marriage covenant is a picture of the everlasting covenant that we enter into when we receive Christ. We know that one day Jesus will receive his bride to himself the church. (Revelation 19:6-9)
A primary reason for many of the UK’s problems is that this marriage covenant is not established and therefore the attached blessings of this covenant cannot flow. We have a situation where people are together for as long as it works for me! Once it stops working for me I have nothing that says I have to stay with you.
Fatherlessness is a huge epidemic in this country, children growing up without a Father figure in their lives and there are mums who are having to fulfil both roles and doing an amazing job but the truth is that they are meant to be mums! In 2010 it was estimated that nearly 4 million children were living in single parent households, in 2014 the office for national statistics said that in 91% of lone parent families, the parent absent was the Father. In 2016 it was estimated that the cost of family breakdown to the taxpayer was £48 billion, that’s just over £1800 for each taxpayer.
As the church of Jesus Christ, the church of covenant we need to represent something different. What marks our relationships as being different from people of other faiths or none? Others are capable of living respectfully with one another. Putting others before themselves. Other faiths promote these kind of values, so what marks the people of God out as being any different? Our belief is that as God’s people we should be the strongest form of family on this earth, a covenant family taking our identity from our Father; not only being a support and encouragement to individual families within the body but remembering that all of us together make up the body and we need each other
Are we saying that our relationships in churches should be in sickness and in health, until death do us part? Well no, we’re not, not in the same sense as marriage is. What we are saying is that Covenant weaves itself consistently throughout scripture. The idea of being faithful to God and faithful to one another.
When asked Jesus said that this was the greatest commandment:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ Mark12:30-31
Later on, whilst talking with his disciples he upgrades the second part of this commandment
A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’John 13:34-35
How did Jesus love us? By fulfilling his promise to the Father that this is what he would do and by sacrificially giving everything that we might have life. What is our response to this, to Jesus’s statement that by doing this people will know you are my disciples?
The death we die to ourselves leads to a resurrected life, to resurrection relationships, to covenant relationships. In following Christ’s example in dying to ourselves it becomes possible to pursue new commandment, it’s not just loving your neighbour as you love yourself anymore. It’s doing it like Jesus did it. If we don’t die then it’s really difficult to do this. It’s the dying that makes it possible, and it’s what Jesus did to usher in the covenant of grace that we live in right now.
The covenant of grace in which God said that we would belong to one another, The covenant that would bring relationship between He and us, that would bring relationship as it should be between one another, that we would be His family. We live under that new covenant and in following Christ’s example we take on the blessings of that covenant. If we are willing to fully understand and embrace this; the way we relate to one another, the way we love each other will change and the world will see something that is very, very different.