The Blood Covenant, Part 5: After Darkness, Light (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The heartbreak of the Old Testament is that Israel kept breaking covenant with God. They violated its terms and dishonored their King. We’re not talking about common struggles of the flesh, such as losing your temper, speaking an unkind word , or being guilty of greed, gluttony, etc. “We all stumble in many ways,” said James (Jas 3:2). No, these were persistent violations of the first two commandments (Exodus 20:3-6). The nation kept turning to foreign gods and bowing down to lifeless idols. It was a disloyalty to God that amounted to the worst kind of spiritual treason possible. They even engaged in child sacrifice, which deeply distressed the prophets (Jeremiah 32:35). The covenant eventually collapsed (Jeremiah 3:8), and judgment came in the form of a 70-year exile to Babylon.

But the prophets also preached a message of hope alongside the doom and gloom. Indeed, there were sparks of light piercing the gathering storm clouds. “With God,” they said, “there’s hope beyond the devastation—a future beyond judgment.” God would seek out a remnant who would be loyal to him (Isaiah 54:7), giving them a new and internal work of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27). He would give them a new joy in worship (Isaiah 35:10). And he would eventually cut the “new covenant,” saying, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Why? Because God’s lovingkindness is far greater than the worst human rebellion. 

Still, the new covenant would cost Jesus his life. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” he said, “which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). On the cross, Jesus endured the curse of broken covenant so that we could be redeemed (Galatians 3:13). His resurrection from the dead and pouring out of the Holy Spirit shows that the new covenant is now in effect.

After Darkness, Light (Sermon Audio)

Exchange! Braided hair from two girls illustrating the underlying concept of covenant,

The Blood Covenant, Part 4: The Battle Belongs to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)

Sometimes the questions of life are so hard, we need divine guidance to answer them. Should I go to college or enter the work force right out of high school? Should I stay in my current job or look for another? Should I move to a new location? If so, where? Should I stay in this toxic relationship? Should I put my declining loved one in a care facility? Should I take my family member off of life support? Indeed, life can sometimes feel like one crisis decision after another, and our own wisdom is not always sufficient to make the call.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faces a major crisis. He’s being attacked by a triple alliance of nations, and he’s not ready for it. In fact, he’s alarmed when he first gets the intelligence report. He doesn’t know what to do, but he knows he’s in covenant with Yahweh—the God of Israel. So, if he’s being attacked, God is being attacked, too. Consequently, the king calls on his covenant partner for help: “O Lord…we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:6, 12b). In response, God gives him strange instructions, reminding him that the battle belongs to the Lord. 

The same is true today. When you’re afraid and don’t know what to do, pray to the God who does. God knows all about the scary situations we face and and the difficult decisions in front of us, so he puts divine resources at our disposal. When we trust him fully, we may—like Jehoshaphat—find ourselves praising our way to victory.

Sermon Resources:

The Blood Covenant, Part 3: Open Your Mouth Wide (Psalm 81:1-10)

The descendants of Abraham found themselves enslaved down in Egypt building the treasure cities of Pharaoh. Because they were in covenant with God, however, it was as if God himself was enslaved, too. In fact, part of Psalm 81 gives us a portrait of God walking through Egypt, as if he were right there on the scene where his people were being mistreated. God says, in effect, “I was there, and I saw you with a burden on your back. I saw you with a basket of bricks in your hands. I heard you struggling with the language of the Egyptians.” And as Israel’s covenant partner, God obligated himself to act on their behalf. That’s why his message to the obstinate Pharaoh was, “Let my people go!” 

God’s message to his own people was, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). That’s an illustration from the hedgerows—a picture of baby birds being fed by mother bird in the nest. A baby bird is nothing but a big open beak with a straggly bit of flesh attached to it. It’s the picture of absolute dependence and expectancy. God was reminding his people to trust him; to depend on him—to rely on him, even when life was difficult. Or, in the words of Jesus: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This spiritual dynamic is still true today. God is the ultimate covenant partner on whom we can always depend. We just need to learn how to open our mouths wide.

Sermon Resources:

Open Your Mouth Wide (Sermon Audio MP3)

The Blood Covenant, Part 2: Is There Anyone Still Left? (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 2 Samuel 9:1-10)

David and Jonathan enter into a parity covenant, exchanging robes and weapons to signify their bond of loyalty to each other. The covenant they cut includes Jonathan’s young son Mephibosheth, whom David seeks out to bless even after Jonathan dies. Thereafter, Mephibosheth is invited to eat at the king’s table forever, unworthy though he may be. David shows Mephibosheth hesed (loving-kindness) because of his covenant with Jonathan, who served as his son’s covenant representative head.

This historical episode illustrates well the concept of representation. As Jonathan was Mephibosheth’s covenant representative head, so Jesus is the covenant representative head of the entire human race. Moreover, like David looking for Mephibosheth, God is searching for us, wanting to lavish upon us all the riches and blessings that come from being in covenant with him through Christ. He invites us to eat at the King’s table forever, unworthy though we may be. God’s hesed (lovingkindness) now flows to all who acknowledge Jesus by faith as their covenant representative head.

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New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘Covenant of Grace’

Corporate worship continues this Sunday, September 27 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel in Myerstown, PA. Local folks will be singing “Covenant of Grace”—a song that is new to our fellowship. You can preview it here to help prepare for worship:


COVENANT OF GRACE

Chorus

The wonder of Your mercy Lord 
The beauty of Your grace 
That You would even pardon me 
And bring me to this place 
I stand before Your holiness 
I can only stand amazed 
The sinless Savior died to make 
A covenant of grace 

Verse 1

I only want to serve you 
Bring honor to Your name 
And though I’ve often failed You 
Your faithfulness remains 
I’ll glory in my weakness 
That I might know Your strength 
I will live my life at the Cross of Christ 
And raise a banner to proclaim 

Verse 2

You welcome us before You 
Into this holy place 
The brilliance of Your glory 
Demands our endless praise 
The One, the only Savior 
Has opened heaven’s doors
We can enter in free from all our sin 
By Your cleansing sacrifice

Words and music by Don Wallace 
© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

The Blood Covenant, Part 1: The Bond in Blood (Genesis 15:1-21)

The word “covenant” is used over 300 times in the Bible. In the ancient world, covenant making (or “cutting”) was a social arrangement of convenience or necessity, obligating two parties to show hesed one to another (i.e., mercy, kindness, loving-kindness, or covenant loyalty). At its heart, a covenant was a bond in blood; the establishment of a binding, legal relationship with no exit clause. Covenant partners died to their rights to independent living, becoming functionally one in the process.

The shock of the Bible is that God himself has entered into covenant with the human race! He swore on oath with uplifted hand to keep his word, even upon pain of death. It all started with a man by the name of “Abram.” God promised that one day someone would come through Abram’s line who would bless the whole world (Genesis 12:3), an ultimate reference to the Messiah. The bigger shock of the Bible is that to establish a covenant with humanity, God placed a death sentence on himself. What kind of God is willing to die for his people? The one whose Son wound up on a cross, where the New Covenant was cut.

Sermon Resources:

New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me’

Corporate worship continues this Sunday, September 20 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel in Myerstown, PA. Local folks will be singing “The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me”—a song that is new to our fellowship. You can preview it here to help prepare for worship:

THE BLOOD OF JESUS SPEAKS FOR ME

The blood of Jesus speaks for me
Be still my soul, redeeming love
Out of the dust of Calvary
Is rising to the throne above

There is no vengeance in His cry
While “It is finished” fills the sky
Forgiveness is the final plea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

My heart can barely take it in
He pardons all my guilty stains
Surrender all my shame to Him
He breaks the curse of every chain

My sin is great, but greater still
The boundless grace His heart reveals
A mercy deeper than the sea
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

When my accuser makes the claim
That I should die for my offense
I point him too that rugged frame
Where I found life at Christ expense

See from His hands, His feet, His side
The fountain flowing deep and wide
Oh, He did shout the victory
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name

Worthy is the Lamb
Lamb for sinners slain
Jesus, Lord of all
Glory to His name

Heaven crying out
Let the earth proclaim
Power in the blood
Glory to His name
Jesus!

Oh let my soul arise and sing
My confidence is not in vain
The one who fights for me is King
His hope, His covenant remain

No condemnation now I dread
Eternal hope is mine instead
His word will stand, I stand redeemed
The blood of Jesus speaks for me

Amazing love, how can it be?
The blood of Jesus speaks for me
For me!

Words and Music by Travis Cottrell and David Moffitt
© 2016 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing / Great Revelation Music / TimeChange Music (ASCAP)