We belong to God. Let that statement sink in and saturate your soul with grace. The Bible is a “covenant” document giving us the stipulations of how we can have a belonging with God. Covenant is how God has chosen to communicate to us, to redeem us, and to guarantee us eternal life in Jesus. These truths, revealed in the Bible, are the basis of Christianity. The Old and New Testaments are really Old and New Covenants. The word “testament” is Latin for “covenant”. When God makes a covenant with his people, it means that he gives them promises of what he will do, and, in turn, has moral expectations or ethical responsibilities for the people to follow.
The ancient world operated on a covenant system. A nation or empire would conquer a city or territory and set up a covenant in which the conqueror would promise protection, certain provisions, and leave a military presence among them. In turn, the conquered people would be required to offer things like allegiance and tribute. In the Bible, God made a covenant with Abraham and promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. The only stipulation that God gave to Abraham was to leave his home and begin a new life in the land he would show him. God continued to work through Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, and made them a people for his own Name who would be a kingdom of priests, testifying to the nations through a lifestyle of having God the center of all they do in embodying the Ten Commandments – being a holy people, reflecting the holiness of God.
The difference between earthly covenants and God’s covenant is that God steeps his covenant in love and grace. God cares about his covenant because in his dealings with his people, he is concerned to reveal who he is to them so that they can relate to him and flourish as human beings.
God never forgets nor reneges on his covenant promises. For example, God clarified his covenant by giving King David a dynasty, a never-ending kingdom, a temple, and a father/son relationship with his progeny. Furthermore, he promised that his love (Hebrew “chesed”) would never be taken away (2 Samuel 7:1-17). This is my favorite word in the entire Bible. It is translated in various ways as love, grace, kindness, and compassion. It refers to God’s steadfast covenant loyalty to his people – that he will not fail to show continuous love to his people, even when they might go astray. Unlike the nations of the earth, unlike the fickle nature of people, unlike the inconsistent commitment of others, God stands alone as a Being who in his very nature is love and continues to be gracious.
All the good promises given to Abraham, to the Israelites through Moses, and to David are all fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, the New Covenant, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are soaked in the language and explanation that Jesus is the Son of David. He is the Promised One, the Savior, Lord, Teacher, and Healer that will save the people from their sins and bring them to a spacious kingdom full of the grace and love that characterizes God. Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are brought into union with God and participate fully in all the promises of the New Covenant – a Covenant that has its main stipulation of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. All this talk of love is because God himself is a God that is love personified in Christ.
The way the world is going to know that there is a God in heaven is through chesed,grace. God has not called us to yell louder than the culture; he has not told that we are to work to get our way in everything within society. Instead, he calls us to be gracious. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful…. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:2-6).
The most gracious truth we can ever know and bank our lives upon is that we belong to God. Our primary identity is not in a club, church membership, or even our biological family; our most fundamental identity is as a child of God, created in his image and belonging to him in Christ. God’s covenant with us has become the mechanism that assures us of that belonging. One can never be reminded too often of God’s covenant loyalty that is by sheer grace.