· (1) What is Covenant Faithfulness?
· (2) How is it useful to me as a Christian?
(1) What is “CF” – we need to simply look at what Scripture has to say about the concept.
· Numbers 23:19 (ESV) — 19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
· Deuteronomy 7:8 (ESV) — 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
· 1 Samuel 12:22 (ESV) — 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
· Psalm 105:8–10 (ESV) — 8 He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
· Nehemiah 9:6–8 (ESV) — 6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
· Nehemiah 9:32–33 (ESV) — 32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. 33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.
From these texts, we can see that “CF” involves the following:
· Keeping and remembering His covenant/oath made with a faithful Abraham.
· Not forsaking His people with whom He has covenanted.
· Always acting righteously and faithfully even in judgment.
And from these texts, we can see that God’s “CF” is grounded in His love, His pleasure, His name’s sake, His righteousness, His character – in other words, who He is.
· The “deeper foundation for covenant-keeping” is “his unwavering commitment…to act for the value of his glory”.
· “Behind the making and keeping of the covenant, and behind all other divine actions, is this ultimate allegiance to his glory, his holiness, his name” – John Piper.
So another way to view “CF” is simply as an expression of who God is in His relationship with those He has covenanted with.
· But the reverse is also true, as we just saw.
· “CF” also implies that God will act for His glory towards those who are not in covenant with Him or who are unfaithful.
o Whether that be the Israelites, as we just saw above.
· Deuteronomy 9:4 (ESV) — 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.
o Or anyone else.
(2) How is it useful to me as a Christian?
(A) It provides a framework through which to see the sweep of all of Scripture – the OT to the NT.
· Whether it is the Gospel as a whole, the death and resurrection of Jesus, or God’s action in history on Israel’s behalf, God’s “CF” can connect them all together.
· N.T. Wright says, for example, “The death and resurrection of Jesus were themselves the great eschatological events, revealing God’s covenant faithfulness, his way of putting the world to rights” – N.T. Wright.
(B) “CF” often can be the answer, or at least the starting point, for the question, “Why?”
· Why did God redeem Israel from Egypt?
· Why did God command the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites?
· Why did God raise up King David?
· Why did God exile Judah to Babylon?
· Why did God come in the flesh?
· Why will believers be resurrected to spend eternity in the age to come?
(C) “CF” can also help us to see the OT for much more than we usually do.
· Typically, we see the OT as containing the promises and the “NT is seen as the fulfillment or realization of what was formerly promised in the OT” – John Sailhamer.
· “After the NT fulfillment of the OT promises has been unwrapped, little is left of the OT other than the packaging” – John Sailhamer.
· This can:
o (1) Relegate “the OT to a lower status”
o (2) Reduce “the value of the OT as Scripture”
· “…viewing the OT as “promise” and the NT as “fulfillment” unavoidably relegates the OT to a lower status. The OT is a preparatory stage awaiting something greater and more complete to happen. The NT represents the arrival or realization of something that until now was only promised. What is “promised” is what is “not yet” or what has been only “partially” realized in the OT. What is “fulfilled” is here now, complete. Far from uniting the OT and the NT, the end result of the many forms of promise theology is a reduction of the value of the OT as Scripture” – John Sailhamer.
Instead of seeing the OT as primarily a promise that looks forward to the “done” work of Jesus Christ, “CF” shows us that the OT contains its own “done”.
· As we just read from Nehemiah 9:8b, “And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.”
· The OT writers experienced fulfillment of the “CF” of God not just promises.
· They had deep and profound satisfaction in the “done” work of God in their behalf.
· In fact, without the “done” of God’s “CF” in the OT, there would have been no NT.
1) COVENANT FAITHFULNESS AND EXODUS – A “DONE” OF “CF”
When we study Joshua, we will learn in depth about the fulfillment of God’s “CF”.
· But, because it is an obvious example, I do want to mention one “done” of “CF”.
· And this is the Exodus.
From Exodus to Micah, the Exodus is spoken of over 100 times.
· Exodus 12:51 (ESV) — 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
· Deuteronomy 26:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders.
· 1 Samuel 12:6 (ESV) — 6 And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
· 1 Kings 9:9 (ESV) — 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lordtheir God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”
· Nehemiah 9:18 (ESV) — 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies,
· Psalm 80:8 (ESV) — 8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
· Ezekiel 20:10 (ESV) — 10 So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
· Micah 6:4 (ESV) — 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
The Exodus was a past act of God on behalf of the Israelites that gave them a reason to be sure that God is faithful to the covenant he made with Abraham.
· Therefore, the Exodus gave them a present hope.
o It was a “done” of His “CF”.
· And yet, it also gave them reason to have a future hope for a complete fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham.
o Just as the past resurrection of Jesus gives us a present and future hope.
2) COVENANT FAITHFULNESS AND THE SEED OF ABRAHAM – A “DONE” AND A “NOT YET” OF “CF”
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 15:5–6 (ESV) — 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring [seed] be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 22:18 (ESV) — 18 and in your offspring [seed] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
God’s “CF” to the Abrahamic covenant is a large thread that finds expression and fulfillment throughout the OT – the “Done” of God’s “CF”.
· And, culminates in Jesus Christ…the OT’s not yet.
· Galatians 3:16 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
So how does God’s “CF” to His covenant to Abraham find fulfillment in the OT?
· It starts in the Pentateuch and goes throughout the OT.
· John Sailhamer argues that, “the author of the Pentateuch understood and trusted in God’s covenant pledges to his forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). In light of those pledges, and based on God’s faithfulness, the author lays into full view a new future for ancient Israel”.
· So God’s “CF” is seen as sort of a present fulfillment/future hope.
· It is both/and.
· And, “…at the center of that hope is a king whose reign is described in the…Pentateuch (Gen 49; Num 24; Deut 32/ 33)” – John Sailhamer.
“…in days to come…” (vs. 1) “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub (vss. 8 & 9a).
· “Judah’s “saying” [8-12] stresses the ideal kingship promised to his house. It is a vision of a victorious king whose reign encompasses all the nations. His coming will be accompanied by a restoration of the abundance of the garden of Eden” [washed garments, dark eyes, white teeth] – John Sailhamer.
“…in the latter days” (vs. 14) Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows (vss. 7 & 8)…he lay down like a lion (vs. 9).
· The author of the Pentateuch speaks “of the restoration of the Lord’s garden and the rise of a future king” – John Sailhamer.
Deuteronomy 33:4–7 (ESV) — 4 when Moses commanded us a law, as a possession for the assembly of Jacob. 5 Thus the Lord became king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered [this is at Sinai], all the tribes of Israel together. 6 “Let Reuben live, and not die, but let his men be few.” 7 And this he said of Judah: “Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him [the king] in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.”
· “Moses speaks of a king surrounded by his loyal subjects, the tribes of Israel. Then, addressing Judah (Deut 33: 7), Moses calls on God to fulfill his promise of a king from Judah” – John Sailhamer.
So the seed/offspring of Abraham, the one that Abraham trusted God to provide, is throughout the Pentateuch alluded to as a future king from the tribe of Judah.
· So in the sense of the seed as an individual, God’s “CF” was seen as a future hope.
· But in the sense of the seed as the Israelite offspring of Abraham, God’s “CF” (as we saw in Nehemiah 9) was seen as fulfilled.
o Exodus 1:9 (ESV) — 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.
· And this fulfillment inspired confidence in the faithfulness of God to bring the future seed/offspring.
Here are some examples of the continued hope in God’s “CF”.
· 1 Samuel 2:10 (ESV) — 10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
o Hannah’s anointed king.
· 2 Samuel 7:12–13 (ESV) — 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
o David’s future kingly offspring
· Psalm 72:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 4May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
o David’s righteous and just royal son.
· Jeremiah 4:2 (ESV) — 2 and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
o Jeremiah’s righteous and just king in whom the nations be blessed.
3) COVENANT FAITHFULNESS AND THE HEART
One other aspect of the OT that finds its hope in God’s “CF” is the idea of the need for a new heart.
· I will quickly survey this aspect of God’s “CF”.
Moses knew that the heart was ground zero for disobedience and unfaithfulness.
· In fact, in his poem in Deuteronomy 31, before his death, he said, “for I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way I have commanded you…you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD” (vs. 29).
It is for this reason he expressed this hope throughout the Pentateuch.
· Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
· Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) — 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
This hope that God, in His “CF” would perform this heart surgery is best expressed in Ezekiel.
· Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.