Greetings to you! At the beginning of this New Year, we have come into God’s presence to examine ourselves and to renew our promises which we had made during our baptism and confirmation.
We are also gathered to be moved to be penitent and to renew our covenant with God. Very often we misunderstand what the covenant is and think of it more as a simple agreement or a contract. When we look at the Old Testament and also similar west Asian treaties, a covenant was made between a superior king and a vassal.
The stronger king would offer protection, while the weaker king would pledge to be faithful. This was then ratified by the two parties walking between the oxen that where cut in two, thereby indicating that the fate of the one who did not keep the conditions of the covenant would be similar to that of the animals. Their word had to be backed up by their lives.
When the covenant which Abraham was made by God, it is God who walks between the animals as a smoking firepot and a blazing torch and Abraham was only a spectator. It was a unilateral move, showing his unconditional love for Abraham and his descendants.
God had commanded Abraham and his family to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just in order that he may bring to fulfillment the promises made to Abraham. God’s election of Abraham meant that there was an ethical way that he needed to walk in, so that, through his lifestyle the neighboring countries would know the Lord.
Through Abraham the nation Israel was called to be a light to the nations around them by the covenant made with the people at Mount Sinai. Here the commands were written on tablets of stone and Israel failed to keep them. Due to this the covenant was broken and therefore a new covenant was promised through the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah prophesied about this covenant long before the coming of Jesus. God had said that in this new covenant he will write his laws on the hearts and minds of people. In other words, the law would be internal and not something written on tablets of stone.
The second thing about the new covenant is that knowledge of God would be universal. In other words, everybody from the least to the greatest would have access to know God.
Finally, forgiveness would be complete. The new covenant was inaugurated with the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. God’s laws are internalized by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit; forgiveness is complete because of the once and for all death of Jesus on the cross; and knowledge of God is universal because the Gospel has gone to the ends of the earth.
Anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes part of this new covenant and is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. In Galatians 3: 29 Paul states that ‘If we belong to Christ then we are Abraham’s offspring heirs according to the promise’. And just as Abraham and his descendants were called to lead an ethical lifestyle in order to be a blessing to the nations, we too are called to lead such lifestyles so that others will know who Jesus Christ is.
God in Christ Jesus has loved us unconditionally and has backed up his word with his life. As we step into this new year we are called to renew our covenant commitment to Jesus Christ.
In doing this we are affirming that we are all members of one body of the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore this covenant is made corporately. In renewing our covenant with God we affirm that we are no longer our own but God’s. We surrender our will to his will and allow him to use us or to put us aside.
May we take time this New Year to be consistent and faithful in our walk with God where our promises will be backed up by our lives.