June 14, 2018
(Click here to view the PDF of the June 14 Newsletter)
From the Pen of the Senior Associate Pastor…
It was a couple of days before a boys and girls social at our junior high school. We did not have middle schools then. I was a little anxious with my mom on the shopping trip to purchase just the right threads for the event. Unsure about the rest of my ensemble, I was focused on getting a pair of Bass Weejuns penny loafers. My older brothers wore them on such occasions and I felt it was time for me to do the same.
At the department store my mom pointed out some similar and less expensive shoes. I countered, “but they’re not Bass Weejuns.” “What’s in a name”, mom asked? I countered with the non-persuasive argument of…”everyone is wearing them.” I wound up getting the Bass Weejuns, but only after paying for the difference from my paper route money! (FYI, I still wear Bass Weejuns and I’m pretty sure not many are sporting that style anymore.)
What is in a name? The name Covenant appears often in our spheres. There’s Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary and Covenant Presbyterian Church. There are actually a lot of Covenant Presbyterian Churches.
Covenant is hard to understate in its importance because there may be no clearer window into the heart of God than the inviolable truth of His covenant keeping character.
Consider God’s covenant with creation. In essence God says, I will call it into being. I will make and sustain it. And I will perfect it.
In Genesis, God establishes His covenant with Adam and renews it with Noah, but it is through the life of Abraham, His friend – the man called out of Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would show him – that God begins to reveal and magnify His intent for His people. Why did God choose Abraham? The Bible does not say. We simply know that God did what he chose to do. He chose whom He chose to choose.
It’s the same with us. Why did God place His love and grace on me? Why did He choose you? Certainly, it’s not based on anything in us, but the basis of His choice was simply His. It was not of our goodness, our intellect, our morality, or our talents. He gives us the same gift of faith that He gave Abraham. He makes us “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3.29
We see Him unfolding His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. He promises to give Abraham more descendants than the stars in the heavens. God is revealing Himself as the God of the impossible. Abraham is 100 years old. Sara is 90 years old and childless. Any thinking person would assume that her childbearing years are long past, yet God plants in them the faith to believe that His words are true.
He instructs Abraham to bring animals. What is God doing? Though these actions seem very different to us, He is acting according to the custom of that day by which two parties sealed a binding legal agreement. It was like signing a contract, and it made perfect sense to Abraham. The parties to the agreement would cut certain animals in two and then walk between the animals and seal the deal. With their action they were adhering themselves to the agreement. Essentially, declaring a self-curse (death like these animals) should the covenant promise not be kept.
After Abraham cuts the animals in half and arranges the halves opposition each other, he falls into a deep sleep. In a vision, Abraham sees a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch – the presence of the God – pass between the carcasses. God protects Abraham from vowing a vow he’s unable to keep. He is saying, “Listen, Abraham. There’s no way you can keep this covenant. So, if someone is going to take a curse in this transaction, I will take it.” There’s no doubt that Abraham will be unable to keep covenant with God on his own. Only the eternal God of heaven and earth is going to establish and fulfill the covenant with His people.
What’s in a name? There is a wonderful reason Covenant appears often within our sphere.