What does it mean for us to have a covenant from God? What does it mean to have a promise from God? Covenant is something of an odd word since it isn’t a word we use a lot in English. You don’t hear that someone covenanted something very often. When was the last time you went out covenanting after you got off work? I think we don’t use it a lot because covenant has kind of an odd definition when it gets used in the Bible. Its actual meaning is something between contract and promise leaning more toward promise than a bunch of legal paperwork.
God being God, God enters into covenants with God’s people on occasion. God being God, God makes agreements that are binding on God and God’s people but they are agreements with the promise of something more. It doesn’t happen a lot a lot but when God does it, the covenants are a big deal. God had a covenant with Adam and Eve and with Abraham. Don’t eat the fruit and you will live forever in a happy place we call the garden of Eden. The most well known covenant is probably the covenant God made with Noah after the flood. How do we remember that one? Sure, the rainbow. Genesis 9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. And God entered into a covenant with the people in Egypt. Remember that fun little group, escaping from slavery in Egypt? They head toward the promised Land and enter into a covenant with God. Be my people, do what I command and the land I promised you will be yours.
Then of course Adam and Eve didn’t do well not eating the fruit, God’s people continued to act as though God doesn’t exist even when we see the rainbow after a storm, and the people escaping from slavery in Egypt promptly broke the covenant with their foolishness around the false idol of the Golden Calf. People, people, people, we’re about useless when it comes to keeping our covenants with God.
We The People have a tendency to break these promises. We’re not very good at keeping them. So what’s the big deal? God has to be used to people breaking promises, right? Since the very beginning of people, the beginning that we know by the story of Adam and Eve, people have been breaking promises. Why should we be any different?
Why should we be any different indeed? What’s it like for you when you’re around someone who doesn’t keep a promise? What is it like for us when we’re around someone that we can’t trust to do what they say they’re going to do? How do you treat that person? We tend to respond with negative emotions and actions, don’t we? We usually reject people who don’t keep their promises. We don’t generally trust people who don’t keep their promises.
It’s a good thing God isn’t like us or we’d be in big trouble. God could reject us. God could take a pass on trusting us. Instead? God gives us another chance by coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what God is foreshadowing through Jeremiah here. God says, 3131 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. God is giving the people hope when God tells them, there’s a new covenant, a new promise coming to them. In spite of their ongoing failure, in spite of OUR ongoing failure, God is always working toward our transformation into the people God created us to be.
There is a new covenant, a new promise coming to us in Christ Jesus. A covenant that God will be with us and a promise of forgiveness with the hope of resurrection. All these Old Testament stories we’ve been reading and thinking about the past couple of months start to come together this Sunday as they point to the promise of the coming Christ. Which we’ll start thinking about and talking about next Sunday when we begin Advent and our preparations for the birth of Christ.
It is a new covenant, a new promise that is written on our hearts so we won’t forget that we are claimed by God and in spite of all the covenant breaking we do, we’re never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus and the hope that comes from God in Christ.
A new covenant, a new promise that is coming to us to give us hope in the midst of challenges and difficulty. To give us hope in a world that can seem dark and troubled at times. To give us hope and send us into the world, Bringing Christ’s Love to Life.