Our Covenant-Making God
A covenant speaks of a deep binding agreement – a giving of self and not just our abilities, advice or resources. In Jesus, the One who limited Himself and came as a servant (Phil 2:5f) we see how willing God is to give Himself to us so that we can enter our true home with God as our heavenly Father.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God created this world for the purpose of having a personal relationship with mankind. In His written word to us (2 Tim 3:16) we find opening words that speak of great blessing (creating a world for us) and finishing words that also speak of God’s willingness to bless, despite our rebellion and failure (John 3:16; Rev 22:14f).
In scripture, the first act of love was the creation of the world (Gen 1:1) and the first gift of love was to man who was placed in a garden called ‘delight’ (Eden: Gen 2:8); in a world that had been created for him (Psalm 115:16). Love always seeks to share with a loved one and God chose to create man, a being who could benefit and share in the Trinitarian love expressed between father, son and Holy Spirit. (Gen 1:27). God created man in order to bless him.
“Only in the creation of humanity is the divine intent announced beforehand. The formula “and it was so” is replaced by a threefold blessing. In these ways the narrative places humankind closer to God than the rest of creation.”
D and H Jackman in, ‘A’ Gift of God’ page 3, Cambridge Papers.
In scripture, we see that the first decision of sacrificial love speaks of unconditional, sacrificial love in that Christ is spoken of as slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:9-20; John 1:29). What we see in this decision is that even before man fell into sin, there was an agreement within the Trinity that the Son of God would come and stand in the place of the sinner; the foundation of this world is sacrificial love.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
In scripture we also find that the first use of the word love (aahabtaa) speaks of a father’s love for a son - this being found in reading the story of Abraham who was called to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac (Gen 22:2). God then stayed Abraham’s hand and provided a ram as a sacrifice in Isaac’s place. Hundreds of years later, we find the first use of the word ‘love’ in the New Testament as we read of another Father and His love for His Son (Matt 3:17). This Father, our heavenly Father, did not intervene as His Son was smashed to a cross and died in our place; so great is the love of God for us.
“While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his son,” writes the Apostle Paul (Rom 5:10). The cross is the giving up of God’s self in order not to give up on humanity; it is the consequence of God’s desire to break the power of human enmity without violence and receive human beings into divine communion. The goal of the cross is the dwelling of human beings “in the Spirit,” “In Christ”, and “In God”. Forgiveness is therefore not the culmination of Christ’s relation to the offending other; it is a passage leading to embrace.”
Miroslav Volf in, ‘Exclusion and Embrace’ p 126.
(In the beginning) God = ‘Elohiym’
‘Elohiym’ is the plural form of ‘El’ (God), and speaks of the supreme God who is more powerful than any man made or demon- initiated god. Note Gen 1:2 and John 1:1.
There are two pictures behind this word ‘God’, with the first being an ox head which symbolises strength and power. Think of a barren field during a drought, and then imagine trying to dig the field with a spade. Now think of an ox pulling a plough and we see strength and power in action. God is the author of all strength and power.
A second picture behind the word ‘God’ is that of a Shepherd, which speaks of authority, guidance and protection. In Numbers 6:24 we read, “The Lord bless you and keep you.” The word, ‘keep’ speaks of being hedged in as in protecting a flock with a fence, and also speaks of watching over. Although this word ‘keep’ is not used in Job 1, we read that Job’s life was ‘hedged in’ (Job 1:10).
Think of some of the difficult situations that you have gone through. Now capture the pictures above (strength and power like an Ox and the authority, guidance and protection of the Shepherd), and remember how willing God is to help us. He is, “The God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (Psalm 77:14). When Job was going through incredible hardship the greatest help he found was when God reminded him of just who God is (Job 38:4-12). When in difficulty, start with who God is! He knows the stars by nature and composition (Ps 147:4), and the number of hairs on your head (Mt 10:30). Note also that God rejoices over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:32). God knew of every time you and I would get things wrong, yet still rejoiced when we were born again, knowing that we were safe and in a place where His love, grace, mercy and power would nourish and uplift us as adopted sons and daughters. God has always been there for us, we just didn’t know it.
In reading Titus 1:2, Eph 1:4, 1 Peter 1:19-20 and Rev 13:8 we get insight into God’s thinking before the world was created. What do we see? Sacrificial love (1 John 4:8ff).
“In the beginning God created.”
The word ‘create’ comes from a root meaning, “to fatten the seed.” A seed goes into the ground and is nourished and waters and explodes with goodness. In a modern-day setting, think of an empty house being filled with good things and we get the idea of how God created in order to bless us.
Let us continue to pray for our lives to be open to God’s leading and that our heavenly Father directs our paths (2 Thess 3:5). The word ‘direct’ (kateuthaniai) speaks of guidance and straightening the path we travel and even when we get it wrong God will come in and, in great love, challenge us to straighten our lives out and raise our face to look into His.
Aquinas (an early church father) once said something along the lines of, “An arrow does not have the knowledge to shoot the target, so it needs an archer. In the same way God is our archer as He directs us to an end or purpose.” Unlike an arrow, we do have a certain amount of knowledge and ability and need to let God shape and mould us. As we learn to lean on Him (a picture behind the words ‘faith’ and ‘trust’) we become established in the soil of His promises (like a tree planted in a really good place) so let’s be encouraged to seek Him every day before all else. Be blessed!