Saturday, July 26, 2014
Grace and covenant
"At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest," Jeremiah 31:2 (NRSV)
The first part of the verse quoted above reiterates the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:7. God says to Abraham that He will establish an everlasting covenant with Abraham, and the covenant is quite simple, yet powerful. God says that He will always be the God of Abraham and his offspring. This covenant is reiterated throughout the Bible, such as when God clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned (see Genesis 3:21), and in the first commandment that says "You shall have no other gods before me. (see Deuteronomy 5:7). The finishing work of God's covenant is in Christ. Paul, who was a Jewish scholar, reminds us that God's covenant with Abraham was made to Abraham and his offspring. Offspring is singular, not plural and Christ is the one offspring from Abraham whose life and death embodied the total grace of God. Christ is the offspring that joins all of us to God. (see Galatians 3:16).
The Israelites always fought battles and suffered economically under the control of other governments. The story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness represents a respite from control. The analogy is that in the wilderness, we may not be economically prosperous, but we learn to rely on God for all our needs. There often is solitude in the wilderness, and it is in solitude that we discover that God is with us, and this is where we find grace.
The covenant is a very important to the concept of God's grace, and as we see references to it in the New Testament and the Old Testament, we know that the covenant is a pervasive idea that God chose from the very beginning. Jeremiah's message to the people of Israel, and indeed, to us today, is to take time in the wilderness to put God first, just as His covenant instructs us to do, and then we will find His grace.