Keeping a Covenant

Genesis 17:9-16

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Marriage

In this generation, the idea of marriage has become a polarizing issue between Bible believing Christians and the secular society. Do we need to join an argument about marriage? It would be futile to explain about the biblical concept of marriage to unbelievers. Why? Only those who have received the Spirit of Christ would believe the word of God.

It says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

So, when people argue with you about biblical marriage or any biblical topics, pray that they will be filled with the Spirit of Christ so that they will accept the words of God. What does the Bible say about marriage?

Retired preacher John Piper said that the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of biblical marriage is to display the covenant relationship of Christ and His church. Christ has promised, “I’m with you always, to end of the age.” If Christ breaks His promise, which is impossible, then humankind may break their marriage covenant. In Ephesians 5:25, 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Christ’s love and sacrificial death for His bride—the church is the biblical standard of love that believers should pursue for their spouse. We can only love our spouse just like Christ loved His church if we allow His Spirit to bear fruit of love in us, and let Him empower us to love.

Marriage covenant between husband and wife is lifetime commitment.

In comparison, the covenant between God and Abraham did not end after the death of Abraham. God required no definite timetable in keeping of His covenant for Abraham and his descendants. It’s indefinite!

1. Indefinite

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

When the Lord required all descendants of Abraham including future generations, He decreed no definite timetable in keeping His covenant. All those who would acknowledge as descendants of Abraham must keep God’s covenant. Keeping the Lord’s covenant reflects trust in Him.

It is not far from impossibility that some Jewish people may disagree or disregard the covenant of the Lord. Nevertheless, disobedience or rejection to covenant of God does not nullify or abolish what God declared.

The Lord says in Zechariah 1:6, Did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?

Faith is trust in God’s word. Unbelief cannot change what He declares.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Christ also declared in Matthew 24:35, 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Christ’s declaration of the indefinite timetable of His word implies that His word and God’s word is one and the same. He also implies that He is God. By faith, we believe Jesus Christ is God the Son. And His word is true.

He says in Luke 11:28, 28Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.

It teaches in James 1:25, 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Blessing is added in the Lord’s instructions, and those who obey them would benefit from it. Have you been confused if you were to obey God’s word or not? Why is it so hard to obey the Lord’s commands?

How can human effort obey commands that are godly and eternal?

Failure to obey God’s commands points to human limitation and the need for godly help. The Lord knows that we need His godly help. Christ declared in John 14:15-17, 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Let’s search our hearts! Do we love Christ and keep His commands? Have you not received the Holy Spirit? Be filled and empowered by His Holy Spirit. Ask Christ to help us obey His instructions at all times even when we are not seeking His help.

Keeping Christ’s commands is a practical proof that we have received His Spirit—the Spirit of Truth. Jesus is the Way for us to obey and know Him—the Truth, and be freed from sin like disobedience.

Keeping God’s covenant is indefinite and imperative.

2. Imperative

10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

When the Lord decreed that His covenant is everlasting, it implies unlimited scope and indefinite timetable. And when He decreed that males who won’t participate in the ritual of the covenant of circumcision will be cut off, the Lord implies that His covenant with Abraham is imperative.

Why was the Lord’s covenant imperative? There are consequences of ignoring it. God Almighty has supreme power and authority which makes His covenant imperative and essential. It is compulsory to every male in Abraham’s household and descendants including future generations.

The covenant of circumcision serves as physical symbol of their participation in the covenant. No male in Abraham’s household, descendant or servant, is exempted. It is imperative. If one rejects it, he will be cut off.

The biblical meaning of the term ‘cut off’ is to be ‘destroyed’ or cut in two or cut in halves. This warning has the same magnitude of severity as the warning that the Lord declared in Jeremiah 34:18, 18 Those who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.

Whether to keep or to disregard the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, there are consequences. To keep God’s covenant is to invite His blessing, to disregard, reject or ignore God’s covenant is to invite His curse.

And since by faith, we become children of Abraham, are we bound to obey the covenant of circumcision? Believers are bound by the covenant of circumcision of the heart. When we repented of our sins and accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, the Lord transformed us into new creation.

In Romans 2:9, 9Circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

The Lord circumcised the heart of all who believe in Him–believers with Gentile background and believers with Jewish background.

It says in Deuteronomy 30:6, The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Christ commanded us to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength and yet, we find it hard to obey. We can obey this greatest command when our heart is circumcised.

Ponder upon this question, “Has God circumcised my heart, yet?”

Jesus says in John 3:15-18, 15Everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Christ’s Spirit reigns in us and circumcised our heart. And just as God told Abraham that those who won’t participate in the covenant of circumcision will be cut off, those whose heart are not circumcised by the Holy Spirit have been sentenced to be cut off and condemned.

Our opinion of who we are should be reflected in our lifestyle. Our lifestyle reflects our actual spiritual temperature.

A circumcised heart does not conform to the pattern of this world.

Discounted Price!

How many among us love discounted price? Black Friday is coming. Boxing Day is next. Not a few are planning what they may buy during those days when prices are discounted. Discounted prices are very tempting, and it is hard to ignore for those who have money to buy what they wish to buy.

Discounted price concept is as old as Proverbs 20:14, 14“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer— then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

We want much returns and best products for our money. Yet, some people avoid going to Black Friday or Boxing Day sales because they can afford to buy things they need anytime they want. They are self-sufficient.

The life of sufficiency and abundance has also not prevented the richer people to be lukewarm or don’t find much need of the Lord.

Jesus said in Luke 18:25, 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When people have sufficiency in life, they may not sense the urgency of obeying God’s instruction. They don’t sense the need for help. But if the Holy Spirit circumcised our heart, we can sense His command as imperative.

Jesus commanded in Matthew 6:19-21, 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If we acknowledge that we are children of Abraham by faith, we need to be sure that we are also circumcised in our heart. Christ’ Spirit circumcised our heart, transformed our lifestyle and mindset to do His will.

Keeping the Lord’s commands is indispensable to our faith in Him.

3. Indispensable

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Sarai was indispensable to the fulfilment of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham because Sarai was the legal wife of Abraham. The Lord did not disregard Sarai when He made His covenant with Abraham. He declared that husband and wife are one. Christ said in Matthew 19:5, 5A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.

God has also changed the name of Sarai to Sarah. The name ‘Sarai’ can mean ‘dominating’ or ‘controlling’ which was why whatever Sarai says, Abraham did not oppose. The name ‘Sarah’ is properly interpreted as ‘princess’ or ‘queen’. Sarah has become the mother of nations.

Abraham had a son with his servant Hagar but descendants that God promised him would come from Sarah. When God declared that Sarah will be mother of nations, He implies that Sarah was indispensable in the fulfilment of His covenant with Abraham—to have numerous descendants.

Just as God included Sarah and the descendants of Abraham in the keeping of His covenant, as children of Abraham, believers are indispensable in keeping God’s covenant with Abraham, not ignored or disregarded.

When the Lord said in Jeremiah 24:7, 7I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart,” are we included?

We can never know the Lord with limited human faculty and ability. We can only come to know Him after the Holy Spirit circumcised our heart. With new heart from God, we can discern which part of the Scripture is applicable to us, know His will, and we don’t need to doubt.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, 14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

This passage has used to dissuade from marrying non-believers. But to marry non-believers, some assume a biblical support in God’s command for Prophet Hosea to marry an adulterous woman.

Moreover, many would ponder if it is right for believers to divorce and marry another. Is it right for Christians to marry non-believers. There are endless discussions about who or when should believers marry.

How should we respond productively with kindness?

Parents should not dictate which person their children want to marry.

Parents won’t disregard but have concerns disobedient children. Right?

The warning, ‘not to be yoked with unbelievers’ has similarity to the warning, ‘don’t drink and drive’. There are many possible undesirable subsequent realities that may happen if the warning is disregarded.

Who can help us to identify the will of the Lord? It say in 2 Samuel 7:3,  3“Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

Decision affects lifestyle. We have to seek guidance and help from Christ’s Spirit. As Christ reigns in us, He instills the right desire in our heart.

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it reminds of Christ’s crucifixion. The Lord crucified with Christ our sins including disobedience. If you have received Christ as your Saviour, ask Him to save you also from disobedience and empower you to joyfully abide with His instructions.

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