Genesis 6:17-22 “‘I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.’ Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
When the whole world is wicked, goodness looks odd. When almost everybody ignores God then someone who takes him desperately seriously seems fanatical. When everyone deliberately avoids reading the Bible then a person who pays attention to the word of God seems extreme. Noah lived in a world in which insanely evil behaviour had become so commonplace that it seemed normal, but it was fearfully abnormal in God’s sight. We are told, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” (vv. 11&12). There were no exceptions in God’s sight; none was righteous anywhere, no not one; all had corrupted their ways. So God says, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.” (v.17).
Then we meet this word ‘but’, in fact we meet it twice at significant junctures in this narrative. The first occurrence of ‘but’ is in verse six; the world is full of violence and desperately wicked, “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (v.6). God separated this man from every other person in the world. God’s grace homed in on Noah. The world was under God’s wrath, but Noah was under God’s mercy. The world was wicked, but Noah was blameless. The world was godless, but Noah walked with God. Children of other once-godly families married and mingled with the ungodly, but Noah’s sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth and their wives all remained faithful to the Lord. Then there’s a second ‘but’ which is in our text today, verse eighteen, “But I . . .” says God. “I will establish my covenant with you, Noah.”
1. GOD DEALS WITH MEN BY WAY OF A COVENANT.
God deals with men and women today by way of a covenant. All through the ages his relationship with people is covenantal. There is clear evidence of a covenant between God and Adam. There were one or two covenants between the Almighty and Noah. There was a covenant between the Lord and Abraham. There was a covenant between God and Moses. There was a covenant between Jehovah and David. There is a new covenant between Jesus Christ and every single disciple. Today it is still by a covenant that God deals with repenting believing sinners.
Now much of the professing evangelical church, especially the Baptists, seem to me to have lost sight of this particular framework. Covenantal language was much more common in the life of our fathers than it is with us in the way we pray, and evangelize, and even think. We are the poorer because of it. When the great 19th century preacher Spurgeon was fifteen years of age and working as a kind of junior teacher (an usher) in a school at Newmarket the old cook at that school was a godly woman. “Many a time,” said Spurgeon, “we have gone over the covenant of grace together . . . and I do believe that I learned more from her than I should have learned from six doctors of divinity” (The Early Years, Banner of Truth, p.39).
I am saying that we have almost totally abandoned that ability to talk together about the covenant, and yet what is there more fundamental to the whole structure of biblical religion? Look at the Bible itself; how is it divided? Into two, the old covenant and the new covenant. The Bible’s framework and very foundation is manifest in the initiative God took all by himself to establish a covenant with us, a covenant which is unbreakable, everlasting and irrevocable, a bond in blood which our Lord and Saviour even at this very moment is sovereignly administering. He will do this for ever and ever, while his blood is there in heaven. It is “the blood of the everlasting covenant.”
It is in our text that we meet the first instance where ‘covenant’ is found in the Bible. The word ‘covenant’ can be used to describe a number of crucial, binding relationships.[i] For example, a covenant is a kind of commercial contract between two business partners. Some of you have recently moved into new rooms, maybe a new flat or house, and your landlord has given you a form which he has drawn up and asked you to sign, in which you declare you will pay a certain rental each month and agree to take responsibility for the maintenance of the property, while he agrees to allow you to live there for a year. A covenant is a contract between two people. Jesus Christ says, “I will prepare a place for you and take you unto myself that where I am there you will be also.” What a landlord! What a place the Son of God is preparing! And then our Lord tells you what you must do to get to that mansion; “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” That is your responsibility if you are going to enjoy his covenant blessings. You must come to him from your unbelief if you are to be included in his covenant and enjoy his peace. [ii] Again, a covenant is a treaty between two separate nations. These countries have formed an agreement. Maybe the smaller country will pay the greater a certain amount of money each year, or it will send soldiers to fight in the senior nation’s wars. The larger country for its part promises to protect its little neighbour from any armed aggression. That treaty is again a covenant, a solemn binding agreement between two nations. So I tell you that God has a Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, and he protects and keeps all who are under his blessed reign, and he will destroy all his enemies. Are you in this Kingdom? Only those in the Kingdom are in the covenant. There is only one way of entering the Kingdom; “Except a man be born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Cry to God that you may be given this birth from above and enter into a covenant relationship with this mighty King. [iii] Again, a covenant is a contract between a man and a woman in marriage. They give one another wedding rings and they say to one another after they have slipped the ring on the finger of their beloveds, “I give you this ring as a sign of the covenant made between us this day, and as a pledge of our mutual love.” There is an exclusive relationship of this man and this woman in marriage, and it is a relationship of covenant love. Jesus Christ has a bride, and they are his people:
“From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride,
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.”
Do you have any assurance that Jesus Christ is your beautiful Bridegroom, your Husband, your dearly loved one and your friend? Do you know anything of what this mysterious phrase may mean, that he has taken you into his banqueting house and his banner over you is love? It speaks of the Lord nourishing and cherishing his people. Can you say, “My beloved is mine and I am his”? Do you think of him as the altogether lovely one? The people of God is the bride whom Christ has taken and chosen to be his wife; he will supply all her needs; he will never be parted from her; she is in the covenant that was made on Golgotha when Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.
So I say to you that God deals with people by way of a covenant, and this covenant is a contract; it is a treaty, and it is a marital bond of commitment. Those images describe God’s relationship with his disciples today. When Christians meet around the Lord’s table the presiding minister says about the poured out wine; “This is the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Each time we celebrate holy communion we are commemorating our Lord’s covenantal love for us.
So I am telling you that Noah was not unique in being in a covenant with God. Adam was in a covenant with the Lord at the beginning, and every Christian today is in a covenant with him. God is searching everyone here, “Are you in a covenant with me?” What sort of relationship do you have with God? Is it vague and touchy-feely? “I feel I am close to God.” Is that all you can say? Many in the last day will say that they felt close to the Lord, but Jesus will say to them ‘Depart from me; I never knew you.’ Do you know that you are connected to Christ by covenant – with the mighty Creator of the universe? Is there a contract between God and your soul? Is there a treaty between the Kingdom of Heaven and you? Is your husband the King of love?.
“O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit –
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.” (Anne R. Cousin, 1824-1906).
Do you want something that will keep you close to God, that will remain true – irrespective of the ways your feelings wax and wane? Do you want something that will give you the confidence that you will never be without the Lord? Then I tell you that it is a covenant with God for which you are searching.
So what is a covenant? Covenant means a bonding; above all it means the utter steadfastness and the complete irreversibility of the loving relationship of two parties who are in total, unbreakable commitment to one another. Such a covenant between God and us has been established by the shedding of blood and that will make the contract one that has binding obligation. Wherever there is a biblical treaty then there is structured oneness of determination and affection. Wherever there is marriage there is exclusive dedication on the part of one man to one women and one woman to one man. The whole emphasis in the covenant is found in the immutability of that relationship. Nothing is going to separate them. Life and death are at stake in the biblical covenants. God has bound himself very solemnly and at infinite cost to favoured people.
In the New Testament teaching this divine pledge that God is going to be there for us is even heightened by something we are told in the letter to the Hebrews. Not only has God bound himself to us by covenantal commitment, but in addition you find this, that God is actually said to swear he will do so by an oath – as if to make his covenant doubly covenantal. It is as though God were standing in the witness box of a covenantal ceremony, and he chooses to put himself under oath, “I swear by myself as I cannot swear by any higher that I shall indeed do exclusively for you what I say, and for ever and ever. Amen!” It is as if the Lord were standing at the front of the church like a bridegroom on his wedding day. He is facing his bride and he is making all his solemn vows just to her to be such a totally loving and faithful husband to her. Then he swears very solemnly that he will keep all the vows he has made. The oath and the covenant underlines and emphasizes the totality of God’s commitment of himself to his own people. So speaks the God who cannot lie. Are you now beginning to see how important it is to be in the covenant of grace with God?
Let me highlight this once more. Isn’t it extraordinary that in the Bible we have God swearing solemnly by an oath? Not God demanding that we swear by an oath to serve him, but that he swears that he will save and keep us. God is not sniffy at making an oath. There are people like Quakers who will never make an oath in a court of law. They will say, “My word is good enough; my yes is yes, and my no is no.” But God doesn’t just speak and make a promise to us, he enters into a covenant with us, and he makes a solemn oath not to back down on the covenant’s promises.
We know from sad experience that mere words of men are not good enough. As a Hollywood mogul once said, “A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” Why do we need solicitors, and lawyers, and solemn oaths, and notaries, and seals on hot wax, and contracts? Why aren’t bare promises enough? Because of human sin. It was very bad at the time of Noah, and it is still bad today. Why does your car possess an alarm and demobilizing devices? Because our town is a town of thieves. Why do you have to put down a deposit on a room before you can enter it? Because there are people who will run off before paying their rent, or they will help themselves to the contents of the house. Much that we take for granted in a civilized society is based upon the assumption which men unconsciously make that the Biblical doctrine of the universal depravity of man is true. A promise is not enough; we need a contract. Some people seem to make promises just for the pleasure of breaking them. Witnesses having to endure cross-examination is not enough, we also need their solemn oaths. “The evidence I give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Law and order are not enough; we need the police to enforce them. Fixing a nation’s boundaries is not enough, we need an army and navy to patrol that border. All this is due to mankind’s sin. We cannot trust each other. We need protection against one another.
I am saying to you isn’t it amazing that God can see our suspicion of mere words and the bold promises that people make, and so our Lord, instead of posing and stating coolly, “Well, my divine word is certainly good enough,” stoops so low and humbly tells us that he has cut a covenant with us, and that he has also made a solemn oath with us and he will never, never renege on them. A covenant is a serious and committed relationship. There is nothing casual about it at all.
I am affirming this, that the moment we are called by the Lord, in other words, the moment we become Christians, then covenant blessings become ours. Then we become covenant children of God, and not before. Then we are in a relationship with a committed God. There is a covenant between God and ourselves which he will never revoke. There is a love in the heart of God like the passionate affection of a husband for his dear wife which will never grow cold. Our heavenly bridegroom will never find anyone else more attractive, and so dump us for that person, even though we behave as abominably as Gomer the unfaithful wife of the prophet Hosea. There is a contract between us and the Kingdom of Heaven which is utterly inviolable. The benefits of the divine covenant and the holy oath come into operation the moment I become a Christian. Before that time I am an alien, and an outcast, and a stranger, dead in my sins, but the moment God’s grace grips me then all the promises of God are my possession; they become to me the divine “Yes!” They become to me the divine “Amen!”
You know that your earthly father was totally trustworthy, and if your father said to you, “Yes, you can have it,” then that longed-for object was as good as yours, because your father always kept his word. True fathers don’t tantalize; their ‘Yes’ is ‘Yes’; their ‘Amen’ is ‘Amen.’ Multiply by infinity! I am saying to you that your heavenly Father keeps his covenantal word, like this word to Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you. I will be God to you; you will be my child.” God never promises more than he can perform. Noah at that moment knew he had become God’s covenant child.
There was a Christian woman in great straits, full of fear about her condition and the state of her family. She was looking for a promise from God that would help her. She wanted a verse to jump out from Scripture and touch her, but nothing came. She decided to go to her promise box to pick out one tiny scroll of paper by chance and see what it said. Maybe assurance would come to her like that. She was desperate, but she was so distraught that when her trembling hands picked up the box it fell out of her hand and all the promises cascaded out and ran all over the floor leaving the box empty. She looked at all the hundreds of scrolls lying there on the carpet, one moment in despair and then quite differently she knew, “Those words are all mine! All God’s promises are mine in Christ!”
Every Christian is in a new covenant with Jesus Christ, and so all the blessings of the new covenant become mine when God’s grace saves me. Do you know what that means? I can hardly believe it, but it is true; if I am in covenant with my Lord today then all my sins are pardoned. All my shame is irreversibly removed. To me is imputed the righteousness of Christ. I am adopted into the family of God. I become his son and heir, a joint heir with Christ. Henceforth God will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. He gives me a new heart and puts a new spirit within me. He joins me to Jesus Christ like a branch is joined to a vine. He becomes my Shepherd, Protector, Shield and the Captain of my salvation. I am seated down by him in my eternal place in glory in Jesus Christ. A salvation of such dimensions is infallibly assured to me and to every single Christian to whom God shows his grace. These are the benefits of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood and all the people of God are its beneficiaries.
The covenant is the foundation for the security of the saints. The whole doctrine of the perseverance of the children of God is founded in this fact that God has made a covenant with them. The Christian is going to keep going on because there is a contract into which God has entered with the believer’s soul. He has given his word of promise that he will being him safely to heaven. He has solemnly sworn with an oath that nothing will ever separate him from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing is going to fail of all that God has undertaken for him.
The very moment Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, then at that moment his hope was alive, his salvation and destiny was secure. He would not perish – unlike every creature that had breath of life – Noah would know eternal life. There was a place of salvation which God would engineer for him and there he would keep him completely safe. “I will establish my covenant with you.” The floods would roll in, but God had a hiding place for Noah, a rock high above the waters; “Rock of Ages cleft for me; Let me hide myself in thee.” God gave Noah an infallible assurance that he would be blessed – “Imagine it! I am in a covenant with the Creator of the cosmos.”
Christians we have to learn to see our own security not in terms of our own religious emotions, not in terms of the ‘warm’n’fuzzies’, but rather we have to say from our hearts, “We dare not trust the sweetest frame.” We look to these words of God to Noah, words that are also sincere to every single Christian. God says to the youngest and newest and most backsliding Christian, “I have established my covenant with you.” God has committed himself; he has given himself to us at the moment his grace regenerates us. He gives himself in terms of a treaty, and in terms of a marriage contract, and in terms of a solemn oath. It is upon that that our whole security is based. The judgment coming upon mankind is utterly comprehensive – let all mortal flesh keep silent. They are riding a vast juggernaut hurtling along a broad road and that road leads to destruction. The whole world which rejects God’s grace is going to perish; no flesh that has breath is going to be saved, but God says to us that his grace has found favoured sinners, and they shall be safe because he has established his own covenant with them. There is a new covenant in Jesus’ blood.
2 . THE COVENANT IS ONE OF SHEER, VERTICAL, SOVEREIGN GRACE.
This is shown to us in a number of ways. The fact that there is no negotiation between the two main parties concerned. The suggestion didn’t come from Noah; “Lord, please let’s settle our dispute in terms of a covenant. I’ll do so and so, and you’ll do so and so.” There was nothing like that. You will notice the context, how in verse seventeen God is describing the judgment that is going to come, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.” And then, suddenly, God changes his tone and says this, “But I will establish my covenant with you.” In wrath God remembers mercy. God alone decides to do it; God says aloud that he will most certainly do it, and God implements his word.
It is not, “Noah, if you do certain things perfectly from your heart then I will establish a covenant with you.” No. There are certainly going to be implications for Noah, but they are the result of the covenant being established by God. They are not the condition of a covenant being set up. “I will establish my covenant,” says God. He is going to do it, and the covenant is his from beginning to end, in conception, in continuance and in consummation. God will undertake to see through this whole business of Noah’s salvation to its completeness. The God of Genesis 6 is not wringing his hands in desperation saying to Noah, “I’d love to make a covenant with you, but I can’t do any more, can I? Henceforth it’s entirely up to you. The covenant is in your hands to make, or not to make. Will you sign the covenant?” The whole responsibility was not man’s; it was God’s. The Lord signed the new covenant indelibly writing his name and our names in his own blood. Yes, the burden of this unique relationship between the mighty Holy One and those eight little sinners in Noah’s family was initiated and borne by God. All things are of God.
The word for this is ‘unilateral’ (there is even another buzz word that is useful to me, and there may be one person reading this who will also find it useful; there may be two, but probably no more, and many will grumble that I am using technical terms unnecessarily, so I won’t say this word in the sermon. I can’t imagine Spurgeon ever saying it. Let me plunge in nonetheless. Fools rush in . . . It is a monergistic covenant). God in utter singular supremacy works this covenant from beginning to end. It isn’t cooperative, one that hangs on human responsiveness. Remember the old disputes between the trade unions and the Labour Party to be settled with the trade union bosses coming to 10 Downing Street and having beer and sandwiches with members of the Labour Cabinet? Well, there are no sandwiches and beer here. There are no negotiations between two parties in smoke-filled rooms. The covenant that God makes with Noah is a divine gift; it is all of divine grace; it is one in which the whole cost is paid by God to the last penny. This covenant is gong to require the dying agony of the Son of God. In order for this covenant with sinners to be effectual God must undertake to distinguish, and choose, and call, and keep, and glorify countless millions of men and women. God the Father must provide God the Son to achieve this. For this covenant to function – or any biblical covenant – not only must it be conceived by God, but also effected by God, and applied by God. God has made up his mind to see the whole process through to its glorious completeness, so that one day Noah will certainly enter the glorious halls of the blessed and be there for ever with Abel and Enoch and every true disciple of the Lord who would follow after him.
This covenant with Noah was intensely personal. The Authorized Version’s translation is quite excellent; “But with thee will I establish my covenant” (v.18). That is the usefulness of the second person singular still being maintained in Bible translations. “With thee, Noah, I am making this covenant,” says God. There is this I-Thou relationship, of two persons, one great, glorious, mighty, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, while the other is . . . me! I am an insignificant speck floating on his eternal vision, and yet my utter minuteness may be addressed by this majestic being. Immensity is speaking to an atom and saying, “Thou! With thee will I establish my covenant.” More than that, he says with the deepest and most genuine affection, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love!” He says, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me,” and “I will water thee every moment.”
This covenant with Noah was probably a ratification of the existing covenant which God had made with Adam. Noah is the new Adam. Adam, alas, became unrighteous, but Noah was righteous, and it was in solidarity with him that his wife and his three sons and their wives and all the animals were saved. Noah displayed the true spiritual life of the line of the Seed of the woman who would come and crush the serpent’s head. The Saviour was in him. The great Prophet of our God was preaching through him to the spirits of Noah’s scornful hearers as they were imprisoned by their sin.
3. THE COVENANT IS CHARACTERIZED BY A CERTAIN MUTUALITY.
Every covenant both in the Bible and in the world brings certain obligations. For example, every church treasurer is more than willing to tell the members of a congregation about signing a financial covenant committing them to give a fixed regular amount to the church. There are covenant forms and these are sent to the tax authorities and the church is able to claim an additional amount from the tax money that you have paid which is proportionate to the money you regularly give to the church. Caesar will release some of the money he takes from your taxes, but that means you are under an obligation to keep giving a certain amount to the church, aren’t you? There are no covenant benefits without covenant giving. There is this mutuality between you and Caesar. If you refuse to give any money to the church then the church can’t receive anything from those taxes which you’ve paid.
So it is with every kind of covenant; every treaty signed between two nations is two-sided. If a country should ignore or even attack another country in covenant with it then the treaty is broken. Every contract is two-sided; you may live in a certain house just as long as you keep up the monthly mortgage payments. That is the deal; don’t repudiate the covenant. Every marriage is two-sided; there are vows which both the wearers of the covenant rings have to keep.
So God says to Noah, “But with thee will I establish my covenant” (v.18), and that is mercy all immense and free, but then he proceeds to tell Noah all the implications of receiving such mercy. Noah has to build an Ark of certain specification, and he eventually has to get into the Ark with his family and the door be closed; he has to entrust himself to this vessel that has been built; he has to take with him into the Ark two of each animal, bird and reptile, and he has to bring into the hold enough food to keep everyone alive. God told him to “make rooms” in the Ark (v.14), and that would be to separate the various kinds of fallen animals and to store all the food and ration it out day by day for a whole year. From that time onwards, for the next 120 years, Noah is summoned to a life of ceaseless toil. The design of the Ark was brilliant; it was a majestic sight, one of the wonders of the ancient world. It would be totally effective for the work it had to do, and yet it hung on Noah and the boys to build it. Angels didn’t construct the Ark. It wasn’t lowered down from heaven. It was not a space ship. There is no mythology here. Sinners’ blood, sweat and tears built it, four men who were in a covenant with God had to work according to his specifications.
But what about this business of keeping the covenant? Don’t we fail before God in everything we set out to do? Don’t we find throughout the Old Testament period that the law of God failed because of the weakness of the people it addressed? The Mosaic covenant was weak through the flesh. It foundered on the rock of human depravity and the alienation of the heart of man from God. What was the state of man’s heart? You find no bleaker a description of the plight of man than in this chapter: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen. 6:5). Now God gives a new heart and spirit and teaches men all about his love for them.
You remember the enormity of Noah’s task, felling all those trees, shaping the beams and planks with the most primitive of tools – this was long before Stonehenge was built – covering the Ark with pitch both inside and outside, driving the animals inside in their separate compartments. One man and his three sons were given the responsibility of building a vessel of these vast dimensions – its length was from this pulpit to the town museum – and all the time Noah was maintaining his family’s morale throughout decades while the world, including their own in-laws, disdained them. What covenantal obligations! And Noah had to keep going year after year, with never the encouragement of a hint of a great storm brewing, or the sea breaking through the dyke and drowning the land. Occasionally it would pour with rain, as it can in the middle east. The streams would overflow and Noah and the boys would be drenched. The people mocking them would be silent for an hour or two, but at such times Noah might have hoped that it were not the beginning of the great Flood because the Ark was only half ready. Then the sun would shine again and the people would return to their banter, “Got it wrong again Noah!” And back to work they went, going into the gopher forest and dragging a huge log to the Ark for the constant hammering and sawing and planing. Such were the obligations the covenant brought.
Are you the recipients of covenant mercy? Yes, you say, I am trusting in the Lord Jesus and I know that the same night he was betrayed Christ took bread, and when he had broken it he said, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.” Then he passed around a cup of wine for them to drink saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” You say, “All my hope is in the new covenant in Jesus’ blood.” Then you are a Christian. You remember that these disciples hadn’t asked him to shed his blood for them, in fact they had urged him not to shed his blood. They had sought by every means to prevent his going to the cross, but he knew something of which they were then ignorant, of which most people in the world are still ignorant, that without his shed blood there could be no remission of sins. Something in the very nature of God demands this. This is how God is – the only God there is. Without the covering of the death of God the Son we remain exposed in our guilt and sins for ever and ever. Our good deeds are not enough to get us to heaven. God can only become our mighty covenant head if Jesus Christ has shed his blood to make atonement for our sins. “He die. Me no die.” In my place condemned the Saviour stood. The Rock of Ages was cleft for me and henceforth I am hiding myself in him. Only thus I am safe, and all who hide in the wounded side of Christ are safe. They are all the recipients of new covenant mercy, loved with the everlasting love of God. They have Jesus Christ saving them to the uttermost because he ever lives to make intercession for them.
I have been saying to you three simple things, that we are made righteous and accepted by God through the new covenant which is in Jesus’ blood. That is the meritorious ground of our salvation. I am also saying that the blessings of the new covenant become mine by faith alone in Christ alone. That is the instrumental means by which the new covenant blessings become mine. Thirdly, I am saying that the blessings of the new covenant are mine by a whole new life of obedience. That is the declarative basis of the new covenant.
In other words all who are in the new covenant freely and lovingly obey him when he says such things as, “Take up your cross and deny yourself, and come follow me.” That is Christian mutuality. Because I love God’s new covenant I obey the Covenant Maker’s commandments. When, for example, he says, “Present your body a living sacrifice holy and acceptable in my sight. Be at the gopher forest tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. and start cutting down gopher trees to build a vast Ark.” I do it. I obey my covenant Master.
You ask, “But how can I live like that?” By the power of the same grace that puts me in the covenant. He gives me a new heart to love him; he gives me a desire to please him; he fills my soul with gratitude; he transforms my life with divine energy so that whatever he commands me he also enables me to do. We pray, “Lord I am in a new covenant with you and so you can give me any obligation at all. Command me to do whatever you want me to do, provided you give me what you command.” The prophets were talking about a wonderful time when there would be a new covenant, and it will say, “I will give you a new heart, and I will write my law on your heart. I will make you willing in the day of the new covenant.” So God can ask from me martyrdom, or to endure mockery, or to build an Ark for over a hundred years, or to preach for 120 years with only seven people believing at the end of it. God can ask from me wisdom, and patience, and contentment in any state of loneliness and sickness and poverty. He can ask from me exemplary courage or that I consider other people better than I am. Whatever he asks of me I turn to prayer and cry, “Give me that courage, and that strength in suffering, and that contentment in the face of loss, and wisdom, and energy to keep working for you.”
That is exactly what we have in the covenant of grace. God made sure that Noah did all that was required of him for 120 years. God saw to it that Noah kept his commandments. Many of Noah’s family, his brothers, sisters, cousins etc. all perished in the flood. His daughters-in-law’s parents and siblings all perished in the flood. Noah could have been faced with mutiny in the Ark as they all complained about what the mighty sin-hating God had done, how severe he had been, and so on, but not only were they saved by God they were given a spirit of contentment by him too. It was a new covenant spirit that moved their wills to accept the good and perfect will of God. The God who made them stand can make us stand too. When God distinguishes and when God judges then our trembling response is to cry, “Even so O Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
September 17 2006 GEOFF THOMAS