A Covenant Renewed

By: Barry Williams
At the city of Ai, God used both defeat and victory to teach His children profound lessons about covenant relationships.

For starters they had the painful reminder that the benefits they enjoyed from their covenant relationship with God could quickly be forfeited when they failed to walk in obedience and faith. But more importantly, they gained assurance that God would not withdraw His promises because of their sin. His promises were never predicated on their ability to keep their side of the agreement! Rather, in steadfast love God made provision for them to get back into a right standing with Him through confession, repentance, and renewed commitment to obedience.

And what was their response to all of this? Rightly, it was to worship Him and renew their covenant promises to Him.

Covenant is not a term we hear a lot these days. We live in a contract-oriented society. We learn early in our life that if we expect someone to hold up their end of a deal then we better “get it in writing.” Contracts are basically agreements that spell out that if one party will do something then the other party will do something in return. Contracts aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they can help us get things done—ideally, in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties.

But covenants are different. For instance, contracts exist to ensure that individual rights are protected while covenants are initiated with a commitment to the other person’s welfare and for the security of the relationship. A covenant is much more personal—even intimate—than a legal agreement.

Covenant promises are also unconditional. Though they generally require a response, indicating the other party’s acceptance or rejection, the covenant itself is not established upon the other party’s behavior. The one who initiates the covenant binds himself or herself to their promise regardless of the other party’s faithfulness to it.

Scripture is full of covenants—some initiated by God to His people and others initiated from one nation or person to another (i.e., Jonathan with David, Ruth with Naomi). So, it comes as no surprise that marriage is also described as a covenant in the Bible—a covenant initiated not only between a man and a woman but also between them and God.

Sadly, many couples approach their marriage more like a contract than a covenant. One spouse agrees to hold up their end of the relationship so long as the other does the same. But that’s contract thinking. Instead, a Christian’s marriage is meant to be so much more.

When couples approach their marriage with a covenant mindset, they stop looking out for their own well-being and instead begin looking out for the well-being of the other person and the security of their marriage. The entire motivation of their relationship shifts.

A covenant marriage is not dependent on human perfection. (Can I get an “Amen”?) Instead, it is rooted in steadfast love for each other, worked out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And when one or both spouses fail to live their covenant promises (and they will) a covenant marriage leans on the restorative provision of confession and forgiveness made possible only by the redemptive work of Christ. (Time for another “Amen”!)

Has your marriage looked more like a contract relationship than a covenant relationship? If so, you’re very likely missing out on the blessings of promises kept and the strengthening restoration of forgiveness.

Has there been a time recently where you paused to intentionally renew your commitment to your covenant with your spouse?

After all, God didn’t tell the Israelites to back up and go home after their defeat at Ai, He forgave them, restored them, and sent them back . . . into victory.
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