Revisiting Our Covenant Relationship
Martin Luther is attributed by many as saying: “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Whether it’s our marriage or ministry, there exists a tendency to minimize the importance of putting our agendas on hold and revisiting the foundation of our relationships—we’re too busy!
After Israel defeated Ai, they had a lot of land left to conquer and could have perhaps used the momentum to push forward quickly—which seems like a logical military strategy. Yet Joshua had them come to Mount Ebal (some 20 miles out of the way, no small task for over a million people), build an altar, sacrifice to the LORD, and re-read the Law. This was what the LORD had commanded prior in Deuteronomy. Joshua gives us the purpose behind this:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8 ESV).
God did not want the law to be learned because He is some insecure taskmaster, but so Israel’s way would be prosperous and successful. You and I live under the covenant of a better Moses (Jesus), and a better law (the Law of Christ). And God would still have us revisit the covenant, even if it means putting our plans on hold. In fact, Scripture indicates that we’ll often have to drop other things by faith in order to prioritize God—it is expected of us:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
God could have easily cleared out the promised land on His own (remember the flood that covered the earth? — same God), but was less concerned about a physical dwelling than with shaping a people to be called after His name, so much so in fact, that God was content to remove them from the land when they neglected the covenant.
It’s important to take time and remind ourselves of what God has already said and promised— what He expects of us and what we can expect of Him. This gives us direction, power, and focus for the battle ahead. In the same way Israel reflected God when they maintained covenant relationship, so we reflect Christ when we do the same. When we make the time to maintain covenant relationship we are in a position to be used and blessed by God because our lives will reflect His glory to the world.
One of the strongest things a married couple can do is reread their wedding vows. This puts the present situation in perspective while renewing love, devotion, and energy. For your devotional time this week, here are some relevant Scriptures to block out time for and revisit:
- Joshua 8:30-35
- Mark 12:30-31
- John 3:16-21
- John 15:5
- Matthew 5:14-16
- Matthew 16:24-25
- Acts 1:8
Streams in the Desert – January 25
- 202325 Jan
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:4).
At my father’s house in the country there is a little closet in the chimney corner where are kept the canes and walking-sticks of several generations of our family. In my visits to the old house, when my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet, and pick out our sticks to suit the fancy of the occasion. In this I have frequently been reminded that the, Word of God is a staff.
During the war, when the season of discouragement and impending danger was upon us, the verse, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord,” was a staff to walk with many dark days.
When death took away our child and left us almost heartbroken, I found another staff in the promise that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
When in impaired health, I was exiled for a year, not knowing whether I should be permitted to return to my home and work again, I took with me this staff which never failed, “He knoweth the thoughts that he thinketh toward me, thoughts of peace and not of evil.”
In times of special danger or doubt, when human judgment has seemed to be set at naught, I have found it easy to go forward with this staff, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” And in emergencies, when there has seemed to be no adequate time for deliberation or for action, I have never found that this staff has failed me, “He that believeth shall not make haste.”
—Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, in The Outlook
“I had never known,” said Martin Luther’s wife, “what such and such things meant, in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some affliction.” It is very true that God’s rod is as the schoolmaster’s pointer to the child, pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned.
“God always sends His staff with His rod.”
“Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut.33:25).
Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.
‘Renew a right spirit within me.’ Psalm 51:10
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:13–15
Let us be moved today to renew our covenant with Christ, or rather to ask him to renew our spirit, because every covenant transaction binds us to it. You believe in the doctrine of election. We do not blush to preach it, and you love to hear it. What does election mean? It means that God has chosen you; very well, if it be so, then you will acknowledge it anew today, by choosing his way and word. You believe in a special and efficacious redemption, that you were redeemed from among men; very well, then you are not your own, you are bought with a price. You believe in effectual calling; you know that you were called out; if it be so, recognise your distinction and separateness as a sacred people set apart by God. You believe that this distinction in you is perpetual, for you will persevere to the end: if you are to be God’s for ever, be his today. And are you not looking for a heaven from which selfishness shall be banished? Are you not expecting a heaven where glory shall consist in being wholly absorbed in Christ? Well then, this day, by all that is coming, as well as by all that is past, let your soul be bound as with cords that cannot be broken to the altar of your God. Backsliders, you that have gone astray, pray this prayer today. He bids you pray it, and he will therefore answer it. The text in the margin reads ‘renew a constant spirit within me.’ You have been froward, wayward, unstable, fickle. Poor backslider, he has put this prayer here for you—‘Renew a constant spirit within me.’
For meditation: While inward spiritual renewal is an ongoing process in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 4:16), it is not to be taken for granted—we are commanded to have our minds renewed (Romans 12:2: Ephesians 4:23). Our part in the process of renewal is to wait upon the Lord (Isaiah 40:31; 41:1).
SCRIPTURE READING — COLOSSIANS 2:1-7
Continue to live your lives in [Christ Jesus], rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
At this time of year, the apple trees in our yard are barren and seemingly have no life in them. They stand frozen, offering little more than a bit of shelter for the birds that land on their branches. I think ahead to when the first pink blossoms will appear in spring—and the fruit that will follow. It’s wonderful, though, that even as I pass judgment on the trees in winter, there is still life inside.
Maybe you have read (or heard of) the book by Brother Lawrence called The Practice of the Presence of God. Don’t let the size of the book fool you. Though small in its number of pages, it is rich in wisdom.
Brother Lawrence, a friar who is one of my heroes, came to realize that wherever he was, it was a good place to connect with God, for God is everywhere. Because of God’s presence, even places where Lawrence had felt empty and worthless became rich with a sense of belonging. His place in the monastery where he lived was the kitchen. There he learned to cook meals, do dishes, and run errands with God. What seemed a lowly position to others became a retreat and a haven of relationship with God. The kitchen became Lawrence’s sanctuary, where he worshiped in spirit and in truth.
Where is your sanctuary?