“And he said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer…a female goat…a ram…a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other…When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these two pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’” Genesis 15:7-18
All I feel in this moment is wonder…wonder at the fact that the God of Heaven who created all things would ever make a covenant with us. We are so far below Him. We fall so short of His glory. He is under absolutely no obligation to give us any thought at all, let alone to commit Himself to us in a covenant that He will never break.
Reading this account, I felt compelled to turn to other Scriptures that came to mind…seeking to better grasp why God would choose to make a covenant with us. Why He would choose to save us and display His goodness and mercy, the lavish riches of His grace, when we are all born sinners with evil, selfish hearts.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant…not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…my covenant that they broke…But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:38-41).
It just amazes me…why would God choose to make us the recipient of so much love? Why would He choose to show us unending faithfulness, when our faith wavers so easily?
Dwelling on these declarations in Jeremiah, my thoughts turned to the new covenant. In Genesis, the sacrifices used in the covenant were animals…but this new covenant demanded more. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:15-18).
Such great sacrifice on the part of our God. He never had to save us. He never had to make a commitment to us to any end. Every promise toward us issued from the mouth of God is pure grace, entirely undeserved and absolutely wondrous. And He chose not to merely offer us a nice promise for life here on earth…He gave His Son. The holy, beloved Son of God, given on our behalf. And the love of the Son for us, His willingness to die for our sake, is evident in those words that He spoke in John 3. Jesus could easily have come to condemn us. Righteously condemn every single one of us. But He didn’t. He came to save us.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us, shown throughout all the coming ages. For all eternity, those who have trusted in the name of the Son of God will experience immeasurable riches of grace. Not because we did anything to deserve it, but because we chose to trust in the God who came to save us.
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18). The more I dwell on this concept, the more wonder I feel. Because the reason God chooses to save us, to commit Himself to us, goes back to who He is. He is the living God. He is free to do as He chooses. And He has chosen to love us with a great, steadfast love. Because He is rich in mercy. So He exalts Himself to show mercy to the worst of sinners. “Not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).