I don’t know about you, but it seemed unthinkable on 23rd March 2020 that we would still be in lockdown in these first few days of 2021. As we look towards this new year and the real possibility of a whole year of lockdown in one form or another it would be easy to feel that we are alone in this. HOWEVER we know that this is not the case, we have celebrated at Christmas the amazing fact of Immanuel, God with us, and God is still with us, through His promise found in His holy word that says “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” those words, found in one shape or another in both Old and New Testament. God is with us and He will continue to be with us as we all seek to navigate what is a difficult situation for us all. As we gather (virtually) together to worship, ‘God with us’ lets sing together this wonderful song that reminds us of God’s Covenant to each of us.
As we come before the Lord lets sing/ listen to this song that “You are my rock in times of trouble, you lift me up when I fall down……..”
Father, thank you for your great love and blessing over our lives. Thank you that your favour has no end, but it lasts for our entire lifetime. Forgive us for sometimes forgetting that you are intimately acquainted with all of our ways, that you know what concerns us, and you cover us as with a shield. We ask that we would walk in your blessing and goodness today. That your face would shine on us. That you would open the right doors for our lives and for our loved ones, that you would close the wrong doors and protect us from those we need to walk away from. Establish the work of our hands and bring to fulfilment all that you have given us to do in these days. We pray that you would make our way purposeful and our footsteps firm out of your goodness and love. Give us a heart of wisdom to hear your voice and make us strong by your huge presence in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Scripture reading Exodus 19:1-8
If you would rather listen and watch the reading then click the link below and watch the first 1min 20 sec. or you may want to watch it all as it covers the rest of the chapters to the end of Exodus.
Song 26 Great is thy faithfulness
Covenant: God’s promise
The Territorial Commander in his message last Sunday reminded us that Covenant is mentioned many times in both the Old and New Testaments and that it was more than just a contract. He went on to say that Covenants aren’t widely used now. People would possibly be familiar with marriage as a covenant but that may be the only one, however Covenants are still retained in The Salvation Army, whether that be as firstly a Soldier or as an Officer.
Commissioner Anthony went on to say that a covenant isn’t necessarily equal between two parties, particularly sighting the Covenant relationship with Abram (soon to be Abraham) and God. In Genesis chapter 12 we see an instruction from God to Abram but swiftly followed by the promises contained in the I will’s, I will make you a great nation, I will bless you etc… We see this promise continued throughout scripture through to Moses and in particular the verses that you have read today.
A Covenant still in place
Chapters 20-23 can be viewed as some of the most important as they contain the delivery of the 10 Commandments, however these first verses in Chapter nineteen that you have either read or watched or possibly done both serve as a reminder that God’s promise contained in His Covenant with the Israelites is still very much in place. That promise was given to Moses in Chapter 3, when God said “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who has sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” We now see it being fulfilled here in these first verses in Chapter nineteen. He met God on Mount Horeb and he has now returned to him with the recently redeemed Israelite nation!
In verse 3 Moses hears from God with His reminder of what He has done for the Israelite people in fulfilling His promise and His Covenant to delivery them from the Egyptians. He continues his reminder in stating that “I carried you on Eagles wings” This imagery is used elsewhere in scripture and is helpful in understanding the care and support that God makes available to His people. In Deuteronomy 32 verse 11 we read “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.” This is God saying that he has, like an Eagle swooped down and lifted His people out of captivity and carried them to a place away from the present danger.
These words and the imagery that is included reminds us today as God’s people that his promise is, that he will not forsake us no matter what life throws at us, that he is God with us, that he will protect and care for us as the eagle does for it’s young who are weak and helpless. No matter how self sufficient we might believe ourselves to be, we are human and therefore come with frailties and weaknesses, but we rejoice that we have a God who loves us with an everlasting love and whose Covenant is like no other Covenant or Contract, that it is unbreakable.
A Covenant that requires obedience
While God’s covenant is everlasting and faithful, it is designed and requires a relationship in which we as God’s people declare our love and humble obedience to our King, and in him find our life and fulness. God says to Moses, ‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession’ (v5). This was the message which was then reiterated to the elders that Moses called together and it’s the message for each one of us to consider today. Are we still willing to enter into this covenant relationship with God and to respond to His leading and call on our lives?
The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” (v8) As we move through these days, as we are reminded of God’s covenant to each one of us what is our response, do you need to rediscover for yourself the amazing promise and everlasting and unconditional love that is found in a covenantal relationship with God.
The impact of our covenant with God
Ultimately the people of God in covenant with him were being called to grow into the very character of the God who chose and called them, set apart for him and holy. God said to Moses, ‘Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (vv5,6).
The Officers covenant that Commissioner Anthony referred to last Sunday contains these words “Called by God to proclaim the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army, I bind myself to him in this solemn covenant: to love and serve him supremely all my days, to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life.” It’s the covenant that I made over 15 years ago but it’s still my solemn promise today and although it’s made by all those who become officers, I believe that it is something that as God’s Holy people should be at the forefront of our understanding and our commitment to this covenantal relationship with our Heavenly Father.
We are called into a covenant relationship with God, a relationship that will never be equal because as finite beings we can never attain the infinite power and presence of God. We can however seek to live our lives as His Holy people blessed beyond measure by the infinite love, mercy and grace that is found in the promise made to each one of us who submit our lives to Him. May each one of us recommit our lives to being people who love and serve this God who will always uphold his covenant to each one of us. May we dedicate ourselves to Him and seek to fulfil our Covenant with Him and in doing so may He be the focus first and foremost of everything that we are.
Listen to Walton Songsters as they sing Under His wings, reminding us of God’s promise to be with us and protect us. Words adapted from Psalm 91.
Song 613 O Jesus I have promised.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you for reading.
Prepared by Major Wayne P