In this article we would continue our discussion to confirm Scripturally
our conception of the living God with man. God's covenant with His people
is not a promise or a contract, an agreement, or an alliance, but the
relationship of living friendship of the living God with His own in
Christ Jesus. In support of this conception we have before now established
in the first place that Adam was created in a living relationship of
friendship with the only blessed God. God's covenant with Adam was not
something incidental, something merely added to him, but created in
his very being. When the Lord, upon Adam's violation of the covenant,
maintained it in and because of Christ Jesus, He did so by setting enmity
between the seed of the devil and the seed of the woman, the Church
of God in Christ Jesus. In other words, He restored Adam into a living
relationship of friendship with Himself. Being in enmity with and against
the world is surely being with God. Secondly, we established the scriptural
truth that God's covenant is eternal. It cannot, therefore, be merely
a way of salvation or an agreement to save, it is salvation itself.
Thirdly, we quoted from the Scriptures to show that God's covenant with
us is His own covenant, His own covenant life which He bestows upon
and reflects in His people. Fourthly, to establish the truth that God's
covenant with us is essentially a relationship of living friendship,
we quoted passages which speak of the Lord's "dwelling" with man. This
idea is expressed by many texts, and stands upon the foreground in connection
with the tabernacle or 'temple' of the Old Dispensation. In the fifth
place, we read of Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, that they are called "friends"
of God. They walked with God, enjoyed intimate fellowship with the Lord,
and to them Jehovah revealed the inmost secrets of His heart. Finally,
the relationship of the Lord with His people is called in the Scriptures
a marriage relationship.
The English translation of Psalm
25:14 reads, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him;
and He will shew them His covenant." The Holland translation reads,
"De verborgenheid des Heeren is voor degenen, die Hem vreezen; en Zijn
verbound, om hun die bekend te maken." The difference between these
translations is apparent. In the English translation "His covenant"
is the object of the "He will shew"-what the Lord shews is His covenant.
But in the Holland version the "secret of the Lord" is clearly the object
of this verb. The word "die" in the expression "om die bekend te maken",
clearly refers to the "secret of the Lord." The original renders this
passage as follows: "The secret (or familiar acquaintance with) of Jehovah
is for those who fear Him; and His covenant for those whom He teaches
It is clear from the original Hebrew of the text that neither the English nor the Holland is an exact translation, and this applies especially to the English version. On the one hand, the covenant is not the object of "shewing"; we do not read literally, "And He will shew them His covenant." On the other hand, the Holland translation too is faulty, "De verborgenheid des Heeren is voor degenen, die Hem vreezen; en Zijn verbond, om hun die bekend te maken" or, translating into English, " His covenant in order to reveal it unto them." We read literally, "The secret of Jehovah is for them that fear Him and His covenant for them He teaches or instructs." According to the well-known Hebrew parallelism, in which the one part of the text explains the other, it is evident that the "secret" and the "covenant" are identical here, referring to the same thing.
Hence, what a beautiful passage we have here in Psalm
25! The secret of Jehovah is with or for them that fear Him. The
word "secret" means originally "familiar conversation or acquaintance",
referring to an inner circle of friends intimately associated. This
also enables us to understand the word "secret" as it appears in the
English and Holland translations. Only friends divulge their secrets
to one another. It is only to our friends that we "open up", disclose
the inmost secrets of our heart. Hence, that the "secret" of Jehovah
is for them that fear Him evidently implies, therefore, that they enjoy
the most intimate fellowship and acquaintance with Jehovah. Think of
Enoch, Noah, and Abraham! God talked with them as a Friend with His
friends. To Noah He revealed that He would destroy the old world with
a flood and save him and his house by water in an ark. Abraham also
enjoyed intimate fellowship with the Lord, is called "friend" of God.
The Lord disclosed to him that He would make of him a mighty nation,
that his seed would be as innumerable as the dust on the ground, the
stars in the firmament, and the sand along the seashore. Yes, the secret
of the Lord is for all who fear Him. To all His people He reveals and
imparts the secrets of His own heart, His own life of love. The people
of the Lord are taken up into Jehovah's own intimate fellowship and
According to the well-known Hebrew parallelism, the second part of the text
explains the first. His covenant is, therefore, synonymous with the
"secret" of Jehovah, and even as the secret of Jehovah is for them that
fear Him, so also His covenant if for them whom He instructs or teaches.
It is for them whom He teaches by His Word and Spirit. We may conclude,
therefore, that Psalm
25:14 confirms our conception of the covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:3-12
We read in Jeremiah
31:31-34, "Behold, the day come, saith the Lord, that I, will make
a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the
day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith
the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their
inward parts, and write it in their hearts: and will be their God, and
they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his
neighbor, and everyman his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they
shall all know Me, from the least unto the greatest of them, saith the
Lord: for I will forgive them their iniquity, and I will remember their
sin no more." In Hebrews
8:8-12 we read: "For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold,
the days come saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the
house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant
that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in
My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the
covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith
the Lord: I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their
hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people:
And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the
greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their
sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
We should notice in this text in the first place that Jeremiah speaks
here of the era of the New Dispensation in distinction from the Old
Dispensation. This appears in Jeremiah
31:31,32 and also in Hebrews
8. Essentially, there is no distinction between the two dispensations.
Also in the Old Testament, the Lord wrote His law into His people's
hearts. In the Old Testament; however, this work of the Lord was accompanied
by the outer shell of shadows and types which characterized the Old
Dispensation. In the New Testament; however, this outer shell, the earthly
house of shadows and types has disappeared and God's covenant with His
people consists exclusively of the "writing of His law into their hearts."
We should also notice that the prophet in this passage defines the covenant.
We read: "But this shall be the Covenant..." And it shall consist of
the writing by God of His law into the hearts of His people. Hence,
God's covenant is defined here as an inner, spiritual, eternal reality.
Also here the oft-repeated words occur, "And I will be their God, and
they shall be My people." God will be our God. He will write His law
into our hearts, will love, bless and save us unto the uttermost, and
we will be His people. The latter is the fruit of the former. Because
God is our God we are His people. This is a certainty. We will be His
people, His own people, to love and bless and praise and serve Him forevermore.
Ezekiel 36:22-28 and Hosea 2:18-23
In the former passage we read, "Therefore, say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God: I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify My great Name, which was profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgements, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." And in the passage of Hosea we read, "And in that day will I make a Covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto Me forever; And I will sow her unto Me in the earth: and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not My people, Thou art My people; and they shall say, Thou art my God." Much need not be said concerning these passages. Ezekiel and Hosea touch upon the same thought expressed by Jeremiah. Notice, God will betroth us unto Himself forever, give us a new heart. Also here we hear the oft-repeated refrain: "And I will be their God and they shall be My people." If these latter words, "And I will be their God and they shall be My people", constitute the heart of the covenant (which is generally agreed), then surely the prophets, Ezekiel and Hosea, are speaking of the covenant in these passages. Also in these passages the covenant is held before us in an inner, spiritual reality.
II Corinthians 6:16-18
In this passage the apostle, Paul, declares, "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons, and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
The idea of friendship and fellowship is beautifully expressed here. We should note the following, "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them." In this text we read the oft-repeated expression, "And I will be their God, and they shall be My people." These latter words are expressive of the oft-repeated expression, "And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Is it possible to speak of the relationship between God and His people more intimately than to speak of God as Father and of them as His sons and daughters?
In the light of these passages, which we have quoted (and these same quotes can easily be found again and again in scripture), we may; therefore, safely conclude that the covenant according to the Word of God refers to the intimate relationship of friendship and communion between the living God and His people in Christ Jesus the Lord.
The Center of this Communion of Friendship Between God and His people is the
Incarnation. We all understand, I am sure, what is meant by the Incarnation
(Vleeschwoording in Holland). Lord's Day 14 of the Heidelberg Catechism,
Articles 10, 18 and 19 of our confession of Faith, and Articles 2 and
4 of the Canons of Dordrecht II, speak of this tremendous Mystery of
godliness. (See I
Timothy 3:16.) The Incarnation is the amazing mystery of Bethlehem
whereby God's eternal Son, Who is and continues true and eternal God,
took upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of
the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, that He might also
be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin
excepted (Lords Day 14).
The Incarnation is surely the Wonder of Grace. It is certainly a wonder of grace. All signs in Scripture are not necessarily miracles, such as the signs of the temple, the candlestick, etc. But all miracles in the Word of God are signs. A miracle, according to Scripture, is a work of God in this accursed world, itself the fruit of the grace of God, which serves as a sign, portrays the work of the grace of God whereby He leads and saves this world through sin and death into heavenly glory of His eternal kingdom and of it the covenant. God calls the light out of the darkness, life out of death. All miracles are signs of this operation of the grace of God. That the Incarnation is such a miracle is evident. For Jesus was born of a virgin. It was not by the will of man but by the operation of the Holy Spirit that Christ was conceived and born.
However, the Incarnation is not merely a wonder of grace, but it is
the wonder of grace. In the first place, the sign itself (that of a
virgin conceiving) is unique. That a virgin conceived never happened
before and will never happen again. For if the sign as such is unique,
the only one of its kind, so also the Incarnation, the appearance of
the living God in the flesh, is the center of all God's fellowship with
His people. Whatever we read in
Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel
2, and II Corinthians
6 surely centers in the Incarnate Word. That we can and do become
the people of the living God is certainly due to the fact that the Eternal
God assumed our flesh and blood, suffered and died and rose again. Notice
also that God, in saving His people, assumes their flesh and blood.
Hence in the most literal sense of the word it is true that we have
become the temple of the living God. In the most literal sense He comes
into our midst to live and dwell with us forever. That Church of God
has always confessed this constitutes the inviolable, unbreakable character
of God's covenant-fellowship with us. In Christ, God assumes our flesh
and blood, takes upon Himself our mouth and ears; joins Himself to us,
to our human nature, thus revealing Himself in our flesh and blood.
Indeed the Incarnation itself is the center of all God's dealings with
us, the source of all His blessings upon us, speaks to us of the most
intimate fellowship imaginable between the living God and His creature.
The End of All Things and God's Tabernacle With Man
The Scriptures abound in passages which speak of the end of all things
as God's eternal tabernacle with man. We read in Revelation
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the
first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John
saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice
out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and
He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself
shall be with them, and be their God... And He carried me away in the
spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city,
the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Having the glory
of God and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like
a jasper stone, clear, as crystal... And I saw no temple therein: for
the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. And the city had
no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory
of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations
of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings
of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of
it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
And they shall bring the glory and honor of nations into it. And there
shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever
worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in
the Lamb's book of life." Also well known is the passage of John
14:1-3, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe
also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so,
I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go
and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto
Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Notice, in connection with these passages, first of all, that eternity
is described from the aspect of friendship and fellowship. John
14 and Rev.
21 speak of eternity as "Father's house" and "God's tabernacle with
man." This, of course, as far as our conception of the covenant is concerned,
is extremely important. If the Scriptures speak of eternity, as consisting
of the Lord's eternal fellowship and communion, this must indeed constitute
the very heart and core of salvation. Secondly, of that eternal heavenly
tabernacle, the heavenly Jerusalem - the Old Testament temple was a
mighty symbol. This is evident from Revelation
21, where we read of the, "great and high mountain, the holy Jerusalem."
This is also evident from Hebrews
12:22 where the holy writer declares of the Church of the living
God that she is come unto Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem. Why
should the heavenly city and the earthly city have the same name if
it were not for the fact that the one is a symbol of the other? This
is also evident from the location of the temple in the Old Dispensation.
It is for this reason that it was situated on a mountain, to direct
the eye of God's people heavenward. Hence, the entire Old Testament
pointed as one mighty symbol, to God's eternal and heavenly Covenant
in the eternal city which has foundations. Thirdly, the entire New Testament
points to this heavenly culmination of God's fellowship with His people.
Jesus speaks of it in John 14, declaring that He is going there and
will prepare a place there for us. Hence, throughout the New Testament
the Church looks forward to God's eternal and heavenly Tabernacle. We,
therefore, conclude: All of Scripture emphasizes this idea of the covenant:
God's eternal relationship of friendship with us, in Christ Jesus, in
heavenly perfection, now in principle, and soon in eternal glory!