Summary: Faith is the opposite of calling God a liar
Sermon TSL-TSJ 01-03-2015
The story is told of two young Christians who once made a covenant together.
They agreed that, come what may, they would each tithe ten percent of their income every year.
They were both young and neither of them had much money.
But then they both went off to University.
One trained to become a clergyman and the other went into banking
Whilst the vicar’s salary did not go up that much over, the banker’s salary did
After ten years, he was earning £10 thousand and so tithed one thousand pounds the year.
After 12 years he earned £100 thousand and so tithed £10 thousand pounds.
However after 20 years, he earned his first million but couldn’t bring himself to write a cheque for £ 100 thousand for the church.
So he telephoned his friend who by now was a vicar and asked to see him.
Walking into the vicar’s office, the banker begged to be let out of the covenant, saying,
"This tithing business has to stop. It was fine when my tithe was one thousand pounds, but I just cannot afford a hundred thousand pounds.
You’ve got to do something, Vicar!"
The vicar got down on his knees and prayed silently for a long time.
Eventually the man said, "What are you doing? Are you praying that God will let me out of this covenant to tithe?"
"No," said the vicar. "I am praying for God to reduce your income back to the level, where one thousand pounds is your tithe!"
This morning I would like to look at the Covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17.
For many people the concept of a covenant is a foreign idea.
But to the writers of the New and the Old Testament – our Bible - it was central.
For it goes to the very heart of the Gospel
It is unfortunate that our Bibles are divided into the Old and New Testament and not into the Old and New Covenant.
Because the word “testament” nowadays is synonymous with the idea of a Will
But in Biblical thought, a testament or covenant isn’t a Will.
A covenant doesn’t kick in when you die – it kicks in now.
A biblical covenant between two parties is more like a contract today.
There are obligations for both sides to keep.
The Old Testament is full of covenants – God’s Covenant with Noah, his covenant with Abraham, his covenant with Moses. …David to name a few.
Kings in ancient times made covenants to fix their spheres of interest or terms of peace.
(p.366-7 -Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol 1 Colin Brown - General Editor)
The relationship between the partners in a Covenant is expressed by “covenant loyalty” a term known as
hesed in Hebrew.
A covenant worked by setting out the rights as well as the responsibilities for BOTH SIDES.
And a good covenant was one where both
parties were satisfied with what was agreed.
In other words a good covenant is one in which you have a win-win situation rather than a win-lose
A covenant forced on the weaker party by the stronger was rarely going to work in the long run.
Example: The closest equivalent to a covenant today is the wedding covenant, where both parties go into it willingly and understanding the rights and obligations
And it is that Covenant – the marriage Covenant that is specifically referred to in the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament:
This is what Malachi says in Mal 2:13-14
13Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.
14 “You ask why? It is because the Lord is acting as a witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, through she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Mal 2:13,14)
In Malachi’s time, things were not going well
for the Jews because they had not only broken their Covenant with God, they had broken it with their wives as well
As their wives got older, they would take on younger trophy wives and put their first wives aside
Malachi remonstrates with them for doing that because God takes covenants very seriously.
2. God’s Covenant with Abraham
In short the covenant with Abraham is this
God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people and in return God required Abraham and his descendants to obey God.
Then God would guide them and protect them and give them the land of Israel.
And circumcision was a sign that Abraham and his people accepted the Covenant.
It was Abraham’s sealing the deal.