THE GOD OF COVENANT

Part II


Last Sabbath, we begun on the first part of the message preached by bro Yeow Meng on 12 August 2001, which he was unable to complete on account of being emotionally overwhelmed by what he was preaching. We conclude here with the second part of the message.


The Need To Be Found In This Covenant


Now let us consider why it is important for you and I to be found in this covenant. All of us are like the Israelites in Egypt. That is a real picture of us. We sigh, we cry, and we groan, so much so that our hearts have grown deadened to that misery within. But consider with me several things.


First, without being found in this covenant, you will remain in your misery. There is no escape or remission for you forever. None of the Israelites was able to break away from the bondage of that great Egypt. We may continually be seeking happiness or the meaning of life, but how can we find them in a land of bondage? What happiness and meaning of life are there for a prisoner? Perhaps, your life may not be so miserable if your master is a kind master who looks after the welfare of his slaves. But the god of this world is the contrary of a kind master. He is the Pharaoh who desires you to suffer and die.


Remember what he said to his taskmasters, when Moses asked him for leave for the Israelites to sacrifice to God:

Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God (Ex 5:7–8).


Again, remember that he was also the one who first commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill the children of the Israelites. And when that failed, he charged all his people to throw the children of the Israelites into the river. This is a picture of your state in this world: You have been born as a slave, and that in the land of spiritual Egypt, only a covenant with God will secure your release.


Secondly, perhaps like some Israelites, you may think to yourselves, I may be very poor and destitute, but at least I am contented with my present life and estate. I have no lack, like some Israelites who said, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic” (Num 11:5).


You may think, though life may be meaningless and miserable, I am contented with what I am and what I have now.


But believe this, just as continual fatigue and discomfort of a body, without reason, are signs of a diseased body, so likewise, your present miseries, if not dealt with, are signs of a root ailment, and of much greater troubles and sufferings to come. Just as outward comforts and contentment do not remedy the sickness of a person, so fading pleasures and fleeting wealth will not heal the Egyptian seed and heritage of bondage and misery in you.


The corruptions of your heart, mind and body, culminating in the certainty of death for all men, your misery and your emptiness in heart, all testify to that seed of bondage in you, which in turn will show eternal and much greater troubles to come if left untreated. Will a man ignore a doctor when the doctor tells him that he has contracted a life-threatening illness and is in a perilous state? Well, he may ignore the doctor on the ground of suspicions that the physician has mistaken. But what if God who never errs is the One who tells the man so? Will the man still ignore God? The Scripture, which is the Word of God, most graciously tells us so.


Are you comfortable in your sin and godlessness? Do you not know that in the day when God shall overthrow this idolatrous and proud Egyptian world, and all things in it, He shall also certainly overthrow all who willingly and happily serve her king?


Do you not know that every part of Egypt is liable to the judgment and destruction of God? Every sin, even if it is the least sin, is liable to capital punishment from God, for it is written, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezk 18:4, 20a). Do you not see the excellence of this covenant, and how we ought to be found in it?


Finally, see the certainty of deliverance for those who are in this covenant. See, first of all, that God never forgets those who are in this covenant. What does the text say? It says when the children of Israel were crying, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


It has been more than 600 years since God made that covenant with Abraham. When God made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac was still unborn. And it is written that Isaac lived till an age of 180 years (Gen 35:28). And Isaac’s son, Jacob, was 130 years old when he came with his entire family to Egypt (Gen 47:9). And the children of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. Thus, if one totals all these up, it would have been more than 600 years since God made that covenant with Abraham.


Our nation Singapore, though having so many attainments and much prosperity, is only 36 years old. But it has been more than 600 years since God made that covenant with Abraham. And despite the great length of time, the Scripture says here that God remembered His covenant with His people. This is a covenant that shall never be forgotten by God. The Scripture repeatedly calls it an everlasting covenant, implying not only that it will not end, but that it will also be continually remembered.


We give so much of ourselves to the world, many of our parents gave their entire life to their companies and perhaps to the community. But did their companies and the community remember them? Will the world remember us?


The world will forget us. But in this covenant, God will not forget you. He will not leave you in misery, as creatures abandoned, both now and throughout all eternity. For this is a covenant that shall never be forgotten by Him. And He will receive us as His sons and daughters. Which of us would forget our children?


Furthermore, not only does God not forget, but He is also able to deliver and will deliver a person out of this bondage, misery and emptiness. It does not help much if we are remembered by someone who is unable to help us in our needy state. But such is not the case with God. When God heard the cries of His covenant people, He sent Moses to command Pharaoh to let His people go. And when Pharaoh refused, God poured out His great plagues, one after another, to judge Pharaoh and Egypt, bringing colossal destruction to Egypt, bringing the proud and lofty Pharaoh down to his knees, and leaving him with no choice but to let the Israelites go. By the eighth plague, even Pharaoh’s servants had to say to Pharaoh, “How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” (Ex 10:7).


Thus, the children of Israel were set free from Egypt, the land of bondage. God went through great length to do all these great works all because of His covenant with men. He will go through great length to free those in this covenant from misery and to do them good. And this covenant, He offers to men everywhere. This covenant is the only way for man to remedy his dreadful distance from God and to be brought into His favour and His presence. Is any man doing himself justice and good in rejecting such a covenant? Is there not an urgent need to be found in this covenant?


Directions For Those
Who Are In This Divine Covenant

What do all these mean for those who are already in this covenant? You have been brought into this covenant with God. You have seen how excellent and great this covenant with God is. Through this covenant, of all the great multitudes of the people in the world, you are among that small group of people pitied and heard by God in your bondage and misery. Of all mankind in our generation, you are among that small group of people who have received mercy and redemption from your bondage and misery by God. You are among that small group of people who have access and communion with God, with an exceeding great and precious promise of God both in this life and the everlasting life to come.


How blessed and privileged a person you are! Just as Moses told the Israelites that “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deut 7:7), so you were brought into this covenant not by anything worthy, deserving or commendable in you, but by the sole mercies and grace of God.


Now if the parents in our land are so glad when their children are accepted into a choice school, then how much infinitely more glad should we be, we who have been chosen into this unspeakable gift of covenant. And if we are thankful to be a citizen of this prosperous and wealthy country, then how much infinitely more when we are members of this divine covenant?


Consider then we should not be ignorant of this covenant. Neither should we esteem it lightly, nor be forgetful of this merciful and gracious divine covenant that God has brought us into. The Scripture reminds us, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:1–2).


Be not like the nine gospel lepers who were both unthankful and forgetful of God’s healing of them. Therefore, with a mindful and grateful heart, consider what directions there are for yourselves as members of this great divine covenant. God has promised in this covenant that He shall be your God and you His people. As His people, what are our dues and duties to God?


Serve the Lord

Firstly, remember the end of God’s deliverance of you out of that bondage and misery—it is to serve God. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to secure the release of His people, He sent him there with this message,

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn (Ex 4:22–23; emph. mine).


Read Exodus 7:16. Read 8:1, read 8:20, read 9:1, read 9:13; read 10:3. The same thing is written there. It is this: “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”

We see the same thought in the New Testament. Thus the Apostle Paul exhorts us: “… by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1–2). The end of God“s deliverance of us from bondage and misery is to serve Him.


How may we do so, you may ask. First, devote your entire being and self to God. We have read the exhortation to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. In another place before this text, in Romans 6, we too are exhorted,

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (vv. 12–13).


We must give our entire self and being,—our heart, soul, mind and body,—in holy and acceptable service to God. Thus the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mt 22:37).


Next, follow the scriptural example of Joshua, who said to the Israelites,

Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Jos 24:14–15).


Lead your entire family, every member of your family, to serve Him; to worship Him. Husbands and fathers, this is your duty as head of your house. Wives, support and assist your husband. Make your family a family of consecrated service to your Redeemer-God. This is your duty and due, and God is more than worthy of your doing so.


Serve God single-mindedly, serve Him sincerely, serve Him fervently, and with love. Seize every opportunity to serve Him, for that is both your duty and high honour. Unworthy as you are, God has called you to serve Him, every minute of the day, every moment of your life. Seek to draw near to Him. Seek to live for Him, and for His glory. Be burdened for the good and prosperity of His church, endeavour to raise up godly seed unto Him in your family. Serving Him is your high honour, calling, duty and due. Remember, it is your reasonable service.


Walk with God

Secondly, consider how you conduct your life. You must separate from all ungodliness, and consecrate yourself to God, by walking with God.


In Exodus 19, after God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He said to them these words,

Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles“ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (vv. 4–6).


But what happened after this? In Exodus 33:1–3, we read God saying to them,

Depart, and go up hence… unto the land which I sware unto Abraham… And I will send an angel before thee;… for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.


The children of Israel did not obey God. They did not live a life of separation from ungodliness and consecration to God.


But how do I live such a life, you may ask. I do not know how to live such a life, you may say. I have no idea where to start.


What does it mean to live a life of obedience to God? How do we separate from sin and consecrate ourselves to God? Is it not by walking with God? Do we not have the example of Enoch, who walked with God and was translated by God because he pleased God?


Walking with God consists of several things.


First, it would consist of agreeing with God. This means that what God has said and revealed, I believe it is right. Whatever God has said and revealed, that is the final rule of my faith and conduct.


Secondly, it would consist of obeying Him continually, like a child following his father as his father leads him. Have you seen how a little child walk with his father? His father would tenderly hold his hand and lead him, and the child will follow his father. The moment the child stops following his father, he stops walking with his father. Follow God continually. Obey Him continually.


Thirdly, walking with God would also consist of moving from one place to another, which means progressing. Movement is the basic idea and essence of walking. Hence, walking with God would also mean progressing in God, in the knowledge and grace of Him.


Walking with God consists of both growing in conformity with Him and progressing in Him. Learn to walk with Him. Learn to know Him and understand Him through His Word. Neglect not the Scripture. Learn to obey Him more and more. Neglect not meditation of the Word of God. And learn to progress in Him. Neglect not prayer. Be teachable each time you come before His voice in reading and hearing His Word.


Unless we walk with Him, we cannot be His people. But as we do so, we shall find ourselves separating more and more from ungodliness and consecrating ourselves to God.


Be Strong, Press On

Finally, our duties and dues to God as His people also consist of remembering the way to deal with difficulties in our journey of this life, namely, through faith, perseverance and patience.


Just as the Israelites, after crossing the Red Sea, had not reach the Promised Land, so likewise, we have not reached the land that God promised us. We are still pilgrims and strangers in this world. And you know the difficulties that abound along the way to the Promised Land for the Israelites.


Shortly after they left the land of Egypt, Pharaoh and his great armies started pursuing them. And after Pharaoh, the people of the surrounding lands did not give them rest. The Amalekites came forth striking them. Likewise, your spiritual enemies will not leave you in peace.


And as they were travelling in the wilderness to the Promised Land, the weather was not conducive to them, but harsh. Likewise, the spiritual weather in the world will be harsh towards you. Do you see how God’s warnings and instructions in the Old Testament apply to you?

It is no easy journey into the Promised Land. And just as the Israelites had to endure all the difficulties and conquer the Canaanites to inherit the land, likewise we have to endure all our trials and conquer our difficulties to inherit our Promised Land.


We will face the trials of not trusting God to provide for our needs in our needy moments of hunger and thirst. We will face the giant Anakims of discouragements. We will face the Achanic sin of discontentment and greed along our journey through this world. We will face the danger of idolatry. We will face the danger of corrupting the worship of God in not separating ourselves from falsehood and deceptions. We will face the danger of taking to ourselves heathen wives and giving ourselves to heathen husbands. And we will also face the danger of losing sight of the Promised Land, and of loving the world and the things in it. But this is our assurance of victory, we have the Almighty God on our side with us, if only we take heed not to depart from Him the living God, who shall lead us, preserve us and care for us.


Thus, the Apostle Paul exhorts us, before instructing us to put on the whole armour of God, to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph 6:10).


Listen to the admonishment of William Gurnall:

One reason why there are so many professors and so few Christians; so many that run and so few obtain; so many go into the field against Satan, and so few come out conquerors; because all have a desire to be happy, but few have courage and resolution to grapple with the difficulties that meet them in the way to their happiness. All Israel came joyfully out of Egypt under Moses’ conduct, yea, and a mixed multitude with them, but when their bellies were a little pinched with hunger, and their greedy desires of a present Canaan deferred, yea, instead of peace and plenty, way and penury, they, like white-livered soldiers, are ready to fly from their colours, and make a dishonourable retreat into Egypt (The Christian in Complete Armour, 1:15–16).


He is the right soldier that is not discouraged by those that run from, or that are slain in the battle, but still presseth on to victory, though he goes to it over the backs of others that are killed upon the place (ibid., 1:4).


Are you discouraged in your Christian race? Are you disheartened by so many troubles, struggles and failings in your life? Consider, Who is not? The whole church of God throughout the ages has been so! Each of us has our burdens to bear, allotted by the providence of God.


Should we not heed the exhortation of the Apostle, to rely rather on God—“be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”? Should we be like the Israelites, or should we rather not stand with Joshua and Caleb?


Caleb, at the age of 85 years old, said to Joshua,

As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said (Jos 14:11–12).


And after these words, it is recorded that, Joshua blessed him and gave him Hebron for an inheritance. And the reason given for this bounty? “Because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel” (Jos 14:13–14).


Thus, he set for us a most encouraging and excellent example in our Christian race, in overcoming difficulties in our life—through faith, perseverance, and patience.


Conclusion


In conclusion, let this question be asked and replied in your heart: Do you know that God is a God of covenant, and the blessedness of being in His covenant? May the God of covenant grant you understanding through this question.


Sim Yeow Meng
(edited by J.J. Lim)