In Exodus 5, Moses appears for the first time before Pharaoh and speaks the simple command, "Let my people go" (Exodus 5:1). However, Pharaoh asks, "Who is the Lord?" and refuses to set the Israelites free. Instead, he increases their burdens, forcing them to make brick without straw, an essential ingredient. The people complain to Moses, and Moses in turn goes to God with a heavy heart (5:22-23). As chapter 6 begins, however, God reveals a part of Himself that should have removed all doubt for both Moses and the children of Israel. He responds to Moses' pleas by stating:
&I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they sojourned. And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant (Exodus 6:2-4, ASV, emphasis mine, CP).
This passage of Scripture reveals much about God as the Covenant God, and Christians today would do well to examine these truths.
The exact origins of the word "Jehovah" are obscure at best. However, the general consensus is that the word is related to the Hebrew word that means "to exist, be, or become." Hence, Jehovah means "self- existent or eternal," and identifies God as the Unwavering, Everlasting and Faithful Deity. The statement, "but by My Name Jehovah I was not known to them" (Exodus 6:2) does not indicate that such a name had never been used to describe the God of heaven; on the contrary, Abraham had referenced the name when he said, "I have lifted up mine hand to the Lord [Jehovah, ASV]" (Genesis 14:22). Rather, the statement refers to a change in the way Israel was to view God from this point forwardHe was to be the Covenant God. The everlasting and faithful nature of Jehovah was especially important in lieu of the fact that God's promise to Abraham ("I will make of thee a great nation," Genesis 12:2) and, by extension, to his people and all of humanity ("and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," Genesis 12:3) was just now beginning to be fulfilled. As God said, "I have remembered My covenant" (Exodus 6:4).
Of course, to understand God as the Covenant God, one must understand the nature of the covenant. One scholar noted, "The covenant is not [a] special agreement to this or that particular effect, but [a] bond of troth and life-fellowship to all the effects for which kinsmen are permanently bound together." Thus, covenants are extremely strong, for they bind in fellowship two parties based on the honor and honesty of both. Examples abound in Scripture of covenants between two parties of equal stature (cf. Genesis 26:28; 31:44; 1 Kings 15:19). As well, there are instances in which agreements were made between two parties who were not of equal stature, as is the case with the agreement sought between Nahash the Ammonite and the people of Jabesh-gilead (1 Samuel 11:2). However, the covenant between God and man fits into neither of these categories. Although it is an agreement between two non-equal parties (God is eternal and infallible; man is neither), the blessings of the covenant flow toward the weaker party rather than the stronger. Therefore, the covenant between God and man is a supreme example of His love and favor toward His creation. So what does all of this have to do with Christians today? The answer is two-fold. First, we must understand that there is no place for negotiation in God's covenant. The reason is clear: man, so unworthy to even stand before God (Exodus 33:20), has no leverage by which to negotiate. God offers salvation through His covenant, something mankind is not able to provide for himself, and therefore God is solely in position to declare the terms of the covenant. With Paul we all must cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24; the answer in verse 25). And, with the privilege of lifeagain, something we cannot provide for ourselvescomes an automatic amenability to the conditions of the covenant, which conditions are clearly delineated in God's word (John 12:48). Men over the centuries have tried to "pen-knife" the word of God (Jeremiah 36:23), amend it, reduce it, and make other feeble attempts to negotiate God's expectations, forgetting that "forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). What will it take for some of us to say with Jeremiah, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23)?
Another lesson that we must glean from an understanding of God as the Covenant God is that God cannot and will not waiver from His covenant. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2); it is, in fact, impossible for Him so to do (Hebrews 6:18). Interestingly, both of those statements are given in the context of God's promises. As well, God will not forget or change His mind. As Peter makes clear, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Sometimes, however, it seems that many try to convince themselves that God will altar the course of His covenant. They live their lives as they please, betting their souls that God's mercy will override His justice. However, God has bound Himself to His covenant with man, and this means both the blessings and the curses. When God set forth the blessings and the curses under the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 28), He had no choice but to carry out the curses when Israel neglected their part of the agreement. And dear friend, the same is true today. No matter how many times we ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:4), we cannot escape the fact that God will make good on His promise to reward the faithful and condemn the wicked (John 5:28-29).
Our God is the God of the Covenant. He offers salvation out of love for mankind, and He binds Himself to His covenant out of love for truth and justice. No negotiations can change His expectations, and no pleading will make Him change His mind. I beg of you, friend, do not bet your soul on a change in the Covenant Godyou will regret it for eternity.
1 The New Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words.
2 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, quoted in Studies in Exodus, East Tennessee School of Preaching, 1997.
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