The Bible contains a number of covenants and commandments. We are most familiar with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). You know them whether you are aware or not; lying, murder, adultery and stealing are sinful and all-around harmful. Even scoundrels know that even if they justify them. Whether they are able to observe those commands is another thing.
We might be less familiar with the covenants God gave to various people. Those were promises of His blessing or presence impacting the people involved in the covenant and us as well. A covenant is essentially a promise initiated by God, involving our obedient participation to fully implement it. God entered into covenants with the likes of Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. In reading them, we quickly realize that He had us in mind as well as them. We benefit from those covenants directly or indirectly.
God initiated all of the covenants and commandments. People initiated none of them. There are good reasons.
First, God is able to pull off whatever He promises, and there is no shelf life to His ability. We have difficulty pulling off more than a few commitments, many of which fade with time.
Second, God has the big picture in mind. We have a rather small, selfishly and culturally weighted picture in mind.
Third, God is able to work things out when they do not seem to be working out, and no one else could conceive a possible solution. We have a difficult time making things work out or conceiving solutions if there are more than a few hiccups or impediments.
Fourth, God knows what is true, best, righteous and altogether good. We have tainted views of the true, best and right because of our sinful leanings. In short, God has the power, wisdom, lengthy investment of eternity, and perfection to make a promise and keep it. That is the covenant part. God also has the power, wisdom, lengthy investment of eternity, and perfection to help us obediently follow His commands.
I will let you investigate the covenants and commandments on your own. You can Google them if you are unfamiliar. Unfortunately, Google can’t help you live according to them. So I would like to give you some handles to better understand what is at play from both God’s side and our side of things as we consider how to live out these covenants and commandments.
God is prepared to do whatever it takes to make things right after we have made them so wrong. He used a frail person like Noah, a disgraced fugitive like Moses and a lowly shepherd boy like David. His covenants always demonstrate that He is prepared to find a solution even when none seems available and to use vulnerable people to live them out.
God is willing to take extreme measures to bring His promises to fruition. He was willing to fix things for all of us through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ. His love is revealed through the covenants and commandments. Through Jesus, God made all things possible for an undeserving human race. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get us where we need to be and live as we ought to live.
God is able to make good on His promises and empower us to make good on our part. He is able to give us what we lack to live in ways we would otherwise think impossible. This is especially true of the commandments. They may seem difficult and burdensome. But God is able to make them desirable and attainable through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:6–14).
God is prepared, willing and able to make much from nothing. We are the wild card. God is predictably holy and capable. No argument there. Hence, He is worthy of our praise. People are the question marks. We respond in one of three ways to God’s covenants and commandments.
The first response is that I have to do these things. We should know from our personal histories that doing things because we must (have to) is burdensome and comes from an unwilling heart. Every child has resisted their parent at some point because they were told what they must do. It does not matter if it is good for us or not. The response is “do I have to?” It comes from a resistant heart. It comes from a desire to do what is easy and enjoyable.
The second response is “I don’t want to.” This comes from a rebellious heart. This person just does not want to try. They are digging in like a child that holds his mouth shut when a parent is trying to get them to eat broccoli. If they do not want to, they will find ways to refrain from doing it.
The third response is always the best: “I want to.” It does not depend upon a person’s ability. God saves, sanctifies and gives us the power to. The attitude is right and open to God. When a person wants to and seeks God’s help to, then it is possible by God’s Spirit. For them, the covenants and commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) for those who live in love. God is prepared, willing and able to help those who want to …
Bishop Matthew Thomas has been an active part of the Free Methodist Church since 1979. His ministry roles have included serving as a pastor, church planter, missionary and superintendent.1