I want to start by looking at a scripture verse, II Peter 1:4. It says “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
And as I was looking at that, I said to myself, whereby what? Well, we have to look at verse three, because verse four is a continuation of a statement that began previously. Verse three says, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, that hath called us to glory and virtue. ‘Whereby’ is His divine power! So back to consider in verse four, we have promises that are beyond (that’s exceeding beyond) great and precious. What are those promises? We know this verse, we quote it, but what are those promises? We want that to be tangible to us. So those promises are the basis of the covenant. And I want to talk a little bit about what a covenant is, and then get into the promises.
So what is a covenant? I went to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and I looked that up. And one of the definitions there is: a mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons to do or to forbear some act or thing, a contract stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed, or it may be implied in a contract.
So, what is THE Covenant? Webster’s Dictionary had an example for this, in addition to the basic definition:
The covenant of grace is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ, and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel. Now, today, when we define the covenant, do we shrink it down to that short of a sentence? We usually don’t. But if somebody were to put us on the spot, would we even be able to say that much about it? Sometimes not. We use these terms, but do we really understand what this covenant is? And I thought, you know what, that’s a very simple statement. But it’s so clear! The covenant of grace is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ, and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel. Beautiful, yes? Yes, amen!
So there’s three key pieces to this covenant. One, He will be our God. Two, we will be His people, with the law in our hearts. And three, our sins are forgiven, cleansed and forgotten. Is that good news? Are those wonderful things? What if we only had one of them?
We need each piece, don’t we? Absolutely.
So when the covenant is discussed, so often, the question is, has the covenant been changed? What’s the answer to that? No and yes. Some people will say yes, some people will say no, yes and no, are both correct. And you think, well, how can that be?
The answer is really simple. In a way it has been changed. We often say, well, better promises. Where do we get that from? Hebrews 8:6. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” So who made the better promises? God Himself, right, by Christ rather than us, because, oh, the people said, we will, we will, we will. Well, can we, without divine aid? No. So we understand all of that. But we want to go beyond that, right? Because the primary points of the covenant that we’re talking about have not changed. All the way through we see God’s saying, I will be their God.
Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” And that continues on “therefore ye sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” But if we look at the next verse, verse seven, I hadn’t noticed this until recently. Verse seven is a calling back to that covenant, verse seven says, “even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” And then listen to what he says next, “return unto me, and I will return unto you saith the LORD of hosts.” Does He still call today? He calls to people to come and enter into that covenant relationship.
So we’re going to take a look at this first part of the topic right now, which is I will be their God. We want to better understand what that means and what the promises are associated with that. There are several verses that contain that very statement, I will be their God, and I’m going to take a little bit of time, if you have your Bibles, you can turn with me and follow with me on these.
Now watch for the promises that’s given in each of these verses where He’s saying He will be our God because each one has something in there.
Gen 17:8 “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
The next one I want to look at is Jeremiah 24:7 “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”
Is that a calling? Yes.
There’s a lot of verses in Jeremiah that we quote. And this should be one of them.
Jeremiah 31:33. “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.”
Okay, let’s look at another verse:
Ezekiel 11:20 “That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances and do them and they shall be my people and I will be their God.”
How about Hosea? Is that a book we read often? No, not really. But in chapter two, verse 23, it says “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 are not my people, Thou art my people, and they shall say Thou art my God.” Do we say that? Do we know him enough? As life is going along do we say, You are my God? That is what He wants.
How about Zachariah 13:9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
Those are all Old Testament scriptures. So when somebody says, well, is God really interested in personally being connected to the people in the Old Testament time, we have some verses here that say He is Amen? Amen!
Now we’re only going to look at a few in the New Testament, even though there are many more that convey the concept than this.
Let’s look at II Corinthians 6:16 “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God, as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
And the last one I was saving is the one we know very well. Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that 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.” Have we heard that? Yes. Didn’t I read that already? Did I mis- quote? No. Hebrews 8:10 is an almost direct quote from Jeremiah 31:33. Does that tell us that the covenant is based on the same key principles? It does, yes-absolutely.
Now I know you were watching for the promises and but I’m going to go back just highlight some of these promises.
And I’ll just start back up at the beginning in Genesis, what is God promising to given to the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession? Is there more to that than the tangible giving of the physical land of Canaan? Yes. Key word in there is everlasting.
In Jeremiah 24, I will give them a heart to know me. What does that tell us? He does want us to know Him. Absolutely. And we have to have a heart that wants to know Him. And he’s going to give us that because we’re also told that our hearts are deceitful and wicked, right? But he’s going to give us a heart to know Him. You want to know the Lord more? Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He wants to do that, because he’s already promised that he will do that in connection with being our God.
Jeremiah 31:33, He says, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts. What does that mean? For the law to be in our inward parts in our heart? Any ideas? Is that just on a piece of paper? Or is it something more? We live it, we truly live it. And He is promising to make that happen. You know, we’ve heard many times over the Law is the transcript of God’s character. If he’s putting His law in our hearts, what is He wanting to do with our characters? Make us like Him.
Ezekiel 11:20, I highlighted they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances and do them. I took that as a promise. Have you ever considered that was a promise? If He is saying He’s going to be our God, and has given us these other promises, is that not a promise, that we’re going to walk in His statutes by His grace and power? Absolutely!
Hosea 2:23, says, sow her unto Me in the earth, and have mercy upon her. Is that good news? Yeah, we need that piece, don’t we? Because we look at these other parts. And sometimes it’s like, oh, wait, I wasn’t standing in the hand of God. But he’s going to continue to sow so that He harvests us and He will be merciful to us. That’s a promise that we sometimes have to hang on to more than we’d like to. But the more we do, the more He will hold us up. Because we’re also told, to him who was able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless. So that’s a great thing.
Now Zachariah, this one, maybe we’d want to leave it off the list because it’s not so fun and warm and fuzzy. It says I will refine them as silver and try them as gold is tried. Oh, do we like that promise? We say amen, and we shake our heads, Oh no,I don’t want difficulty. What is that trying and that refining, doing? Purifying, making us more like Jesus. When we go through those trying experiences, He shows us the ground that the enemy might have gained in us. So it’s a blessing. He wouldn’t show us those things if He wasn’t equipped to do something about it. Is that good news? For sure! And the other promise in that same verse is I will hear them. So when you’re going through these difficulties, these refining things, He will hear us, because he is doing an incredible work, that we will then say the Lord is my God.
Okay, how about II Corinthians 6:16? Ye are the temple of the living God? Is that a promise? Yes. And He says, I will dwell in them and walk in them. He makes us that temple. Now when you think about and study about the temple, the Sanctuary, did just anything happen there? No. Were there specific rules, if you will, about approaching and entering into the temple? Was there certain things that happened in there? Yes, of course. And every one of those things were they calculated to reveal the plan of salvation? Yes. And so when God is saying he’s gonna make us a temple…think about this. What is He trying to do for those that are around us and seeing our life? Reveal Christ and the plan of redemption through us. Is that going to happen when we go off on our own and do it our way? No, but He promises
that I will dwell in them and walk in them. Now, when we think about that, do we have hope for a victorious life? Absolutely.
Now, how about Hebrews 8:10? We’ve already done this one. So it’s easy, right? I will put my laws in their mind and write them in their hearts. That is so important, because when he does that, we’re a different person aren’t we? Right, amen! He gives us that new heart.Are those wonderful promises? Amen and amen! Are they the only promises? No. But as they relate to the covenant relationship, are they important? Absolutely.
I want to share a few Ellen White comments that help us understand just a little bit better, what God is doing and promising as we enter into this covenant relationship with Him. And this is just on the part of Him being our God, there’s so much more to explore.
Here’s a quote from the Desire of Ages, page 311.4: “The ideal of Christian character is Christ likeness. As the Son of Man was perfect in his life, so his followers are to be perfect in their life. Jesus was in all things made like unto his brethren, he became flesh even as we are. He was hungry and thirsty and weary. He was sustained by food and refreshed by sleep. He shared the lot of man, yet he was the blameless Son of God, He was God in the flesh, his character is to be ours. The Lord says, of those who believe in Him, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Does that bring it a little closer to home as to what is being meant there by that statement in Hebrews as well as Jeremiah?
Another one. This is from Education, page 258.4 “It was in the mount with God that Moses beheld the pattern of that wonderful building, which was to be the abiding place of His glory. It is in the mount with God in the secret place of communion, that we are to contemplate His glorious ideal for humanity.” His glorious ideal, not ours, right? “Thus we shall be enabled, so to fashion our character building, that to us may be fulfilled His promise, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
Are you starting to see what’s connected with these promises and related directly to the covenant so much? I hope it is the exceeding great and precious promises to you.
I want to share some excerpts from Ministry of Healing between page 396 and 397: “God’s Word does not repress activity but guides it a right. God does not bid the youth (or the young at heart) to be less aspiring. The elements of character that make a man truly successful and honored among men, the irrepressible desire of some greater good, the indomitable will, the strenuous application, the untiring perseverance are not to be discouraged. By the grace of God,” What’s the power, Grace of God-by the grace of God, “they are to be directed to the attainment of objects, as much higher than mere selfish and worldly interests, as the heavens are higher than the earth… Next to the angelic beings, the human family, formed in the image of God are the novelist of his created works. God desires them to become all that He has made it possible for them to be, and to do their very best with the powers He has given them.” We’re getting this, right? Okay, the concluding excerpt “there before us God places eternity with its solemn realities, and gives us a grasp on immortal, imperishable themes. He presents valuable ennobling truth, that we may advance in a safe and sure path in pursuit of an object worthy of the earnest engagement of all our capabilities.” Isn’t that encouraging.
So, as we’re looking at promises of the New Covenant, in regards to Hebrews chapter eight, I already quoted a little bit from there, talks more about this covenant. And I would like to share just a few little pieces here. If you were to read verses, seven through 12 of chapter eight, you have in there the verse that I quoted, which was 10, about putting the laws in our mind and in our hearts and being our God. But we also have in there some information about the problem with the old covenant, which was our broken promises, not God’s broken promises.
But verse 11, says, “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.” That’s encouraging to me. And the reason why is because our Lord does not cease to pursue revealing Himself to all who are willing to look and He promises “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Now, when I was looking at this passage, I found a statement and let me read it to you. In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God.
Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, as Substitute and Example. This faith which receives salvation comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God’s grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God’s law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgement.” Have you heard this? Does it sound familiar to you? Do you know where it comes from? It’s Fundamental Belief #10, the Experience of Salvation.
Now, when I study something, one of the things that I like to do is look at very old commentaries. And I have access to some commentaries that were written in the day when the Protestants understood who the man of sin was. They understood who the beast power was. And so I’m going to share with you a couple of statements from those commentaries in reference to some of the scriptures that I was previously reading. This first one comes from Albert Barnes. And this is in reference to Hebrews 8:10. This is the verse that is duplicated from Jeremiah. “This is quoted literally from the Hebrew. The meaning is, that he would sustain to them the appropriate relation of a God; or, if the expression may be allowed, he would be to them what a God should be, or what it is desirable that people should find in a God. We speak of a father’s acting in a manner appropriate to the character of a father; and the meaning here is, that he would be to his people all that is properly implied in the name of God. He would be their Lawgiver, their counsellor, their protector, their Redeemer, their guide. He would provide for their wants, defend them in danger, pardon their sins, comfort them in trials, and save their souls. He would be a faithful friend, and would never leave them nor forsake them. It is one of the inestimable privileges of his people that Jehovah is their God. The living and ever-blessed Being who made the heavens sustains to them the relation of a Protector and a Friend, and they may look up to heaven feeling that he is all which they could desire in the character of a God.” That was written nicely.
In the same commentary, I looked up Jeremiah 31. And it says, “the old law could be broken. To remedy this God gives not a new law.” Now catch this next part, “but a new power to the old law.” Do you like that? I love how that is said. Because when we say better promises, well, what does that mean? Are they entirely new promises? Not really. So I like how this was said. So to remedy the fact that the old one could be broken God gives not a new law, but a new power to the old one. “It used to be a mere code of morals, external to man and obeyed as a duty in Christianity, it becomes an inner force shaping man’s character from within.” Is that the good news? There is so much involved when God says, I will be there God.
One more commentary quote I’m going to share with you this is from Matthew Henry. And this is in regards to looking up the Genesis 17 reference. “The contents of the covenant. It is a covenant of promises exceedingly great and precious promises. Here are two which indeed are all sufficient: 1) That God would be their God.” Are we getting this sufficiency of what he’s including in that when he says that to us? “All the privileges of the Covenant, all of its joys, all of its hopes are summed up in this, a man needs desire no more than this to make him happy.” What do we hear about happiness today? People are pursuing it and following their hearts. But what makes us happy? God being our God, makes us happy.
It continues on. “What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them. What faithful worshippers can expect from the God they serve, believers shall find in God as theirs. This is enough, yet not all.” You’ve seen those infomercials. But wait, there’s more. Point “2. That Canaan should be their everlasting possession, Gen 17:8. God had before promised this land to Abraham and his seed, Gen 15:18. But here, where it is promised for an everlasting possession, surely it must be looked upon as a type of heaven’s happiness, that everlasting rest which remains for the people of God, Heb 4:9. This is that better country to which Abraham had an eye, and the grant of which was that which answered to the vast extent and compass of that promise, that God would be to them a God; so that, if God had not prepared and designed this, he would have been ashamed to be called their God, Heb 11:16.” Think about that. He does not change and his promises are sure.
It continues on “As the land of Canaan was secured to the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, so heaven is secured to all his spiritual seed, by a covenant, and for a possession, truly everlasting. The offer of this eternal life is made in the word, and confirmed by the sacraments,” When we have communion, what are we acknowledging? That we’ve entered in to that everlasting covenant, that relationship covenant. “to all that are under the external administration of the covenant; and the earnest of it is given to all believers, Eph 1:14.” Now if any of you’ve ever purchased a home, you know you have to put earnest money down? That’s your promise of intent to buy. And the Lord has given us a great deal of earnest has he not? Certainly. So we can believe the rest of it. “Canaan is here said to be the land wherein Abraham was a stranger; and the heavenly Canaan is a land to which we are strangers, for it does not yet appear what we shall be.” And the heavenly Canaan is a land to which we are strangers, right? When we were yet strangers, when we were enemies, when we were sinners -God did what? He died for us, he pursued us, he came for us. So for it does not yet appear what we shall be my brothers and sisters, we shall be inheritors of that eternal Canaan.
So in just looking at what I’ll call the overview of what God does for us, because this was by no means exhaustive, we see that it’s much more than our Savior dying for our sins. The good news goes beyond blotting out the record of sin. Is that good news? I was not always part of this church. And I had understood that everything happened at the cross. Christ died, my sins are forgiven. That’s it. But what we’ve seen now, is it much more? Yes, it’s so much more. It is a personal God’s saying I will be their God. And when we begin to understand what God is promising to do on our behalf, those promises that carry us through all of the process of sanctification and preparing us for our heavenly home, here’s my question: Do we want to enter in to that relationship covenant, that everlasting covenant? Absolutely. I do hope you take time to study more on the remaining key points of the covenant; I will put my law in their hearts, and I will forgive their sins.