SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS

Commentary by Walter Albritton

March 9, 2008

 

God Calls Us to Live in a Covenant Relationship with Him

 

1 Chronicles 17:1-27

 

Key Verse: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. Ė 1 Chronicles 17:7c-8

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††††††††† This story from the life of David can help us understand God and how he desires to work with his people. The word ďcovenantĒ is crucial to our knowing the nature of God.

††††††††† Covenant is not a mysterious word. Most of us understand that a covenant is a contract or binding agreement. Quickly several words come to mind that help us explain a covenant: pledge, promise, trust, commitment, compact, pact, or arrangement.

††††††††† What is not immediately clear to us is that the Greek word for covenant may be translated into English as ďtestament.Ē So the Old and New Testaments of the Bible could have been named the Old and New Covenants. Centuries of usage have caused us to think of a testament not as a covenant but more like a testimony, testimonial, confirmation, proof, evidence, or a statement.

††††††††† However, to know God we must embrace the truth that God is a Covenant God. The Bible is a Covenant Book. From the beginning God has called his people into a covenant. Again we think of a covenant as an agreement between two parties. But biblically speaking, there are both one-party and two-party covenants. In a one-party covenant, such as Godís covenant with Noah, God makes promises without any conditions. In a two-party covenant, such as the covenant made on Mount Sinai with the Israelites, God specifies conditions his people are expected to meet as their part of the covenant.

††††††††† The Chronicles scripture before us concerns a one-party covenant God made with David through the prophet Nathan. There is a degree of humor in this story. David tells Nathan his plans to build a temple. Nathan reacted like a cheerleader saying in essence, ďGreat idea, Boss; go for it.Ē But later than night Nathan received a message from God. We might paraphrase Godís message in this way: ďUh, Nathan; you and David both forgot to check with me about building that temple. You had no business giving the king the green light on constructing a temple. That is not on my drawing board just now. So you must go back and retract your approval. Tell David he will not be the one to build a house for me. I have chosen one of his sons for that job.Ē

††††††††† How David took the news from Nathan tells us a lot about David. Though he was obviously disappointed, David humbly accepted the will of God and thanked God for all he had done for him. He never forgot that except for God he would still be tending sheep in some lonely pasture. It helps us all to remember how far God has brought us from where we once were.

David realized that many times he had been shown the kindness of God. God had been with him, giving him victory over his enemies and helping him to unify the Israelites. David took comfort in Godís assurance that Godís will would be accomplished in due time. Despite his moral failures, David did many things in the right way, in the way that pleased God.

††††††††† As disciples of Jesus we can learn from Davidís attitude. We make our plans. Sometimes they are big plans, bigger than we can accomplish in our lifetime. We pass on without reaching many of our goals. But God does raise up others who continue the work we began. The work of God goes on, even though most of us must view its completion from heavenís balcony.

††††††††† A mission work team is a good example of how Godís work is done. Several of my friends went with me on a mission team to Haiti. Two other teams from Ohio and Indiana had been there before us. Those teams laid the foundation and built the walls of a chapel near the beach. Our job was to roof the building. We did our work and came home. Other teams went later to sheetrock the walls, install doors and windows, and paint the chapel. No single team could have done all the work. Together we got it done.

††††††††† Great joy can be ours when we realize that we are co-workers with God and fellow laborers in Godís vineyard. Godís mission is not designed so that we may gain fame and fortune. Our great reward is to know that we had a small part in what God is doing in the world during our time here. If we remain faithful, then one day it shall be our joy to hear the applause of heaven and the ultimate affirmation of our Saviorís words, ďWell done, good and faithful servant.Ē

††††††††† Until that day we would do well to learn from Davidís mistake. We should make sure that our plans are Godís plans. It is not enough to work; we need to make sure, through earnest prayer and seeking, that the work we do is Godís work. The Spirit will help us discern the will of God and save us from making plans for self- glory. The experience of many saints before us teaches us that Godís work, done Godís way, will bring glory and honor to our Lord Jesus, not ourselves.

When we lift Christ up, and reach out with love to the suffering millions of the world, God blesses the works of our hands and gives us the assurance that our labor has not been in vain. Indeed, we have the inner joy that comes only to those of every age who covenant with God to live as partners in the gospel until Christís mission in the world is finished. That day will come. It has not come yet. Until it does, Christ promises to be with us. His presence, power and provision are all we need. So let us get on with the task before us Ė in covenant with God and one another. †††††††† †††††††††

††††††††† (Contact Walter at walbritton@elmore.rr.com)