We live in a day of broken promises and broken covenants. So many of us have felt the hurt of either experiencing the broken promise of a friend or family member. Even worse, we know the shame of having failed to keep a promise that we made to someone we care about. This epidemic of promise breaking has produced a generation who is afraid to make commitment for fear they’ll fail. Where do we turn? Who makes and keeps their promises, their covenants, these days? God does. For God is a covenant making, covenant keeping and covenant sealing God!
In the Book of Nehemiah chapters 9-10, the Israelites remembered the covenant God had made with them and responded by renewing their commitment to Him. We can respond to that same God who offers to covenant with us.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:Thanks for listening to the podcast from Gary Combs and the preaching team at Wilson Community Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Check us out on the web at wccnc.org for more. And now here’s the sermon.
All right, good morning, church! Good to see all of you here this morning. We’re going to be, as I was saying earlier, in the book of Nehemiah once again. We will be in chapter nine and ten this morning. So we’re going to be taking on a big chunk of this thirteen chapter book today. This is week ten in our series through the book of Nehemiah that we have entitled, Rise Up. We get that theme from Nehemiah, chapter two verse eighteen, “Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia, King Artexerxes. And he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down. The gates burned, and when he heard about that, he was heartbroken. And he asked the king for permission to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. And so he went to the people, and he told them of how the king had given him permission and how the Lord God’s hand was upon him. And the people responded. Let us rise up and build and they strengthened their hands for the good work.” So that’s where we get the theme. The title Rise Up is from the people’s response.
Truly, over these past ten weeks, the people of this church have responded in the same way. We’ve said together, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ The Lord is the one who has strengthened our hands for this good work. And we’re thankful for that now.
Whenever Nehemiah had finished building the walls and rebuilding the gates, it suddenly occurred to him, as he looked at the people, that this did not repair the problem. The brokenness of Jerusalem remained. Why was that? Because the people were broken, it wasn’t enough. Now they needed a safe place to gather. A safe place. And so rebuilding the walls and the gates was a necessity. It was important that he do that, but the repair wasn’t done. The people were broken, They needed help.
One of the reasons they were broken, as we get into Chapter nine and ten, is that they had broken the covenant that God had made with them. They were broken people and broken people have trouble keeping promises. Broken people are covenant breakers too; they have a hard time keeping their promises. Fathers have trouble keeping their promises to their children. Married couples have difficulty keeping their covenant promises to each other. We have problems. Our politicians have difficulty keeping their promises to us; their campaign promises. I could go on. We are a people of broken promises and broken covenants because we are broken. But God is not.
The Hebrew word that we’ll see appearing three times in our reading today is the Hebrew word ber-eeth’ and it literally means to cut. And when we first see it appearing in an illustration, it’s in the story with Abraham in Genesis, chapter fifteen, where God tells Abraham to cut animals in half, and then he puts a deep sleep over Abraham, and then he wakes him up in the middle of the night. God passes between the cut sacrificed animals and makes a covenant with Abraham. And so that word ber-eeth’ means literally to cut and pass through it. But the better meaning is covenant. It’s how they made covenant in those days, and I guess the closest synonym is promise. It’s a promise made between two people it means to be bound together so it’s more than a contract. It’s an investment in relationship to each other, not just the business side, but the total. In fact, today we still say, let’s cut a deal and it’s comes from that idea of cutting. It still remains now when a married couple makes a covenant that’s usually considered a bilateral covenant. In other words, by meaning to two equal parties, a bilateral covenant is two equal parties agreeing on something together. But when a Christian couple, two believers, this is my conviction, makes a covenant, I think it’s more like a tri-lateral. You know, the word tri means three, right? Because what we do is we invoke our God to approve of and bless that union and to minister to what I’ve done.
I don’t know how many marriages , maybe one hundred and some or maybe more over the last twenty seven year, that I have officiated. I say these words from Jesus in Mark, chapter ten verse nine. And by the way, I left it in the King James, because as I was studying with a couple of young men this week, one of them being my son, he says, ‘ I just love that word asunder.’ I think we need to get that one back in the English language. Can we leave it in the King James version? Then This is what the minister will say at the end of the wedding ceremony. Mark 10:9 (KJV) “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” You see how that’s a trilateral covenant, a bond between husband, wife and God. We are talking about covenants today.
The people of Israel were faced with the fact that they were covenant breakers. We live in a day of broken promises and broken covenants. Some of you here this morning and you know what it feels like to have someone break a promise with you. It hurts, doesn’t it? Maybe nothing hurts as bad as that. That might be one of the worst pains. And even worse, though, is the shame that some of us feel when we’re the promise breaker. I guess all of us have done both, haven’t we? I mean, we’ve been the recipient of one who broke a promise with us, but we’ve also been the one who made a promise we didn’t keep. I’m glad God is faithful, and I’m glad he’s forgiving. I’m glad he’s faithful because when I’ve felt the broken promises, I can depend on him that he won’t break a promise he won’t break it. I’m glad he’s forgiving because I keep breaking covenants myself. I keep breaking promises because I’m in perfect and I’m a fallen man. I’m a sinner, and I’m glad he’s forgiving so that I can renew my covenant, you know? So God is a covenant making God. I want you to hear this. That God is a covenant making, covenant keeping, covenant sealing kind of God. That’s the God we serve. And he calls us in to covenant with Him now. In the book of Nehemiah, Chapter nine and ten, the Israelites remembered the covenant that God had made with them, and they responded by renewing their commitment to him.
We can respond to that same God who makes covenant, He offers covenant with us. How can we do it? Well, that’s the reading today. As we look at the text today, we see the word covenant in the reading three times. I think we can see three clear steps in the Scripture today on how to remember the covenant his covenant making, covenant keeping God wants to offer us. So let’s do this.
If I read both of these chapters, I will not have time to preach. So here’s what I’m going to do; I will read selected sections and then put it upon you, my trusted family, to read these two chapters on your own. And especially when you meet in your small group this week to really, get into it and dig it out and and just lovingly pronounce every one of these names. I know you are having fun in small group pronouncing these names, So let me just read the first eight verses. Here’s how I’m going to do it. Take a bite and then we’ll preach on it for a minute. Then I’ll take another bite preaching that section. This will kind of get us through Chapter nine and ten. Okay, here we go. “9 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. 2 And the Israelites[a] separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. 4 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 [b] “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.”
I told you there was some names. This is God’s word. That’s where I want to pause for a second. Did you notice in verse four that in this prayer that the Levites are standing on the stairs of the Levites and and they’re calling out to the people We’re not sure who’s praying this prayer. It’s probably Ezra. He’s not named. But it could be Nehemiah; it’s a beautiful prayer. It starts off talking about God. It starts off just like Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Remember when the disciples said Lord, teach us to pray the way you do. And He said, “Our father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” like that. That’s how they started. They started off in heaven.
They didn’t start off with their laundry list like we do. They started off with where God was and they started off prayers to His holiness, His righteousness; that He is creator. And then they reminded themselves that He is a covenant making God. In verse seven, it says he made a covenant with a man named Abram. When he made the covenant, he changed the man’s name from father to father of nations, to Abraham. It’s a plural name now; to father of nations. And so he changes his name.
Now, if you want to study the covenants that God made with Abraham, you would turn to Genesis, chapter twelve, Genesis, chapter fifteen and Genesis, chapter seventeen because there are layers of this covenant, it’s an unfolding of the Abrahamic covenant. I don’t have time to go into all of it, but let me touch on it for a minute.
First I would touch on the idea that Chapter twelve was where he called him out of Ur. He said, I’m going to bless you and through your seed, I will bless the nations of the world. The Jews tend to forget that part in the Old Testament, you’ll see it over and over again. In fact, they don’t mention it here. They only mention the part where they get the land. They don’t mention that they’re supposed to bless the nations.
That’s what Jonah’s problem was. If you read the book of Jonah, you’ll see that they often overlooked that. But but let’s not worry about that right now. That was something they were missing. But that was part of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis, chapter twelve. Then, in Genesis, chapter fifteen, we see that story where they’re quoting really. I’ll pop it up on the screen. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying to your offspring, I give this land. That was the part they were really focused in on because why they’re just not getting back in the land, the rebuilding Jerusalem and so forth. And so they’re reminded of that, and this was an interesting part. I mentioned it earlier. God instructed Abram, in Genesis chapter fifteen, to bring a heifer that was three years old. A heifer is a female cow, right? A young doe, a female goat, that was three years old, a ram , that was three years old , a turtledove and a young pigeon and cut them in half and set them apart on the ground. Then he caused Abram to fall into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he saw a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch without anybody holding them passing between. God spoke to him and renewed and told him about the covenant in chapter five and then in chapter seventeen. The prayer here has done that there, praying and Nehemiah, in chapter nine is they’ve combined those two portions. They’ve combined chapter fifteen and chapter seventeen of Genesis; the Abrahamic Covenant. And so here’s the part where they talk about his renaming that God gives him a new name. In Genesis chapter seventeen, verse five, “No longer shall your name be called Abram. But you should be called Abraham for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” They are praying about this.
For a quarter of the day, they were reading the law, the Torah. The first five books, right? This is the third reading that they’ve mentioned because they did it on the first day of the month. They did it on the second day of the month. t What day of the month is this? This is twenty fourth day, so it’s chapter nine, verse twenty. They’ve been spending the whole month reading the word of God. Remember this past week and the trumpet blowing day. The word of God says we should be happy today but you are not happy. The word of God has been read to them and now they are all torn up about it. Nehemiah pleads with them to please go eat fat and drink sweet wine that’ll fix it, right. That was last week.
Now they’ve put it off and put it off; they’re about to pop, They gotta cry. They gotta repent. Here’s the thing about reading the word of God. It’s like holding up a mirror. We talked about this last week and it begins to show us what God has done and how He’s made covenant with us and how we keep failing. It shows us that were broken. And if we look at it long enough, it also shows us that He’s merciful and that He will help us clean up our mess. You know, sometimes we look at it, we run away too quickly. We only get the part that we’re broken or we get confused. We think, ‘I got this and I can fix it myself.’ Oh, boy, that’ll make a mess. Trust me. Trying to fix it yourself just makes a bigger mess. But these people, man, look at how they’ve come up in here, you know? And so there they’ve been holding off. Now this covenant thatGod’s making with Abraham and as a result, with all of the the offspring of Abraham.
Is it a bilateral covenant? Remember I taught you those words a few minutes ago, meaning two equal parties. Are we equal with God? No, we’re not. It’s a unilateral covenant. In other words, God did the whole thing and offers it to us. You all staying with me? We get confused sometimes and think God, I’m gonna meet you halfway. You can’t meet Him halfway. He’s got to come all the way. This is what Jesus did. He came all the way. He left Heaven and came to Earth and became one of us because we couldn’t keep the covenant. He had to keep it for us. He offered his side and then came to Earth and and offered our side, too. That’s what Christ did. It’s a unilateral covenant.
Listen to what Baker’s dictionary says. A covenant confirmed between two human parties was bilateral. Some scholars have concluded that the covenant Yahweh, which is another name. That’s the name, ‘I am that I am,’ that was given to Moses by God at the burning bush. That covenant Yahweh established with human beings as bilateral. This is not the case got initiated, determined the elements and confirmed his covenant with humanity. It is unilateral. Understand this God did the whole thing and our part is to respond and receive by faith. This is on the twenty fourth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the month of Tishrei. They’ve celebrated the festival of trumpets. the day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, where they all camped out for a week. And now finally they’ve had a cry. They’ve been holding this back like a dam has broken.
. Here on the twenty fourth day, they show up in assembly with fasting and in sackcloth and with earth on their heads. This is how people in the Middle East mourned and in some places, some areas of Africa and the Middle East, still do this with sackcloth. Sackcloth rubs against the skin; it’s all itchy. Fasting makes your tummy grumble. And then, if you’re not finished, sit on the ground and just dump earth on your head. What are they doing? What are they doing when they do this? What’s the action that they’re taking? They’re humbling themselves. They’re humbling themselves.
Point one: (1) Humble yourself for He is a covenant making God. Humble yourself for He is a covenant making God. See, it’s humbling when you hear the word of God read and you hear what God has done on your behalf. The only appropriate response is to humble yourself. That’s what they did. They did this to humble themselves. And you know, one of the marks of someone who’s ready to meet with God, ready to receive what He has, will say, It’s not about me. We are just to humble ‘ll stop saying, ‘ But I deserve, but I have rights, but I want and I need. We say instead, ‘I’m nothing and You’re everything.’ When a person gets to that point then they can get help. But as long as they think I got this, as long as they want their own way, as long as they think they can handle this, they have not humbled themselves. This was a way of outwardly showing They were humble.
They’d read for the first quarter of the day, as we see in verse three. They had read the book of the law. That’s the first five books. This is at least the third reading. Chapter eight verses four through eight was the first one. That was the day of the festival of trumpets. And then on day two they read through it again. And who knows how many other times they read through it. This is the first quarter of the day. This meant the daylight hours; three hours of Bible reading.
Can you read the first five books in three hours? I’ll have to test that sometime The appropriate response to hearing the word of God and understanding it is to humble ourselves, which you agree with and say, ‘Not my way, His way. I will humble myself and not to argue with it.’
Now, I thought about providing dirt. You know, every week you’ve been coming in here, we’ve had stuff under your seats. I guarantee, when you came in this morning, you went, ‘Where’s my stuff?’ We had them fancy, you know, confetti poppers. The whole room smelled like gunpowder last week like a good southern church should, right? Yeah, I thought about putting a cup of dirt under everybody’s chair. That would be messy, though. Confetti was pretty messy. We could vacuum.
Here’s what it says in 1 Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” I was eleven years old when my baby brother was born. He’s been having a lot of trouble lately. He’s in a twelve month program court appointed with the Teen Challenge in West Virginia in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. This program is trying to help him break a drug addiction to pain pills, you know that opiate thing? It’s real. He wrote me a letter, and I had my son Stephen, read it to my family last night. This is his life. He went on to say. It’s kind of easier to humble yourself when all you have left is the shirt on your back, because his addiction has cost him his wife, his kids, his home, his job and everything. But now he sees Jesus. I’m thankful; I can’t wait for him to finish the program. And maybe I can introduce him to you one Sunday. And he can stand up and tell you this in person how God has helped him break this addiction. But he couldn’t do it until he let go; until he humbled himself. You see, it is a unilateral covenant. Understand that God did everything. I don’t have to do anything. God did everything.
Let me give you an illustration. Are you ready for an illustration? If your father or your grandfather makes a last will and testament, he doesn’t call you up and say, You know, I’m thinking about giving you this and your cousin that whatever he decides. He writes in the last will and testament. And then you’re called maybe into a lawyer’s office after he passes away, and then the last will and testament is read. And all you have to do to receive your inheritance is, first of all, prove that you’re a descendant that is named in the last will and testament. And secondly, sign the receipt when they give you the check, all you have to do is prove that you’re related and you’re the one named and by faith, receive it. That’s a unilateral covenant. You didn’t write it. You didn’t earn it. Your grandfather did. Your father did. Your forebearer did. They earned it. It was their stuff. They’re bestowing it to you. That’s a unilateral covenant. Your part is to be a son or a daughter of the forebearer and then say I want it and receive it. That’s unilateral covenant. Did you get it; do you understand what a unilateral covenant is? That’s what God’s offering. Isn’t it amazing that God would make a covenant with us? This God who exists outside of time and outside of space and everything that is He made it. This God would lean down, stoop down and say, ‘I want to be in covenant with you. I made you for me. I love you.’ Doesn’t this humble us; isn’t it amazing?
Then there’s this most important part. This is how Paul talks about it in the book of Galatians because he wants to get at this word seed, just not Abraham and his seed. And it’s not plural. It’s singular. Where the promise was made the covenant was made. He does not say seeds as of many, but as of one into your seed, who is Christ ? Here’s what he’s saying. He’s made covenant with us through His seed, which is Christ. And if you receive Christ, you’ve received all the promises. You become one in covenant with this covenant making God. But you must humble yourself. That’s your part is to humble yourself and to believe.
Notice in verse eight, the latter part of chapter nine. He says this, “…and you have kept your promise for you are righteous.” Promise is a synonym for covenant that leads us into our second reading, our second point, which I hope I remember to say. Let’s read a little more. We’ve heard that God is a covenant making God. And so we humble ourselves. And We read verse nine-10, 9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day.” They were still praying, right? If you want to know what the Old Testament people thought of the Old Testament like theologically and how they looked at the whole just like span of the Old Testament story read, read this prayer because they’re covering it. They’ve already gone through Abraham’s period. Now they’re getting set free from Egypt. But we have this rhythm here. God does something amazing. And then the people sin. And then God does something merciful and the people get right. Then God does something amazing and the people sin. And then God does something merciful and the people get right. That’s how this prayer goes. So I’m going to read the whole thing. But that’s kind of a quick summary. Verse sixteen, But they are fathers, acted presumptuously and stiffen their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey, and we’re not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them . But they stiffen their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. So we see that down oversight even when they had made for themselves a golden calf. Remember that? Let’s let’s make ourselves gods like we had in Egypt after God to set him free. Then down in verse nineteen, this is what God does in your great mercy. He did not forsake them in the wilderness but made the pillar of cloud to lead them in the day; He did not depart from them. He formed the pillar of fire by night to light the way for them that they should go. He didn’t forsake them. They made a golden calf and He did this.
Look at verse twenty two; it says that you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner that you gave him the promise land. So they took possession of the land and it names the king’s they overthrew. And then you go down to verse twenty six. They were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets who had warned them in order to turn them back to you and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore, you gave them into the hands of their enemies.
If you really think about it, this is mercy in a way to get their attention. You know, sometimes you fall into suffering, which is God’s only way to wake you up. I know it’s hard, but God loves you enough to give you a good spanking sometimes. And he does that to them here; this is mercy because look how they respond. In the time of their suffering, they cried out to you. See that? It was merciful. They cried out to you, in verse twenty seven, and you heard them because God hears and God answers.
In verse twenty eight, it says after they had rested, look what’s about to happen. God gave them Sabbath. He gave them Shabbat, Sabbath, and they received rest from their enemies. What do they do next? But after they had rest, they did evil again. God is this merciful, righteous, covenant making, covenant keeping God and the people, well, they’re undependable. They keep falling back into evil.
Go down to verse thirty one, “ Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. Thirty two, “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love….” See it? Who is He and what does He do? He keeps His covenant. There’s that word again; it’s the second time in our reading today that He makes a covenant. What else does he do? He keeps covenantal love; stedfast love. The Hebrew word is Chesed. That’s God’s covenantal love. It’s the closest thing in the Old Testament to Godly love which is Greek. Agápe is the Greek word for unconditional love. Chesed; He keeps covenant and Chesed love. Let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us. Now they’re more in the present tense. They have been through a lot. Don’t count it like because it hurt Lord. Verse thirty three. Yet you have been righteous in all that you’ve done. We had it coming. We’re not saying you shouldn’t have done it. You’ve been righteous. We were wrong. You were right.
Have you ever come to that point? That’s hard for us. Since little kids we’ve been going, ‘He did it. She did it!’ I know nothing about this, right? We’ve been doing this her whole life. No one had to teach us. We were born with the ability to lie and to make excuses. But look at these people. They’ve heard the word of God read over and over again. And they’re coming clean. Well, not literally. They’ve got dirt on their heads but they’re coming clean in their hearts. Maybe that’s what we need. Dirt on our heads with clean hearts. They have humbled themselves. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us. You’ve dealt faithfully. We acted wickedly.
I’m going to remember point two now. (2) Worship and confess for he is a covenant keeping God. Amen. We’re having fun. We’re having fun because we love God’s word. God’s people love God’s word. Amen. Worship and confess for he is a covenant keeping God. What kind of God is He? He’s a covenant making God. Here’s another way of saying it that might make more sense because we don’t use the word covenant a lot. He’s a promise making God. And he’s a promise keeping God. That’s where we’re at so far.
I like what Dr James Hamilton says in his commentary on Nehemiah chapter nine. It is very significant. It’s a very significant interpretation of the Old Testament. So if you want to understand how someone was inspired by the Holy Spirit and understood the Old Testament, here it is for you. If you want to understand the Old Testament and inspired commentary on it awaits us. Here’s a short synopsis from the Holy Spirit on what the Old Testament’s about God who keeps his covenant. We saw it at the end of verse eight that he keeps His promise, which is another way of saying the word covenant . And then we see in verse thirty two, He’s a covenant keeping God.
Why does God do this ? Why does God keep covenant when Israel keeps breaking it? Because it’s a unilateral covenant. It’s not about lateral covenant between two equal parties. There is one greater party that has made covenant with a lesser party unilaterally, and if they break it, it does not relieve Him of His promise, because the promise He made to Abram and then he renamed him Abraham was unconditional it was unrevokable and eternal based on his character, not Abrahams. That’s our God, most clearly revealed in the person of Jesus.
In other words, once you’ve said yes, I want to be a son. I want to be a daughter of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Once you’ve received him as Lord and Savior and you’ve received the covenant, it can’t be undone because it’s not up to you. He’s the one who sent Jesus. He initiated it . He’s the one that keeps it. He’s the one who carries it out. My job is to become by faith a son or daughter of Jesus, of the father, through Jesus and to say yes, I want it by faith.
Is it really that simple? Well, not for God, but it’s simple for me to say yes to it. So we tend to think of a covenant as a contract. A contract and a covenant are not the same thing. What’s the difference? I looked it up on this legal website, and this was a short definition. A contract is an agreement between parties. While a covenant is a pledge, you seal a covenant, but you sign a contract. A contract is a mutually beneficial relationship. While a covenant is something fulfilling, a contract exchanges one good for another, while a covenant is a giving of oneself to the other.
When God says I want to be in covenant with you, He is saying, ‘I am giving myself to you.’ And he does it by demonstrating his covenantal . Chesed love. And then we read it in the Greek and it’s his Agápe love for God. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He is saying, I’m giving myself to you. That’s covenantal. He is the Lord, our God. His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word that He commanded for thousands of generations. He does not break Hiscovenant.
If you no show a doctor’s appointment, you have broken an informal contract. You didn’t sign a contract, but you made the appointment. It’s an informal expectation. It’s a contract. It’s an informal contract, but the doctor is not obligated to phone you and ask, ‘Where are you? I’ve been waiting for you.’ No, he’s going on to the next appointment. It’s an informal contract, It’s not unilateral. It was bilateral. It was a contract and he’s going on to the next appointment and he’s probably charging you for the one you missed. But if your son or daughter fails to show up for the dinner table. That’s a covenant and you’re gonna go looking for them. You’re not gonna say to your spouse, ‘It’s ok, let’s have another kid. We’ll just make another one.’ So that is an informal covenant. When you had a baby, did the hospital make you sign an agreement that she would care for that child and be willing to lay your life down for that child? They ought to. Somebody ought to make you sign something, but you do informally have a covenant with your child. Sometimes we see in our modern society, that fathers are forsaking their children and becoming absentee, and mothers are asking for the right to separate themselves from the unborn. Even if this happens, even if we break covenant with our own flesh, God won’t.
He says,through the prophet Isaia”h, Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born. Though she may forget. I will not forget you.” When there’s a whole generation in America that’s applauding the forgetting of children, the unborn children and even our own children, God, he says. I will not forget you.
The covenant of Abraham is unconditional because God is the one who brought it. In Galatians 3:19, Paul makes this observation through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What purpose then does the law serve? He say that it was added because of transgressions until the seed, which is Christ, should come to whom the promise was made. So what’s the purpose of the law? It is to lead you to the seed; to lead you to Jesus.
Now let’s finish. Can you believe it? I’m getting ready to talk about Chapter ten. Verse thirty eight of Chapter nine is actually a transitional verse. It could go in either chapter verse thirty eight, says, Because of all this, because of what? Because of all of what God has done and because of all the bad stuff we’ve done. And yet he kept forgiving us. That rhythm; He did great things we sinned. He forgave us. We got better. We sinned again, back and forth, back and forth. Because of all this. That’s what they were talking about. We make a firm covenant in writing. There is the third occurrence of the word covenant. Thus, we have these three points that were making these three steps. We make a firm covenant and it is sealed. Remember what you do with a covenant? You don’t sign it, you seal it.
The first man to put a seal upon this new covenant, which is not new at all. It’s a renewal of the old covenant. On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor. That’s how it should always be. The leaders should always start. If you have commitment cards on a Sunday to do something in the church, the lead pastor and then the leaders of the church should go first. They should sign first and set the example. Nehemiah does this and and it lists others here. And then it goes on to talk about who else signs; look at verse twenty eight and twenty-nine, “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes.” In other words, they’re going back and they’re renewing and actually putting their seal on this. This restatement of what they’ve been hearing from the from the word of God that’s being read to them. And then if you really look closely, you’ll see a rhythm here, too. You’ll see that over and over again. They talk about the house of our God that it had a lot to do with their devotion to serve together as worshipers in the house of their God. In fact, it’s in there nine times. You go through and study it. The renew of their covenant had a lot to do with how they would take care of the house of their God, that they would take care of the Levites and the singers and the gatekeepers. And they would bring provisions and appropriate amounts of wood for the sacrifice that it goes into great detail. I am not going to read the whole thing, but it seems to be a key is that they’re going to care for the house of their God.
Now what’s the difference between a seal and a signature? I learned how to copy my mother’s signature somewhere around thirteen years old. It was an important thing I felt in order to survive some of the things I was doing at school that it should not have been doing. Yeah, You did it too, didn’t you? Yeah. Okay, we’ll have confession later. Ok, there’s another confession right there. It’s funny how we probably should have put dirt under the seats.
When it came time to get a passport in order to travel internationally, I sent them the birth certificate that had gotten me into little league baseball and it had gotten me into elementary school, in the hospital and into college. But now I couldn’t get a passport because it was not an original with an embossed seal. Plus the other thing. I thought I was born in Virginia my whole life. I thought I was born in Bristol, Virginia. I hadn’t really thought about it until I had to do this. I had to write to Virginia and they told me they had no record of me. I thought I was born in Virginia, in the Old Dominion, but I was actually born in Tennessee because in Bristol, the hospital sits on the state line. Half of the city of Bristol is in Tennessee and half of it’s in Virginia. I was born on the Tennessee side, lived there for three days, and they carried me home to the Virginia side. I had to write to Tennessee and they sent me a birth certificate. Sure enough, I’m officially a Tennessean and didn’t know it until I was a grown man and it had an embossed seal from the state of Tennessee. You can rub your finger over it and feel it. I sent that into the government and they said, ‘Boom, here’s your passport.’ They would not accept my version of my mom’s signature. They would not accept my belief that I was born in Virginia, which I was not . They required a seal. An embossed seal. That’s the difference between a seal and a signature. Do you get it?
A seal has authenticity. A signature maybe, maybe not. Israel could not keep the covenant that they sealed. Here’s the sad thing. They go to all of this trouble and they do this. And I think they meant it. But here’s what we know because the Old Testament is not over. They couldn’t keep it. That’s why God had to send Jesus. They couldn’t keep it. And friends you can get all fired up today emotionally and say you’re going to do better. No, you’re not. You can’t without Christ. Christ did better for you if you will receive him. He’ll do better in you.
Paul writes to the Galatians. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ. The law couldn’t keep itself. We couldn’t keep it. So he sent us Christ that we might be justified by faith for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. That’s your seal for us.
Many of you, as you are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek slave nor free male, nor female. You’re all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are in Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, according to the covenant, to the promise. You all still here. You understand what’s going on here? The God that we have, he’s a covenant making. He’s a covenant making, covenant keeping and covenant sealing God because we can’t do that part that they are trying to do here. But they can’t. They signed it. They sealed it. Then they hauled off and did the same thing they’ve been doing. They’re messed up again. When God made a covenant with Noah, he sealed it with a rainbow. When he made a covenant with Abraham, he passed between the cut animals and he gave him the proof by giving him his son Isaac threw his wife when both of them were too old to have children. And when he gave us Jesus, he sealed it with the Holy Spirit.
In second Corinthians, and it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us and has also put his seal on us and given us his spirit in our heart as a guarantee. What we couldn’t make what we couldn’t keep, what we couldn’t even seal, He has made. He has kept, and if you receive him, he will seal you with the seal of the Holy Spirit. And if you get him, Ephesians says, don’t grieve him because he has feelings. And when you sin, it hurts his feelings and you feel it, and you feel like somebody died too.
When you break covenant with your spouse, when you break covenant with your kids, your parents or with your church, it grieves the Holy Spirit. Why? Because you were sealed by the Holy Spirit. He’s the embossed proof of authenticity that you are a co-inheritor with Christ who gave Himself to us.
Have you received the seal of God? Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant making, covenant keeping, covenant sealing God! Do you know him through Jesus? Let’s pray. Lord. We humble ourselves, we confess our sins. We worship you and we give our life to you. Today, I pray first of all, for that person here this morning that came in seeking, came in hoping. Would you, right in your seat today, say yes to Jesus. Lord Jesus. I believe you died on the cross, that you died on the cross for my sins and that you were raised on the third day and that you live today. I believe that by an act of the will I invite you to come into my life. I know that you’ve done all that’s necessary. I want to be a child of God. When you come into my life, forgive me of my sins and make me the person you want me to be. Make me a child of God And I want you to be my Savior and Lord. If you’re praying that prayer right now believing, recognize that’s why Jesus came. And if you would receive Him he’ll make you a child of God and you will be a co- inheritor with Christ. Oh, I’m praying for you right now. Because if you prayed that prayer and believe in your heart what you’re saying, he will save you and make you his own. Others are here today. There’s some relationship that you’ve been hurt by. A promise was made and you’re having a hard time forgiving. Would you draw on the Holy Spirit and say, Give me the power to forgive? Others are here. And you’re ready to break a promise. Would you draw on the Holy Spirit and say promise making, promise keeping and promise sealing spirit empower me to be a promise keeper too. So that we are like you in this world, in Jesus name, we pray. Amen.