Creation and Covenant

Some thoughts about creation and covenant…

Creation and Covenant. These are the two primary ways in which God is known. In creation we catch the first hint of God, though it’s mysterious and vague. In covenant God is revealed in specific ways to a specific people. God’s sovereignty is established in creation and His redemption is found in covenant.

Psalm 19 is divided into the dual themes of creation and covenant.

Psalm 19:1-6 Creation
(Notice the references to nature and creation; e.g. heavens, skies, day and night, the sun.)

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
Night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
Their voice is silent in the skies;
Yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to all the world.
The sun lives in the heavens
Where God placed it.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom
After his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete
Eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
And follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.

Psalm 19:7-14 Covenant
(Notice the references to the Law — the foundation of the Old Covenant; e.g. law, decree, commandment)

The law of the Lord is perfect,
Reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
Making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
Bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
Giving insight to life.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
Lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
Each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold,
Even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
Even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to those who hear them;
There is great reward for those who obey them.
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep me from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
And innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart
Be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Notice that what the sun does in creation the law does in the soul: brings light. And both the sun (creation) and the law (covenant) are related to great joy.

You will also notice that the final thought of Psalm 19 is about redemption. God’s sovereignty is established in creation but His redemption is found in covenant.

The more connected to nature a society is, the more there is an a priori sense of God’s sovereignty. It is only where man creates an artificial, industrial, technological society that people lose their sense of obligation to God or the gods. The atheist is the child who spent too much time indoors.

I love God’s creation.
I’m at home in it.
It is my home.
It’s in my bones.
I am star dust.

But I am animated star dust. And more than that, I have the breath of God in me so that I can know and interact with the Creator. I am a synthesis of heaven and earth. I am an interface between the heavens and the earth. To walk in a conscious and interactive awareness of God in the garden of creation is what I was uniquely designed to do. To hike and pray in the mountains may be the holiest thing I do.

Adam was the son of God in creation.
Abraham was the son of God in covenant.

God chose Abraham’s family to undo the sin of Adam’s family. But, while Abraham’s family was the solution, they were also part of the problem. They were sinners also.

From Adam’s family came the Gentile nations of the fallen world.

From Abraham’s family came the nation of Israel chosen to be God’s agent of redemption.

But though Israel did bring a measure of light and justice to the world through the Law and the Prophets, by in large they failed in their mission to be God’s redemptive community.

So the Son of God took the role of Israel upon himself.
Emmanuel took the role of the Servant of God.
(This is one of the primary prophetic themes of Isaiah.)

Isaiah 53 prophesies the suffering, sin-bearing servant:
My righteous Servant will justify many
For He will bear all their sins

Isaiah 54 prophesies a new covenant:
For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear,
But even then I will remain loyal to you
My covenant of blessing will never be broken
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Isaiah 55 prophesies a new creation:
Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow
Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up
This miracle will bring great honor to the Lord’s name
It will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.

And of course this is what Jesus did in his redemptive work as God’s suffering servant.

In the Upper Room at the last supper he announced the new covenant.

In the Upper Room on Easter night he breathed on his disciples to confer new creation.

So that the Gospel is all about the new creation and the new covenant giving birth to the new kingdom, the new Israel, the new humanity.

More of the Big Picture of the Big Thing!

(It’s important to keep working on getting the big picture or you will compartmentalize the Bible into an anthology of unrelated moral truths and wise sayings from which it is impossible to make a coherent story. Never forget that the Bible is telling one big story!)

“Christianity is not about religion — it’s about humanity, and making it as God intended it to be.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (20th century German theologian)

“Christianity is an entirely new way of being human.”
-Maximus the Confessor (7th century bishop)

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
-Irenaeus (2nd century church father)

“Now I’m going to ride my motorcycle through God’s great creation.”
-Brian Zahnd (21st century pastor)