Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Solus Christus: The Covenant of Preservation

Yesterday we started looking at the covenants of the Old Testament, and we saw how they’re increasing waves of revelation about God’s covenant of grace and ultimately point to Jesus (the one who fulfilled the covenant of grace). The next covenant and today’s Advent meditation comes from Ge. 9:8-17:
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
This covenant is sometimes called the “covenant of preservation.” It’s called this because in this covenant God provides the preservative structure necessary to “all future generations” for His work of redemption in history to continue to Jesus and beyond. God’s sign of this “everlasting covenant between [Him] and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” is the rainbow, which we can still see today when the sun breaks through the clouds after a storm. It’s generally a sign that God is maintaining this world for all people, but it’s particularly a sign of the preservative framework He provided in which His covenant of grace would be accomplished. For in order for the Messiah to come, there had to be a stable, universal order in which He could be born, live a perfect life, die for His people, and be raised from the dead. God commits Himself to maintain this order in the covenant of preservation that He made with Noah and “all flesh.”

You might wonder, “Where is the covenantal refrain in this covenant?” Well, this covenant breaks the pattern of all the others but for a very good reason. The other covenants of the Old Testament are all redemptive covenants—they mark an increase of God’s fellowship with man, reveal more about His covenant of grace, and they are made with man (God’s creatures that are liable for sin and in need of redemption). This covenant is not redemptive but preservative, and it is made with “every living creature,” i.e. the world itself. God doesn’t increase His fellowship here or reveal anything else about the covenant of grace, but He does put in place the preservative framework necessary for the covenant of grace to be wrought in history. So, this covenant is still incredibly important for the advent of Christ. Without it, there may not have been a world to which He could come and redeem God’s people.

Today, remember that Advent has the very important covenant of preservation behind it. When God destroyed the world with a flood He didn’t have to promise never to do that again. He could’ve left that option open, but He didn’t. Instead, He chose to promise a stable, universal order for this world so that history could progress to the coming of the Messiah—the advent of Jesus—and beyond to the future second coming of Jesus—His second advent. Jesus could come into the world and we can celebrate Christmas because God promised never again to destroy “all flesh” by a flood. Praise God for His patience that prompted Him to preserve this world and for His patience that He continually shows you when you repeat the same sins over and over again. If you’re anything like me, you sometimes think, “God, why do you keep taking me back? I would’ve abandoned me a long time ago.” Our God—the true God—however, is one who shows patience to His creatures, and Jesus’ coming into this world is the ultimate proof of that divine patience. That advent of Christ—what we celebrate at Christmas—was made possible by God’s divine patience in the covenant of preservation.

By His Grace,

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