- "A bond" joines two parties together, just like marriage.
- "A bond in blood" carries penalties for failing to be faithful to the covenant. Often, the covenant was initiated by a ceremony where those penalties were symbolised in some sense, so for example when God made his covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15), a symbol of God's presence passed through the carcasses of five different animals, as if to say, "Should I not keep my promise, may the same fate befall me as did these animals."
- That the covenant is "sovereignly" administered indicates that this is not an agreement between equals: we do not come to God saying, "We have this clever idea," nor does he come to us saying, "Take it or leave it." It is God's covenant with us.
- And this "bond in blood" is "sovereignly administered". It has real stipulations, real promises, real effects and real implications. It is like being married!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Hope in a pagan world (I)
From the passage Daniel 9.You don't have to look far for the evidence that the world is not as it should be: the House of Commons continues to fall apart like some slow-motion car crash, and the case of Baby P is a tragic demonstration of what happens when a mother's love for her son takes a back seat for something else.But it is not just the world out there. Whether you take the abuse of children by Irish Catholics, the Scottish Kirk's decision last Saturday, or the perpetual fleecing of the faithful by televangelists, churches of all shapes, sizes, and stripes are riven with sin. And not just churches out there, but churches like our own, too. Pastors and treasurers may be in positions of greater trust, but we all know that ordinary layfolk like us can cause equal problems.In a pagan world, and in a church that at times seems scarcely any better, we might ask, What hope can there be? We might even cry out to God, and implore him to act, to do something.It is for the benefit of such people that Daniel recorded his experiences here. And notice that Daniel knows where to turn to look for hope: he has his nose in the Bible. He tells us he has been reading Jeremiah, but he must also know about Isaiah's prophecy regarding Cyrus (Is. 45:1–13), and although Leviticus may not seem like a gripping read to you or me, he has found a real source of hope and comfort there. I shall come back briefly to Leviticus later.In fact, Daniel has not merely been reading Scripture, marking it, nor even simply inwardly digesting it: in fact, as he prays, allusions to Scripture tumble out of him. As Spurgeon said of Bunyan, cut him and he would bleed Bible. Would that I were like that! But we can dare to be a little like Daniel, studying Daniel 9 now.The passage is grounded thoroughly in God's covenant, particularly his covenant with Israel, so it is worth explaining what we mean by a covenant, because parts of this will come back again. We use marriage as a picture, and it rightly so, for it is one of the best day-to-day pictures we have of a covenant, but even marriage cannot capture the fullness of a biblical covenant. O. Palmer Robertson defined a biblical covenant as, "A bond in blood, sovereignly administered." Let me unpack that a little.