Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Spiritual and Religious (3)
So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. Exodus 2.24, 25
A covenant with God
Central to the worldview that begins to emerge in the books of Moses is the idea of a covenant. While the term does not appear until God’s calling of Noah, His covenant is present from the beginning. His covenant defines the relationship of favor, obligation, and blessing which God enters with the world, and in particular, with a people of His choosing. It entails their having the great privilege of knowing Him and of being subject to Him for a life of righteousness, peace, and joy.
It is important to understand that, from the very beginning of human existence and God’s covenant, the relationship that covenant circumscribes is entirely dependent on the grace of God. Whatever obligations God appoints to people, they are carried out in response to His grace and, in a very real sense, by that grace, according to His Word.
As God’s covenant unfolds in the early pages of the Law of God, it takes more shape, including the offering of great and precious promises (Gen. 12.1-3), of blessing everlasting (Gen. 17.6, 7), and of a King and Kingdom to bring grace to all the nations of the world (Gen. 49.8-11). All this would come from the hand of God through Israel, the people of His choosing, and it would come gradually, in stages.
The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt when God called Moses to lead them into His redemption and Law. They had no relationship with the Pharaoh of Egypt except to serve his whims and obey his commands. They knew no benefit from his oversight of their labors, and they lived in fear and misery and uncertainty all their many days, “groaning” in all their travails without relief. They hardly seem like a people through whom God would fulfill the great and precious promises of His covenant.
But it is here that we see the wonder of grace as the driving force and operative power of God’s covenant.
All of grace
Our text says that God “remembered” His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A better way to translate “remembered” would be “gave attention to” or even “was attending to” His covenant. During all those many years of their captivity in Egypt, God had been watching over and caring for His people, waiting for the time when He might show the mighty power of His grace to deliver them unto Himself. Israel groaned and suffered for 400 years, as God Himself had foretold (cf. Gen. 15.13). Now the time had been fulfilled and God would act, as He had promised (Gen. 15.14), and bring His covenant to a higher state of fulfillment for His people.
Many of the people to whom Moses came would have known that the 400 years were up, and that God would now deliver them. They had cried to Him for deliverance, trusting in the faithfulness of His Word and calling on His grace. And now the time had come.
What would compel Moses to leave the comforts of home and family to return to a place where he was a wanted man? Grace. What would break the stubborn heart of Pharaoh so that he would let go his grip on God’s chosen people? Grace. What would dispose the people of Israel to leave their long-time homes – miserable though they were – and plunge into the desert behind a man they hardly knew? Grace. What would open the sea and make a dry path for the people to cross safely? Grace.
God’s covenant with His people is all of grace. It drives how he relates to the whole world – all creation, all nations and people, and, in particular, the people He redeems for His own glory. His covenant is entirely of grace; that is, it comes as His design, at His initiative, freely and not as a result of merit, and it is extended to those people whom He has chosen according to His love, and not because of their worthiness. By His covenant God binds Himself to His people for their redemption and blessing, and through them, He makes Himself and His blessings known to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12.1-3).
As the Law of God is the acorn to the oak of Scripture, God’s gracious covenant is the acorn to the oak of the Scriptural worldview. Whatever of that worldview we seek to explore or experience, we must do so within the framework and according to the parameters and promises of God’s covenant.
Covenant, Law, and life
God’s covenant with His people is not static and parochial. It expands and develops throughout the Scriptures, updated like a computer operating system so as to fit the needs and conditions of the people of God. As it develops, God’s covenant does not set aside the promises made to Abraham (Gen. 12.1-3; cf. Rom. 4.13-17; 2 Pet. 1.4); rather, it maps out the manner in which those who have been redeemedby promise may now enjoy the blessingsof promise through faith and obedience to God, beginning with His Law.
Abram entered God’s covenant through the bloody path of slain animals, when God walked on his behalf to take all the obligations of the covenant upon Himself (Gen. 15.12-21). Israel entered the covenant through the blood of the Passover, marked on the doorposts and lintels of their homes (Ex. 12). We cannot gain the benefits of God’s Law and the worldview it begins to unfold except by entering His covenant through the bloody path provided in the Body of God’s own Son (Ps. 50.3-5; Jn. 14.6).
As Abraham embraced God’s covenant and pursued His promises by obeying the Lord, moving to the land of Canaan, fathering a son, and circumcising him; and as Moses submitted to God’s covenant and took up his calling as Israel’s redeemer; so Israel, liberated from Pharaoh’s tyranny, followed God’s redeemer through the sea, into the desert, and to the mountain of God, to receive His Law.
In the same way, we may know the blessings of God, and enter the gracious worldview He extends to us from beyond this world, by receiving His Son, embracing His promised redemption, and laying hold, through obedience to His Law and all His Word, of the full and abundant life He has provided for us in Jesus Christ.
1. What is a covenant? Why is a covenant so central to our relationship with God?
2. Grace is both a divine disposition and an active power. Explain.
3. Meditate on Genesis 12.1-3. How do you see in these verses the beginning vision, disciplines, andoutcomes of the Biblical worldview?
Next steps – Preparation: Make a list of all the disciplines you consciously engage in each day. Are these sufficient to help you make progress in the Kingdom of God?
The Christian worldview focuses on Jesus. Do you know Him? Our book, To Know Him, can help you answer that question confidently, and equip you to tell others about Jesus as well. Order your copy by clicking here. For a handy compendium of the laws, statutes, and precepts contained in the Law of God, grouped according to the Ten Commandments, order our book, The Law of God, by clicking here.
At The Ailbe Seminary, all our courses are designed to help you grow in your Christian worldview. Watch this brief video (click here) to get an overview of our curriculum, and to see again the place of Jesus in the Christian worldview.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.