Embodying the Promises

The problem with really good sermons is that I get distracted chasing down one point in my head and miss the next ten minutes. Then the preacher finds another point, I get distracted again, and another novel I won’t get around to for fifteen years is imbued with further spiritual significance.

In one of these flashes of brilliance, Mr. Ben Merkle dazzled me with talk about covenants. When the Hebrews would make a covenant, they would cut a bunch of animals in two and walk between the pieces. In doing so, they were saying “If I break this covenant, let what happened to these animals happen to me.” After listening to this, I was startled by the obvious.

You see, when you make that covenant, you’re saying “If the terms of the covenant are broken, I will be broken and die. But if the terms are fulfilled, I will live.” You live exactly as long as the covenant. Its life and your life are the same. You live and die by fulfilling its terms.

This means that the covenant is not merely a business arrangement. It’s part of who you are. It is establishes a permanent relationship to the other parties, and it sets out a new way of life. From that point on, you and that covenant are inseparable.

Coming back home, this struck me in two ways. First off, God’s promises to us are a permanent part of his identity. The promises are guaranteed. But second, and just as important, the reverse is also true. When we are joined in covenant to Christ, we receive a new identity. We become people with a relationship and a way of life that is synonymous with our very existence. Being a Christian is not just a minor life-choice, a flavor of religion we prefer. It’s who we are. We embody the promises Christ made. That’s something to keep in mind.


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