Aug 082013

I once had a marriage—a covenant. It started with flowers and caviar and ended with screams and tears. In the beginning it was based on the things on which all holy marriages are based. There were rules, some spoken and some not. There were expectations, some spoken and some not. There were beautiful, starry-eyed promises. And these guidelines and fences (at least the ones we’d taken from Scripture) were good. In fact, those things were perfect. What was impetuously imperfect was our ability to live up to those things we’d hastily promised. We both failed, my husband and I, in ways too numerous to number. When my husband bucked against the primary fence of marriage, our covenant snapped in two. Yet, no fault was found with or could ever be found with our covenant (the guidelines Yehovah established for marriage). He does not design imperfect but holy and freeing and good. The fault was with the humans involved.

At Mount Sinai on the very first Shavuot (which we often refer to by its New Testament, Greek name of Pentecost), Israel became the Bride of the Most High God. I don’t know if there were flowers or if anyone threw rice, but I do know that manna rained down from heaven and fire and smoke lit the sky. As with most marriages, the Bride was overcome by emotion as everlasting vows were exchanged. They went a little something like this [Exodus 19:5-8]:

YHVH: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. 

Israel:  All that the Lord hath spoken we will do!

It was after the exchange of vows that Moses revealed the guidelines of the covenant that God had revealed to him. The people were so overwhelmed with gratitude upon leaving Egypt that they hadn’t even asked what before they agreed to obey all.

It was a little bit like my marriage, I think. My husband had just returned from war, and we were both filled with dramatic emotion. The current of love swept swiftly and we dove with the passion of teens. We gave little thought to the what or the how. It seemed everything was possible—the power of love and what-have-you. When life grows real, that’s when the walk becomes testing.

Israel’s marriage to YHVH was filled with adultery and betrayal. God reminded and warned and warned and reminded, but they never heeded His counsel for very long. They had good times, sure! But His Bride chose a lifestyle of disobedience and YHVH was soon obliged to enforce His unbreakable word. Though His heart broke at the thought, God divorced His unholy bride.

Jeremiah 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

This was not the end of the story, though. Ours is a God of second chances—of a vow renewal more spectacular than the first wedding and a reception like no one has dared to dream! All through the prophets we read the romance of a pleading Husband calling His lost Bride home. He’s planning a thousand year honeymoon and a decadent wedding feast. And He came in the flesh to make a way.

I would love to see my earthly marriage restored—our broken covenant renewed. If this were to happen, the appropriate congratulatory language would not be, “Congratulations on your new marriage!” Well-wishers who understood the magnitude of what they had witnessed would rejoice, “Congratulations on the renewal of your vows!” This is the exact language used in the original text in Scripture.

Hebrews 8: 6-13 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new [renewed] covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:  And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.  In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

What we in Christianity tend to claim as our new covenant was promised to Israel and to Judah [Jeremiah 31]—the unfaithful Bride of the King. This covenant was not made with us, but we’re grafted in by His mercy. It’s not a new covenant; it’s a renewed one! And it’s not the vows that have changed.

YHVH: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. 

kiddushWe sip now from the cup of the covenant, but He’ll drink with us at the wedding (as would any good Hebrew groom). We’re betrothed, promised, taken—and we’re awaiting the promise of more. Until the heavenly Jerusalem is our home, as long as there are missionaries and preachers among us, until we’ve feasted with Him and married Him and seen things too beautiful to utter…until all these things are reality there will be better things to come—better promises, heavenly ones. Unlike Israel at Mount Sinai, we know full-well of the covenant we are embracing, we are filled with His Spirit which allows us to keep it, and His ways are being etched on our hearts soon transforming us in the blink of an eye.

If upon welcoming my husband home I said, “Now, this is a new marriage! The laws you were not able to live by in our old marriage no longer apply anymore!” most would think me quite foolish. Is this the marriage we desire with our King? No, if my earthly vows are renewed they will be renewed upon better promises–fresh and sinless, old and deeply rooted. Vows will be made with a man who has seen what the world has to offer and has run back to the good things we had—faithfulness now etched on his heart. Those would be vows worth renewing.

This covenant we are so privileged to enter is one ancient and mysterious and hallowed. God is welcoming again the Bride of Heaven, equipping her for faithfulness, and washing her sins away. This is an eyes-wide-open love. This is the grateful, prostrating love of the unfaithful to the Faithful. This is the love of a Bride who has counted the cost and has chosen her Groom from the depths of her soul. This is a covenant worth renewing.

Sarah Hawkes Valente is a nine year veteran to the world of Mommy-blogging. She began blogging after watching God perform a resuscitation on her young marriage. Her debut book, “31 Days to Lovely: a journey of forgiveness,” is based on her experiences. Today, Sarah runs Whatever is Lovely Publications LLC.

  3 Responses to “A Covenant Worth Renewing”

  1. Hey Stranger.. new blog eh?? LOVE the header.. uber cutes.. just popping in to see what’s new.. I stopped surfing the blogasphere.. 3 jobs will keep ya busy.. but I’m preaching to the wrong choir, ms author & mother to a small village : ) Hope all is well.. tell that friend of yours that Girl Child still loves Eli to the moon and back.. he’s the one who brought me back to Jesus.. incase ya didn’t know.. and now me and Jesus are like >this<.. He even let's me win at Bingo all the time!! LOL and in return I do extra nice stuff for people in need.. win win.. Hope all is well!!!!

  2. An echo of what I first heard from John Piper, the marriage is more mysterious than the two people in it.

  3. […] Read more at Whatever is Lovely. […]

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