God has assured His covenant faithfulness with the blood of Jesus. It’s a blood-based covenant which cannot be changed or withdrawn. It is empowered by Christ’s identification with us, and entered into by our identification with Him.
Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:11)
We all have an innate need for comfort and security, and our spirits continually long for the place close to the heart of God. Somehow, knowing that we are not alone makes even the worst circumstances bearable. But it’s equally true that, like the psalmist, there are moments when we feel utterly alone and abandoned, even by God Himself. It’s at these moments that our utter dependency on Him is revealed. Our spirits cry out because they know that separation from God means the end of life. Everything else fades, and the absolute reality that we simply cannot go on without Him puts the unimportant things of the world into proper perspective. These are the moments of darkness and despair even the strongest of believers will face somewhere along the line. They are the moments when only remembering the covenant faithfulness of God will bring us safely through.
Understanding His covenant faithfulness.
We can echo the cry of the psalmist in today’s verse and fully identify with the desperation and longing behind it. It’s a reality that the human condition will bring us to these places of utter darkness. These cries to God are our reminder that reaching out to Him in these times is our only recourse. But unless we fully understand His covenant faithfulness, we will never be able to cry out with the assurance of faith. It will simply be reaching out in blind hope with no real belief to back it up – which may be worse than not reaching out at all. The critical difference between the psalmist and the new covenant believer is the cross. Under the Old Testament, God’s presence and Spirit were external. It was a matter of God with us rather than the in us provided at Calvary.
Jesus came to manifest the covenant faithfulness of God. He did this in two ways. The first is that He was willing to meet us where we are, to presence Himself physically so we could fully identify with Him and He with us. The second is His eternal presence through the Spirit. At salvation, we receive Christ in us, sealed and secured and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s no longer external but internal. The awesome reality is that firstly, we cannot be cast out of His presence because it’s in us permanently. Nothing can separate us from God. The second is that He will never withdraw His Spirit from us. This is confirmed by all He endured on the cross. If He was willing to go through all of that in order to get it into us, why would He take it out of us?
Covenant faithfulness is blood-based.
To understand this, it helps to look at Abraham with whom God made personal covenant on two occasions. The first involved putting Abraham to sleep and pledging His covenant with the blood sacrifice Abraham had made at His command. The second involved Abraham sealing the covenant with circumcision, a personal blood sacrifice to seal his agreement with God’s covenant. These are two examples, but the entire Old Testament is a type of this covenant faithfulness affirmed through the shedding of blood. The difference is they had to keep doing it. They kept the covenant going through continually sacrificing to God as per His requirements. The message is clear. Without the blood, the covenant did not continue. This was because the mercy seat was the basis through which man related with God. It was the blood on the mercy seat which empowered covenant faithfulness.
The spiritual principle behind covenant faithfulness hasn’t changed because God cannot change. What has changed, though, is that the sacrifice has been made once and for all through the cross. The blood of Jesus isn’t a natural or limited sacrifice. It’s an eternal, living sacrifice. When Jesus , ‘It is finished,’ He affirmed that no other sacrifice would ever be required to meet the covenant conditions. His supernatural sacrifice is abundantly sufficient to keep and empower the covenant faithfulness God has pledged to His people. When something is written and signed in blood, it is unbreakable because the life is in the blood. The blood of Jesus makes God’s covenant eternal and absolute. We can depend on it because it has nothing at all to do with us and everything to do with God and His nature. The blood of Jesus is our assurance that God means what He says.
Covenant faithfulness manifests in identification.
Perhaps one of the most moving and poignant prayers ever uttered is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ as Jesus hung dying on the cross. With our limited human comprehension, we can never fully grasp the magnitude of this separation. But what we can and must understand is that, in that moment, Jesus identified fully and completely with every single human being. The cry of the psalmist in today’s verse is the universal cry of humanity which Jesus echoed in a spiritual agony far greater than we will ever have to endure. It is that full identification of a sinless sacrifice with sinful humanity that reveals the full extent of the covenant faithfulness of God. Identification isn’t simply compassion with or understanding for. It is so complete that, in that moment, Jesus was you and I and every other person throughout history.
The significance is that He suffered our separation from God so that we would never have to endure it ourselves. Our emotions and our confused intellect may mistake our present circumstances as separation. We may feel abandoned or that God has turned His face from us. But the reality is that the cross has made it impossible for Him to do so. He has made a covenant signed in His own blood, rendering it binding and unbreakable, no matter what. That moment of utter darkness and despair endured by our saviour ensured that we will never, ever have to face it ourselves. Just as Jesus identified with us, so we identify with Him in faith. In essence, we have already endured it with Jesus when He endured it for us. It’s a done deal, absolute and eternal and utterly beyond any power to change or break it.
Covenant faithfulness is a way to live.
We can and must take hold of this wonderful truth that God’s covenant faithfulness remains, no matter what. At the same time, though, a covenant works both ways. We must willingly enter in and live in covenant relationship with God. He enables this through Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This seems all well and good and even remarkably simple, which it is. God doesn’t complicate things. He sent Jesus to simplify them. The problem is that we’re all so terribly human. Like Abraham – and David, Moses, Peter, and Paul, we muddle things and make mistakes along the way. Worldly pressures and human fears and insecurities intrude. We fall into wrong thought patterns, and the devil looses the little foxes when we least need them. Sometimes, the barrage of trial and suffering is so intense, the wall of darkness that hedges us around seems to extinguish the light entirely.
Fortunately, God recognises this. I’ve found myself more than once in that place of deepest darkness that exists even beyond despair. But each time, by His grace, He has reminded me of His covenant faithfulness. He reminded me that the darkness was not the spiritual reality but a human condition. It’s frighteningly easy in these moments to let go and succumb to the pressures that are so intense and seemingly endless. The temptation to yield to emotion and confusion is a powerful one. But, like the psalmist, our response should be to cry out to God. We have the assurance that He must and will respond because He has covenanted to do so. But it’s so much more than reaching out when things fall apart. We must learn to live in the assurance of His covenant faithfulness as our normal life. This means keeping the cross ever before us.
Jesus is our reminder of covenant faithfulness.
Intimacy with Christ is our sure and certain way to remaining in the covenant faithfulness of God. We must cultivate the habit of identification and live the reality of Him in us and us in Him. The power of identification is so complete that when God looks at us, He sees His son. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father. Living in the knowledge of the indwelling Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is a gift of grace, a life that transcends all the world throws at us. The blood that signed our covenant is eternal and all-powerful. There is no darkness, no tragedy, no suffering, and no emotion that can ever alter a single word of this covenant. It is something to live, not something to reach out for only in great need.
Thank You for the cross, Lord, and for the reminder that nothing can separate us from You. Help us to walk in the power of Christ in us and us in Him. Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to identify fully with Jesus so that Your covenant faithfulness becomes a way of life rather than a desperate solution. And help us, Lord, to live in faithfulness in response, trusting in You and You alone.