“YHWH, Elohey Yisrael, there is none like You, Elohim, in the heavens or in the earth, keeping covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.” 2 Chronicles 6:14 (Darby)
Keeping Covenant – Who keeps promises these days? Not me. I’ve broken quite a few in my time. I suspect that you have too. Who among us is consistently reliable? Who among us has never failed to keep his word? I can think of only one – YHWH Elohim. When Solomon stood before the temple and began his prayer of dedication, only one came to his mind – YHWH Elohim. But we all knew this, didn’t we?
Perhaps it would be instructive to look a little deeper into the idea of keeping covenant (shomer habrit). The verb shamar means more than “keeping” a promise. It also means preserving that promise, guarding it, watching over it carefully in order to sustain it. It is the original verb of stewarding (Genesis 2:15), describing the assignment of the first couple. It is also used to describe observing or maintaining. Solomon does not simply mean that God never breaks His word. He means that God takes whatever measures are necessary to insure His word is never violated, ignored or disobeyed.
But you will say, “Wait a minute. All kinds of people disregard God’s promises.” Yes, they do – temporarily. God will insure that in the end His word is fulfilled, His promise is kept. If this means that those who consistently oppose His covenant must be removed, then He will do what is needed to keep His promise. It is inevitable. He has said so.
“Consume chaos in a person.” Shamar. The effect of keeping a promise is to destroy chaos. Every godly promise kept redeems the world. Every promise broken opens the door to confusion and disorder. A promise kept devours the impending turmoil of the enemy.
Of course, Solomon had specific promises in mind. He praised YHWH for the beriyth, the covenant, the alliance, the agreement that made Israel a beneficiary. There are many covenants in Scripture. Some are permanent. Some are not. The beriyth that made Israel God’s chosen people is a permanent one. Why? Because God made the promise to Himself. Dictionaries that imply “the covenants made between God and humans defined the basis of God’s character in the Old Testament” are not quite correct. The critical covenant is with Israel, not with humankind. Israel plays a role in the redemptive plan that no other nation and no other people can play. Solomon knew that. David knew that. The sooner we figure that out, the easier life will be. Paul certainly had that in mind when he addressed the Gentiles about being grafted into the root (and not the other way around). THE PROMISE KEEPER – YHWH Elohey – keeps His word with Israel.
Sometime in the second or third century, the early church fathers turned the promises upside down. They removed God’s promise to Israel and replaced it with a “promise” to the Church. This exegetical shift has precipitated untold confusion and terrible ethnic discrimination. Even today Christians are likely to believe that Jews must convert to Christianity in order to belong to God’s Kingdom. What would your understanding of the Bible become if you read it according to the unbreakable and eternal covenant of God naming Israel as His beneficiary? How much Scripture would have to be reconsidered? How many doctrines would have to be re-evaluated? The beginning of that process, if it is going to begin at all, is a simple question: What did YHWH Elohey promise?
Topical Index: covenant, promise, keep, guard, shamar, beriyth, 2 Chronicles 6:14