About twenty-six years ago, a handsome young man in a tux stood before me and recited loving words of commitment that began like this:
“Michele, joining my life with yours in the covenant of marriage . . .”
And so our love story began with strong promises about loving and listening, respecting and revering. By God’s grace the covenant is still in effect, and after all these years, the more I learn about myself and my all-too-obvious weaknesses and failures, the more a love based on strong promises sounds really good to me.
God’s love is like that, too – based on strong promises that have been recorded in His Word, and as I read through the book of Hebrews, I’m reminded that God’s covenant with us, His people, is firmly based upon grace. Rather than giving up on us in our stubborn disobedience, He perseveres in relationship with us and makes these stunning promises:
- “I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts.” (Hebrews 8:10) This is a promise of internal change. Since God’s commands were written on tablets of stone, any attempts to uphold the law in our own strength will only leave us crushed and without hope. However, in Christ, the standard is written with love on the lining of our hearts, and the Holy Spirit directs us toward true righteousness.
- “I will forgive and remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:11, 12) On the basis of grace and mercy, God “forgives and forgets” our failures – not because of any deficiency in God’s memory, but because He chooses not to hold them against us any longer. Given that experience of having been forgiven, it is possible for me to uphold my promise to “forgive and forget” in my relationship with my husband and to extend grace to my children when they are the repeat offenders, for certainly this is what I have experienced from the hand of our forgiving God.
I also made a series of strong promises to my husband on the day that I wore satin and lace and was surrounded by the scent of gardenias. Standing in the kitchen in my jeans and surrounded by the scent of garlic and St. Bernard, I may (occasionally) forget those promises “to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving, as God in Christ has forgiven me.” However, reading Hebrews 8, I am reassured that God will never break His promises. The strength of my covenant relationship with God is based upon His faithfulness – not my own.
Furthermore, the love of our covenant-keeping God which never fails has made possible a relationship like no other. Throughout history and around the world, humanity seeks the divine. In the search for meaning or significance, there is a struggle to somehow transcend the mortal “box” and to commune with the higher power.
By contrast, the truth of the Bible is that the God of the universe has already entered our “box,” becoming like us through the incarnation. Then, rather than demanding our obedience through fear and threats of punishment, He has offered to write His law – not merely on our doorposts, or on our Sunday-morning smiles — but on our hearts. We follow Him and live in obedience out of love and gratitude – not because we are looking for a way to heaven.
This is a love like no other.
Amy Carmichael said it well:
“Love of all loves, in Thee I know Love Divine.”
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1)