July 5: Psalm 137

Chris Donato
The concept of "covenant" is rightly deemed in our circles to be a central interpretive principle of Scripture and Israel's history. It also envelopes the believer's entire earthly pilgrimage (see Deut. 6:4-9). Nevertheless, the idea remains confusing for many. 

Simply put, with respect to redemption, God's covenant with man is gracious and everlasting, resting on his oath that should it fail, he will be torn in two (Gen. 15; cf. Jer. 34:18). However, this simple early covenant grows more complex as the biblical narrative continues. By the time we reach 1 Samuel 12, we see provisos upon which the fulfillment of the covenant seems to rest. How are we to understand God's conditions? We ignore them only at our peril. 
Herein lies the tension: If the covenant of grace is eternal, why does God impose stipulations? Is the fulfillment of the covenant at risk? In one sense, yes--the stakes are the very blessings of the covenant itself: "For Yahweh will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake . . . . But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away" (1 Sam. 12:22, 25). Though the covenant will see its end (Gen. 17:7-8), and while we can be sure that God will direct it toward its goal, we have no right to such certainty if we practice lawlessness (Matt. 7:21-23).

Perhaps the greatest tension of all now comes to the fore--our inevitable failure to keep the conditions of this covenant. Who, then, "will put security for me?" (Job 17:3). Praise be to God there is an answer. Our security is in the risen Christ, who met all the conditions on our behalf with his perfect loyalty and obedience. Even further, his work established covenant living for us: we take seriously the conditions of the covenant and strive, not to gain salvation, not to get God to love us, but to live accordingly in covenant with our Creator and Redeemer.

Failing in this secures our citizenship in that dismal city of ruin where the Tower of Babel stands, where its kings exclaim, "Is this not great Babylon, that I have built . . . by my mighty power?" (Dan. 4:30), and its depraved inhabitants respond, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). Instead, let us this day, along with the psalmist in ancient days, make citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem our greatest joy (Ps. 137:6).