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God Remembers His Covenant
“And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage” (Exodus 2:23).
The children of Israel had been oppressed under Pharaoh for many years. At last, Pharaoh died. They must have hoped for relief from the new Egyptian king. But their miseries were only increased. They had, no doubt, sighed, and groaned, and cried much during their bondage in Egypt. But we are not told that they cried unto God until now. Is that the case with you? How often it is! We all sigh, and groan, and cry because of trouble. But our heavenly Father’s chastening rod is intended to graciously force us to pour out our souls to him. When our trials bring us to our Savior’s feet, lay us low, and keep us there, then our trials have been blessed and sanctified to our souls (Hebrews 4:16).
Many cry because of trouble and groan because of sorrow, without regard to their sin, which is the great cause of trouble and sorrow. Theirs is a repentance to be repented of. Job tells us that they cry, but cry not to God (Job 35:9-10). There is no crying to God, without crying because of sin. Do we cry out to our God in repentance; or do we just cry? Do our troubles lead us to repentance, or do they only lead us to sorrow? Blessed are they who are constrained by God’s grace to cry out to him, looking to him alone for deliverance by his own free grace in Christ.
“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (vv. 24-25). — Here we see the order by which God’s grace comes into our souls. God’s covenant is the source and cause of all mercy and grace. God remembers his covenant. He hears the cries of his chosen, looks upon us in mercy, and has respect unto his elect, because he has respect unto his covenant. — “The Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant” (2 Kings 13:23).
God remembers his covenant. He may chasten us; but he always remembers his covenant. He often hides his face; but he always remembers his covenant. He sometimes appears to forget us, and even appears to forsake us; but he always remembers his covenant (Isaiah 54:4-10; Psalm 89:28-34). Though we often forsake him, he will never forsake us. Though we often forget him, he will never forget us. Though “we believe not, yet, he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
I want you to see, and see it clearly for yourself, that I have not stretched the meaning of the words stated and the promises implied in our text beyond the intent of God the Holy Spirit. If you will turn to Psalm 106, you will see in that Psalm that David was inspired to praise God for his goodness and mercy, ever remembering his covenant, in spite of the many sins and failures of his saints. In verses 1 and 2 he calls us to praise our God and give thanks to him. Then, he asks God to remember him, and teaches us to do so (vv. 4-5).
Next, David begins to confess the sins of Israel, celebrating God’s faithfulness and goodness, his mercy and grace to such a sinful, undeserving people (vv. 6-7, 13-15, 19-25, 28-29, 36-39, 43). Remember, throughout this Psalm, David is talking about our experience of God’s grace in this world. Israel’s whole experience typified ours. In verses 8, David tells us why God is so faithfully gracious to us. — “Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.” And in verses 44-45, David refers to our text in Exodus 2:24-25. — “Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.”
There is something very powerful about the cry of a child to its father and mother. And there is something very powerful about our cries to our God, the most tender of all fathers. — “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). So, let us kiss the hand that wounds us, and that hand will bind us up. Cry out to your heavenly Father, and he will turn unto you in loving kindness, because God remembers his covenant.
“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.”
Why did the Lord hear the cries of his afflicted children in Egypt? Why did he have respect to his people in their trouble? — “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” He looked to the covenant he had made of old with their father Abraham, when he said, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” Because that promise had gone out of his mouth, he would not withdraw it! Here is a cause for great joy. — Our God finds the reason for his mercy to us in himself, and in himself alone! Therefore, we have reason to believe and to believe confidently, that he will ever be gracious to us. He remembers his covenant. Though there is nothing in us to fetch his mercy, there is everything in the covenant. He remembers his own covenant and, for his own name’s sake, he deals with us in mercy.
Our text does not say, “God remembered their covenant.” They broke every covenant they made, just as we do. Our text says, “God remembered his covenant.” — “Nevertheless, for their sake, he remembered his covenant.” And his covenant is a covenant of pure, free, sovereign grace.
The Lord said to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” That same covenant, after being made more fully known in his promises to Moses and many others, was stated anew in Psalm 89. — “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.” Since then the Lord has given us promises by his Prophets and Apostles, and particularly in the Person and ministry of his own dear Son, affirming that same, blessed, and everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. It is this covenant that God remembers that is the great foundation upon which all our hopes are built.
Blessed be his name, our God has made for us an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. And this is all our salvation, and all our desire. The covenant God remembered was made long before the mercy was needed. Our text speaks of a covenant remembered. It could not have been remembered had it not been made beforehand. In love he remembered the covenant as an abiding thing. Our God declares, “My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” What shall I say about this covenant? How does the Word of God describe it?
Š This covenant is an everlasting covenant (2 Samuel 23:5).
Š This covenant, which our God has made for us from eternity, is a covenant of pure, free grace. Everything in it speaks of grace (Jeremiah 31:3, 31-34; 32:37-41).
Š This everlasting covenant of grace is a covenant made in anticipation of, not as a reaction to, our needs (Isaiah 48:4-8).
When God chose Abraham and made him his friend, he knew what failures there would be in Abraham and in his seed. He made his choice deliberately, knowing the end from the beginning and foreseeing all the provocations which he would endure for 40 years in the wilderness, and how they would provoke him to anger again and again in the Land of Canaan. So, too, God’s choice of his redeemed was made deliberately; and the promises made to us in Christ were given in the full knowledge of all our unbelief, lukewarmness, backsliding, selfishness, folly, and sin!
“I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I showed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them…Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” (Isaiah 48:3-8)
“He saw us ruined in the Fall
Yet loved us notwithstanding all.”
The covenant is not according to what we deserve, but according to the greatness of God’s grace and the immutably of his promise.
Š This covenant of grace was sealed and ratified, made sure and certain by Christ our Surety, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
When God revealed his covenant to Abraham, Abraham was commanded to offer sacrifices later identified as sin-offerings (Leviticus 1-5). The sacrifices were slain and divided. Then, the image of a burning lamp passed between the pieces. What a solemn night that was! When Abraham awoke from his sleep, he saw vultures attempting to devour the sacrifices, and drove them away. Thus the covenant was symbolically ratified before him. But when the triune God made his covenant for us, the seal he gave was infinitely greater and infinitely more precious. He took his only-begotten Son and gave him to be a Covenant to us (Isaiah 49:8).
The covenant was made sure by “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” by the blood of the Lamb, our Surety, accepted and trusted from eternity. Our Savior says, as we hold the cup at the Table, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” His blood, accepted before God and accepted by our God from everlasting, has made us accepted, and has procured for us all mercy and grace from everlasting (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6).
Can God deny his promise to his bleeding Son? Can he turn his back from the promise he made to the Son of his love in his death? Never! — “By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Can these promises fail? Impossible! The very thought of such a possibility is blasphemous! This covenant, ratified and made sure by the death of our great Surety and Sacrifice, can never be repealed, neglected, changed, or forgotten.
Š This everlasting covenant of grace will and must stand forever, because the very glory of the triune God stands or falls with it (Ephesians 1:3-14). He declares, “This people have I formed for Myself: they shall show forth My praise!” (Read Micah 7:17-18; Ephesians 2:7).
I fully agree with C. H. Spurgeon, who wrote…
“God is more glorified in the Covenant of Grace than in creation, or in Providence. — In fact, creation and Providence are but the temporary scaffold of the great house which God is building, even the God who inhabits the praises of Israel! The Lord cannot break His Word, nor forego His designs, nor forget His promises. Do not even think it! The crown jewels of God are staked and pawned upon the carrying out of the Covenant of Grace!”
Blessed be his name, it is not possible for God to break his covenant, no matter what strain is put upon it, even by us! The covenant and purpose of our God to save his own stands fast; come what may. — “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” They that trust in the Lord, notwithstanding all the enormous weight of their sin, shall find him faithful to his covenant. He will keep his covenant forever.
God ever keeps his covenant; but how often we forget! It appears that the children of Israel had forgotten the covenant while they were in Egypt. Whether that is absolutely so or not, this is. — We often forget! How often, because of sin and sorrow, when we are laid low, we say, “The Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me.” When we do, the Lord our God, our covenant keeping God asks, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15).
These are the terms of our marriage covenant with God our Savior.
“And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD” (Hosea 2:18-20).
Though we often forget him and his covenant, he declares…
“Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 16:60-63).
He is still God in covenant with us. Though he causes grief, yet will he have compassion. He has said, “All things work together for good to them that love God,” and he will keep his Word. He has also said, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Depend upon it. He will preserve you. — “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
“What cheering words are these!
Their sweetness who can tell?
In time and to eternal days,
‘Tis with the righteous well.”
In wrath, our God ever remembers mercy. Oh that we could learn to say with Job, in the darkest night of our most difficult trials, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!”
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Though, to our shame, we often forget, our God always remembers his covenant. Because he remembered his covenant, when the children of Israel groaned in Egypt, “God heard their groanings.” Because the covenant is always before him, he remembers it, stands to it, and performs it. Because he remembers his covenant, the Lord our God hears the groanings of our hearts (Romans 8:22-27). He ever looks upon us with tenderness and compassion, with the pity of a loving father (Psalm 103:13-14). Because he remembers his covenant, our great God always has respect unto his own. — That is to say, he always loves us, knows us, owns us as his own, accepts us, approves of us, and cares for us (Isaiah 63:9). Because of Christ, with whom the covenant of grace was made, in whom it stands, who is forever the Father’s delight, the Father has compassion on us. God remembers the covenant, because he remembers Christ; and he would have us ever looking to Christ, to remember his covenant (Hebrews 9:15; 10:9-14).