As we begin this new year of 2018, it is good for us to remember the wonderful promises that our great and glorious God has made to us who are His people, who trust in Him and Him alone. What a tragedy it is when we strive so much in our own strength or so put our trust in human beings and human ideas that we block the blessings that God has promised to us. His arms are outstretched towards us, His hands open wide to give us the glories of His Kingdom. When we are busy with our own efforts and our own ways, we do not even see what He has prepared for us. We do not see His great love and all that He has promised. His promises never fail. It is we who fail to receive them. We can be so busy pleading with Him for what we want with our heads down and our eyes closed that we do not look up and received what He is giving, what He is holding out before us. What He desires of us is obedience and a relationship that looks to Him to fulfill His word, His promises. The amazing thing that this means is that He actually wants us to remind Him of His promises—remind Him without doubting and without groveling.
Many is the time that I have preached on Isaiah, Chapter 62, God’s promise for restoring Jerusalem. Soon after He called me to prepare for the opening of North Korea, He gave me this chapter as a special word for the Jerusalem of the East, Pyongyang. Verses 6 and 7 in this chapter are to me among the most amazing and most exciting passages in all of Scripture.
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
When Isaiah proclaimed this word from the Lord, Jerusalem was a pile of rubble with no wall standing. God’s appointment of watchmen on the walls was His call to intercessors to stand in the gap between Jerusalem’s enemies and sin on the one hand and God’s wrath and power on the other. Their job was to call out to God day and night, to remind Him of His word, and—as we see most amazingly in verse 7—give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and brings all the earth to sing its praises. Imagine, all the earth proclaiming the glories and greatness of a restored Pyongyang!
It is God’s will that we remind Him of His promises until He fulfills them.
Through Scripture, we see a wonderful and glorious thread, a theme of redemption, woven into the word of God. It is the thread, the theme of His covenants with us and the signs of those covenants to remind Him of His word.
We see the first of these covenants in Genesis Chapter 9. Let’s take a close look.
“Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9-17)
A covenant is a solemn promise, a contract between parties. Normally, a covenant or contract would be two-way, binding on both parties. Following the Flood, God makes a solemn covenant between Himself and all life on earth. This is not the first promise that God made. That one is in Genesis 3 where God promises that though the serpent will bruise the head of Eve’s offspring, He will bruise the serpent. We know this to be a first promise of the Messiah to come. That was simply God’s promise; it was not a solemn covenant as God established following the Flood.
In addition to normally being two-way, a covenant also has some form of attesting sign. That is usually a document with signatures and seals but not always. Other things can serve as signs. In the case of this first covenant of God, it is a one-way covenant. God does not require anything of mankind, there is nothing that we need to do to receive this promise—we do not even need to believe it! God has simply promised that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. However, He did establish a sign of this solemn covenant. It is the sign of the rainbow. He also says of that sign, “the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant.”
We learn from this first covenant and its sign and God’s repeated statements concerning it that the sign is not meant for us to remember but as a constant reminder to God of His covenant. God says “I will remember.” Now, of course God never forgets anything so why does He make such a point of this sign of the covenant being something that reminds Him? Why are the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem told to remind God, especially after He just finished saying in verse 1 of chapter 62, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning.”? Of course, God remembers. Of course, we do not need to remind Him of anything. Then why does He call on us to remind Him? Why does He establish a sign as a reminder?
All through Scripture, we see that God’s people do just that, they call on Him to remember His promises, to fulfill His word. Here is but a brief sample of the many such passages.
“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Exodus 32:13)
“Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’” (Nehemiah 1:7-9)
Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; And this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt. (Psalm 74:2)
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Isaiah 38:2-3)
Why has God established and commanded that we remind Him, that there be signs of His covenants as reminders to Him? For one simple reason, a glorious reason that is neither found in nor understood by any other religion among mankind but only in the words of Scripture, the Faith given by God into our hands that we may proclaim it throughout the world. It is that which we have recently been celebrating when we rejoiced in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ come down from His place at the right hand of the Father in Heaven to be born a man among men, a baby in Bethlehem.
It is this, God loves us so much that He wants a relationship with us as equals. He does not love from afar, from high in Heaven. His love is immediate, personal and right here with us. It is the love towards us that establishes this amazing relationship with us that we are able to call God to account for his solemn promises. We are able to say to God, “Remember!” And, His response is “I will remember. I do remember.”
What a joy it will be to follow this thread woven through Scripture as we move towards its ultimate culmination in the events of Holy Week and the Feast of the Resurrection coming up in a few short months! Join us on this journey of exploration and the discoveries it will bring.