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When we break the covenant, God restores the covenant

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What happens when we break the covenant?

I want to begin by asking you a question: “are you breathing?” Just yes or no. If you’re breathing, raise your hand. Good, I’m just going to leave that there and we’ll come back to it, so remember your answer.
The next thing I want to ask is, have you ever been in a relationship or or have you known someone else in a relationship that has been damaged beyond repair? It could be a friendship, a dating relationship, or others, where the two people just can’t be in the same place as one another.
Last time I used a dance metaphor to explain God’s covenant relationship. But what happens when we quit the dance? What happens when God raises up a people from Abraham but then the people says “we don’t want to be your people anymore?” What I want to look at is, how does God respond to that, and what happens to that relationship?
When we break God’s covenant, God dramatically
When we break God’s Covenant, God restores his covenant
But God treats us in
When we forget God, God remembers us

The people of Israel refuse God’s covenant

The Old Testament passage in 2 Chronicles used to be the last thing in the whole Hebrew Bible. It’s a summary of how The nation of Israel, now split into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah rejected God’s covenant. They rejected God’s covenant by intentionally choosing to commit and tolerate the sins that God forbade in the Law, and by worshipping idols instead of God. Judah has some bright spots, but overall, it’s a painful story of slowly forgetting God. And here we get to see how God reacts when we, his people, reject his covenant.
God sends messengers to warn the people. These are the prophets. The big dogs are Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and there were many others. None of them had an easy time of it. Israel and Judah showed just how thoroughly they wanted to reject God by persecuting the prophets.
When the people do not listen, God punishes his people. The way he does it is important. He causes a foreign nation to defeat them, kill them by the sword, and enslave them. Sounds harsh, I know, but let’s think about this for a minute. God creates this people specifically to be his people. That means they aren’t like other kingdoms and people groups. Every time they go into battle they call on the Lord and the Lord fights the battle for them. Their national defense, their economy, their culture, their rituals, everything is linked to God’s provision. And after refusing warning after warning, invitation after invitation from the prophets, Israel and Judah get their message across: “no we’re good. We’ll take it from here.” And God finally says, “okay” and he pulls his sponsorship.

We can refuse God too

This isn’t just ancient history. It’s for us today.
There are ways in our own lives that we refuse to live God’s covenant life.
Paul in the New Testament affirms how God acts by the very same pattern as he does in the Old Testament. He warns his people. Paul in describes God’s wrath as giving people up to what they want and allowing them to wallow in their sins and dishonorable passions.
Just like God gave the people of Israel up to their lifestyle, Paul in describes God’s wrath as giving people up to what they want and allowing them to wallow in their sins and dishonorable passions.
Just like in the Bible, we are capable of this today. I’m not talking about periods of spiritual dryness, and I’m not talking about struggling with sin (struggling means trying not to commit sin, it means confessing sins when we fail, it means petitioning God for the grace to avoid them and for victory over them) that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about either a willful rejection of God or a wilful and sustained neglect of God’s presence in our lives. It can be really immediate and dramatic, like we decide to refuse to believe in him or ignore him, or we can reject his law and begin intentionally living a lifestyle of sin that breaks his laws and stops asking forgiveness, because we don’t think it’s a big deal. It can also be a very gradual process, where we stop paying attention, stop praying, stop attending Church, stop receiving the Eucharist and over time, we find ourselves far away from even remembering to remember the Lord.
I won’t save this application till the end: If you feel like this could be you, then consider that God might be warning you. Listen and return to covenant relationship with him in Jesus Christ.
Listen to the warnings because, God gives us what we ask for and we may feel some sense of release from guilt or that instinctive pull back to Church or prayer or the Eucharist. Life apart from the Lord is a lifestyle choice that the Didache calls “the Way of Weath” I don’t have time to go into why The Way of Death is a bad deal for us or what we can expect from that choice, it would have to be the subject of another and far more depressing sermon. Because the point of this sermon is to talk about God.
If this describes you, consider how God might be warning you even now. It could be pangs of guilt. It could be friends are family members that you know are concerned about you or are actively challenging you to return to God. I would urge you as your pastor not to ignore these. Do not treat them as “hang-ups” to be overcome on the way to a happy life. When God warns, listen

The covenant does not depend on us

But it turns out that even when God’s people reject him and his covenant, God does not forget his people and he does not forget his covenant. When God makes a covenant he fulfills it and nothing can stop him. The good news is this: the covenant does not depend on us keeping it. It really doesn’t. This is very very good news.
Let me take us back for a moment to Genesis. Remember the weird way God makes a covenant with Abram in ? He has him split a cow, a goat, a ram, and two birds in two and then God sent his fire to pass between the pieces lying there. This was a covenant ritual. Both parties were supposed to pass through the pieces which meant: “may this happen to me if I break this agreement.” But notice that only God passes through the pieces, not Abram. This means the fulfillment of the covenant does not depend on Abram but on God alone. God’s promises don’t depend on us.
Because God does not forget his people and he does not forget his covenant.
“It is not for your sake O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned…and the nations will know that I am the Lord…when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.”
But after the exile, the temple destroyed and the people dispersed, how could this possibly happen?
Israel is in exile, it’s been seventy years. And then another empire, the Persians, defeats, the Babylonian Empire.
Well get this, Israel is in exile, it’s been seventy years. And then another empire, the Persians, defeats, the Babylonian Empire. Okay big deal. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss right?
The Persian emperor Cyrus has just pretty much inherited the whole world, and he sits down on his throne for a few years and then he gives an edict. And it singlehandedly restores Israel’s hope. To say this is out of nowhere is an understatement. At the darkest ends of defeat, God restores both his covenant and his people in a single stroke.

God restores us today

So I want to ask you again: are you still breathing? Good, because that means something. It means that God has not forgotten you. You can know that God has not forgotten you because you’re still breathing. The Israelites believed not just that God created everything, but that he actively sustains everything. That means that if God were to actually forget about you, you would cease to exist. So if you went to a rabbi and asked if God had forgotten about you, he would ask “are you still breathing?” because if you are that means God has not forgotten you.
It doesn’t matter how out of it you are, how far you’ve gone or wandered. God is ready to snatch you back from the jaws of defeat and restore you and put a new heart and a new spirit in you. He loves to restore his people. And if you’re still breathing, it means he wants you back.
He wants you back so much that God himself came down from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ and when he did, he performed a miracle even greater than Cyrus. He showed the power of God to restore and snatch people back from death. When the crowds needed food, Jesus took the smallest pieces and multiplied them into a huge feast!
Jesus Christ
He did this to show us something because when we return to him we come with so very little. Even with the smallest tiniest ounce of faith in God, Jesus takes it and multiplies it into everything you need to restore you to his glorious saving covenant life. He welcomes you back as his child. Like the prodigal son returning with the barest minimum of apology, saying “look just hire me I guess” that’s us returning from our sins. But Jesus rushes out to meet us no matter what. He restores us dramatically back into his grace.
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