25 Sep 2019

God’s Covenant of Shalom/Peace

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Christian hope, Exegesis, Faith, Forgiveness, Grace, Hebrew Bible, Isaiah

Covenants

Have you ever heard of the “Covenant of Shalom/Peace”?

Covenants. I grew up on the language of “old” covenant and “new” covenant. In my world the “Old Covenant” was synonymous with the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament. Much of my education regarding covenants was by way of contrast: negative for the old and more positive for the new.

That “old” covenant was a colossal legalistic mistake and thankfully “nailed to the cross” as the old saw says.

But I did not know the Bible very well, honestly. I didn’t. I knew the standard topics that were important to my little band of non-sectarian sectarians. But I did not know that the Bible bears stunning witness to the truth that:

1) the Bible does not reduce itself into “old” covenant vs. “new” covenant;
2) there are numerous covenants in the Bible;
3) except for God’s covenant with creation in Genesis 9, all covenants are have Israel, or a person within Israel, as the object of the covenant;
4) what the NT calls the “old” covenant is not a synonym with Genesis to Malachi;
5) All of God’s covenants are of Hesed/steadfast love and grace.

Covenant of Shalom

Have you heard of God’s covenant of shalom/peace? We find this stunning covenant buried in Isaiah 54. It is a beautiful text spoken to the people of Israel who are “dead.” That is they are in exile. They are in exile because they have grievously sinned. Their sin is characterized throughout the Hebrew Bible as adultery (idolatry). Israel is in the tomb of exile by a self-inflicted wound.

The people of God, Zion, are addressed as a barren woman and a woman that has been caste off in divorce. These are powerful and graphic images both in there historical setting and still gripping in our own. But this woman is commanded by Yahweh, of all things, to sing.

Singing is associated with joy but this woman has no apparent reason for joy. Or does she.

God, not Israel, has acted in tomb shattering grace. God is calling her out of death and into life. She has a grace alone given status! She will forget her shame … her self-inflicted shame. This why she is told to rejoice in song.

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer

She is no longer barren, she is no longer a divorcee. She has a “husband” who is non-other than the Creator God, Yahweh of Israel. The divorcee is married by God!

Indeed, Yahweh says that it was only for a short time that Israel endured God’s wrath (i.e. spurned love). Israel had been faithless for centuries on end. Yahweh has truly been “sloooooooooooow to anger.” Israel’s wound was self-inflicted.

But Yahweh will not let the story end in her ultimate death. God refused to allow the story end in either divorce or death.

It was in a “surge of anger” that for ” brief moment” God let the chips fall where they may in exile. “But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you” and bring Israel back.

Yahweh then says that the history of Israel had reached a “Noah’s flood” type moment. Human bloodshed had vandalized the good creation and the flood was unleashed. But then God swore to never again strike the earth in such a fashion. So now Yahweh makes the astounding promise, based on nothing but God’s own integrity, “ I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.

So astonishing is this promise of God that the Lord seals it in a covenant just as in the days of Noah.

my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my COVENANT OF SHALOM shall not be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

God’s hesed, declared to be God’s name in Exodus 34.6 in the face of the Golden Calf, and shalom will never be removed from the pulled out of the grave people of God.

What a powerful, indeed revolutionary, word of the Lord. God has entered into a “covenant of shalom/peace” with even those who were dead in their trespasses, buried in the Babylonian exile, who were where they were by their own hand. Yahweh refused to let the Story end there.

Have you heard of the Covenant of Peace? For many years I never did. It is another one of those texts that I had no engagement with. But Paul the apostle knew of the covenant of peace and its gracious language lies behind those epic words in Romans 5.1-11.

Isaiah 54, God’s Covenant of Shalom, has been for many years now been one of my favorite passages of the Bible. It preaches God’s grace as loudly as Augustine or Luther ever did.

May God’s Shalom surround you on this day

3 Responses to “God’s Covenant of Shalom/Peace”

  1. john acuff Says:

    as usual you do a great job on opening the Hebrew scriptures and I am encouraged

  2. Charlie Robinson Says:

    Wouldn’t this Covenant of Shalom be referring to Jesus and the New Covenant in Him?

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