The Covenant Pleaded
“Have respect unto the covenant.”—Psalm Ixxiv. 20.
HE will succeed in prayer who understands the science of pleading with God. “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together,” is a divine command. “Come now, let us reason together” is a sacred invitation. “Bring forth your strong reasons, saith the Lord,” is a condescending direction as to the way of becoming victorious in supplication. Pleading is wrestling: arguments are the grips, the feints, the throes, the struggles with which we hold and vanquish the covenant angel. The humble statement of our wants is not without its value, but to be able to give reasons and arguments why God should hear us is to offer potent, prevalent prayer. Among all the arguments that can be used in pleading with God, perhaps there is none stronger than this—“Have respect unto the covenant.” Like Goliath's sword, we may say of it, “There is none like it.” If we have God's word for a thing we may well pray, “Do as thou hast said, for as a good man only needs to be reminded of his own word in order to be brought to keep it, even so is it with our faithful God; he only needs that for these things we put him in remembrance to do them for us.” If he has given us more than his word, namely, his covenant, his solemn compact, we may then with the greatest composure of spirit cry to him, “Have respect unto the covenant,” and then we may both hope and quietly wait for his salvation.
I need not tell you, for you are, I trust, well-grounded in that matter, that the covenant here spoken of is the covenant of grace. There is a covenant which we could not plead in prayer, the covenant of works, a covenant which destroys us, for we have broken it. Our first father sinned, and the covenant was broken; we have continued in his perverseness, and that covenant condemns us. By the covenant of works can none of us be justified, for we continue stilt to break om portion of it, and to bring upon ourselves wrath to the uttermost. The Lord hath made a new covenant with the second Adam, our federal head, Jesus Christ our Lord,—a covenant without conditions, except such conditions as Christ has already fulfilled, a covenant, ordered in all things and sure, which now consists of promises only, which run after this fashion—“I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people ”: “A new heart also will I give them, and a right spirit will I put within them”: “From all their transgressions will I cleanse them”:—a covenant, I say, which had once conditions in it, all of which our Lord Jesus fulfilled when he finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness; and now the covenant is all of promise, and consists of infallible and eternal shalls and wills, which shall abide the same for ever.
We shall talk of the text thus, What is meant by the plea before us—“Have respect unto the covenant”? Then we will think a little of whence it derives its force: thirdly, we will consider how and when we may plead it: and we will close by noticing what are the practical inferences from it.
I. Let us begin by this—WHAT IS MEANT BY THE PLEA Have respect unto the covenant”? It means this, does it not? “Fulfil thy covenant, O God: let it not be a dead letter. Thou hast said this and that; now do as thou hast said. Thou hast been pleased by solemn sanction of oath and blood to make this covenant with thy people. Now be pleased to keep it. Hast thou said, and wilt thou not do it? We are persuaded of thy faithfulness, let our eyes behold thy covenant engagements fulfilled.
It means again, “Fulfil all the promises of thy covenant,” for indeed all the promises are now in the covenant. They are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God by us; and I may say without being unscriptural that the covenant contains within its sacred charter every gracious word that has come from the Most High, either by the mouth of prophets or apostles, or by the lips of Jesus Christ himself. The meaning in this case would be—“Lord, keep thy promises concerning thy people. We are in want: now, O Lord, fulfil thy promise that we shall not want any good thing. Here is another of thy promises: ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.’ We are in rivers of trouble. Be with us now. Redeem thy promises to thy servants. Let them not stand on the book as letters that mock us, but prove that thou didst mean what thou didst write and say, and let us see that thou hast power and will to make every jot and tittle good of all thou hast spoken. For hast thou not said, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away’? Oh then have respect unto the promises of thy covenant.”
In the connection of our text there is no doubt that the suppliant meant, “O Lord, prevent anything from turning aside thy promises.” The church was then in a very terrible state. The temple was burnt, and the assemblage broken up, the worship of God had ceased, and idolatrous emblems stood even in the holy place where once the glory of God shone forth. The plea is, “Do not suffer the power of the enemy to be so great as to frustrate thy purposes, or to make thy promises void.” So may we pray—“O Lord, do not suffer me to endure such temptation that I shall fall. Do not suffer such affliction to come upon me that I shall be destroyed; for hast thou not promised that no temptation shall happen to us but such as we are able to bear, and that with the temptation there shall be a way of escape? Now have respect unto thy covenant, and so order thy providence that nothing shall happen to us contrary to that divine agreement.”
And it means also, “So order everything around us that the covenant may be fulfilled. Is thy church low? Raise up again in her midst men who preach the gospel with power, who shall be the means of her uplifting. Creator of men, Master of human hearts, thou who canst circumcise human lips to speak thy word with power, do this, and let thy covenant with thy church that thou wilt never leave her be fulfilled. The kings of the earth are in thy hand. All events are controlled by thee. Thou orderest all things, from the minute to the immense. Nothing, however small, is too small for thy purpose: nothing, however great, is too great for thy rule. Manage everything so that in the end each promise of thy covenant shall be fulfilled to all thy chosen people.”
That, I think, is the meaning of the plea, “Have respect unto the covenant.” Keep it and see it kept. Fulfil the promise, and prevent thy foes from doing evil to thy children. Precious plea, assuredly.
II. And now let us see WHENCE IT DERIVES ITS FORCE. “Have respect unto the covenant.”