Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this. . .Psalm 37
My kids went to Christian schools, and so did I. So did their mother. Christian school was—still is, for that matter—a significant part of the faith tradition in which I was reared. I hope my children are continuing in that tradition, not because it’s a tradition but because I still think teaching children—even college students—that this world belongs to God is the foundation of the very best way to learn.
I’m preaching. Sorry.
At the core of my faith tradition lies something people have called “covenant theology,” an idea that is rooted in the Old Testament covenant: if you will be my people, I will be your God.
Historically, I share the theological heritage of the 17th century American puritans; our part of the Christian mosaic is historically called “Calvinistic.” My heritage in the Christian faith isn’t Roman Catholic or Lutheran or Anabaptist; the theological principles of my heritage come from the theology of John Calvin.
Perry Miller, the great American Puritan scholar, makes the point somewhere that covenant theology (the Puritans called it “federal theology,” but it’s the pretty much the same idea) really spelled the demise of the Puritan theocracy because it made God, well, understandable. If one lives by the promise of covenant theology—if I’m good, he’ll be good to me—it’s almost impossible not to believe that we aren’t the architects of our own righteousness. It’s a swap, right? If I’m good, I’ll get a Christmas present.
You may not have noticed, but today’s verse, as well as yesterdays (and the promise of tomorrow’s too), is a promise: “if we do good things, God will do good things.” Listen to them: trust in the Lord and you’ll live well; take joy in the Lord and he’ll take joy in you; and today—commit to the Lord and he won’t let you alone. Each is propositional—your joy is contingent on your faith. It’s up to me.
I think Perry Miller was right. It’s not at all hard to get the sense here that we control our own destinies, that we devise the plot lines of our lives. If we love him, he’ll love us. If we do good, we’ll get the goods we need.
But then Job comes along to foul things up. We’re reading the story right now, my wife and I. In our world there’s no end to suffering. I know a warm family of believers who, right now, as they greet the morning, know all too well that one of the kids is gone, dead.
I’m a hearty believer in covenant theology. I take the Lord seriously when he promises what he does. I’m thankful my grandchildren are in Christian schools. I believe that my striving for good—that my writing these words—are part of what I owe to my Lord for his inestimable gift of life eternal.
But I honestly don’t believe that my writing these words—or my grandkids going to Christian school—guarantees anything. Seems to me that the Christian life isn’t the stock market; we don’t go to the bank with our faith.
But God will bless. I know that. I know that because he does. Now. Right now, in fact, as I write he blesses. As I live, he blesses. As I babysit this afternoon, he’ll bless me too. But he doesn’t bless because I’m writing these words or babysitting. He blesses us because he loves us.