Lately I have been pondering God’s favour, His blessing and how He brings about deliverance from impossible situations for those who trust Him. We can learn a lot from the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah. Previously we looked at the life of King Asa who was one of the kings of Judah, a fifth generation descendent of King David. Asa started out very well, turning the hearts of the people of Judah away from idolatry and trusting in the Lord to deliver them in battle when they faced a vastly more powerful adversary, but as God blessed him, he became more powerful and wealthy and used his wealth to make a treaty with a foreign nation; he stopped relying on the Lord who was the source of his success. When the Lord rebuked him through the prophet Hanani, rather than repenting and turning back to God, he was enraged. Nevertheless Asa is described in 1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 15:17 as being “fully committed to the Lord all his life”. Even though he failed to admit his sin and in his pride and he didn’t seek healing from God when he became afflicted with a severe disease of the feet, he never engaged in idol worship.
Today I want to look at the benefits of being part of a covenant (promise, agreement, treaty) relationship with God through the lives of two of Asa’s ancestors- his father King Abijah and his great-great-grandfather King David.
David is described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He sought after the Lord all his life, he never worshipped idols and remained faithful to God and God blessed him with victory in battle and wealth. Israel prospered under his reign. Yet David made some serious mistakes- namely committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his loyal warriors Uriah the Hittite (1 Chronicles 11:41), and then when Bathsheba became pregnant, arranging Uriah’s death in battle in order to cover up his own sin (2 Samuel 11). However when confronted by the prophet Nathan, unlike his descendent Asa, David was deeply repentant. He admitted his guilt but he trusted in the Lord’s unfailing love and forgiveness. Even though under Mosaic Law the penalty for adultery and murder was death, upon seeing David’s repentance, the Lord was merciful. Nathan said to David “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13). In response David wrote Psalm 51.
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
David had such an understanding of the mercy, love and compassion of God that he not only had the audacity to ask for his wickedness and sin to be completely blotted out and washed away (Psalm 51:1-2), but he also asked for his joy to be restored (verse 8 and 12) and for Jerusalem (his capital city) to prosper and be built up (verses 18 and 19). No wonder he was described as a man after God’s own heart- he knew it is always God’s desire to forgive us, to restore us, to build us up and to prosper us! At his time of greatest sin he would also have been comforted by the fact that he was living under a covenant promise from God to bless his family line forever, which gave him the courage to ask for restoration and blessing despite the gravity of his failings.
Because David was a man after God’s own heart, God had made him a tremendous promise. 2 Samuel 7 recounts how David wanted to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant, which embodied the presence of the Lord, but the Lord is always the One who wants to give to us first! God told David, “Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” (2 Samuel 7:7).
The Lord effectively told David, “you’re not going to build me a house, I’m going to build one for you and establish it forever!”
2 Samuel 7:11b-16
“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”
God made an everlasting covenant with David to establish his “house” – his family line – to reign over his kingdom forever. Though David had wanted to build a temple for the Lord- a “physical” house, God was going to build a dynasty for David- “the House of David”. And this dynasty was going to last eternally! What God does for us always far exceeds what we deserve and is beyond our capacity to earn.
In response David praised the Lord and God’s promise gave him courage to ask for eternal blessing:
2 Samuel 7:27-29
27“Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.29Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
So later when David’s sin with Bathsheba was exposed, he could rely on not only on God’s mercy, love and compassion but also on His faithfulness to His promises. David’s sin did not cancel the covenant. Even the sin of David’s descendants would not cancel this covenant. It was unconditional. God had promised and God would fulfil. Though the kingdom of Israel was later divided during the reign of David’s grandson Rehoboam, due to Solomon’s (Rehoboam’s father) idolatry, David continued to have one of his descendants on the throne of Judah for generations to come and the promise was finally eternally fulfilled by the greatest Son of David, Jesus Christ, who by his earthly heritage was a descendant of David on both his mother Mary’s side and His stepfather Joseph’s side (Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38)!
If only King Asa had understood this, the latter part of his reign could have ended so differently. But if we can grasp the magnitude of the covenant blessings Jesus has made available to us we will face every difficulty we come across, whether by our own sin, or through no fault of our own, with confidence in the Lord to deliver us, to restore us and even, to prosper us.
Now let’s look at the life of David’s great grandson and Asa’s father, King Abijah.
The events of Abijah’s reign are recounted in 1 Kings 15:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 13:1-22. Abijah is described in 1 Kings 15:3 as committing all the sins of his father (Rehoboam) before him and not being fully devoted to the Lord in contrast to his forefather David. Nevertheless because of David, God gave Abijah a son (Asa) to reign after him. The sins committed by the people of Judah in his father Rehoboam’s reign are described in 1 Kings 14:
1 Kings 14:23-24
23They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.
This idolatry persisted during Abijah’s reign and it was his son Asa that expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made (1 Kings 15:12).
Nevertheless, despite the fact that Abijah allowed idol worship to continue in Judah and his heart was not fully committed to the Lord, he knew the Lord’s covenant with his forefather David and he knew the Lord was fully committed to his covenant! Abijah reigned for only 3 years before he died and his son Asa succeeded him to the throne of Judah but in that time he called upon the covenant promise and won a mighty victory and Jerusalem was strengthened.
2 Chronicles 13 tells of the war between Jeroboam king of Israel and Abijah king of Judah. Israel had split during Rehoboam’s reign into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Israel was now ruled by Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials, an Ephramite (1 Kings 11:26) and Judah by Abijah who succeeded his father Rehoboam to the throne. Abijah went into battle with 400,000 fighting men against Jeroboam’s 800,000 men.
Though his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord (because he continued to allow idol worship in Judah as well as the worship of the Lord), he knew that as a descendent of David he could rely on the Lord’s covenant with David to establish his kingdom forever. He knew David had a promise from the Lord to always have a descendent reigning over Jerusalem. Although God had given 10 tribes of Israel to Jeroboam to rule over as king and had promised to be with Jeroboam and build him a dynasty like David’s, unlike David’s covenant, it was conditional upon Jeroboam’s obedience (1 Kings 11:38). Foolishly Jeroboam had set up two golden calves in Bethel and in Dan for the people of Israel to worship so they would not go to worship the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. So now Abijah, knowing his identity as a descendent of David, called upon his unconditional covenant promise. Facing Jeroboam’s superior army, Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, in the hill country of Ephraim, and said:
2 Chronicles 13:4-12
“Jeroboam and all Israel, listen to me! 5Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? 6Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, rebelled against his master. 7Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them.
8“And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the Lord, which is in the hands of David’s descendants. You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods.9But didn’t you drive out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.
10“As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. 11Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. 12God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.”
Abijah called upon the everlasting nature of the covenant with David, which he called a “covenant of salt”. There are two other references to covenant of salt in the bible. The first is in Leviticus 2:13 where the people of Israel are commanded to season every offering with salt and the second is in Numbers 18:19 when the Lord gave to Aaron and his descendants the meat of every firstborn cow, sheep or goats:
17“But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 18Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. 19Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”
In those days salt was used to signify binding agreements that could not be broken. The two parties would each take a pouch of salt and mingle some of his or her own salt into the other person’s pouch. Just as it would be impossible to unmix the original grains of salt, so the agreement was considered irreversible. The extremely stable nature of salt (neither heat, nor cold, nor water destroys it), it’s value as a preservative and the fact that it enhances flavour is probably why Jesus referred to his disciples as the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).
So by calling it a covenant of salt, Abijah was emphasising the eternal nature of God’s covenant with his forefather David.
Now foolishly, Jeroboam was not put off by Abijah’s warning and attempted to attack Judah from both in front and behind. When Judah saw they were being attacked on two fronts, they cried out to the Lord.
2 Chronicles 13:14-20
The priests blew their trumpets 15and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands. 17Abijah and his troops inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel’s able men.18The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
19Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took from him the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages. 20Jeroboam did not regain power during the time of Abijah. And the Lord struck him down and he died.
The covenant gave Abijah the courage to rely on of God for deliverance and not only was Judah delivered but Abijah gained extra towns and villages.
So how does this apply to us now? Jesus ushered in a New Covenant with His death and resurrection and just as Abijah called David’s covenant a “covenant of salt”, and called upon it for his deliverance and the deliverance of the people of Judah so this New Covenant is also a covenant of salt that we can call upon for ourselves and our families in times of need. The covenant takes effect when we simply believe and trust in Jesus as our eternal Saviour. It was written in His blood and ratified by His resurrection. As a party to this covenant we receive:
– forgiveness for all our sins and the gift of eternal life (John 3:16)
– healing from every disease (1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:17)
– the favour of the Lord (Luke 4:19)
– authority to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19)
– the right to become children of our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:14, Galatians 4:5)
– an inheritance with Christ (Romans 8:17)
– union with Christ- we are one in spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17)
– the right to come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 3:12)
– an abundance of grace, the gift of righteousness and the power reign in life (Romans 5:17)
– rich provision of everything we need for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17)
Beloved child of God whatever you are facing, you can approach your Heavenly Father with confidence, trusting in His forgiveness, in His healing, in His provision and in His deliverance. The covenant of salt He has made with you is powerful, reliable and has every clause you will ever require for victory for yourself and your family. Stand on your covenant of salt, use your God-given authority and walk in His favour today!