Understanding the Covenant – Hesed and Emet (Full Sermon Manuscript)
The hesed and emet are used entirely in the Bible when speaking of God’s covenanted love to His creation—especially to His people. Indeed, hesed and emet are repeated four times in our passage today, Psalm 103:11-19, (vv. 4, 8, 11, 17).
In our passage, the recipients of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are for “those who fear the Lord” (11, 13) who are—also—the ones who keep the covenant of God (17, 18). The terms hesed and emet are essentially used for a covenantal context.
Most importantly, let me use Dr. Thomas Schreiner’s statement, “If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible.” Indeed, the covenants are the backbone or framework of the overarching narrative of the Bible.
What covenant? Biblically, there are five major explicit covenants. These are Noah’s, Abraham’s, Mosaic/ Israel at Sinai, Davidic covenants, and lastly, the new covenant. To further understand, I have here a short clip that some of you have already watched recently.
A covenant may be defined as an “Agreement/ partnership; relationship.”
In a limited explanation, it is somehow when one is to be married. In marriage, you make a vow or a covenant with the person you are marrying. In short, a covenant signifies a relationship. But God’s covenant is more than an idea of marriage because it is not a mutual or equal authority, right, and power.
In Ancient Near East, a covenant is initiated by the “stronger party,” ie. King, tribal leaders, or the head of the family. Likewise, God initiated a covenantal relationship with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the exiled Israelites.
My second point, a covenant can be “Conditional or/and Unconditional (or Unilateral).”
The main thing here, God, out of his hesed and emet, continued to be faithful with his covenant to his people. On the other side, Adam, Eve, Abraham, Noah, David, Moses, and the Israelites failed over and over again. And just like all the former covenant partners, we also fail to keep God’s covenant and commandments with us. We fall short in our loyalty and faithfulness to Him.
Unlike God, who is always faithful and steadfast in His love—hesed and emet. We, mere beings, are stubborn, incompetent, and unrighteous. As it is written in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short in the glory of God.”
This brings us to our last point, “The New Covenant.”
Out of all the covenants, the new covenant is the climax of all the covenants fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. (read Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Saving the best for last. The climax of the story and the center of the grand narrative of the Bible is Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, they all point to Christ. Indeed, another way of interpreting the book of Psalms is through a Christological lens. Meaning, seeing Christ as the psalmist or inside the psalm. Here, focusing on verse 19, the eternal establishment of God’s kingdom, His kingship, as related to the Davidic covenant is of course fulfilled in the person of Christ.
The very awaited Messianic King of the Israelites is not a military-king but a suffering-servant, who will atone for the sins of humanity, overcoming death through resurrection, and establishing an everlasting throne is fulfilled in no other person but Christ alone.
We already know that being part of a covenant signifies a relationship. It is the church, then, that is part of the new covenantal family. To this covenant relations, we are called to be faithful to God, yield to the Holy Spirit, and look unto Jesus. (as written in verse 18)
I know that this sermon is somewhat doctrinal in its structure. On the next sermons, as I maintain my goal to shepherd the church by equipping all of your corporately, it will be both consecrative and doctrinal.
As we apply what we just learned, God—despite the shortcomings of humanity—remained faithful to His covenant. Even still now, He remains faithful to each of us. Out of His hesed and emet—steadfast love and truthfulness, He calls us to be part of His family and participate in His kingdom.
As part of our Christian walk and sanctified in this life, we ought to conform to this kind of covenantal love. This time, let us be serious in making promises to other people, even in the smallest form of your word. As it is written in Matthew 5:37, “Let your ‘yes be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’”
by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
May 16, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.