As professed believers in Jesus the Christ, we are a people who walk in covenant with God. The New Testament does not do a lot to spell out what this means because the Old Testament has all the information we need.
What can we learn from the Old Testament? Living in covenant means that we have made promises to God, and he has made promises to us. In short, God has promised to deliver us from slavery and to provide for us all that we need, and we have promised God that we will reject all other gods, and live under the law. The law under Jesus was simplified to – love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.
In addition to the promises, there were curses for failure to uphold the promises. If you recall the covenant scene between God and Abraham, God passed through animal carcases that were split in half. This meant that the same thing that happened to the animals would happen to God. For the people, the curse was that a lot of bad stuff would happen, including exile.
In fact, during the time leading up to the Babylonian exile, the prophets told the people that they would be exiled. The people laughed at them. God resided in the temple of Jerusalem. There was no way that God would allow his temple to fall. They continued to sin. Actually, they thought that what they were doing was enough. They couldn’t see the evil that they were perpetrating in their every day lives. I’ll cut short the list of sins, but here is a sampling: they were taking advantage of the poor who needed a loan, and charged interest, and they were neglecting the widows and orphans, the oppressed and the like.
So, what does God do? He let his holy city, his dwelling on earth, be destroyed by the Babylonians. In fact, there is a great account in Ezekiel where God abandons the temple in the most amazing chariot ever described by mankind. The people were exiled, and the world wonder built by King Solomon, the temple, was destroyed. Thus were the curses of the covenant enacted.
The beauty of the story is that God’s chariot headed in the direction of Babylon. He did not abandon them. The people served their penance, and were returned home 70 years later. The temple was rebuilt, and God took up residence again in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, they continued to sin, and finally, God sent his only son to bring about the new covenant.
Spend some time today reflecting on where you could do a better job of living in the covenant. Who are some of your neighbors that could use a smile, a few dollars, a helping hand. Remember, the idea of Christian living is not to go out and do good works. No. The idea is to take God, who lives within the temple of each Christian person, to those in need. As you plan your charitable acts, make sure you invite the Holy Spirit into the mix, both in discerning a plan and in executing your plan. Acts of charity without charity are just acts.
Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.