How easy it is for us to envy the wicked!
But our estimate of the wicked depends upon our standard of comparison.
Follow the standard of our flesh; the wicked carry the balance.
Use the scale of faith, and the balance swings in our favor.
What blessings we have! They reach from the pit of hell, deliverance, to the splendor of heaven itself. In comparison with the ungodly, we have direction, we know from whence we have come and whither we are going. And that’s a lot more than most young people can say today. We have a purpose in life, strength to accomplish it, and hope for the future. If we consider these things, we will never envy the wicked.
The line that separates us from the wicked is the covenant. It is God’s mark of distinction. Within the covenant, one has God as His Friend; outside the covenant, God is a terrible enemy. The covenant makes all the difference.
Just what is the covenant?
To begin, let’s go back into the quiet of eternity. There is no heaven; there is no earth. There is only God!
Strange to speak that way, isn’t it? Only God? Where God is, there is everything. In fact, there is the covenant. The covenant is as eternal as God is. The reason for this is that God is a covenant God. He is never lonely. As Triune God He is a friend unto Himself. That friendship means love. Friendship without love is no friendship. Love is the moving power to become and remain friends. This is true in the highest sense in God Himself. He loves Himself and that powerful bond of love draws the three Persons of the trinity together, the Father loves the Son in the Spirit, and the Son returns that love to the Father in the Spirit. There is in God the perfect cycle of friendship. God is love, I John 4:8. That love is perfect. There is no unfaithfulness in His love, no adulteration, no distraction, only perfect and complete devotion.
The friendship that results from this love is expressed in most intimate conversation. We see this in our own lives as young people. When you are with your friends, you jabber all the time. Put a stranger in your midst and the atmosphere changes. You make polite talk, try to get acquainted, and if you find some common interest, you begin to speak more openly and, as this develops, the conversation flows freely. The degree of friendship is seen in the ease of conversation. Think how this must be true in God! In Him is perfect love, hence perfect friendship. The conversation that results from it is beautiful. In Reformed doctrine we call this the counsel of God, the decrees of God. Within that counsel, God expresses to Himself His perfect will for Himself and all things. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak from the heart to One Another. What the Father says stands, for He is the Father and His speech is music in the ears of the Son and Spirit. What the Father says deals with the glory of the One God: the glory of God in His own perfect covenant life, the glory of God in the way of election and reprobation, the glory of God in the way of sin and grace, the glory of God in the way of time and eternity.
The contemplation and expression of all this is the covenant in God.
You may ask, why should this truth make it so that I won’t envy the wicked?
The answer must be both negative and positive.
The positive side is this: the covenant of God includes His people. All we have said about God’s covenant in Himself affects us in that God is pleased to include us as His children in that very same covenant. The negative side is this: such a covenant friendship is exclusive, it does not include the wicked and ungodly. The opposite is true, the wicked are the objects of His wrath and hatred. Rather than speak to them His words of love, He thunders at them words of judgment and condemnation.
Let’s consider this in greater detail a moment.
God loves us, as covenant young people, and speaks His secrets and words of promise to us. We are, as Abraham, the friends of God, James 2:23. That friendship goes back in eternity when God spoke the counsel of His will in election. Already then, God has us on His divine mind. The beauty of election is that God spoke our names in His counsel; we were in His heart; already then He loved us in Jesus Christ His Son.Ephesians 1:3-6 expresses it so warmly, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love? having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
That’s what it means to be in the covenant.
This same love comes to expression within the moments of time. Again God has us in His mind and talks to us as His friends. Look at the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve walked with God and God sought them in the cool of the day. God so created them that they could not only understand His speech to them, but also return it. Added to this, they could understand what God was saying to them in the creation and return that to Him in praise and adoration.
More amazing is the fact that even sin did not destroy this covenant between God and His people. After Adam and Eve sinned, God continued to talk to them, and that too, not in wrath but in love. Only now the covenant love is not based on creation, for that was forfeited by their sin. The basis now is the promise of the coming of Christ, Genesis 3:15.
In Christ, the covenant friendship of God and His people is sealed in perfect righteousness. Christ was promised in order that He might take away the barrier of sin for His people and establish the perfect covenant of grace between God and them.
Hence the Bible is full of the joy of the coming of Christ.
And in Christ the Bible is full of God’s love and conversation with His people. Just listen to a few: “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold; wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Add to this, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him and he will shew them His covenant,” Psalm 25:14. Finally, “I create the fruit of the lips; peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.”
All this because Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Our place in the covenant is real, for Jesus said, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth, but I have called you friends for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” John 15:15. Isn’t this precious? Within the covenant, God loves us, speaks to us, saves us, and promises us an eternal inheritance.
Envy the wicked? How can we? They are the objects of wrath.
Not only are we members of God’s covenant. That in itself is rich and beautiful; but there is more. God nurtures this covenant by means of a covenant sphere. Let me illustrate. When a baby is conceived in a mother, that baby is a person who undergoes certain stages of fetal development. The development of that baby takes place in a wonderful sphere, the womb. In that womb the baby is to a great measure protected from the hostile world of germs, disease, injury, etc. The fluids, life support system, nourishment of the mother are all in wonderful supply. It is the sphere for growth.
Similarly, God provides a covenant sphere for us. This is marvelously provided by the parents in the home, school, and in the midst of the church. Not only are we born as physical babies, we are born as spiritual babes. We need a protected environment; we need to be kept from the hostile world of lies and sins. We must be taught to discern truth and lie. We must learn to love God and our neighbor in the midst of a wicked world. The years of youth and adolescence is such a growing-up time. Soon we become adult and then we are called by God to begin our own covenant sphere through marriage and children.
Within this covenant sphere, home, church, and school, we have not only the friendship of God, we also have the friendship of the people of God: godly parents, godly teachers, godly office bearers, godly children and young people. Together we share the love of God and the true love of one another. We love God’s Word and His instructions. We are called to help one another and lead one another through this world of sin and death.
This too is precious.
Treasure this as covenant young people.
There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Think of David and Jonathan. You won’t find such a friend in the unbelieving world; you will find him in your parents, your brothers and sisters at home, your fellow members of the church and your Christian school friends.
The reason for this is that they too possess the love of God, and that love of God attracts us to one another. Together we listen to Christ speak these beautiful words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you, John 15:13, 14.
Look at the world of ungodly; see them in their pleasure and sin. What kind of homes do they have? Do they really love one another? They are selfish and vile. No wonder, for God’s judgment is upon them.
Don’t envy them, count your-blessings.
One more consideration: members of the covenant need a place to live. Friendship and love is best expressed in the home. There, husbands love their wives and wives love their husbands; parents and children love one another. This is the most intimate expression of love and friendship on this side of the grave. A home is full of love and friendship when it is truly a covenant home.
We have such a home with God.
It is still coming. It is Father’s house of many mansions to which Christ has gone to prepare a place for us.
Heaven is our home.
The friendship of God and His people will be perfect then, for we will see Christ face to face.
The ungodly go to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Envy not the wicked!
In heaven we will have all distraction of sin and death taken away and we will be able to return God’s friendship to Him in perfect love.
How we long for that! God is worthy of such praise forever.
Thank God for His covenant.