The covenant, the possibility of the LORD’s Lawsuit


“Hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; For the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel (Micah 6:2).”

The LORD contended with Abraham, Jacob and Moses. In those strivings, He showed them that the covenant is not an excuse for inaction but the sharpest spur to action.

Now the same things that happened to them won’t happen to us: all history occurs only once. Nevertheless, those various strivings between the Covenant God and the patriarch Abraham, the father Jacob, and the mediator Moses, do provide us with a house rule. And that house rule applies to the whole house.

Hence the whole family of the house, that is Israel, is confronted repeatedly by that same law. This law: that only through the struggle of the Spirit against the flesh is the covenant maintained and continued.

That’s how it was in the days of the prophet Micha. He probably spoke the words of chapter 6 in the days of King Ahaz. In Ahaz’ days the covenant was undermined, discredited. Israel sought to establish its own righteousness. The king even led by example when he sacrificed his own child. Thereby the whole order of things in the covenant was reversed. For the people no longer placed their hope in the sacrifice of Christ as the fulfilment of the law, and they no longer awaited God’s grace, but they wanted to pay God with their own power, with the strength of their own purchasing power: they wanted to purchase peace with Him through own efforts.

Micah resisted that violation of the covenant. He wanted to instil the law of the covenant of grace, that evangelical law, into the minds and consciences of the people again. Yet it was not possible to do that without again vividly proclaiming the real issue, the contention, the vengeance of the covenant.

Does the covenant not exercise its vengeance? He who does not believe that will be taught differently by Micah, who spoke a powerful parable: Yahweh had a court case with Israel. The prophet appeared on behalf of God in order to introduce a lawsuit, a public judicial process, wherein the LORD and His people were the two parties pleading their case before the tribunal of justice. All the world was called as witness, because the LORD had a dispute with His people: “Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s complaint.”

Isn’t that rather strange, that God presents a judicial case against His people? Which giant would ever bother to contend with a dwarf? Which man would do so with a dog? Which adult with a baby? Is it then not also unthinkable that God would contend with a nation, with a brood of people, with a brood of vipers? Is God not different from people, even totally different? How can such a one go to court with another who is so vastly different?

Amongst mankind it is indeed impossible to sue a totally different kind of being in a court case, in the same court of justice. If a lawsuit is opened, there is always a framework of justice and there are regulations of justice in which the two parties are included together. If that framework of commonality is missing, a court case is impossible.

It is unthinkable to have a court case between a man and a cow. And a court case between a Dutchman and a Turk is only possible when an international rule of common law has been established. How is it possible, then, that God can contend with human beings in a lawsuit? Indeed, it is absurd. For they are “completely different”: God and people. It is not possible.

Unless there is a covenant.

For what is impossible with people, is possible with God. God has placed Himself in a covenantal relationship with people. He had already done that in paradise. And after the fall into sin He restored that relationship through the promised Christ. Thus, it was possible in that covenant that the one unequal party could become a partner with the other unequal Party, just as God illustrated with Abraham who, upon the command of God, had to prepare the path of blood [Gen. 19].

But now that this covenant has bound the Creator to the creature in the framework of a covenantal bond in which they are bound together judicially, that covenant with all its glory is also filled with terror. The matter has now become deadly serious. It has become deadly serious for the whole family of the house, just as it was for the patriarchs and the mediator of this large family: for Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. Does the LORD not say: My people? Did He not speak of Israel? In that term, “My people”, we hear a covenantal thought. If you take the covenant away, the LORD cannot begin a lawsuit against “His people”. But now that there is the covenant, now that it is an ancient ordinance, the court case cannot be avoided. The covenant always remains in the picture, even of hell.

Thus we, children of the covenant, may remember every day that it will be the same with us as it was with Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. He who speaks of terror and destruction without considering the covenant speaks words of which he hasn’t fathomed the meaning. But he who speaks them by faith in the covenant of grace knows that this covenant does not make people careless and profane, but will stimulate them daily to walk in righteousness. For the complete earnestness in all we do and don’t do can only be preached and understood in the light of the covenant.

“All or nothing!” That is the theme of the covenant.


K Schilder

(translated [approximately, JN] from Schriftoverdenkingen II, Oosterbaan en Le Cointre, Goes, The Netherlands, 1957, pp. 112-113.)