This article first appeared as a meditation in the January 15, 1980 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.56, No.8) and was penned by Rev. Marinus Schipper.
"And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;
Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers." Jeremiah 33:19-21
The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah in the prison!
For the prophet had been thrust into prison because he had spoken the word of the Lord. He had warned the people of Judah, not only of the pending captivity in Babylon, but also that their peace and safety lay in complete subjection to the king of Babylon. If they would not obey this word they would perish, but if they would obey it the Lord would prosper them, and return them after seventy years to their own land. However, the leaders of Judah spoke lies to the people; warning them not to be in subjection to Babylon's invading king, while they at the same time saw to it that Jeremiah be counted worthy of death. However, the princes of the people rescued the prophet from death, and instead he was thrown into prison.
From behind the bars of his cell he is called once more to speak the word of the Lord. Indeed, the day would come when Judah's captives would return from bondage to their own land. The Lord will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and in those days shall Judah be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell safely (verses 15, 16). David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of Israel (verse 17); nor shall the priests, the Levites, want a man to offer up sacrifices (verse 18).
It is in this connection that the Lord speaks of the covenant, the covenant of the day and the night. If that covenant of the day and night shall fail—which, of course, is quite impossible—then shall the covenant which God made with David also fail—again, an utter impossibility.
As we stand at the threshold of another year, and have recently witnessed the passing of an old year; as we witness the change of the times, the seasons, the years, which is in strict accord with God's covenant of the day and night, we must be reminded that God also is realizing His own covenant of grace and peace in Christ with us the believers; and with our spiritual seed.
In the light of our text we are brought to consider, first of all, the covenant of the day and of the night, and its spiritual counterpart.
From the beginning of the creation there has continued the ordinance of the day and night (Genesis 1:14-19). God said at the dawn of creation, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night. Let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And God made two great lights, the greater, to rule the day, and the lesser, to rule the night. And He made the stars also. And God said, Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. So the created lights were not only to rule the day and night, but also for the dividing of the times, the seasons, the years.
This is the establishment of the covenant of the day and the night!
An ordinance intended to continue so long as the world shall endure!
This cannot mean that the world is eternal, for the Word of God clearly indicates it shall perish, wax old as a garment (Psalm 102:26). And the apostle Peter informs us that the heavens shall pass away, and the earth also shall be burned up, and we are to look for a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell (II Peter 3:10-13).
Nor does it mean that the Creator on occasion could not set aside the ordinance. For we know that at the time of the deluge it appeared that the end of the world had come. And from a certain point of view so it was. But remarkably the Lord God showed to Noah that while the earth remained, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, the day and the night shall not cease. Significantly it is to be observed that the rainbow appears to Noah after the flood as being indicative of the covenant of the day and night. We remember too the time of Joshua in his battle with the Amorites, how at his word the Lord God caused the sun and the moon to stand still until Israel obtained the victory over their enemies (Joshua 10:12, 13). And at the time of Hezekiah the Lord made the shadow to go back ten degrees on the sun dial of Ahaz, to prove to the God-fearing king that his life would be extended. And, would we be entirely in error if we concluded that at Calvary, in the hour of the Savior's deepest agony, when He perceived His God-forsakenness, that God caused the day to become as dark as night?
Yet, in spite of all these changes, which it is the prerogative of the Creator to make, He incessantly maintains His covenant of the day and the night. From the creation of the world to the second coming of the Lord Jesus, when He will cause the sun to be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, until then these heavenly bodies shall control the times. Each day the sun will rise and set. Each season shall follow the other in its proper order. Each year will be succeeded by another.
Such is the covenant of the day and of the night!
And what is so remarkable is the fact that while the covenant of the day and night continues faithfully to be realized, God at the same time and within the same circumstance is realizing and bringing to fruition His other covenant, the covenant of grace in Christ. Moreover, it should not pass our notice that the sole purpose of the former, namely, the covenant of the day and night, is the realization of the latter. Creation and time is the necessary sphere in which the covenant of grace is realized. That covenant of grace therefore is from the beginning and it stretches out to the end. A covenant of grace, not of works, or of nature. Really the Bible knows nothing of such distinctions. They are only philosophical, sucked out of the thumb of man. There is, according to Scripture, only one covenant of sovereign and elective grace. That covenant is it which God made with Christ and His people in Him in eternity; and which is realized within the brackets of time as the divine Sovereign realizes His covenant of the day and the night. That our text speaks of the covenant of grace in terms of David, God's servant, and with the Levites, the priests, points only to the old dispensational revelation of it.
An inviolable covenant!
Not to be broken!
That is true of the covenant of the day and the night. No mere man can ever change it. Though he often attempts to monkey with the creational ordinance by setting his clocks ahead and backward to accommodate his pleasure and his business, thus attempting to change the times and seasons which God has set in His covenant of the day and night, nevertheless man is bound by the order of the Creator in the sphere of His creation. It is the sole prerogative of God, as we already pointed out, to alter the order of creation when the cause of His covenant of grace is at stake. But for the rest, the covenant of the day and night He maintains so that we may reckon with it.
How terrible it would be if this covenant should be broken! What do you suppose would happen if the light did not appear tomorrow morning? What terrible catastrophe would befall us if the present winter would continue into the coming summer? What awful consequences would follow if man's days should be extended until say a thousand years! How ridiculous the thought that the seed of corn would never stop growing!
Because the covenant of the day and night is not broken, man may freely reckon with it. So the farmer may plan to sow his seed in the springtime. So the young man may seek his virgin. So the old man may prepare his house for the moment of death. So the young child may be instructed in his youth, that when he is old he may not depart from it.
So inviolable also is God's covenant of grace!
O, indeed, the children of Judah believed that God had broken that covenant (verse 24). They actually said that the two families, that of David and that of Levi, had been cast: off. And because of this misconception Jeremiah, from behind his bars, must speak the word of the Lord, the word that clearly contradicts the awful misconception of Judah's people.
God's answer is: My promise to David shall be realized in the Branch of righteousness (verse 15). He is the Branch of righteousness over against Judah's sin, Who will grow up unto David. This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the true seed of David, the Lion of Judah's tribe, the Son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In and through Him will the covenant with David, with the covenant fathers, be fulfilled. And as for the .office of the priests, the Levites, it shall continue (Verse 18). The sacrifices of atonement shall continue to be brought, and the blood of the covenant shall continue to flow. In that atonement the children of Judah must continue to look to the Branch, the Lord our righteousness (verse 16).
How comforting, indeed!
It is the word of the Lord! The word which Jehovah, the covenant making and covenant keeping God, speaks to His people!
Not a word of mere man, whose breath is in his nostrils, and whose breath must continue to be given him or he perishes. Of man, who of himself cannot speak the truth. Of man, whose word is no more reliable than fickle man himself.
Not even is it the word of Jeremiah. Of himself the prophet had nothing to say. Always the prophet must first be filled with the word of God before he can speak, and only then does he bring the word of God.
Nay, but it is the word of Jehovah God!
The unchangeable, the eternal God! Whose word is unalterably true, and which never fails to come to pass!
Jehovah's word concerning His inviolable covenant!
Not only concerning the covenant of the day and night, but more particularly pertaining to His covenant made with Christ in the eternal counsel of peace. The word which has been spoken within the brackets of the covenant of the day and night from the dawn of creation. That word which was spoken in Paradise the first in the hearing of our fallen parents, Adam and Eve. That word which was spoken at the time of the destruction of the first world in the flood to Noah. That word which was spoken to the covenant fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to David, Solomon, and the Levites. That word which God spoke in the fulness of the times in the Logos, the Person of the Son of God in the flesh. That word which was realized in principle at the cross of Calvary, when God sealed that covenant in the blood of the Redeemer. That word which He speaks to us now in the changing of the years.
My covenant shall stand, and I will realize it perfectly through the Branch of My righteousness.
That speech of Jehovah God is intended for your and my comfort. As it was intended to comfort the children of Judah about to go into captivity. O, how they needed that comfort! They had imagined that God had forsaken His covenant promise to David because the 'priesthood had become corrupted, and therefore offered no more sacrifices for sin. To that hopeless lot God says virtually: I will multiply the seed of David until the Seed shall come, the Branch. I will keep the house of Levi until the sacrifice is brought that will bring an end to all sacrifices in the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. I will keep my covenant so long as the covenant of the day and the night endures.
That speech of comfort comes to us now!
Indeed, the times may change, for that is nothing more than the covenant of the day and night. But just as assuredly My everlasting covenant of grace shall remain. I will be your God! And ye shall be My people forever!
Is that your comfort, dear readers?
Then all things may pass away, as do the years; but your God remains forever the same. Then your friends may leave you, but your covenant Friend remains forever at your side.
Then remember, too, that so long as night passes to day, God's friendship relation to you is in progress, and will not stop until you shall see Him face to face, and dwell in the house of His covenant forever!
Rev. Marinus Schipper was born in Holland, MI on February 8, 1906. He graduated from the Protestant Reformed Seminary and was ordained and installed into the ministry at the Grand Haven, MI Protestant Reformed Church in January, 1937. From there, he went to Second (now: Southwest) Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI. in 1939. In 1945 he accepted a call to the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. From there, he returned to Southwest (formerly: Second) Protestant Reformed Church in 1954. Finally, he went to the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI in 1962. He retired from the active ministry in 1978.
Rev.M.Schipper was taken into glory on January 2, 1985.