I’ve been fascinated by the image of a padlock being used by lots of couples over recent years to illustrate their love for each other – though in some romantic locations, such as the Pont Des Artes in Paris, the authorities had to remove them, together with the railings, due to the excessive weight being put on the structure. (A section from this bridge collapsed under the weight in 2014)
You will notice all the padlocks have their keys removed. Once locked, they can’t be unlocked. This is how we like to think we will hold our promises – locked and irrevocable.
As I was thinking of the Covenant God made with Abram in Genesis 15 I saw the same thing happening. In a strange moment of Biblical imagery, God appears as a ‘smoking firepot and flaming torch’ between animal sacrifices that in some way was confirming his promise to Abram. This action of passing between sacrificed animals was referenced in an 8th C. BC near Eastern treaty (JB Pritchard – Ancient Near East Supplementary Texts and Pictures, 532) as a curse for failing to uphold it: “May God make me like this animal, if I do not fulfill the demands of the covenant”. This was a serious promise being made to Abram by God – whatever the detail of the now lost oath system meant. God’s word was to stand for all time. It is irrevocable and here God made it plainly obvious to those of Abram’s day.
But there was a big difference between the padlocks and what God did – with God it wasn’t a promise or a contract, it was a covenant.
A human promise, as many of us know, sadly gets broken. They shouldn’t but they aren’t normally legally binding and so, at times, we break them. A contract meanwhile is legally binding, but it also needs two sides to make an agreement and some form of exchange. A covenant however is binding and can be one sided – a formal bound oath to do something. In the Genesis 15 episode its exactly that. God is not asking anything of Abram (he’s not yet changed his name to Abraham), he is ‘covenanting’ the land that will be his and his descendants. Creation is in God’s ownership and here He gives part of it, under oath, into Abram’s keeping without asking for anything in return.
Is not the last time He will give freely, without asking for a bargain – and giving for everyone this time.
God has also promised that He loves the whole world, everyone, irrespective of race or religion, behaviour or belief. He loves all and won’t stop loving everyone, as our perfect parent. It’s a decision He has taken. It is fixed and irrevocable because it stands at the heart of who Almighty God is, Father Son and Holy Spirit as the Trinity, in the perfect loving relationship, in whose image we are all created.
This is God’s unilateral, covenanted, declaration of love to all.
Somewhere in creation there is a lock with your name on it.
Its already made and locked and the key thrown away. Its God’s promise to each of us – an unbreakable covenant.
For many of us, there is the thought that we must do something to gain God’s love – that just isn’t the case. He loves everyone. We don’t earn it, we can’t make it, we can’t break it – and neither will He. But God does want us to accept it.
For a moment, imagine a perfect parent…
They would love us whatever we did, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ever get disappointed or upset or frustrated in us when we don’t act as they might hope. But – they would still love us.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to our actions either. There would be with a perfect parent. They would want to guide us and help us to learn lessons from our mistakes. But – they would still love us.
If we’ve hurt them or ignored them or not thanked them, they might want us to discover life without them for a season to realise they really are on our side. But – they would still love us.
A perfect parent can’t stop loving their children – all of them. Its not based on what any of us do, it’s the nature of a perfect parent. The child might not always deserve their parent’s love, may never appreciate it enough, may even actively fight against it, but – they would still love us.
Jesus said this:
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
God has fixed his love on each one of us. Freely given, for everyone.
Its locked in, done and the key has been thrown away. Notice its locked. Its free. Its yours.
The freely given padlock of the promise of God’s love, with your name on it, is there…
…if you want it.