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Last night as I was pondering all my problems--instead of sleeping--the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness came to mind. It was inspired by Jeremiah's words in Lamentations 3:22-24 and the author's own circumstances. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm experienced God's faithfulness in the everyday provision of his needs during times when he was too ill to work. Interestingly, both the Bible passage and the hymn say that God's mercies are new every morning. That doesn't mean that our needs will be met weeks or months in advance. That wouldn't require a lot of trust, would it? I have concluded that I need to spend more time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for, and trust God to meet my needs for everything else. Of course, I might need to be reminded of that now and then!

Please take a few minutes to listen to this hymn.


Today's post was written by Tim Challies.
I spent much of my day yesterday wrestling through a couple of biblical genealogies (and enjoying every minute of it). I found myself reflecting on the end of the book of Ruth where we encounter a short but powerful genealogy. But before I get there, I want to remind you of the final scene in Ruth.

As the book comes to a close, we are given a glimpse of a little scene that is fun to picture in your mind. Boaz has married Ruth and the Lord has blessed them with a child. It seems here like after the child is born, the women of Bethlehem gather the baby and bring him to Naomi’s home to announce the birth and to celebrate with her. The women carry the baby from Ruth and Boaz’s house and approach Naomi’s home dancing and celebrating, taking joy in her joy. They come to her praising God, fully aware that this child is proof of God’s covenant-keeping favor. They even declare that Ruth is more to Naomi than seven sons, that Ruth is more to Naomi than the perfect family with perfect sons. (Ruth 4:14-15) That’s quite a tribute!

In a legal sense this was Naomi’s child; he was born of Ruth, but it is the child of Naomi and Elimelech, the child who will carry on the family name. Naomi will now serve as a kind of foster-mother, helping to raise this child. (Ruth 4:16) You can picture Naomi weeping and worshipping as she takes the child from the women and pulls him to her chest. So many promises are fulfilled, so much love expressed, so many prayers answered. God has been faithful to his covenant. He has given an heir and he has restored the land.

And they lived happily ever after. The story of Ruth began with Naomi leaving the land with her husband and two sons. Naomi suffered almost unbearable tragedies, but here she is at the end, cradling that little baby to her chest—that little baby who is God’s declaration that he is a covenant-keeping God, that he loves Naomi, that she has not been forgotten or forsaken. Naomi has experienced the deepest kind of emptiness, but here she is full, restored, whole.

The end?

Kind of, but not really. The narrator has one little surprise left for us. He has held one thing back that he will include in a postscript.

Before we get there, it’s worth pausing and considering the story without its postscript. If there was not another word to Ruth, what would we learn from it? We would see God quietly ordering all things to fit his plan and to bring him glory. He has transformed Naomi, he has called Ruth out of darkness into light, he has faced Boaz with a challenge and allowed him to prove his godly character and to be a display, a reflection of the love of God. He has answered prayer and given hope and remained faithful to his own covenant promises. All of this and so much more has been displayed in just a short story.

We would also want to observe that even the most mundane of moments, the millions of little circumstances that make life what it is, each of these is a sacred moment, an opportunity for God to work and an opportunity for us to trust and serve him. There on the road to Bethlehem Orpah walked away from Naomi, she walked away from God and all his promises, while Ruth declared her allegiance to Naomi and Naomi’s God. It could have been a forgotten moment, but it was sacred, a moment of worship. Ruth went out into the field to work, the most mundane of tasks, but there she encountered Boaz. Boaz went into his fields to oversee the labor and spotted a foreign woman, doing the lowest job there was. And in that moment he extended favor to her; the most normal moment became the most significant.

In these ways and so many others God used the small circumstances to bring about his purposes, to contribute to the unfolding of his plan. When you believe that God is sovereign, you must also see that there are no mundane, insignificant moments in life. Boaz had no idea that helping Ruth gather barley would lead to him fulfilling Naomi’s need for an heir. Every moment, every circumstance, is an opportunity to serve God, to declare your allegiance to him, to proclaim your trust in his promises. This is true when we work and worship, when we fellowship and commute and check email and eat dinner and go shopping and give birth and everything else that makes life what it is. We can’t choose the moments and the circumstances that God will use to unfold his plan. All we can do is be faithful with every moment he gives us. God is always there in the background, at work, on the move, even or maybe especially when we do not see him.

That is Ruth without a postscript. There is a lot we can learn. But as it happens, there is a postscript that begins to show God’s fulfillment of even greater promises. And we see that the author has one final, parting shot. It comes in a strange form—the form of genealogy—a list of names of fathers and sons. Those verses essentially say, “Oh, by the way, this little baby, this little boy…it’s the grandfather of the great king, David.” This isn’t just any baby. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David, the king. (Ruth 4:17)

That must have been exciting to the people who first encountered this book. Ruth was probably written during the reign of David when people were contesting David’s kingship and the story declares that though David’s great grandmother was a Moabite, she was an Israelite in the truest sense. This is not just some abstract story, but a story about the king’s family. The king is worthy of his calling. He is worthy of the throne. He is a true Israelite. A true king.

The Lord kept his covenant, he continued to bless his people. He even provided them with a king, one who would take them past the era of the judges and rule over them as the Lord’s representative, as the king God declared “a man after my own heart.”

That is amazing. Let’s not lose the wonder of it. Naomi and Ruth and Boaz are all related to the king, they are all royal. That’s a great surprise at the end of a story, but it’s not enough. It answers Naomi’s need for an heir but it does not answer her deepest needs. Naomi was a sinner, a person who was in rebellion against God. As good as Ruth and Boaz were, they too were still sinners, still in rebellion against God. Naomi’s need for provision, her need for an heir to perpetuate the family name, her need for land and family—all of these things were simply emblems or pictures of her much deeper need. She needed more than an heir; she needed a Savior, someone who could make her right with God.

So why then are we left with a genealogy, a list of fathers and sons? (Ruth 4:18-22) We tend to skip over these genealogies, don’t we? But maybe we just don’t taken the time to really ponder them, to really understand them.

There is a genealogy in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew, that repeats this one from Ruth, it encompasses it. It’s much longer and this bit of it fits right into the middle. It begins with Abraham. It goes from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah to Perez and on through Ram and Amminadab and Nahshon and Salmon and Boaz. “Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,” it says. And from Boaz and Ruth it goes to Obed and Jesse and David the king—the king of Israel. But it doesn’t stop there. It keeps going. David fathered Solomon who was the father of Rehoboam who was the father of Abijah, and on it goes, generation after generation, through Jehosaphat and Joram and Uzziah and Ahaz and Hezekiah and then on to Zerubbabel and Azor and to a man named Eleazar who fathered a man named Matthan who fathered a man named Jacob who fathered a man named Joseph who was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is called Christ, anointed one, Messiah, Savior, King eternal, King immortal, King invisible, King of the Jews, King of the nations, King of kings, Lord of lords, Lord of glory, Lord of all, Redeemer.

And there, there is the best surprise of all. Here is God’s better fulfillment of his better promises, God’s deepest answer to our deepest needs. This is where we have such an advantage over the people who first encountered the book of Ruth. To understand the book you have to put yourself in their world, to get into their minds, so you can see the story through their eyes. But now they long to see through our eyes, so they can learn how this story truly ends. They saw the big surprise that Ruth and Boaz were great grandparents of the king. But what they couldn’t see—though maybe they suspected it or hoped for it or longed for it—is that from this line, from these people, would come the Messiah, the full and ultimate and final redeemer.

And when you understand that, the story just explodes in meaning and significance. Now we see it—the true need, the true famine, the true fullness, the true Naomi, the true Boaz, the true heir, the true Son, the true redeemer. It is Jesus who is the great surprise at the end of this story, the great climax to the tale, the great hero, the greatest answer to all the prayers and longings, the deepest answer to the deepest need. It’s all about him.
You can visit Tim's website here.

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
Ever feel like you’re talking to a brick wall?

The television comedy Frasier was one of the most popular TV series in US history. It’s been called “a thinking person’s comedy.” Reruns are ubiquitous, about six episodes daily in our area. Frasier Crane, the protagonist, is a caring, sensitive, cultured – but insecure and sometimes pompous – Seattle radio psychiatrist who always greets his callers with, “I’m listening.” Yet sometimes he becomes so wrapped up in himself that he tunes others out.

He’s not alone. In one amusing scene, Frasier’s ex wife, Lilith (also a psychiatrist) tries to converse with Frasier’s brother Niles (yet another psychiatrist) about an especially weighty matter. Niles, focused on a video game, doesn’t pay her sufficient attention, prompting Lilith to exclaim, “Is there a chair here I could talk to?”

I confess that my wife, Meg, sometimes has to use Lilith’s line to get my attention. Mind you, I don’t confess that it’s as often as she might claim!

But it’s easy to focus on my interests and not hear – or fully process – her words. Once, planning a meal, she asked if we had vegetables in the refrigerator. Seeing none of the vegetables I like (carrots, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli), I replied “No.” Turned out we had artichokes, asparagus, and other veggies that were her favorites. Perhaps distracted – that alibi satisfies me if it does you – I didn’t take the time to think through her interests.

Listening is a powerful form of affirmation and an important tool in understanding and communication. Solomon, a wise Jewish king, wrote, “What a shame, what folly, to give advice before listening to the facts!” (Proverbs 18:13)

Have you ever been around someone who made you feel like you were the most important person in the world? They probably knew how to listen.

Medical ethicist Stephen Post writes in his book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, “When we truly absorb another’s story, we are saying, ‘You count. Your life and feelings and thoughts matter to me. And I want to know who you really are.’” He claims that listening can help both the listener and the one listened to. New studies indicate: “Listening activates the part of our brains hardwired for empathy. … When we listen to others in pain, their stress response quiets down and their body has a better chance to heal.”

University of Minnesota rhetoric professor Ralph G. Nichols noted that a listener’s opposition to a speaker’s statement can hamper further listening. Nichols said a listener feeling stung often tries “to do three things simultaneously: (1) calculate what hurt is being done to his own pet ideas; (2) plot an embarrassing question to ask the speaker; (3) enjoy mentally all the discomfiture visualized for the speaker once the devastating reply to him is launched.”

Sounds like a recipe for tuning out. Maybe for starting a war. Better to “hold your fire” advised Nichols. Reminds me of a biblical adage: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.” (James 1:19-20)

The International Listening Association (yep, they really exist) quips that conversation is “a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener.” TV talking heads take note, please.

The ILA also says, “History repeats itself because no one listens the first time.” Politicians and voters take note, please.

Isn’t this a fascinating subject? Don’t you just love reading what I say about it?

Oh, yes. What was that you wanted to tell me?
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.


How many of you had pancakes for supper yesterday? According to Facebook status updates, a lot of my friends did. They all seemed to enjoy eating the pancakes, and the annual societal permission to have breakfast for supper, but I’m not sure that all of them really understand the reason for Pancake Tuesday, nor the significance of Ash Wednesday which is today.

Neither Pancake Tuesday nor Ash Wednesday is mentioned in the Bible. Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent, which is the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. Lent was originally a time of fasting for the purpose prayer, self-examination and repentance. It is representative of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1-13) Pancake Tuesday started for practical reasons. If parishioners had to give up certain things for 40 days including, butter, milk and eggs, they would see to it that they didn’t go to waste. The making of pancakes would use those things up. Somehow something is lost these days when you make your pancakes by adding water to the powder from a box.

On Ash Wednesday, penitents in some faiths have a cross drawn with ash placed on their foreheads by the priest. The ashes are created by burning the palms from Palm Sunday of the previous year. All very symbolic, and based on the way that people expressed repentance and grief in the Bible. (II Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, Job 42:5-6, Matthew 11:21) But like a lot of traditions, sometimes the symbolism stays even though the reasons for it have been lost.

The true spirit of humility that is supposed to be represented by fasting in sackcloth and ashes is well demonstrated by Daniel. (Daniel 9:3) Daniel prayed on behalf of Jerusalem for forgiveness of sins he did not commit, and for mercy from God towards the city. (Daniel 9:4-19) Daniel knew that the restoration of the city of Jerusalem depended solely on God’s grace and mercy, and not on anything that the people could do. Putting ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday also symbolizes this humility, but it means nothing if that humility is not truly in your heart.


Today, in many parts of Canada, is Family Day. It is a holiday that was established in 1999 in Alberta, 2007 in Saskatchewan, 2008 in Ontario, and will begin in British Columbia in 2013. Family Day is also celebrated at various other times in a few other countries and American states. In Canada, as holidays go, it’s a pretty recent addition to the list. I can understand why people thought it would be a good idea to have a day off in February; most years it feels like the longest month even though it’s the shortest. What I can’t understand is why they chose to call it Family Day. Holidays usually have a reason to celebrate, something to commemorate, and if not they are called civic or bank holidays. Why is this one called Family Day? Is it really necessary for the government to institute a day to spend with our families? Is it that unlikely that we would spend our time with them if the government didn’t make it sound like that was the purpose? Perhaps.

Family has certainly taken on different forms in recent decades. When people talk of traditional families, they are usually thinking of a mother, father and children. Maybe a family pet. That was pretty much the norm in the 1950s. These days, however, the combinations are much more varied. Depending on the make-up of your family, it may be more and more challenging to find time to spend together. As a teacher, I was faced with students from many different family situations. Some children had the attention that they needed, and some didn’t. Despite the changes in family dynamics, however, this problem has existed since the time of Solomon. In Proverbs 22:6 he advised parents to teach their children to live Godly lives, with the assurance that when they grew up they would remember what they had been taught. This is an activity that requires time and attention. And discipline. Children don’t naturally know right from wrong; they have to be taught it, and if it becomes part of their training when they are young, it will be part of their lives long after they leave home.

Children don’t forget how they’ve been brought up, but sometimes they choose to ignore it. Proverbs 22:6 is a principle, not a promise. Sometimes children choose to do things in a way that completely disregards what they have been taught, but that is a freedom that God has given to all of us. He has made known to us what is right, and we can choose whether we want to live by it or not. He gave parents the responsibility to teach those things to their children. If parents don’t instruct their children to do what is right, it will be much more difficult for them to figure it out later in life. If parents train their children to be godly, it is likely that the children will continue in that way for the rest of their lives. Even if they rebel for a time, they will know the way back to the right path.

As I was writing Wednesday’s post, I thought of The Vow. The movie opened last week. I have not seen it, so this is neither a review nor a recommendation. I am, however, familiar with the story behind it, the story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. I don’t know if the movie accurately recreates their story, but the book written by the Carpenters themselves is available for anyone who wants a more accurate representation.

This is their story in a nutshell. Kim and Krickitt met over the phone, got to know each other, fell in love and got married. Ten weeks after their wedding they were driving to Krickitt’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving. She was at the wheel. There was a terrible car accident and Krickitt went into a coma. When she awoke four months later, Kim was by her side. She didn’t know him. She didn’t have any memory of the previous 18 months, and she still doesn’t. She didn’t know that she was married. When she saw her wedding pictures, she recognized herself as the bride, but she had no memories of that day or any part of the relationship that she had built with Kim. So many things could have happened at this point. Krickitt didn’t remember Kim, and she wasn’t the same woman that Kim had married. The accident had changed her personality, and she had to relearn the most basic things. For many couples, this would be enough to justify divorce. Okay, it didn’t work out. You go your way, and I’ll go mine. That was not the case for the Carpenters. Kim and Krickitt stayed together, not because they were experiencing the warm and loving relationship that prompted them to get married in the first place, but because they had made a vow. Kim honoured the vow that he had made to Krickitt and before God even though Krickitt was not the same woman that he had married. Krickitt made the choice to learn to love Kim again, not because she felt the emotions, but because she had made a commitment.

God intended for marriage to be a serious commitment. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, (Mark 10:1-9) Jesus explained that divorce was never God’s intention. Moses allowed divorce because he was dealing with humans in a fallen world, and insisted on the provision of a certificate of divorce to protect the woman who was deserted by her husband. A woman would be in a very vulnerable position in that society if she could not be married. Today, as then, the point is not what the legal documents say; it is the condition of your heart that matters to God. Marriage is a symbol of Christ’s relationship to His people. We are His bride. How would we feel if He didn’t take His commitment to us any more seriously than we take our commitment to each other? What if He decided to leave us because He just didn’t feel the love anymore? We can be thankful that God is more loving and forgiving than we are, but we should also strive to be keep our vows.


I walked into the grocery store yesterday morning, but unlike the many people looking at the large variety of flower arrangements just inside the door, I was there to buy food. When I got to the check-out, there were two lanes open—the express lane and a lane dedicated to flower sales only. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, the one day a year set aside to celebrate love with hearts and flowers, red and pink. Now as much as I think that you should show your love every day of the year, I don’t have a problem with setting aside one day in particular to make a point of showing it. I think mothers should be celebrated every day of the year too, but if it weren’t for Mother’s Day, we might not ever get around to saying thank you.

My problem with Valentine’s Day is more about people's perceptions of what love is. Real love is not all about hearts and flowers. It’s not always pretty. Love is about commitment and sacrifice. When you make a vow to love someone until death separates you, that is going to take some work. For all those who made or accepted proposals of marriage yesterday, you need to realize that a time will come when those warm fuzzy feelings will wear off, and you will have to face reality. I hope that you never have to face devastating things together, but you might, and you will certainly have to face daily routine—jobs, laundry, bill paying, choosing between one person’s wishes and the other’s. Are you willing to put someone else’s needs and desires above your own? Are you willing to risk your life for them?

John 15:13 tells us that there is no greater love than laying down your life for someone else. This is what Christ did for us. God loved us so much that He sent His son (John 3:16) to pay the penalty for our sin, to be our substitute so that we would not have to face the punishment that was intended for us. (Romans 5:8, I John 2:2, I John 4:10) It is hard to imagine that kind of love, but that is what Jesus commands in John 15:12. Love others as I have loved you. There is no greater love than laying down your life for your friends. You are my friends if you love each other this way. (John 15:12-14 LC paraphrase) Do you think that you are ready to show that kind of love? Peter thought he was too, (Mark 14:31), but after the rooster crowed in the morning he realized the truth. (Mark 14:66-72) Loving as Jesus loved is a lot to live up to, but this is what true love means.


It has now been 14 months since I was hit in a motor vehicle accident, and I am still in pain every day. Although the pain is not as excruciating as it was at the beginning, I no longer have the strength or endurance to do the things that I used to do. I often find myself thinking that I just want to get better so that I can get my life back. But I also believe that God is trying to teach me something through this experience. I ask Him in my prayers, “What do you want me to learn from this?”, but in my heart that usually ends with “so I can get back to my life”.

My first thought about what God’s lesson for me might be was rest. It seemed to be a common theme in sermons I heard a few months after the accident and now in a book I am reading for my Bible study group. It is the answer that is most often suggested by my friends, and it is certainly something that God advocates. (Exodus 16:27-30, Exodus 34:21, Matthew 11:28) But God also advocates working, (John 5:17, John 9:4, James 2:22, Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 18:3) and I had already started prioritizing where I put my energy, so I’m not convinced that rest is the answer. The second reason most people suggest is this blog. Perhaps God wanted me to write this blog, so He took away everything else I could do so that I would write it. That might sound good in theory, but the truth is that I had intended to start writing this blog on January 1, 2011 before the accident happened. I do believe God called me to do it, and I do hope that some day I will see that it has been of value to people, but God didn’t force me into it. I do it willingly, and I’ll leave the results up to Him. So what is the answer? I think I’ve finally figured out that my problem is pride.

Different people probably have different ideas of what pride looks like. Some may imagine someone who is arrogant and conceited and thinks he is better than anyone else around him. Others may imagine someone with great self-confidence, a person who knows that she can do what she needs to do. The second version doesn’t really sound that bad, does it? But as the popular, abbreviated version of Proverbs 16:18 tells us, pride goes before a fall. Pride is trusting in yourself alone. For me, it boils down to this—wanting to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, and I certainly don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Currently I am both, and I really don’t like it! In the book, The Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis says, “Part of my smaller story has been to use my gifts as a teacher and thinker to win people’s admiration—to be someone’s hero.” I have a similar desire. I like to be appreciated. I like to hear people say Thank You. I find myself doing what I can for others, so that they will think that I have some value.

The truth is, that without the grace of God, I am nothing. All good gifts in this world come from Him, (James 1:16-17) including our abilities and good health. How much He chooses to give us is up to Him. We can work and strive and plan and pray, but unless He is willing to allow it, it will not happen. That is not to say that He does not allow us to go our own way, because He has given us free will, but I had been praying for months before the accident that I wanted to do whatever was His will for my life. That’s truly what I want, but the pride of being self-sufficient is obviously deeply ingrained, and needs to be eliminated first.


In December 2009, a friend of mine, a 39 year old wife and mother of six, had a routine medical exam. Not long after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She died on this date two years ago. On that same day a teenage girl also died of a cancer that she had been battling much longer. Two days ago a dear friend’s mother also died of cancer. She was 66. Other friends and family members of various ages have also died of this savage disease, but for some reason, it hits home a little harder on February 10. And cancer is just one of the many trials we face in this world. It’s so frustrating! It seems so unfair!

There is no doubt that we should expect trouble in this world, (John 16:33) but we can also be assured that God still cares for us through the hard times. We do not face these hardships because God has stopped caring for us, but because we live in an imperfect world. God, however, is not imperfect, and He has compassion on those who humbly seek Him. Psalm 34:18 assures us that He is close to the brokenhearted and will deliver those who are discouraged. Sometimes the deliverance takes longer than we want it to, and it doesn’t necessarily come in the way we expect. Psalm 34 is David’s testimony of how the Lord delivered him, and his assurance that God will do the same for future generations as well.

The King James Version translates the last part of Psalm 34:18 as those who have a contrite spirit. It makes sense that being humble would be a requirement for God’s deliverance. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) Psalm 51:17 tells us that the sacrifice that God desires is a humble spirit; a humble and repentant heart He will not reject. If we come to God humbly, and lay our burdens at His feet, (Psalm 34:15, Matthew 11:28) He will be gracious to us, bring us through the discouragement and heal our broken hearts.


If the Old Testament law no longer applies to us (as I’ve discussed in my last two posts, February 3, 2012 and February 6, 2012), what is the point of reading the Old Testament? It takes up approximately ¾ of the pages in your Bible. There must be some reason why people keep printing it and buying it.

When God made a covenant with the people of Israel, He made it through His representative, Moses. It was only by going to Moses, or later the priests and judges appointed by him, that the people could know what God was saying to them or what His requirements were. Now, with the coming of Christ, and specifically His death on the cross (Colossians 2:14), we have been freed from the Mosaic Law, and more importantly, we can go directly to God through Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 8:6-11 which quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34)

So what purpose does the Old Testament now serve? II Timothy 3:16-17 gives us the answer. All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training and equipping. The history and prophecy of the Old Testament allows us to understand the significance of the New Testament, beginning with the genealogy listed in Matthew 1 and continuing to the death and resurrection of Christ. (I Corinthians 15:3-5) When Jesus walked on earth, the only scriptures that people knew were what we now refer to as the Old Testament. Those were the scriptures that Jesus quoted and prayed. Those were the scriptures that He used to teach the disciples and the people. (Matthew 22:29, Luke 4:21, Luke 24:27) Every time Jesus said, “It is written…”, He was referring to the Old Testament scriptures.

Although we are no longer under Mosaic law, the principles and facts that are written in the Old Testament are still true. We can still find hope and encouragement from the Psalms. We can still find good advice in Proverbs. We can still learn from the experiences of the Israelites. We can still find evidence of God’s faithfulness in His interactions with the people of Israel, and in the very fact that He made a new covenant that includes all of us.