August 25

Family Covenants, Part 3

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105-106)

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” (Proverbs 6:23; 10:17)

“For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12)

Family covenants are not typical, but following Christ is also not typical—it is radical, costly, and challenging. In today’s world, merely keeping a family together for dinner is difficult, so how much more is having consistent devotions and close-knit time without devices or distractions? We should start when our children are young, building the good habit of meeting together to discuss beliefs, struggles, and encouragements. However, even if this never happened making and keeping a covenant with teens, youth, or as spouses will lead to shared spiritual growth, rather than spend time regretting the past.

Psalm 119 reminds us that God’s Word is the basis for our covenants because only Scripture will shed light on our dark paths. The writer has taken an oath to live by God’s holy statutes. No matter what resolutions we make or efforts we exert to obey God, we will fail, since we have no righteousness of our own. We are utterly dependent upon Christ’s holiness and the Spirit’s power to conform us to gospel grace and to agree with God. By taking a vow and somehow confirming it, the Psalms 119 writer agrees that accountability is profitable. Accountability is one of the primary benefits of a family covenant—it is the basis for recognizing spiritual growth, re-directing ourselves and our family members, and rebuking sin. Light is valuable because it overcomes the darkness, giving us the ability to see where we are going and turn around if we are off-course. I have a friend who is blind and comes to exercise when I am also working out. He usually knows where he is by the machines that are close to him. The other day, though, I could see that he was confused, so I told him which way he was facing and which machine was by his left hand. That was all he needed, to turn around, face the right direction, and move toward the door to go home. Scripture applied is what we need to see that we may be going the wrong way.

To use a covenant practically, the third section on “Practices” focuses on specific activities or behaviors that your family should keep. Examples include daily devotions with Bible study and prayer, eating meals together, going out together as a family at regular intervals, worshipping at church together, having family meetings, working out family problems and conflicts in a safe, biblical, confessional environment, etc. Covenant practices should be limited to a few. They may also include other people, such as neighbors, church members, or friends. A gospel-centered covenant will not pressure members to perform but draw individuals to Christ for forgiveness and help.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 wisely teaches us that evil will sometimes come upon us suddenly, perhaps in temptations, crisis situations, illness, or injury—so we must prepare ourselves. An established family covenant will provide a means to immediately engage and draw the family together then, rather than divide, which frequently happens in times of emergencies. Since “…the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,” wouldn’t it be better to be prepared for the worst, depending on Christ’s wisdom and grace?

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