The Godward Focus of Faithfulness

One of my long-standing dissatisfactions with the focus of biblical theology is the habit of tracing God’s faithfulness only as far back as his covenant-keeping. Righteousness (tsedeqa) is portrayed as covenant-keeping. Love (hesed) is portrayed as covenant-keeping. Faithfulness (emet) is portrayed as covenant-keeping.

This has an ill-effect. It skews biblical revelation by making God’s relation with man seem more ultimate than God himself. There is always something more ultimate than God’s faithfulness to his covenant, namely, God’s faithfulness to God.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (2Timothy 2:13)

Here is how Jeremiah pleads for God’s covenant-keeping mercy:

“Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.” (Jeremiah 14:21)

Beneath covenant-keeping there is a more ultimate foundation: God’s allegiance to his name—God’s jealousy for the honor of the glory of his throne.

This emphasis on God’s allegiance to his own name and glory behind his allegiance to his covenant and his people, is desperately needed in a day when we are spring-loaded by nature and culture to make ourselves ultimate: “Of course, God will keep his covenant, he made it with us!”

There is a great biblical antidote for our pride. God keeps covenant for his name’s sake:

“Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22).

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.