1 - What Is A Covenant?|
When was the last time you heard a message at church on the covenants of God? The covenants of God are the cornerstone of the Bible and yet very few in our churches are familiar with its meaning or its application in our relationship with God.
I believe that one of the reasons our culture has avoided words such as "covenant" is because it is a commitment. Our society today in general does not like commitments. Years ago it was not uncommon for one to be born, marry, and die in one community, attending one school, one church and hold one job within that community. Because of this there was a great sense of commitment. This commitment could be seen in how the family cared for its members, wife, children, parents, grandparents, etc. Also an employer cared for his employees and the employees took care of the employer in return. We respected our government and its flag and fought with our lives to protect them.
We can see from the current events that this is no longer the case. Today, we have just as many divorces as we have marriages. Older members of the family who can no longer take care of themselves are placed in homes for the elderly so they are not a burden on the rest of the family. In today's big business, employees are only numbers to the employer and the employee will leave the employer the moment a better offer is found. The respect for our government has fallen to the point where the American flag is being burned. The crime rate in our country shows the disrespect we have for our nation's laws and authority. The only commitment that we commit to today is to our own desires and happiness.
We will do what is necessary and go wherever is needed to make us happy. The most tragic loss is that we, as a nation, have forgotten the God of the Bible, the God who created us and gave us life. We are no longer a people who serve God and our fellow man, instead we serve ourselves.
Many in our Churches, worship God, pray to him and read from his word, but we have excluded him from the rest of our life. We do not have the commitment to God that God has asked from us. God gave his people his eternal word, the Bible, which contains the body of Torah that God has asked his people to obey. Within the Torah are special holy days to remind us of who he is and who we are in him. The problem is that the Torah is found in the First Covenant, which Christians are to quick to say, "The 'Old Testament' was for the Jews and is not for us in the 'New Testament'." It is the purpose of this book to see if this statement is true or if it is a lie from Satan to keep us from having a close and intimate relationship with God.
The Six Parts to A Covenant
A basic understanding of what a covenant is will help as we study the covenants of the Bible and how they relate to us. There are several covenants mentioned in the Bible and most of them have six basic parts in common, they are the parties, promises, conditions, duration, sign and dedication.
Let us look at how each of these parts of the covenant fit together.
A covenant is an agreement or treaty between two people or groups of people.
Each party declares his promises to the other party.
Each party is responsible to fulfill his promises. If one fails to keep his promise (breaks the covenant), the other is no longer bound to the covenant.
The length of time that the covenant is binding upon each party.
Often there is a visual object used as the sign of the covenant. When the parties of the covenant look upon the sign, they are reminded of the covenant. This may be an object or the covenant contract itself.
A dedication is performed, often in the form of a ceremony. This often involves the shedding of blood.
The Need for A Covenant
The first two chapters of Genesis give us the account of God's creation of the world. This creation was created perfectly and without sin. In this perfect paradise man communed with God on a personal and intimate level. The third chapter of Genesis tells us about the destruction of that perfect paradise. Man succumbs to the temptation of the serpent and disobeys God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Man's punishment for his disobedience was expulsion from the paradise, and an end to the personal and intimate relationship with God (spiritual death) and the physical death of the body.
God is a merciful God. This means that God desires to forgive man of his sins and bring him back into that perfect, personal and intimate relationship they shared before the fall. But on the other hand, God is a just God. This means that if man disobeys God, punishment is required. God's redemptive plan for mankind provides for both justice and mercy. The covenants of God, which we will be discussing in this book, are the means by which God conveys his redemptive plan to mankind.
Our Bible is divided into two parts, the First and New Covenants. The First Covenant is the story about God's covenant with man and the New Covenant is the continuing story and renewal of this covenant relationship between God and man.
Relevancy of the First Covenant Today
Ask the average Christian to define the differences between the First and New Covenants and he will probably say: "The 'Old Testament' is the 'law' God gave to the Jews. They were required to observe the Saturday Sabbath, observe holidays like the Passover feast and the Day of Atonement, perform sacrifices, abstain from certain foods, etc. When 'Jesus' died on the cross he did away with the 'law'. The 'New Testament' on the other hand was written for the Christians and teaches that we are under Grace and are not required to keep the 'law' of the 'Old Testament'. Although the 'Old Testament' still has good stories with certain truths for us today, it is the by the 'New Testament' that we live by".
As we will see, our Christian theology of the First and New Covenants differ from what the Bible actually teaches. The purpose of this book is to show the truth of the relationship between the First and New Covenants. We will look at the covenants and the Torah of God in both the First and New Covenant, and see what they have to say.
There is a saying that says; "The New Covenant is in the First Covenant concealed and the First Covenant is in the New Covenant revealed". The entire Gospel message can be taught from only the First Covenant scriptures. In fact, this is just what the writers of the New Covenant did. They only had the First Covenant to teach the Gospel since the New Covenant had not yet been written. As I mentioned the First Covenant is quoted in the New Covenant, a total of 343 times. Every teaching in the New Covenant can be found in the First Covenant. Paul believed the First Covenant scriptures to be very important as he said, "I believe everything that agrees with the [Torah] and that which is written in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14).
Do the New Covenant scriptures supersede the First Covenant scriptures? Or do they agree with each other, especially when it comes to the Torah in First Covenant? As we will see, the New Covenant teaches more about the Torah than we ever thought. If the teachings of the First Covenant and the Torah are valid today, why aren't our churches teaching it?
The Desecration of the Covenant and Laws
Everything that belongs to God is holy. This includes; his people, covenants and Torah. There is one enemy of God who detests all that is holy and will do everything in his power to make it unholy. Everything that God consecrates, Satan wants to desecrate. The Bible has many examples of Satan's desecration of God's people, covenants and Torah throughout the First and New Covenants. Later chapters will deal with this desecration. By the time Yeshua came, Satan had almost completely desecrated all that was made holy. Would it not also be part of Satan's plan to desecrate all that is holy in our time?
The Marriage Covenant
We will begin our study of covenants with the first two covenants of the Bible, the marriage covenant and the flood covenant. Although these covenants are not directly related to God's redemptive plan for mankind, the marriage covenant will give us an example of how a covenant is intended to work. It will also give us an opportunity to see how Satan has desecrated it. Although the Genesis account of the creation of the man and woman does not call this union a covenant, the prophet Malachi understood it as such when he wrote "the wife of your marriage covenant" (2:14). Let us now look at this covenant.
The covenant of marriage is between a man and a woman, as it says in Genesis 2:20-22, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while Adam was sleeping, God took one of Adam's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man".
In the wedding vows, each member of the party gives their promises to the other. These promises usually include; love, care and obedience.
Marriage is meant to be an unconditional covenant. This means that there are to be no conditions placed on the covenant. Yeshua said in Matthew 19:6; "Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate".
A marriage is binding on each party as long as the two live, as is said in our wedding ceremonies today; "Till death us do part". Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:39; "A woman is bound to her husband as long as she lives".
Each culture is a little different, but for us we use a ring as the sign of the covenant. The ring is a daily reminder of the promises made in the covenant.
There are two parts to the dedication of the marriage. The first is the ceremony performed before an assembly of people. The second is the consummation of the marriage, which makes the two into one flesh. Genesis 2:23,24 is a picture of this dedication; The man said, "'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife." Even the marriage covenant includes the shedding of blood. The blood flows from the woman to the man when the marriage is consummated.
This marriage covenant was designed and authored by God to be a lasting covenant between a man and a woman. But what has happened to this covenant relationship today? It has been violently desecrated with Satan as the designer of this desecration. Let us take another look at the six parts of the marriage covenant looking at the changes Satan has made.
Even this part of the covenant is being desecrated with the growing number of homosexual unions. Also, there are many today that do not even enter the covenant of marriage, but instead "live together" with no commitment to the other person.
The promises, or vows, are often forgotten immediately after the ceremony. By looking at toady's divorce rate, almost as high as the marriage rate, we can see that these promises are not taken seriously.
Marriages today are a conditional covenant. If for any reason the two parties do not wish to remain together, a divorce is granted. Often the excuses used are; "We no longer have the same goals", "We grew apart in love and desires", "We just didn't get along".
When the marriage no longer fulfills the needs of the individual, the marriage is ended.
The wedding ring has become a status symbol of wealth, the more the money the bigger the ring. Also, rings are often replaced several times throughout ones life through divorce and re-marriage.
Due to second marriages and premarital relations, it is rare today for two people to come together who have not consummated with someone else previously.
God intended the marriage covenant to be a holy institution between two people, but as we can see, Satan successfully desecrated this covenant. In later chapters we will look at the covenant God made with his people then we will look at its similar desecration by Satan, not only in the days of the First and New Covenants, but today as well.
The Flood Covenant
After the fall of man, sin began to increase to such escalating proportions that God decides to destroy all life on the earth, sparing the lives of Noah (who was found by God to be a righteous man) and his family. God's second covenant with man was given to Noah after this worldwide flood. (Genesis 8:18,20, 9:8-17)
So Noah came out [of the ark], together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you- the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."
And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. "So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."
In the passage above, we can see all six parts of the covenant.
The covenant is between God and Noah, Noah's descendants and all living creatures.
God promises he will never again destroy all life on the earth with a flood.
This is an everlasting covenant, which will last for "all generations to come".
God puts the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to himself and to us that he made this covenant. Even to this day we can look up into the skies after a rain and see the sign of this covenant and remember his promise.
No conditions are placed on this covenant. No matter what man does, God will fulfill his promise in the covenant
The dedication of this covenant actually precedes the covenant. When Noah came out of the ark he "built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it" (Genesis 8:20). Again we have the shedding of the blood with the sacrifices of the animals.
There are two reasons I have included this covenant here. First, it demonstrates the six parts of a covenant helping us to better understand what a covenant is. Secondly, there is one key word used here that is also used in the other covenants that we will be looking at. That word is the Hebrew word "olam" which means "eternal" or a continuous existence. "Olam" often refers to God himself as in Genesis 21:33 where Abraham "called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal (olam) God". The covenant between God and Noah states that this covenant is an eternal (olam) covenant. God has promised that this covenant will never end.
- A covenant is a commitment between two parties.
- There are six parts to a covenant, the parties, promises, conditions, duration, sign and dedication.
- God uses the covenant to bring about redemption to all mankind.
- Everything that God consecrates, Satan wants to desecrate.
- The marriage covenant is a picture of our covenant with God.
- Satan has desecrated the marriage covenant.
- The flood covenant is an eternal covenant.