Covenant: God’s Trustworthy Word
Trust. This is a topic and issue that is so burdensome for most of us today. We live in a society that is constantly changing and questioning everything. Our style, our choice of vehicle, the school we send our children to, the homeschool curriculum we picked out, the car seat we bought, even the food labels. New information is brought to our attention almost on a daily basis. How can we make good decisions when one study claims safety while the other study claims certain danger? When we finally do make a decision - one that seems to be the best for us with our research done almost immediately a newer and better version comes out that makes us question our previous decision. But this is not just limited to the products that are available to us.
Trust, or lack of, filters down through every facet of our lives. Every circumstance we face as well as our deepest and most intimate relationships are all impacted by trust. We are a culture that does not let our yes be yes and our no be no. If we are making an oath of some sort, we feel the need to follow up with “I promise” (if our word is honest, why do we do that?) We enter into contracts looking for a way out. We enter into marriage with the idea that we can always get a divorce if it doesn’t go the way we planned. Change is inevitable. Circumstances will change. People will change. We will change. The only certainty we have about the world is (ironically) uncertainty. So, what hope is there for us when everything and everyone changes around us?
Enter God and His covenant
Thankfully, we can find certainty as we look to God who is a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. I’m afraid in our society we have lost the gravity and true meaning of the word covenant. Covenant is not a simple agreement made merely by shaking hands or signing a piece of paper. It is not a contract that has loopholes. It cannot be entered into lightly, with little or no thought, or with the idea that you can always change your mind later. It is not made or established by a person seeking to dishonor it. Covenant is a solemn, binding agreement. It takes careful consideration (counting the cost), commitment (honoring your word) and accountability.
Interestingly, the word testament—as in Old and New Testament—actually means covenant. This concept, then, has deep roots in God’s Word, because God was the very first One to establish a covenant. The whole Bible and all of God’s interactions with mankind are based upon a covenant. Every part of the Old Testament, every story we hear in Sunday school and ultimately the reason Jesus came and gave His life a ransom for many are all connected by God’s covenant promises.
In our recent study we looked at some of the ancient customs surrounding the making of covenants. These customs can help us better understand the certainty of God’s promises. Although there are many, let’s just focus on one. The making of a covenant always required bloodshed. In the Old Testament, when a covenant was established, sacrificed animals were placed on each side providing a path in between them to pass through. When people made a covenant and then passed through these pieces, they were saying, “May the Lord to do me as these animals if I do not keep my commitment”. This showed the seriousness of their word, and it helps us understand how serious God is when He makes covenant promises to His people.
All throughout the Bible, we see God Almighty making promises and keeping them. The term covenant is first used in the account of Noah and the flood. God promised to never destroy the earth with a flood again, and sealed that promise with the sign of the rainbow. Think of how terrifying it would have been in that generation, to see it raining again after the flood. But God was gracious and gave them a sign; a sign we can still rely on today, because He is still fulfilling that promise. God made a covenant with Abraham to give him descendants and land. He honored and fulfilled this promise too. Part of that covenant also promised to deliver Abraham’s descendants from bondage in a land not their own. Again, He honored and fulfilled this promise. The rest of the Old Testament is about God’s people, Israel, and His covenant with them. Even when they were disobedient and failed to keep their part of the covenant—the commands given through the Old Covenant—He fulfilled His Word.
But the Old Covenant was only a shadow of a new and greater Covenant. It showed Israel (and us) their imperfections and their inability to fulfill its demands of holiness. It showed them their need for someone who could keep the covenant. Jesus Christ did this, and then He established the ultimate covenant through His blood. Read that again. Through His blood. This New Covenant was established with bloodshed, but not just the blood of an animal. Jesus was the perfect lamb who was sacrificed for our sins.
Because of this covenant sealed with the blood of his Son we can rest assured that we have forgiveness. God always fulfills His Word. This means we no longer are slaves to our works, trying to gain good deeds to enter heaven. True believers have full access and a righteous standing before God through the blood of His Son. True believers are sealed with His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, to hold us accountable and to transform us. This is God’s New Covenant.
As we prepare for Easter and celebrate the death and resurrection of our blessed Savior, a deeper understanding of the idea of covenant can help us better understand why Christ came and gave His life on the cross. Our faith and trust in the Lord will be increased dramatically when we know how the Lord loves His children bought with His own blood.
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March 30, 2018Covenant