Covenants in Christianity and their relevence
Open with conversation :)
Abba be upon us,
Hear our call,
Let us share in The Spirit,
And not to sin befall.
Clear our mind
And let our one heart soar,
Take in all that we can
And should you will it,
Lord give us more.
You give not just constant promise
but we are assured by your example.
We persue after the useless
When really your Grace is more than ample.
Finally Father, I pray that you would give Grace and understanding to the eyes of the reader and that you would use me, Lord in your plan for them. And, Lord, teach me as I write. I know there are many Good reasons for this piece and so I pray ye do as ye wilt with it.
As a Christian, why do I need to know about covenants?
'owhorspecial' asked the question, 'Do you believe in covenants'.
To answer that question we really ought to explore what 'covenant' really means before we can decide if we truly believe in it. Understanding this word is vital, particularly in a Christian context. The reason being, how can you answer that question and fully appreciate being saved by God if you don't understand why and how you have been saved.
I am all too aware of the dangers of merely attending Church and simply regurgitating what the minister has preached. It is almost as if there is this theological vocabulary that everyone becomes familiar with but many struggle to explain when asked the meaning and the importance of such a word by a non-believer.
Understanding is critical.
OK, I'm in - what does it mean?
At this point, I think it would be helpful to look the various dictionary definitions of covenant that apply before we discover the word in The Word.
- Law a formal agreement, contract, or promise
- Law a clause in a contract
- Theology an agreement which brings about a relationship of commitment between God and his people.
Now, when reading the third, please do not then discard the first two.
In fact, it is the first two that allow the third. As you will be aware, God made promises to several prophets. The clause of course being that His chosen people followed His Laws found in Exodus/Leviticus and so on. It was a divine contract if you will.
Now, let's dig a little deeper.
The first time the word 'covenant' is used, is Genesis 6:18
"But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives.19 Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood.20 Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive.21 And be sure to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals."
And the next time it is used is here, in Genesis 9:1
"Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth."
I would like to point out a few important points about these two passages.
- Noah had to trust that God would fulfill his side of the bargain. This was of course that the Earth really would flood and that Noah and his family would survive.
- Noah had to obey. He had to gather two of every animal that the Earth had to offer and not only get them on board the boat but care for them during the flood.
- And, finally, the promise was confirmed.
To sum up to far we have trusting in God, obeying God and a promise from God.
Remember these point as they do tend to reoccur...
If we take a look at the story of Abram (Abraham), we will see these points again but as we read on we will see how God's Grace comes into play here.
"But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”
9 The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. 11 Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.
12 As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
Yes, you've guessed it. Again, we can see that nagging trust issue, the command to obey The Lord by bringing him offerings and then the very detailed promise. God never has, and never will, mash his words.
However, this was just the beginning for Abram. Abram also had a wife that he loved very much though she couldn't give him the children he desired. And so, his elderly wife Sarai - in sheer desperation for an heir for him - gave Abram her servant to marry as the servant Hagar could give Abram something Sarai thought she couldn't.
But! Was that part of the details in God's promise to Abram? Was it part of the covenant? No, it was not. And so, Abram wandered a little from their contract, shall we say.
This is where the all important Grace comes in. Grace - pure forgiveness, no record of wrongs and something that can only be given via God alone.
Shall we read on?
4 “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation.
9 Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised.
15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.[c]16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her!
23 On that very day Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him.
Note: God returned to Abram to confirm his side of the covenant with him, despite the fact that Abram had strayed from that covenant (or contract with God).
God again made his promise and this time gave even more explicit detail to make sure Abram did not make the same mistake again. Both Abram and Sarai were reborn under new names by the covenant and were. again, given instructions to obey. They did so, and The Lord told them that this was not just a commandment for them but for all future generations.
Personally, I love this story. If you wish to, read the full story! It has so many examples of God's Grace and his Love for the people. Including those that were not originally meant for the covenant - like Hagar, for example. Not to mention the fact that we can literally watch every inch of this promise come true as we read on throughout the Bible.
"Alright Aiysha, this history lesson is all very interesting... but you're reaching now. This is way in the past. What does God's covenant with Abraham have to do with me??"
What does it have to do with you? Everything!
It is that same covenant that laid the way for Yeheshua (Jesus), who made the new covenant - written in His Blood, no less and it is by that same Grace shown to Sarai, Hagar and Abram that saves us.
To clarify what I mean, let's finish with one final promise...
33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
Again, note - trusting, obeying and of course - the all important PROMISE.
As we have seen throughout the Bible, God never mashes His words - if He says something then consider it done.
I don't wish to connect any further dots as I believe that God will speak to you and that you ought to speak to God.
The choice is yours. Do you believe in covenants? Is it possible that God has made a promise to you? Please do discuss below!
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose"