Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Covenant This Part 2; covenant between God and men

Covenant This
Part 2; covenant between God and men

Ps 89:33-34   “33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”

Now that we have an understanding of Covenant between mortal men, let us now look upon the great mystery of God Almighty reaching out to form covenants with men and nations.  From Noah, to Abraham to Moses and onward, God in His sovereign grace extended His hand down to us to form covenant relationships with us.  Not because of what we could do, but because of who He is.  I will overlook the first covenants made with Noah in Genesis Chapter 8 and 9 and Adam in Genesis chapter 3 at this moment and rather look briefly at the story of Abram. 

In the entire 15th chapter of Genesis we have Abram after his encounter with Melchizedek now standing before God as He promises Abram an heir, descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky, 400 years of bondage in a foreign land, and a home to call their own.  All this because he trusted in God who called him from his home to a strange land.  He trusted in Almighty fully and completely (see Hebrews 11:8-10).  And He was simply obedient to something and someone he didn’t understand, and here at this place God Himself called out to Abram to join Him in blood covenant.  God offered a promise, and Abram offered a vessel for the Seed (see genesis 3:15).  Like covenants between men Abram paid a price in blood as we see in

Genesis 15:9-10  So He said to 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 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.”

After chasing away the vultures God stepped down to walk within the blood and ratified the covenant between Abram and all his descendants within him (see Hebrews 7:4-6) as its written in,

Genesis 15:17-18  “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.  18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram….”

This covenant is the backbone of the entire Old Testament, the origins of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, David, the prophets and the Messiah.  Their lives are living monuments of the day God came down to Abram now renamed Abraham.  Yet this is only a stepping stone in the story of covenants with men and God.  As promised Abrahams descendants suffered in Egypt until they were lead out by Moses and the miracles God preformed there.  Eventually they arrived at Mt. Sinai and Almighty once again stepped down and consumed the mountain creating an everlasting monument and called the entire nation to join him in a covenant.  On that mountain God delivered the terms of the covenant, the blessings on those who love and follow Him and the curses on those who sinned and rebelled against him (see Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26).    Here we see God calling out to a nation to be consecrated to Him, because they were Abraham’s children

Deuteronomy 7:7-11    “7 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10 And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.”

God entered that day into a covenant with the nation.  He himself is perfect and cannot fail his covenant, yet he is joined to a nation who could fail, sin and rebel against Him and His covenant.  Hence the blessings, curses, commandments and Laws of the covenant were given by God.  And the entire sacrificial system that was ordained for a time was brought into effect.  Rebellion against God and His covenant demanded blood, either by the substitution from a clean animal, or the lives of the nation as we saw with the invasions of Philistia, Moab, Amon, Assyria, Babylon and Rome (see Isaiah 24:5-6) .  This is why a new and better covenant was established, on to that more later. 

Now when God made this covenant with the people of Israel, he also extended it to those foreigners who would willfully commit themselves to God, they where grafted into the covenant.  Yet they were usually not accepted by the “circumcision at birth” followers.  As we saw in the days of Jesus where the court of the Gentiles was turned into an “Iron Age Walmart” (see Isaiah 56:6-7).  No I bring this up because there is a story in the book of Joshua worth studying.  God commanded the Israelites never to make any covenant with the inhabitants of Canaan, this is because if a Canaanite tribe entered into covenant with Israel they actually entered into covenant with God also.  Now the Gibeonites were a rather devious and clever tribe.  When Joshua began to conquer Canaan the princes of Gibeon dressed in worn and torn clothing and convinced Israel that they were from a far far away country and they wanted to make peace with them.  Joshua not knowing that they actually came from just a few miles away agreed, and after 3 days they cut covenant.  They were brought in under the protection of Joshua and more importantly God.  And of course they were spared from the fate of the rest of Canaan.  Of couse when Joshua found out they were punished by being made slaves to work wood cutters and water drawers, but they were alive.  For the entire story please read all of Joshua chapter 9.  So we see that since they are in covenant, Israel cannot destroy them with the rest of Canaan as we see in verses
Josh 9:19-20  “19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.”

Not long after this something amazing happens, Adonizedek king of Jerusalem (an Amorite king) hears about what the Gibeonite have done and assembles his army and four other kings and goes out to try and destroy the city of Gibeon. Now bound by their oath Joshua must defend their covenant partners.  But this is not the extraordinary thing, God himself intervenes and defends them.  One of the greatest miracles in the old testament, the stopping of the sun, was done because God was bound in covenant to a people who were originally excluded from the covenant and were marked for death.  By the bonds of covenant God stopped the earth’s rotation, overriding gravity and all natural laws as we see here in,

Joshua 10:10-14  “10 And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 12 Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.”

All of this under and imperfect covenant, made with carnal men.  We can see here and throughout the Old Testament the blessings of the covenant and the rewards of obedience.  Yet for most of Israel’s history they rebelled against the covenant of Moses, and most importantly God.  They worshipped Idols and foreign gods made by their own hands.  Or they rejected God in order to follow the Law. Knowingly challenging an unchanging God.  The LORD knew this would come to pass and warned them.  Moses commanded that when the nation crossed the Jordan they would stand upon opposing mountains Ebal and Gerizim to pronounce the blessings and curses.  This is a monument because to this day Gerizim the mountain of blessin,g is lush and covered with life and Mt. Ebal the mountain of curses, is dry and dead. (see Deuteronomy 11:26-29 and Joshua 8:30-35)  By these natural monuments and the monument of the Law they had no claims to ignorance. And by the words of Joshua spoken when the 12 tribes had rest from conquering Canaan partly, we read

Joshua 23:14-16    “14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.  15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.  16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.”

A warning left unheard, should we be surprised, this covenant laid in the hands of sinful and unregenerated men.  It was a shadow and a picture of what was to come.  Yet God himself could never change nor invoke violate the covenant as the people could.  Hence the season of Levitical sacrifice, a constant 24/7 refreshing and whitewashing of the covenant individually and nationally.  Yet this could not truly wash away sin or renew the heart, as we see the cyclical state of the people right before the fall to Babylon in

Jeremiah 34:18 “And the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not kept the terms of the covenant or solemn pledge which they had made before Me, I will make them [like] the [sacrificial] calf which they cut in two and then passed between its separated parts [solemnizing their pledge to Me] — I will make those men the calf! AMP

A tragedy, a sadly legal tragedy.  Yet God promised that one day a new and greater covenant would emerge.  One not dependant on the acts of men but on something everlasting and eternal.  The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all spoke of this

Isa 59:20-21   “20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.  21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”

Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant…

Ezekiel 37:26-27  “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.”

Yet there is a warning, before the old and imperfect could be done away with and replaced with something greater. God would have to dissolve the old, after generations of the tribes continually breaking their sole responsibility of loving Him with all their hearts, minds, strength and spirit, and their neighbor as their self.  And repeatedly choosing either lives of idolatry or dead religion.  It was foretold of an end, of the last days of the old covenant.

Zechariah 11:10-14 10 And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.  13 And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter" — that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter. 14 Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

John 19:15 “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priest answered, We have no king but Caesar.”

Now we look ahead to the New Covenant the Covenant between God and Christ, or also known as the covenant between Christ and the redeemed.

To be continued (please read Hebrews chapters 1 to 10)
Written by Cameron Conway

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Covenant This Part 1; covenant between man and man

Covenant This
Part 1; covenant between man and man

Malachai 3:6  "For I am the Lord, I do not change;

Of all the things I have read, learned and studied over these past 10 years, there are two truths that have revolutionized my life.  One of them is “The Perfect Circle” and the other is the revelation of Covenants.  I’ve already dealt with the first in minor detail in an earlier rant, and now I shall begin to mine the mountain that is Covenant.  This will be broken up into 3 parts, Part 1 is covenant between men, Part 2 is covenant with God and man. And finally the culmination with Part 3 covenant between the redeemed and Christ.

Now what is covenant? In literal Hebrew it means to cut, but that is only a sign of its true nature.  It is the oldest form of contracts and agreements in existence.  It was and is a common practice in every ancient and “uncivilized” culture.  It was an immovable force that would bind families, tribes and nations together for generations.  A source of great blessing for those bound to one and a source of curses and death for those who dared to break them.  Though covenants are world wide and all originate from Adam and Noah, I will be using the Hebrew form of covenants and ceremony during this entire endeavor.

How or why would someone enter into a covenant with someone else?  On a personal level covenants were enacted because family A had something family B did not and family B lacked something family A had.  Covenants were not entered when two parties had the same strengths rather they were brought together because of their differences.  So that the two would be complete only in unity.  And the same can be said for entire tribes and nations.  For the sake of illustration lets say we have a family of farmers and a family of soldiers.  The farmers keep losing their crops to bandits, and the soldiers have no means to grow their own food year round.  Each side has something to offer the other that they lack themselves. 

Now if these families were to enter into a covenant, it is a very serious issue, you see because covenants are for life, most often for multiple generations.  The only way out was death, and the punishment for breaking the covenant was death.  If these families enter covenant they become one family and are bound to the terms of the covenant.  If a famine arose the farmers would feed the soldiers first, if an unstoppable army approached the soldiers would lay their lives down to save the farmers.  Anything else would invoked the curses of the covenant and summon the avenger to kill the traitor.

The first step is negotiations, the patriarchs of both families meet and discuss the obligations of each family and blessings and the curses that would follow.  Once that is complete they would begin the covenant ceremony.  Both families and witnesses would gather in am open place where all could see (either an open field or a valley).  And before all would stand either the heads of each family or a representative who embodied all the family was.  They would take a heifer or another large animal and sacrifice it.  It was split along the spine so the sides fell off, then split it in two leaving a pool of blood.  The two patriarchs or representatives would walk within the blood and remains reciting the obligations, blessings and curses of that covenant, an image not soon forgotten. After that they would exchange their coats (symbols of authority) with one another.  Followed by the exchange of weapons from one to another (symbols of strength).  Next came the cutting of the covenant where each patriarch would make a deep obvious cut either in their hand or wrist and they would place their wounds together allowing their blood to mingle binding them as blood brothers, a true friend who sticks closer than a brother (prov 18:24).  This is also the origin for the phrase blood is thicker than water, for you were bonded more to your covenant brother than your own flesh and blood.  This is also the origin of modern hand shakes.  Once the blood was mingled, the families moved on to the covenant feast.  Where the patriarchs would eat and exchange bread symbolizing their bodies and wine symbolizing their blood (in all other cultures the blood of the patriarchs was mixed into the wine) they were now one family they would also exchange and merge their names together there was no longer two but one. They would also after everything else was completed erect a memorial, either the planting of a tree or the building of a stone pillar or altar, as a permanent reminder of their oaths.

Let us see this all unfold in an example from the Bible, the lives of David and Jonathan show all of this in practice. 

1 Samuel 18:1-4  “1 After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond of love between them, and they became the best of friends. 2 From that day on Saul kept David with him at the palace and wouldn’t let him return home. 3 And Jonathan made a special vow to be David’s friend, 4 and he sealed the pact by giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.”  (cut a second time in 1 Samuel 20:12-17)

Now what these two men did here would have consequences spanning both of their lives.  They not only entered into covenant with one another, but their families and children to come.  Because of this covenant Jonathan would protect David from his own father.  Because if he didn’t he would have invited his own legal death, and be branded a traitor.  As time passed Jonathan was killed in battle along with his father and David became King.  Then came a day where perhaps David looked at the scar of his arm and remembered his covenant and called out if there was anyone of Jonathans decendants left that he may pour out the blessings of their covenant with, and he found one in

2Samuel 9:1-13 And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? 2 And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3 And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 4 And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. 5  Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. 6 Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 7 And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. 8 And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? 9  Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. 10  Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11  Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. 12 And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. 13 So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

Mephibosheth received all these great things not because of his own actions or because of what he did, but because of what was done by his father and David all those years ago.  He didn’t toil and earn these gifts he simply received the blessings of his fathers covenant with the king.  Not only that but when the Gideonites came seeking vengeance on a ancient covenant (Joshua chaper 9) broken by Saul, David delivered into their hands all of  Saul’s descendants except Mephibosheth as we read in 2Samuel 21:1-9.  He alone was spared from death because of his inherited covenant with the King.

This is merely one example of covenants between men, we could also look at Genesis 21:22-32 the covenant of peace between Abraham and Abimelech at Beersheba.  Or Genesis 26:26-31 the covenant between Issac and Abimelech over the wells.  Or Genesis 31:44-54 the covenant between Jacob and Laban after Jacob and his family returned to Canaan.

I am merely trying to paint a picture of the severity and the unchanging heart of covenant.  I could also take time to explain that marriage is a blood covenant.  Or that our society despite its claims of civilization are the most unfaithful in history when it comes to oaths and contracts.  And that if covenants where still practiced today 50% would end in death.  No I am building a foundation so that you will be able to grasp the language and the terrifying beauty of the next level of covenant, the covenant between God and men.  Followed by the joyous revelation of the new covenant between the redeemed and Christ.

To be continued
Written by Cameron Conway

Bonus:  Covenant Quick Reference Guide (old testament only)

Gen 15:9-21 covenant of the promise land
Gen 17 Abram changed to Abraham
Gen 21:22-32 covenant between Abraham and abimelech at Beersheba
Gen 26:26-31 covenant between issac and abimelech
Gen 31:44-54 covenant between Jacob and laban (after they escaped from haran)
Deut 4:22-32 Moses’ warnings of breaking covenant
Num 25:10-13 covenant of peace upon Phineas and the priesthood
Deut 7:7-16 God’s covenant with the nation
Deut 15:1-11 Promise of Prosperity
Deut chapter 28 the blessings and curses of the covenant
Deut Chapter 29&30 Covenant redelivered by Moses to Israel in Moab
Joshua 7:10-26 Aeon breaks covenant and the entire nation suffers (battle at Ai)
Joshua Chapter 9 israel makes a covenant with the Gibeonites
Joshua 10:1-8 Israel forced to defend the gibeonites
            Joshua 10:12-14 God stops the sun, so the gibeonites enemies may be destroyed
Joshua 11:19 Israel made peace with no other peoples
2Samuel 21:1-9 the price for breaking covenant generations later
1Kings 3:4 Solomon offers 1000 burnt offerings in Gibeon
Nehemiah 3:7 Melatiah the Gibeonite, helps to rebuild Jerusalem
Joshua 24:14-28 covenant made after Israel “conquered” the promised land
Judges 11:29-40 Jephthah’s Vow  (forced to offer daughter as a burnt offering)
1Samuel 18:1-4 first Covenant between David and Jonathan
1Samuel 20:12-17 second covenant between David and Jonathan
            1Samuel 20:30-42 Jonathan protects david from his father
2Samuel 9:1-13 David finds Mephibosheth and provides for him for life
2Samuel 19:24-30
2Samuel 21:7 david protects Mephibosheths from the justice of the gibeonites  
2Samuel 3:12-21 Abner calls for a covenant with david
2Samuel 7:8-17 God’s covenant with David
            2chronicles 21:7 God unwilling to destroy Judah
1Kings 11:1-13 Solomon breaks covenant with God (decendants left only tribe of Judah)
            1Kings 11:30-35 the tearing of  the garment and the kingdom
1Kings 14:15-16 Israel (northern tribes) to be destroyed because of Jeroboam (2 calves)
            2kings 17:6-23, 38-39 & 2kings 18:10-12 Isreal carried away by Assyria
1Kings 30:32-35 covenant with Ahab and Ben-Hadad
2Chronicles 23:1-8 Jehoiada makes covenant to protect young Joash
Ezra 10:1-8 covenant made by Ezra for Israel to put away their foreign wives
Neh 9:36 – 10:39 covenant made on the first feast of booths after the exile
Isaiah 28:14-19 God promises to break the covenant with death & hell (picture of Christ)
Isaiah 61:1-11 The spirit of the LORD is upon me
Jeremiah 9:1-26 the price for going against God    (see Jer 22:8-9)
Jeremiah 31:31-36 A New Covenant (place my law upon their hearts)
            Jeremiah 32:38-40 new hearts and an everlasting covenant
            Ezekiel 11:19-20 new heart
            Ezekiel 16:58-63 everlasting covenant
            Ezekiel 34:23-26 One Shepherd
            Ezekiel 37:26 everlasting covenant of peace
            Zecheriah 11:10-13 God will break his covenant & 30 pieces of silver
            Malachai 3:1 The messenger of the Covenant
Jeremiah 34:6-22 Zedekiah makes and breaks a covenant to set the slaves free