"God's Covenants,"

by Ronald Ginther

"Under the Old Covenant, the people of Israel gave themselves to obey the letter of the Law. There were plenty of dos and don'ts to follow. But now, under the New Covenant, we are called to be partakers of His nature (2 Peter 1:4) Do you see the difference?"--K.P. Yohanan, Founder and President of Gospel for Asia, SEND Magazine, "Transformed to His Nature," page 23.

Part I,

God's Covenants--what are they? and how important are they?

From the listing of scriptures that speak about covenants in the Bible, it is quickly apparent that covenants are important, and commonly entered into by God and man. Some are God's covenants exclusively (solely originating with him, and others are between men solely). The Old Testament is actually "The Old Covenant," a better name--in my view, and the New Testament is "The New Covenant." How important is that? It is vital to our faith, for innumerable reasons, which we need not detail here. Perhaps, the main reasons for understanding covenants, God's particularly, is that God is a Covenant God--in other words, God is a covenanting God. Now, the written or printed official contract is a modern-day form of covenants, and contracts in business are usually legally binding on the parties that agree to them. Contracts also occur in education, between teachers who sign up for teaching classes and the administration that hires the teachers. Unions negotiate contracts with business owners or operators. Contracts, therefore, are ubiquitous, and they cannot be ignored except by incurring loss of jobs, loss of money, loss of reputation, and so on. People generally take contracts seriously, though they are often broken for various reasons. If broken, there is usually a penalty, as we said. It is not looked kindly upon to break a contract you have signed to uphold. You can often be held responsible by the law, and incur monetary penalties such as suits against your finances and assets by the parties you injured in breaking your contract, and even imprisonment may follow if the law is broken somehow in breaking the contract.

Without contracts, the whole apparatus of the economy, government, and society would break down and grind to a halt. Marriage itself is a contract--and the breaking of it is very serious in God's eyes, though no longer in society's, except for monetary loss to one party or the other.

That said, we can better appreciate the fact that God's Covenants are even more binding and important, and the penalties for breaking them are even more serious than those of breaking contracts, since the penalties and repercussions may be eternal, not temporal and passing, as is the case with contracts. God's contracts, then, are very serious matters, much more than even contracts between men. Howso? Blood must be shed in God's Covenants to establish them, and verify them, and that means a life must be taken and sacrifice to institute the Covenant and also keep it standing forever in force, binding upon all parties involved. In traditional Middle Eastern covenants, blood was almost always shed and a life taken, usually of an animal. But blood of the human parties was also shed in some covenants, the parties' cutting themselves and shedding their own blood, though they did not take their own lives, naturally. Nevertheless, if the covenant was broken, the agreement may have required the life of the covenant breaker, not just a little blood shed.

Unfortunately, we commonly, as human beings and even Christians, take God's Covenants lightly--and breaking them is not necessarily considered a very serious matter. If that were not so, then why are people always breaking God's Covenants--for the record is deplorable. God's Covenants have always been broken by people, whether they are Christians or non-Christians. The consequences are very serious too--regardless of whether the covenant-breakers care to think about that or not. Covenant-breakers will suffer temporal and eternal punishment or loss--whether they recognize the danger of that or not before they reak covenant with God.

This sounds so negative, does it not? Are covenants to be feared or steered clear of? God established His covenants with men, and we as human beings did not initiate them. Goid did not ask or need our permission. We are simply the beneficiaries, as long as we abide by the terms. God, as Creator, as Lord God, has the right and authority to impose His holy Covenants on His creatures--and so He has done so. He established them, not to punish us, as the following will show, but to bless us. Yet if we despise His Covenants and break them, we will incur loss and punishment, because it is the same as if we broke the law of gravity by stepping off the roof of a building--we will fall, and we will be probably injured or even die as a result. The law of gravity is not purposely cruel to us--it is necessary and good--but we broke it by our foolish act, and in the natural operation of the law we will suffer injury or even death. That is a simple explanation, but somehow creatures like to protest and argue the fairness of God's laws and Covenants--as if they are not subject to anything, even the consequences of their own foolish and sinful acts. Well, that is certainly a foolish tendency in humankind--just as it is foolish to disregard the laws of nature that are designed to protect and enhance life, not destroy it. If they injure or destroy us, it is probably our own fault by disregarding and breaking them, thinking we can get away with it without any consequences to ourselves. Yes, we may get away with running red lights--for a time. But sooner or later, the police will give chase and pull us over--and the law will then impose consequencs on us for breaking the law.

God's Covenants are the most important covenants, for God is the initiator and the One who sees that they are enforced and upheld; He also takes care of all punishments and penalties when they are broken.

1. Genesis 9:15: God's Covenant with Noah and all his descendants and every living creature. The token or sign of this Covenant is the bow in the clouds (usually interpreted as the rainbow); a perpetual or everlasting covenant.

2. Genesis 15:18: God's Covenant with Abram and his descendants (a perpetual or everlasting covenant). The token or sign is circumcision of all males. 3. Exodus 2:24: God's Covenant with Isaac and his descendants. A perpetual or everlasting Covenant. 4. Exodus 2f:11: God's Covenant with Jacob and his descendants. A perpetual or everlasting Covenant. 5. Deuteronomy 29: 1: God's Covenant with the people of Israel at Horeb. A perpetual or everlasting covenant. 6. Psalm 89:3, Psalm 89: 28, 29, Psalm 89: 37: God's Covenant with David. The token or sign is the moon. A perpetual or everlasting Covenant. Isaiah 42: 6: God's Covenant given by him for the people as a Covenant of the people for a light to the Gentiles. This would seem to be perpetual or everlasting. (The token or sign may be one or many things--among them the Gospel, the Word of God, Jesus Christ Himself, His earthly ministlry, and His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and propitiation for all sin and damnation). 8. Jeremiah 31: 31, Jeremiah 31: 33: God's New Covenant with men who know Him as God; a perpetual or everlasting Covenant. 9. Exekiel 34: 25: God's Covenant of Peace. A perpetual or everlasting covenant. 10. Malachi 2: 4: God's Covenant with Levi.

Other Covenants--Men's, or Men Covenanting with God and/or Other Parties (Human or Non-Human):/h2>

1. Genesis 26:28: Abraham and Abimelech's covenant. A lifetime only.

2. I Samuel 18: 3: David and Jonathan's covenant. A lifetime and descendants covenant (but those families are now, for all practical purposes, extinct, as far as we can tell). 3. I Chronicles 11: 3: David's covenant with the elders of Israel at Hebron. A lifetime covenant, since successive administrations may choose to disavow any such agreement binding upon them and their descendants, since this is not God-initiated. 4. 2 Kings 23: 3: King Josiah of Judah's covenant with the people of the Lord. A lifetime and descendants agreement, though it can be broken by the descendants who do not wish to abide by a former king's covenant and are no longer subject to him.

5.The congregation's (namely, the people of God--the Jewish believers in God at the time) covenant with the Lord. This was binding for them at that time, for their lifetimes, but not necessarily binding thereafter, since it is not God-initiated.

6. 2 Chronicles 23: 16: Jehoida's covenant with the Lord and between himself and the people and the king--that they should live as people of the Lord. This was binding for him, and the people living at that time within his spiritual oversight.

7. 2 Chronicles 34: 31 and 2 Kings 23: 3: King Josiah's covenant with the Lord. A lifetime only covenant.

8. Job 31:1: Job's covenant with his eyes. A lifetime only covenant.

9. Psalm 50: 5: The saints I(or people of God's) covenant with God. A lifetime only covenant.

10. Isaiah 28: 5: The people's covenant with death. A lifetime only covenant (this may be a metaphorical covenant, denoting their dark spiritual union with death and destruction instead of God and life).

11. Amos 1: 9: Brotherly covenant (this may be the same as was made by David and Jonathan). A lifetime only covenant.

12. Malachi 2: 14: "Wife of the Covenant".

13. Daniel 9: 27: The Anti-christ's covenant. Duration is probably his lifetime. He makes this covenant, apparently, with all his doomed subjects and followers who are marked with the Mark of the Beast, identified with the number, 666, in Revelations. This is the most chilling covenant imaginable, other than the one mentioned by Isaiah in chapter 28: 5.

Some Covenant Properties

1. Deuteronomy 10: 8: Ark of the Covenant (God-initiated, man-made). It is everlasting or perpetual, since there is an Ark of the Covenant in heaven. The earthly one has vanished, though some people claim it still exists, hidden beneath the former site of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, an area called the Temple Mount.

2. Exodus 24: 7: Book of the Covenant. If the holy Word of God is meant, it is perpetual and everlasting, since the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is that Book, as He is the Word. 3. Exodus 24: 8: Blood of the Covenant. In the Old Covenant, animals were sacrificed, and their blood sprinkled for the expiation of the people's sins for that year on the one day of the Day of Atonement, the chief priest going in to offer the blood in the Tabernacle or Temple. This Blood was also shed by Jesus Christ before in his floggings and then on the Cross--and it is collected and has been presented by the Lord Jesus to His Father in heaven. It is no doubt perpetual and everlasting, since His work is everlasting and perpetual. This Blood has all the efficacy and power that God has granted to it, and it is always available to God's children and to work in saving people from their sins and cleansing them. This is the most precious Property of any Covenants of God, other than His Word, the Book of the Covenant. If anyone has a better undertstanding, we are in need of it here.

4. The bow in the clouds. This is a perpetual property, as long as the earth exists.

5. The moon (God's Covenant with David and his descendants). Perpetual, and probably everlasting, since Jesus Christ is a descendant of David). How long will the Moon, and the Earth exist? Scrpiture says that the present heaven and earth will be replaced with a new heaven and new earth. When exactly that will occur, we do not know. But it will happen someday.

Note: God's Word for Windows afforded the list of scriptures that are the basis for this article. You can access this program on-line by going to it with the title I have given.--Ed.

Part II will discuss possible relevance of God's Covenants to us today, whether or not a particular covenant is thought to be binding or not by Christians or the non-Christians in society. This is a most interesting topic, and you may want to r eturn for it as it comes on-line

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