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A Fascinating Study of Covenants in the Bible – Complete Edition, 10 Part Series
Over and over in the pages of the Bible we get glimpses of both implicit and explicit covenants. The major covenants tell us volumes about both God and Israel. In The Covenant Series, we are going to take our time to understand the various covenants we find in Scripture. We won’t cover all the covenants, and this study won’t be exhaustive; but we’ll see Adonai’s plan as it is laid out in Scripture for His beloved Israel, and ultimately for all nations.
I spend my days as a construction project manager. This means that I coordinate construction trades, make and track schedules and do paperwork. Oh the paperwork! It’s endless—a constant supply of forms, contracts, bills and invoicing, etc. There seems to be no end to it. Why do we have so much paperwork? Because paperwork is our modern form of recording agreements. I agree to pay such-and-such amount of money to you; in exchange you’ll do such-and-such work for me. To make it “official”, we write out our terms on paper and we both sign it. In simple terms, that’s a covenant.
But the ancients formed their covenants a little differently. Most cultures around the world have some form of agreement-making, and many of them use a common denominator—blood. Why blood? Blood speaks to us of death. It’s a grave matter (pardon the pun) when blood is poured out. It’s sobering. So when the ancients wanted to make a serious and sobering agreement, they did so through the means of a blood covenant.
The basic idea of a blood covenant is this: two parties get together and make an agreement, stating very clearing the stipulations and expectations of the covenant. Then they take an animal (representing the covenant-makers) and split the animal in half, laying the pieces out on the ground. The covenant makers (which could be a representative of each party) would then walk through the middle of the pieces, signifying a new walk together. [Sometimes a sprinkling of blood on each party replaced this step of walking through the pieces.] After this was done, a covenant meal was usually eaten as a memorial. There are many varieties and differences in individual cases, but most of time these steps remain pretty consistent.
Let’s walk through a covenant together…
In the first chapter of Genesis, we find God establishing a principle in creation: Everything reproduces after its own kind. In verse 21, whales, living creatures and winged birds reproduce after their own kind. In verses 24-25, cattle, insects and large animals reproduce after their own kind. Then, God says—
“Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28)
We see that God created man in His own image, and we were created to have dominion over all the earth and living creatures within it. This mimics God’s dominion over all creation and everything in it. Our first purpose, from the beginning, was to mimic God—to be a visible, walking representative of God to all creation. Our first mission was, and continues to be, to fill the earth with more visible, walking representatives of God!
Chapter 2 gives us more detail in this creation of man—
As mankind began to multiply in the earth, the effects of sin’s leaven began to be seen more clearly. The destruction of mankind found in the story of Noah shows that man was internally infected with a nature that, left unchecked, would grow an insatiable hunger for depravity. God’s judgment upon mankind showed surviving man that our actions don’t go unanswered. There is a just God in heaven above. Yet the story also shows man that God is loving, sparing a remnant to start over again. God is not finished with man, but He’ll not put up with reckless wickedness. God shows that sin requires judgment, but if a man can “find favor in God’s eyes” (Gen. 6:8), he can be saved from that judgment.
In Genesis 17, we find that God appears to Abram again. In this epiphany, Adonai changes Abram’s name to Abraham, because he would be the father of many nations. “And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. And I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto you, and to your seed after you. And I will give unto you, and to your seed after you the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:6-8)
Adonai makes it clear to Abraham that His covenant is not only with him, but with Abraham’s seed. Notice the repeated references to Abraham’s seed. God also clarifies with Abraham that the possession of the Land of Canaan is an everlasting possession. This means that even if Abraham’s descendants are not living in the land for whatever reason, it’s their right forever to live in the land. Nothing will change this fact. The Land of Canaan belongs to the descendants of Abraham forever.
In Genesis 22, we find the story of Abraham taking Isaac…
We are going to consider a common misconception that many have regarding the role of Torah and Abraham’s Covenant. Most of us have been taught that God made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but then for whatever reason, God found it necessary to give the Law (Torah), which created a roadblock for Abraham’s promises. Jesus has come and removed the roadblock, the Law (Torah), so the promises made to Abraham could come to pass.
This idea is usually supported by a passage in Galatians chapter 3:
“Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ. And this I say, that the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:15-18)
So there we have it. Abraham’s Covenant was by promise (one-sided agreement). The Law cannot annul those promises; therefore, the Law is passed away, right? Not exactly—
In Exodus 25, we looked at how Adonai instructed the children of Jacob to “make Him a sanctuary, that He may dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8) In chapter 40, we finally reach the conclusion of this construction project. In intricate detail, Israel built the Tabernacle according to the pattern that Moses saw when He was on top of Mt. Sinai with Adonai. Once the Tent was erected, we read this concerning its inauguration—
“So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the Tent of the Congregation and the glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the Tent of the Congregation because the cloud dwelled thereon, and the glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.” (Ex. 40:33b-35)
You’re kidding me, right? Moses, who spent three 40-day stints with Adonai on the top of Mt. Sinai, who spoke with God so long that his face radiated light when he came down the mountain, couldn’t enter in? That’s some serious glory! But this presents a problem—if Moses can’t even enter in to the Tent to worship Adonai, what kind of promise does that leave for the rest of Israel? God is ultimately holy and pure; man is defiled and unclean.
So God is dwelling among men, but He’s just as inaccessible as He was on Mt. Sinai—what good is that? God had an answer for the dilemma. The next chapter, which is Leviticus 1, starts off dealing with what a man is required to do if he desires to bring an offering before Adonai.
An “offering” is the Hebrew word korban…
If you remember our discussion of Adam’s Covenant, we spoke about how mankind was designed to be a fusion of spirit and body. The spirit of man comes from the breath of the Divine One Himself, but the body comes from the earth. Connected to our bodies is our mind, will and emotions—this connection being demonstrated by the effect that our physiology has on those areas.
We also discussed in that article the fact that sin existed in the spiritual realm because of Lucifer’s sin, but it had not entered into the physical creation. God had created mankind to be His image bearer on the earth in this physical world. He was given dominion over the physical realm, mirroring Christ’s dominion in the spiritual realm. God gave mankind instruction and man’s authority in this realm was to be put to use to execute that instruction by Adonai. However, as we learn from Genesis 3, mankind was tempted to sin and chose to transgress the commandment of Adonai. This single act ushered in destruction to the whole of the physical realm.
Solomon was a wise and humble leader in his early years and God blessed him greatly. However, in Solomon’s latter years, he began to stray from the God of Israel and worship other gods—a direct result of breaking God’s commandment concerning multiplying wives unto one’s self. Because of Solomon’s disobedience in this matter, Adonai punished him (as promised to David).
God declared that ten tribes would be taken away from the Davidic throne and would be given to another. Solomon’s sons would rule over only two tribes of Israel. [We’ll study this history in more depth during the Kingdom Series.] The ten rebelling tribes would become known as the House of Israel, while the two remaining tribes (Judah & Benjamin) would be known as the House of Judah. But in honor of David, this punishment would not be meted out in Solomon’s lifetime but rather in the lifetime of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.
Throughout the centuries that followed, the writings of the prophets…
Thus far in our study of the Covenants, we’ve witnessed the interplay between three of the major covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is what we’ve seen so far—
As discussed, this puts us in a quandary. As long as the seed of Abraham walks in Adonai’s commandments, everything is great. But we can’t seem to do that because we’re under the dominion and power of sin. If we would just keep the Torah, both covenants could be fulfilled without any tension whatsoever. But our sin problem won’t allow that to happen. Somehow, in order for the promises made to Abraham and David to come to pass, something has to be done to overcome our inclination to sin.
As we saw in Chapter 8, this partiality to sin…
Though God informed us in Jeremiah 31 that He would remove our transgressions and remember our sins no more, He doesn’t, in that passage, explicitly tell us how He would do so. However, He doesn’t leave us in the dark concerning this work—He puts forth another motif throughout the prophetic writings that sets to answer this question. We’ve already seen the promise of a Serpent Crusher (Gen. 3:15) that would come as the seed of the woman and reverse the curse that was meted out to mankind. The picture of this coming Redeemer is filled in vividly before our eyes by the prophets. Let’s look at some of these passages.
“Thus says God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; He that gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I Adonai have called you [the Messiah] in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep [guard] you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:5-7)
In this passage, God is speaking about Messiah…
John serves as a congregational leader of a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tucson, AZ. He has a deep love for his Jewish brothers and sisters, and for the Hebraic context of our faith. John considers discipleship as one of his chief concerns and he works to make disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) through example, counseling and teaching the Hebraic understanding of our faith. John and his wife, Yvonne, live in Tucson, AZ, along with their two wonderful children.
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