Covenants: Then and Now


I am working to better understand salvation. What is it and what does it really mean. What is expected of me and what do I have to do. Mortal questions to an eternal promise. Salvation is based on a promise from God, so I am trying to better understand the promises that God has made.

Gen 9:9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:

Covenant usually refers to promises made between two people. A legal contract so to speak. It was a promise that was not to be broken and required a commitment and fulfillment of promises from both sides. God is a God of covenants. He makes promises with man, but man fails to live up to it. The story of Noah and the flood shows a covenant between God and man, where God promises to never again flood the entire earth and the rainbow is His symbol of promise. There was no requirement for this covenant.

Gen 15: 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

A covenant between God and Abram. Abram was asleep while God was making the covenant. God made promises, but required no action on the part of Abram to fulfill. God told Abram he would have a child. Instead of waiting on God to deliver His promise, he and Sarai decided that her handmade Hagar would bear him a child instead. Instead of trusting God, they put their faith in their physical plan and Ishmael was born. Ishmael would multiple into what would become the Muslim people.

Gen 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

God comes back and restates His covenant with Abram with a few extras this time. We know that Ishmael is the first born, but he was not the promised son of Abraham. If he were, the covenant would not have been restated. This time, Abraham will be blessed even more, but there is a price. All males will have to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. In addition, Abraham is charged with walking before God and being blameless. I am guessing that Abraham’s desire to fulfill God’s promise in his own life led to these new requirements. Hard to wait on God to fulfill His promise, but who else can really do it?

Exo 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Jumping forward a bit, we see the first of the new covenant that God is making with the nation of Israel. This is an interesting one and the events that follow are one of my favorites. God says He wants His people to purify themselves and not approach Mount Sinai for three days. After three days, when the trumpet blows, they are allowed to go to Mount Sinai and be in God’s presence. Pretty cool right? Moses leads the people out of the camp after three days have passed. They approach the mountain and God warns for them to be calm while they approach lest many should perish. Moses responded that they couldn’t approach because God had set limits around Mount Sinai. They totally missed it. God sends them back and calls for Moses and Aaron and then gives them the ten commandments. Did they just not understand or where the people scared? Regardless, the world now has the Law.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

 

 

Jumping forward even more, look at how much has changed. This isn’t all of the covenant that Jesus made with us, but the requirements have become to belief or have faith in Jesus. Amazing isn’t it?

 

 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Covenants: Then and Now

  1. internet elias

    Xander. Good post. God’s promises are never broken. And God’s chosen..Abraham…as the father of Israel…is an awesome aftermath of covenant. If I might suggest something. You, limyself and many others …have heard pastors and teachers often speak of how Abraham and Sarah ran ahead of God concerning an heir. If you will read, I believe it is Genesis chapters 13 or 14 through 17..you will see that God had told Abraham that his offspring would be as the stars of heaven…but no details were given Abraham as to what heir or by whom. And at the time Sarah gave Hagar to birth an heir for Abraham…Sarah was barron..and was past being able to have a child. When Ismael was thirteen years old was the first mention from God that Abraham and Sarah would have a son, Isaac, and that Isaac would be heir of the covenant. Both Abraham and Sarah were faithful to God. They trusted God. And when they were told..even though they both were too old for having a child…that God would supernaturally make it a ‘natural’ possibility for Abraham and Sarah to have Isaac….the BELIEVED God. And Isaac was conceived and born. The rest is history..so to speak :smile:. I don’t intend to sound contentious concerning what you wrote about the faithlessness of Abraham. I simply wanted to make the point that the story of Abraham and Sarah has been told incorrectly for years. And you and I both have likely heard the ‘faithless’ version hundreds of times…both from the pulpit and from teachers. But scripture is clear concerning the timeline of the situations relating to both the birth of Ismael and the birth of Isaac. Abraham nor Sarah had been told that they would bear Isaac at the time Ismael was born to Abraham and Hagar. Because..God intended Ishmael to be born. Ishmael’s decendants play a vital role in God’s purposes and plans for His chosen Israel. God makes no mistakes. Everything which happens is either by His soveriegn purpose or permission. And the events relating to the nations of Ismael and Isaac are awesome! It is so exciting to turn on the news and continue to see the happenings with these two beautiful nations.

    Again, good post. Interesting. Thought provoking. thanks.

    Carolyn / internetelias.wordpress.com

    • I reread what I put and I see what you are saying. I meant to say they sought a natural solution to a supernatural promise. If Abraham and Sarah weren’t faithful to God, I don’t think He would have reiterated the covenant with them for Sarah to give birth.

      It is similar to when Jesus told the apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to arrive. Somewhere along the line, they decided they needed to replace Judas even though Jesus said to wait. We often want to see the supernatural end result without waiting for God to provide it, that we seek a natural solution.

      Thanks for visiting and the nice comment

  2. societyvs

    “There was no requirement for this covenant [with Noah]” (Xander)

    Sure there was. Noah had to be to act upon what God was telling him about the flooding of the earth and build the ark (and round up the animals). If Noah had done nothing – he’d have died in the flood. The requirement was Noah’s ‘obedience’ (a theme that will quickly become evident with the giving of the Torah)…basically this is a ‘foreshadowing episode’.

    “This isn’t all of the covenant that Jesus made with us, but the requirements have become to belief or have faith in Jesus. Amazing isn’t it?” (Xander)

    I don’t see a change at all from those older requirements of ‘obedience’.

    With Noah, Abraham, and giving of Torah (Moses) we have people that are ‘obedient’ to God and they recieve covenant – all in all – the previous 2 (Noah and Abraham) are foreshadowing the Torah (making it all the same covenant per se). Reason this makes sense – those stories all appear in the 5 books of the Torah – a set of works that unites the whole Israel story.

    With Jesus, what does ‘having faith’ mean and does it eradicate the former covenants – or did the disciples see this as a continuation of the original covenent of Torah?

    Having faith to me seems to be about following Jesus (his life, example, and teachings). If someone does not do this – I am not sure what it is they have faith in exactly? Faith is nothing without the works to prove it.

    I think Jesus is a continuation of the Torah covenant – see Matt 5:17-20. Jesus seems to come not to abolish the law (Torah) but to maintain it – fulfill it – live it. I don’t see a ‘new covenant’ but an explanation of an old promise to Abraham to include the Gentiles (all nations will be blessed through him).

    • True, the covenant is given or made with the faithful, but a covenant is made with someone prior to conditions being given. Noah was faithful and obedient to God, but the covenant was made after Noah was obedient. Look at the second covenant with Abraham. He would be blessed as in the first covenant, but he and all the males under him had to be circumcised. He had an obligation to fulfill in order for God to fulfill His portion. The covenant was only made after Abraham proved himself to be faithful, as Noah, but the faithful aspect is not part of the covenant.

      Big difference between having faith in Jesus compared with trying to fulfill the law. We can’t fulfill the law. It is harder for some to have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, but it is possible.

      ** Faith is nothing without the works to prove it **

      You are right, but the works come from having faith, not faith manifesting out of the works.

      ** I think Jesus is a continuation of the Torah covenant – see Matt 5:17-20. Jesus seems to come not to abolish the law (Torah) but to maintain it – fulfill it – live it. **

      In one context, your right. He did not abolish the Law, but fulfilled it. The difference is on a spiritual level. When you have faith / believe in Jesus and been “saved”, you are baptized into Jesus. You are placed into Jesus and you share in His fulfilling of the Law, something we can not do on our own. With this being done, we are under the Abrahamic covenant because Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic covenant.

  3. “You are right, but the works come from having faith, not faith manifesting out of the works.” (Xander)

    In one sense I definitely agree – how can we have works without having faith in God in the first place. However, works is a requirement of real faith that grows and matures from the that first point (faith) to one of following (doing things God asks of us in His teachings).

    “He did not abolish the Law, but fulfilled it.” (Xander)

    Did he fulfill all of it though? If he did – there is no need for a 2nd coming – correct?

    “You are placed into Jesus and you share in His fulfilling of the Law, something we can not do on our own. With this being done, we are under the Abrahamic covenant because Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic covenant.” (Xander)

    Interesting question coming up – what is the fulfilling of the law?

    As for the law, we are Gentiles – we are not under the law. This was a point Paul tried to convey in his letters and is well understood in Judaism in general. Acts 15 kind of sums up some of the ideas of the time – which turned into the Noahide laws.

    I think we are included in the Abrahamic covenant via ‘faith’ – but this faith came through a Jewish source – Jesus. In essence, we are included because Jesus was faithful to his own faith (Judaism). Our inclusion is only that Gentiles now are given an equal access to God as what not previously part of the Judaic faith (well not in the numbers we now see).

    • When speaking of fulfilling the Law, Jesus lived under the law and did not break any area of the Law unto death. He went farther as having not been of the seed of man, He was not under the same fallen aspect as the rest of mankind. With the resurrection of Jesus, the first law of sin and death has also been satisfied. When we are in Jesus, we are able to live since He became sin.

      Your right, Gentile and Jews alike are no longer under the Law unless they choose that route. Prior to Jesus, everyone was under the Law, whether they acknowledged it or not. The only way to the true God was through the Law. Gentiles could convert and become Jewish, but apart from that, they were lost out in the world.

      ** I think we are included in the Abrahamic covenant via ‘faith’ – but this faith came through a Jewish source – Jesus.**
      Exactly

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