Covenant

* What is a covenant?

A covenant is a mutual agreement or contract (between persons, between nations, or between God and humanity) with conditions and consequences spelled out

* God’s covenant with Noah

Noah stepped out of the boat onto an earth devoid of human life. But God gave him a reassuring promise. This covenant had three parts: (1) Never again will a flood do such destruction; (2) as long as the earth remains, the seasons will always come as expected: (3) a rainbow will be visible when it rains as a sign to all that God will keep his promises. The earth’s order and seasons are still preserved, and rainbows still remind us of God’s faithfulness to his word. (NLT)

Genesis 9:8-17 – Then God told Noah and his sons, “I am making a covenant with you and your descendants, and with the animals you brought with you—all these birds and livestock and wild animals. I solemnly promise never to send another flood to kill all living creatures and destroy the earth.” And God said, “I am giving you a sign as evidence of my eternal covenant with you and all living creatures. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my permanent promise to you and to all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with everything that lives. Never again will there be a flood that will destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this is the sign of my covenant with all the creatures of the earth.”

* God’s covenant and the conditions with Abraham

When God called him, Abram moved out in faith from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. God then established a covenant with Abram, telling him that he would found a great nation. Not only would this nation be blessed, God said, but the other nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram’s descendants. Israel, the nation that would come from Abram, was to follow God and influence those with whom it came in contact. Through Abram’s family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save humanity. Through Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and be blessed beyond measure.

God promised to bless Abram and make him famous, but there was one condition. Abram had to do what God wanted him to do. This meant leaving his home and friends and traveling to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abram’s family. Abram obeyed, walking away from his home for God’s promise of even greater blessings in the future. God may be trying to lead you to a place of greater service and usefulness for him.   Don’t let the comfort and security of your present position make you miss God’s plan for you. (NLT)

Genesis 12:1-3 – Then the Lord told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

* Why God made a covenant with Abraham

Why did God repeat is covenant to Abram? Twice before, he had mentioned this agreement. Here, however, God was bringing it into focus and preparing to carry it out. He revealed to Abram several specific parts of his covenant: (1) God would give Abram many descendants; (2) many nations would descend from him; (3) God would maintain his covenant with Abram’s descendants; (4) God would give Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan. (NLT)

Genesis 17:2-8 – I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation.” At this, Abram fell face down in the dust. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of not just one nation, but a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram; now you will be known as Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will give you millions of descendants who will represent many nations. Kings will be among them!

“I will continue this everlasting covenant between us, generation after generation. It will continue between me and your offspring forever. And I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Yes, I will give all this land of Canaan to you and to your offspring forever. And I will be their God.”

* God restates his covenant with Israel

God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to make his descendants into a great nation. Now that promise was being realized as God restated his agreement with the Israelite nation, the descendants of Abraham. God promised to bless and care for them. The people promised to obey him. The covenant was thus sealed. But the good intentions of the people quickly wore off. Have you made a commitment to God? How are you holding up your end of the bargain? (NLT)

Exodus 19:5-8 – “‘. . . Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ Give this message to the Israelites.”

* How to fulfill our covenants with God

The people had entered into a covenant with God, and Moses commanded them to hear, learn, and follow his regulations. Christians also have entered into a covenant with God (through Jesus Christ) and should be responsive to what God expects. Moses’ threefold command to the Israelites is excellent advice for all God’s followers. Listening is absorbing and accepting information about God. Learning is understanding its meaning and implications. Obeying is putting into action all we have learned and understood. All three parts are essential to a growing relationship with God. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 5:1 – Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, “Listen carefully to all the laws and regulations I am giving you today. Learn them and be sure to obey them!”

* Purpose of God’s covenant with Israel

At Mount Sinai, 40 years earlier, God and Israel had made a covenant.   Although there were many parts to the covenant, its purpose can be summed up in two sentences: God promised to bless the Israelites by making them the nation through whom the rest of the world could know God. In return, the Israelites promised to love and obey God in order to receive physical and spiritual blessings. Here Moses reviewed this covenant. God was still keeping his part of the bargain (and he always would), but the Israelites were already neglecting their part. Moses restated the covenant to warn the people that if they did not keep their part of the agreement, they would experience severe discipline.

Just as the people of Israel did not notice God’s care for them along their journey, we sometimes do not notice all of the ways that God takes care of us—that all of our daily needs have been supplied and we have been well fed and well clothed. Worse yet, we mistakenly take the credit ourselves for being good providers instead of recognizing God’s hand in the process.

What is the best way to prosper in life? For the Israelites, their first step was to keep their part of the covenant. They were to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength. We, too, are to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; then true success in life will follow as a blessing rom the hand of God. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 29:1-29 – These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites while they were in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Mount Sinai.

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and his whole country—all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out. You had no bread or wine or other strong drink, but he gave you food so you would know that he is the Lord your God. When we came here, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. We took their land and gave it to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh as their inheritance.

“Therefore, obey the terms of this covenant so that you will prosper in everything you do. All of you—your tribal leaders, your judges, your officers, all the men of Israel-are standing today before the Lord your God. With you are your little ones, your wives, and the foreigners living among you who chop your wood and carry your water. You are standing here today to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God. The Lord is making this covenant with you today, and he has sealed it with an oath. He wants to confirm you today as his people and to confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you, as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But you are not the only ones with whom the Lord is making this covenant with its obligations. The Lord your God is making this covenant with you who stand in his presence today and also with all future generations of Israel.

“Surely you remember how we lived in the land of Egypt and how we traveled through the lands of enemy nations as we left. You have seen their detestable idols made of wood, stone, silver, and gold. The Lord made this covenant with you so that no man, woman, family, or tribe among you would turn away from the Lord our God to worship these gods of other nations, and so that no root among you would bear bitter and poisonous fruit. Let none of those who hear the warnings of this curse consider themselves immune, thinking, ‘I am safe, even though I am walking in my own stubborn way.’ This would lead to utter ruin! The Lord will not pardon such people. His anger and jealousy will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will come down on them, and the Lord will erase their names from under heaven. The Lord will separate them from all the tribes of Israel, to pour out on them all the covenant curses recorded in this Book of the Law.

“Then the generations to come, both your own descendants and the foreigners who come from distant lands, will see the devastation of the land the diseases the Lord will send against it. They will find its soil turned into sulfur and salt, with nothing planted and nothing growing, not even a blade of grass. It will be just like Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord destroyed in his anger. The surrounding nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to his land? Why was he so angry?’

“And they will be told, ‘This happened because the people of the land broke the covenant they made with the Lord, the God of their ancestors, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. They turned to serve and worship other gods that were foreign to them, gods that the Lord had not designated for them. That is why the Lord’s anger burned against this land, bringing down on it all the curses recorded in this book. In great anger and fury the Lord uprooted his people from their land and exiled them to another land, where they still live today!’

“There are secret things that belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we may obey these words of the law. . .”

* God’s covenant with David

This chapter [2 Samuel 7] records the covenant God made with David, promising to carry on David’s line forever. This promise would be fully realized in the birth of Jesus Christ. Although the word covenant is not specifically stated in 2 Samuel 7, it is used here to describe this occasion (NLT)

2 Samuel 23:5 – “It is my family God has chosen! Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is eternal, final, sealed. He will constantly look after my safety and success. . .”

* David’s request was good, but God said no. This does not mean that God rejected David. In fact, God was planning to do something even greater in David’s life than allowing him the prestige of building the Temple. Although God turned down David’s request, he promised to continue the house (or dynasty) of David forever, David’s earthly dynasty ended four centuries later, but Jesus Christ, a direct descendant of David, was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise. Christ will reign for eternity—now in his spiritual kingdom and in heaven, and later, on earth, in the new Jerusalem. Have you prayed with good intentions, only to have God say no? This is God’s way of directing you to a greater purpose in your life. Accepting God’s no requires as great a faith as carrying out his yes. (NLT)

2 Samuel 7:8-16 – “Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I chose you to lead my people Israel when you were just a shepherd boy, tending your sheep out in the pasture. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies. Now I will make your name famous throughout the earth! And I have provided a permanent homeland for my people Israel, a secure place where they will never be disturbed. It will be their own land where wicked nations won’t oppress them as they did in the past, from the time I appointed judges to rule my people. And I will keep you safe from all your enemies.

“‘And now the Lord declares that he will build a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die, I will raise up one of your descendants, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will use other nations to punish him. But my unfailing love will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed before you. Your dynasty and your kingdom will continue for all time before me, and your throne will be secure forever.’”

* Did God break his covenant with David?

God promised that a descendant of David would always sit on the throne. What happened to this promise when the nation was destroyed and carried away? There were two parts to God’s promise. (1) In the physical sense, as long as there was an actual throne in Judah, a descendant of David would sit upon it. But this part of the promise depended on the obedience of these kings. When they disobeyed, God was not bound to continue David’s temporal line. (2) In the spiritual sense, this promise was completely fulfilled in the coming of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David, who would sit on the throne of David forever. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 21:7 – But the Lord was not willing to destroy David’s dynasty, for he had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule forever.

* Covenant between God and returned exiles

This “solemn promise” between the people and God had six provisions. They agreed to (1) not marry non-Jewish neighbors, (2) observe the Sabbath, (3) observe every seventh year as a Sabbath year, (4) pay a Temple tax, (5) supply wood for the burnt offerings in the Temple, and (6) give dues to the Temple. After years of decadence and exile, the people once again took seriously their responsibility to follow God and keep his laws wholeheartedly. (NLT)

Nehemiah 9:38 – “Yet in spite of all this, we are making a solemn promise and putting it in writing. On this sealed document are the names of our princes and Levites and priests.”

* Jesus’ new covenant

Under the old covenant, God ordained the priests of Israel to stand between him and his people. They brought God’s word to the people and the people’s needs and sins to God. Under the new covenant, all believers are priests of the Lord, reading God’s Word and seeking to understand it, confessing their sins directly to God, and ministering to others. (NLT)

Isaiah 61:6 – You will be called priests of the Lord, minsters of our God. You will be fed with treasures of the nations and will boast in their riches.

*How does Jesus’ blood relate to the new covenant? People under the old covenant (those who lived before Jesus) could approach God only through a priest and an animal sacrifice. Now all people can come directly to God through faith because Jesus’ death has made us acceptable in God’s eyes.

The old covenant was a shadow of the new, pointing forward to the day when Jesus himself would be the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. Rather than an unblemished lamb slain on the altar, the perfect Lamb of God was slain on the cross, a sinless sacrifice, so that our sins could be forgiven once and for all. All those who believe in Christ receive that forgiveness. (NLT)

Matthew 26:28 – [Jesus said] “. . . for this is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many. . .”

* In Old Testament times, God agreed to forgive people’s sins if they brought animals for the priests to sacrifice. When this sacrificial system was inaugurated, the agreement between God and his people was sealed with the blood of animals. But animal blood did not in itself remove sin (only God can forgive sin), and animal sacrifices had to be repeated day after day and year after year. Jesus instituted a “new covenant” or agreement between God and his people. Under this new covenant, Jesus would die in the place of sinners. Unlike the blood of animals, his blood (because he is God) would remove the sins of all who put their faith in him. Jesus’ sacrifice would never have to be repeated; it would be good for all eternity. The prophets looked forward to this new covenant that would fulfill the old sacrificial agreement, and John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). (NLT)

Luke 22:20 – After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you—an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you. . .”

* What is the new covenant? In the old covenant, people could approach God only through the priests and the sacrificial system. Jesus’ death on the cross ushered in the new covenant or agreement between God and us. Now all people can personally approach God and communicate with him. The people of Israel first entered into this agreement after their exodus from Egypt, and it was designed to point to the day when Jesus Christ would come. The new covenant completes, rather than replaces, the old covenant, fulfilling everything the old covenant looked forward to. Eating the bread drinking the cup shows that we are remembering Christ’s death for us and renewing our commitment to serve him. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 11:25 – In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.”

* How Jesus fulfills old covenant

The promise (or covenant) God gave Abraham stated that Abraham would be the father of many nations and that the entire world would be blessed through him. This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus was from Abraham’s line, and truly the whole world was blessed through him. (NLT)

Romans 4:17 – That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who brings into existence what didn’t exist before.

* God’s true covenant people

God’s word in the form of beautiful covenant promises came to Abraham. Covenant people, the true children of Abraham, are not just his biological descendants. They are all those who trust in God and in what Jesus Christ has done for them. (NLT)

Romans 9:6 – Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to the Jews? No, for not everyone born into a Jewish family is truly a Jew!

* New and old covenants compared

This passage compares the new covenant with the old. The old covenant was the covenant of law between God and Israel. The new and better way is the covenant of grace—Christ’s offer to forgive our sins and bring us to God through his sacrificial death. This covenant is new in extent—it goes beyond Israel and Judah to include all the Gentile nations. It is new in application because it is written on our heart and in our mind. It offers a new way to forgiveness, not through animal sacrifice but through faith. Have you entered into this new covenant and begun walking in the better way? (NLT)

Hebrews 8:8-12 – But God himself found fault with the old one when he said: “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me. And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins.”

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