Thursday, May 19, 2011

Covenants: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

Is the "Old Testament" obsolete?  It seems to me like most of Christianity thinks so.  But what exactly IS it? 

God's dealings with man have always been through covenants.  A covenant is a "deal" made between two or more parties, and each had their own responsibility in the covenant.  (Whereas a testament is one-directional, as in last will and testament).  In Genesis 9, God made a covenant with Noah (and all of creation) saying that He would no longer destroy the earth with a flood.  He sent His rainbow in the sky as a sign.   For Noah's part, he was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.  This is an everlasting covenant.

Centuries later, God made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15.  The covenant was the promise of the land.  In Genesis 17, God adds to the covenant with Abram - that he would be a father of many nations and of kings - changing his name to Abraham.  The sign of this covenant was to be circumcision, and verse 13 says that this is an everlasting covenant.  In verses 19 through 21, God says that the covenant will continue through Isaac (who was not yet born), not Ishmael.

In Exodus 6, God reiterates the covenant given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the promise of the land.  In Exodus 19, God brought up the covenant again with Moses, and added more to it... the requirement of obedience to His voice and the promise that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  In Exodus 24, the covenant is affirmed, and blood sacrifice is introduced as a sign.

The covenant of the Sabbath is introduced in Exodus 31 as a perpetual covenant between God and Israel.  Exodus 34 affirms the covenant of the promised land, as God promises to drive out the inhabitants.

Leviticus 26 contains the bountiful promises of a covenant kept (through obedience to God's commands), and also a sober warning regarding the consequences of a broken covenant (idolotry and disobedience).

There are many more places that mention covenants in the Tanakh (Old Testament), but the main point is that God promises the land and the blessing, in return for obedience.  Whenever Israel broke the covenant through disobedience, trouble followed.  They were removed from the land more than once.

But is the land covenant obsolete?  The fact that Israel has been back in her homeland since 1948 proves that God keeps His promises (Judges 2:1).  It is still a valid covenant!  In bringing Israel home, He is preparing for His return to earth.  In Revelation, the land covenant culminates with New Jerusalem. 

Is the covenant promising multitudes of descendents obsolete?  No, the Jewish people continue to thrive in spite of the many people and nations who come against them.  The family of Abraham also includes those (such as myself) who are not Jewish by birth but are grafted in through adoption.  And don't forget; Abraham was also the father of Ishmael who is the patriarch of the Arab nation. 

When the Lord God promised in Jeremiah 31:31 that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel, He was not obliterating the former covenants.  He was adding another one... salvation through the blood of the lamb - Israel's messiah!   Yeshua fulfilled every last requirement of the covenant with Moses, and in doing so, He became our substitute - atoning for our sin and giving us eternal life - when we believe, obey, and trust in Him.

More about covenants/testaments on my next post.

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