Just a Promise?
What is a covenant? I once thought of it as God’s promise to us. Something like me saying, “Lord if you will do this for me, then I will do something for you. Let’s shake on it.” Then I heard a description of a covenant at the end of a sermon and decided that I needed to know more.
My way of looking at covenant was like the Greek word “diatheke” where one party is the benefactor and the other party is a recipient. God promises. I get benefits. Sounds like my parents saying that I get to go to Disney world, right? The Hebrew word is a little different. Their word is “berith”, a blood covenant between two people or groups of people. This was a sacred ceremony, never taken lightly. Once committed, the only way to break the covenant was death on one side or both sides of the agreement. A covenant was a cutting in blood.
Here are the traditional steps:
Exchange of coats
This represents an exchange of identity and authority. Everything I am, everything I represent, now belongs to you. All my possessions, all that I am, my very self, I give to you. I am no longer my own. I now belong to you.
2) Exchange of weapon belts
On these belts are all my weapons, bow, knife, sword, or other weapons. This exchange
signifies that all my strengths belong to you. Your enemies are my enemies and my
enemies are your enemies. Your friends are my friends and my friends are yours. I will
serve you if you ever need me and you will serve me if I ever need you.
3) Walk in blood
An animal is sacrificed by splitting it nose to tail down the backbone. It could be a bull,
goat or lamb. The halves are laid open with a pool of blood between them. The covenant
participants walk between the halves in a figure 8 (representing infinity) and meet in the
middle standing face to face to pronounce the blessings and curses tied to the covenant.
The covenant heads are now called friends. The word “friend” had a stronger meaning than our current use of the word. They are saying to each other, “I will never leave or forsake you. I will always do what is best for you even if it is to my own hurt.” Blood brothers!
Covenant of Salvation
Think of your salvation as a blood covenant with Jesus. What do I give? What do I get?
Exchange of coats. Authority of self for authority in Christ.
Exchange of weapons. My earthly weapons for Christ’s spiritual weapons of warfare.
Walk in blood. Imagine standing in His blood, nose to nose with the Savior and saying “Everything I have is yours and everything you have is mine. This includes my belongings, my strength, my life.”
See his scarred hands and feet before you, the wound in His side. They are the mark of the covenant.
Covenant of Love
Now look at one more very important covenant. When a nation or tribe made a covenant, they selected one member to be the representative. Sinful man could not be reconciled with the Father because God could not look on sin. We needed a representative to establish an intimate relationship. The Father provides that representative in Jesus, whose blood is that of God and man. Only the Son of Man who lived a sinless life could stand before the Father as our covenant councilor. The covenant was cut at the cross, Jesus and the Father, standing in the blood of Christ sealing a promise of intimate relationship with man.
We all have made vows we intended to keep and broken them. The Bible is full of examples of well-meaning people falling short, breaking sacred covenants. Now think of that time at the cross. Remember that covenants could only be broken by death of the participants. The cross is the one holy covenant made by eternal partners. It cannot be broken!
It was God’s plan from before the beginning to have intimate fellowship with his created man, a holy covenant that cannot be broken. Do you realize what you accepted when you were saved? Are you participating in covenant or “waiting to go to Disney World?”
“Think how much worse will be the punishment deserved by someone who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the BLOOD OF THE COVENANT which made him holy; and who has insulted the Spirit, giver of God’s grace!”
by Allen Hooker