Hebrew Roots/Nature of the Law/Covenants/Overview
OVERVIEW IN THE COVENANTS IN THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION
The dictionary definition of a covenant in modern usage is that of a formal or a legal agreement, drawn up and sealed by a mutually agreed upon token between two or more parties in which each party commits themselves to the agreed upon conditions, in order to participate in the benefits of the agreement they have made. Covenants are a means whereby two or more entities bond together in a relationship for a specific purpose, in a commitment of love and faithfulness to the other party.
All of Yahweh God's dealings with man are based upon covenant relationship, the essence of which is His immense love and bountiful goodness wherein He purposed to create, nurture and guide man into a mature relationship of sonship with Himself, whereby he would inherit all His creation and maintain it as a functioning prophet, priest and king under His empowering, provision and direction.
Our God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God and man is the beneficiary with very little to offer in return apart from loving devotion and faithful service to Him (Deuteronomy 7: 7-11) Every covenant that God has made with man has been unique in itself, but they are all interrelated, and given in a progressive order of the revelation of His eternal purpose, each one also building upon the previous one and working toward the fulfilment of the great everlasting covenant which the Father contracted with the Son in eternity, before the world began.
THE DEFINITION OF A BIBLICAL COVENANT
The word which is used in scripture for 'covenant' is BERITH which is from a root which means 'to cut or divide', in allusion to the sacrificial custom in connection with covenant-making, of dividing the animal by which the covenant was ratified, and laying them out in two halves. The contracting parties would then "walk between the pieces" to establish the covenant (e.g., Genesis 15:10; Jeremiah 34:18-19).
The corresponding word in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew, and in the New Testament Greek is DIATHEKE. The Greek differentiates between a covenant where one party is the benefactor and the other the recipient (diatheke), and other covenants made between equal parties, where the word SUNTHEKE is used. "suntheke' means to place together - i.e., a two way arrangement or coming together in agreement.
A 'diatheke' covenant can be between a superior person and a lesser, such as between a king and his subjects, whereas a 'suntheke' covenant is between equals, such as in Romans 1:31 & Luke 22: 5. Every Biblical covenant is a 'diatheke' covenant, being instituted by God as the initiator, to humankind who have the liberty to exercise their free will to either accept, or rebel and reject God’s covenant promises.
There are two main types of covenants which God makes with man. They are -
- UNILATERAL/UNCONDITIONAL COVENANT
An unconditional covenant is one which is based upon God’s power and sovereignty for its fulfillment, without any conditions or requirements placed upon the recipient other than that they accept the covenant and exercise faith in His promises to enter into covenant relationship with Him. The covenant made with Adam after the fall and renewed again to Noah after the flood, was an unconditional covenant for all mankind, as was the one made to Abram prior to Isaac's conception. Gen.15
- RECIPROCAL/CONDITIONAL COVENANT
A reciprocal covenant is one in which conditions are set for the recipient to fulfil in order to enjoy the benefits of the promises made, and for the covenant to be effective. It is a covenant which guarantees that God will fulfil His promise when the human requirements stated in that covenant are met.
The first covenant which Yahweh God made with Adam in Eden was a conditional covenant, as was the one made at Sinai with the nation of Israel. In each case, the covenant was broken when they disobeyed and an atonement had to be made to reinstate them, due to their rebellion. Genesis 3:21; Exodus 32:30
THE NATURE OF BIBLICAL COVENANTS
All the benefits with which God pledges to bless the recipients in the covenants which He makes with man must be on the part of God, and all the obligations must be sustained on the part of man. Biblical Covenants demonstrate God's love, mercy and grace and have three basic constituents:
- the promises or terms of the covenant which takes the form of an oath or vow (a curse if broken)
- the blood of a sacrifice by which the covenant is ratified
- the sign by which the covenant is sealed or witnessed
A Biblical covenant is established and sealed by an oath, which usually involves a ceremony wherein the parties make their vows and commitments. The oath is the integral part of a covenant and the term 'oath' is sometimes used as a synonym for covenant (Deuteronomy 29:12, 14). Wherever God says He made an oath or a vow, it is in reference to a covenant that He has made. In taking an oath, the one so doing, promises to preserve the covenantal relationship and its conditions and seals the promise with words that call a curse upon himself if he should fail to keep his promise. The curse of a broken covenant is death.
In the ancient practice of cutting a covenant, an animal sacrifice was divided in two and laid out on the ground and the partners to the covenant walked between the pieces twice for a witness, thus establishing a path between the blood of the sacrifice by which each was committing themselves to the life of the other member of the covenant. Sometimes the covenant was made by cutting the wrists with the mingling of each other's blood. By whatever method, they then became blood brothers and symbolically exchanged identity by the giving of coats or some other tangible item of their person, to the other one and through the exchange of weapons, pledged themselves to the defence of their covenant partner.
The things exchanged became the tokens of the covenant, or the seal of the covenant, without which it was not valid. With the exchange of identity, there was an exchange of names and assets, as is done in a marriage covenant (with the ring as the sign of the covenant through which the marriage is sealed). The covenant was presided over by a witness or a mediator and the covenant was celebrated with a covenant meal of the sacrifice which ratified the covenant. Eating together of the same life-source further bonded them in covenant relationship.
All God-given covenants follow this pattern (including Marriage, Circumcision, Bar Mitzvah etc.- the sacrifice is substituted with the bread and wine which are tokens of the sacrifice, in these cases).
True love expresses itself in self-sacrificial bonding to the other party and takes on the obligations and responsibilities involved in the love relationship - it is prepared to make that love explicit and binding upon itself in a formal commitment to a covenant to the other party. John 13:34-35; 1 John 4: 9-11
THE COVENANTS OF GOD
Initially, the Everlasting covenant was made within the godhead before the "foundation of the world" based upon the eternal purpose of the Father to bring forth mankind "after His image and likeness" and was enacted with Adam in the garden of Eden. As a result of the failure of Adam to keep this covenant, seven main covenants have been initiated in the redemptive process of the restoration of man to His original purpose. These seven covenants are stepping stones and stages through which Yahweh God developed His relationship with man toward the final objective of the fulfilment of His plan in the Everlasting covenant.
In the first three covenants, commonly called the Adamic, Noachic and the Abrahamic covenants, Yahweh re-established His original purpose on an individual basis with mankind, to enter into covenant with Him and to function in the role of Priest, King and Prophet in the earth, in that order. In the second set of three covenants, the Mosaic, the Davidic and the Restoration covenant, Yahweh called out a nation to fulfil His mandate of Priests, Kings and Prophets respectively, for His kingdom on earth. In the seventh covenant, commonly called the "New Covenant", Y'shua as the Second Adam, the progenitor of a new race, fulfilled the role of Priest, King and Prophet for the birthing of the new 'man' in His image.
THE REDEMPTIVE COVENANTS
In all, there are nine main covenants in scripture, two of which were before the fall of Adam (the Everlasting and the Edenic covenants), and the other seven which are part of the redemptive process, given after the fall. Two sets of three covenants - plus the seventh one which brings them all to a conclusion. In the two sets of covenants, Yahweh made provision in the first set for all men on an individual basis to receive eternal life through faith in the Redeemer to come, and in the second set He called out a nation of people into a Bridal relationship with Himself to function in a higher level of sanctity for the purpose of ruling His kingdom and acting as priests and prophets on His behalf in the earth.
The promise of redemption made to Adam and his posterity, was renewed and extended to Noah and brought to its full expression in Abram who is the father of all who believe, and as Paul expounds and the Jerusalem council endorsed, is still available to all men from all nations on an individual basis, by faith. As all other covenants, they were ratified by Y'shua's sacrifice. Romans 4: 3-9, 13; Acts 15: 28-29 All men will be held accountable to the covenant of the era in which they lived and to the extent of their understanding, to the terms of that specific covenant. Romans 1:18-20; 2: 6-16; Luke 12:42-48
The second set of covenants which was given to the people called out of the world to be the Israel of God, the holy nation of king/priests prepared for His kingdom rule, received their spiritual empowering in the seventh covenant, the "new Covenant", through the impartation of the Holy Spirit. Ex.19: 5-6; 1 Pet.2: 5, 9
We see in the company of the redeemed in heaven, those who form the holy priesthood nation (Revelation 5: 8-10; 7: 4-8; 20: 4. 6), and also the rest of those redeemed on an individual basis (Revelation 5:13; 7:9-10).
- THE INDIVIDUAL COVENANT OF PRIESTHOOD
Yahweh had instated Adam as a priest over his household in the covenant of marriage with the mandate to produce "after his kind", physically and spiritually. This involved a role of priesthood to instruct his family in the ways of Almighty God and this was not revoked after the fall when he was given the covenant promise of a Redeemer to come. Each family head thereafter was a priest over his household. Genesis 3:15
- THE INDIVIDUAL COVENANT OF KINGSHIP
Yahweh executed judgement upon the violence of the earth of the pre-flood era (Genesis 6:13) and gave to Noah the mandate thereafter to act as a judge over other men to arrest unrestrained violence in the earth. Executing authority and judgement over others is a role of kingship. Genesis 9: 5-6
- THE INDIVIDUAL COVENANT OF PROPHETIC FUNCTION
Abraham receives a prophetic call to be the progenitor of a godly line which will bring forth the Messiah. His life is a prophetic pattern for his posterity. Genesis 20: 7
- THE NATIONAL COVENANT OF PRIESTHOOD
This was a call for Israel to become God's chosen people, His Bride, and to live according to the full counsel of His will and be a nation of priests unto Him in the earth. Exodus 19: 5, 6
- THE NATIONAL COVENANT OF KINGSHIP
The covenant made with David was to provide a kingly lineage for Messiah and to bring the nation into a new level of authority with the Father in their worship and dominion in the earth. 2 Samuel 7:12-16
- THE NATIONAL COVENANT OF PROPHETIC FUNCTION
The dispersion and the calling of the nation back to the land birthed the era of the prophets who spoke to the nation in revelation of God's end-time purposes and the glory of the coming kingdom. e.g. Isaiah 65-66
- THE EVERLASTING COVENANT OF PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING RATIFIED
Y'shua the Messiah ratified this covenant by His sacrificial death and established the covenant with His apostles. He was raised to life as the second Adam, a new order of the Adamic race walking on the earth as a prophet, priest, and king of Almighty God. John 20:20-22; Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49