How often have you heard the statement “God is a covenant keeping God”? How many times have you found assurance in this truth? Covenants not only teach us about the love of God, they teach us about His immutable (unchanging) Nature. They also provide keys to understanding the unified story of the Bible. let’s take a look…
What is a Covenant?
In Scripture covenants are contracts or agreements between God and mankind in general, specific individuals and with the nation of Israel. These agreements were either conditional or unconditional. A conditional covenant is an agreement between two or more parties where certain terms/conditions ought to be met. If those conditions are not met, there are associated consequences/penalties. The unconditional covenants on the other hand, have no stipulations that need to be met. Unconditional covenants were made solely upon the grace of God. The following covenants are found in Scripture:
The Edenic Covenant – The Edenic Covenant can be viewed as twofold. First, God made a conditional agreement with Adam. He promised Adam life and blessings if he kept His commandment and not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16-17). When Adam and Eve transgressed God’s commandment, they suffered the consequences of both physical and spiritual death. While not explicitly called a covenant in the book of Genesis, the Prophet Hosea later wrote in Hosea 6:7 “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me” (NASB)
Although the first human pair sinned, God by His grace made a new unconditional covenant with them. We read in Gen 3:14-24 where God promised that through the Seed of the woman, He would crush the head of the serpent, triumph over sin and death and restore the rule that was originally given to them. This is also known as the Covenant of Redemption.
The Noahic Covenant – After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah and by extension all of humanity that he would never destroy the earth and its life forms by flood waters again. He gave the the rainbow as the sign of the covenant to humanity. (Gen. 9:11)
The Abrahamic Covenant – In the covenant with Abraham, God promised to bless him, make him the father of many nations, bless his descendants and bless all of humanity through him. God’s promise to Abraham also included land; namely the land of Canaan, now Israel. This was a unilateral unconditional covenant. (see Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:16, also Deut. 30:1-10)
The Mosaic Covenant – After Israel’s redemption out of Egypt, God entered into a covenant with them (Exodus 20). Unlike the covenant made in Eden as well as that made with Abraham, God’s agreement with Israel was conditional. If they obeyed His commandments, then they would receive the covenant promises. However, Israel breached the condition of the covenant. Did that cause God to cancel the covenant and totally reject them as his people? In Romans 11:17-24 the Apostle Paul response to this question is “absolutely not!”. For one, God’s unconditional blessing upon Abraham was extended to Israel, and two, As Paul says, they are “Gods sovereign choice.” So, what did God do? He made a Renewed/New Covenant with them; one that would be established on better promises according to Hebrews 8:6
The Davidic Covenant– God’s covenant with David amplifies aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s promise to David was that he would never cease to have a man sitting on his throne. In other words, the house of David would be established forever and one of his sons would reign for all eternity. There is another covenant which is connected to the Davidic covenant that is often missed – God’s eternal covenant with the Priesthood. Just as there will never cease to be a King on David’s throne, there will never cease to be a priest to minister before the Lord. (See Jeremiah 33:17-18)
The Messianic/New Covenant – God had promised through the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) that a time would come when He would make a New Covenant with the House of Judah and the House of Israel. It would be different from the Covenant that was made at Mount Sinai, in that God’s laws would not be written on stone tablets, but in their minds and written on their hearts. Under this renewed Covenant, they would have their sin removed and God would put His Spirit in them and cause them to be able to live by His rules. (Ezekiel 36:27 ). There would also be universal knowledge of Him. In other words, God would create a new humanity! What would be even more amazing about this New Covenant is that it would make it possible for others outside of the nation of Israel to have access to God and become partakers in the promises God made to Abraham!
The key to understanding covenants
Now, here is the key to understanding biblical covenants. In Scripture, a new(er) covenant does not remove or nullify a previous covenant. So, when God entered into an agreement with Abraham, in no way was the previous covenant with Noah nullified. God’s agreement with Israel did not make his covenant with Abraham invalid and neither does the New Covenant nullify any of the previous covenants. The New Covenant was not made with the Gentile Church who has somehow replaced Israel as God’s chosen people, as many have taught. However, it is the New Covenant that gives Gentiles (non-Jews) access to the covenant promises that God made with Abraham, but Israel will never be rejected by God.
The Story of the Bible
Every covenant in Scripture is connected and forms part of the story of God’s ultimate plan of redemption. Yeshua is the Mediator of the New Covenant. His blood has ratified the New Covenant but it is at His second coming when we will see the full enactment in the Millennial Kingdom. Yeshua is the promised Seed of the woman that has crushed the head of the serpent by taking away its power over sin, hell and the grave. Yeshua is the Seed of Abraham through whom God has blessed the nations of the world. It is through Him,that man can have his sin removed and have everlasting life. Yeshua is the Son of David that will rule the world from Zion. It is Yeshua who will lead us into eternity and what was lost in Eden will finally be restored. That is the beautiful story of the Bible!