Sermon No: 61-Covenants



SERMON TOPIC: Covenants

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 1 January 2000

Topic Groups: COVENANTS, NEW COVENANT

Sermon synopsis: A CONTRACT OR COVENANT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CRUCIAL PART OF GOD'S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE. This is a study of the different covenants found in the Bible, culminating with the greatest covenant - 'The New Testament'.

























COVENANTS






  1. Definition


DEFINITION: A formal agreement, a contract1


SYNONYMS: Contract, deal, pact, agreement, treaty, alliance, pledge, constitution, testament or will.


A covenant, in contract law, is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more persons to do or to refrain from doing a certain act, or specifying that a given state of facts does or does not exist.2


A modern legally binding contract between people could be described as follows:


  • There must be at least 2 parties.


  • Both parties must voluntarily agree to enter into the contract (no duress).

  • The contract might have all terms stipulated by one party (e.g. hire purchase) or could have terms negotiated by both parties (e.g. business partnership).

  • There might be conditions (about either promised action and/or non-action) attached to one or both parties (e.g. inter-country alliance treaty) or it may be unconditional (e.g. last will or testament).


  • A contract with conditions attached might require mediation by a third party.

  • If either party breaches the agreement by not adhering to the stipulated conditions, the other party is automatically released from their obligations, and the contract becomes null and void. There may be a penalty clause to penalise the offending party.


  • The conditions of the contract can only be legally changed by consent of both parties, or by the existence of a more recent contract, which supersedes the previous one.


  • The contract must be signed by both parties and countersigned by witnesses to make it legally binding.


    Typical commonplace contracts are marriage, business partnerships, sale of property, insurance policies, hire-purchase agreements, rental or lease contracts, inter-country treaties etc.


    A CONTRACT OR COVENANT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CRUCIAL PART OF GOD'S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE.


    Covenant is a legal concept often used in the Bible as a metaphor to describe the relationship between God and humankind… The idea of a covenant between God and humankind lies at the heart of the Bible. This idea explains the selection of the word testament, a synonym for covenant, in naming the two parts of the Bible.3

    God always honours his covenants, unlike people who often make covenant vows and then dishonour them. The marriage covenant where people swear “until death us do part” with God as a witness, and then lightly disregard this is but one example.


    Malachi 2:13-16 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "…



    1. Types of covenants

      1. Equals and non-equals

    In ancient times, a covenant was a treaty between two parties. There were two kinds of covenants: a voluntary agreement between equals (as with David and Jonathan - 1 Samuel 18:3) and treaties of loyalty between a great king and a lesser king (his vassal). In the Bible, covenants between God and his people are always of the second type. God always dictates the terms of His covenants, which assert His sovereignty and kingship, and the people's obligation of faith and obedience.4

    The Hebrew for covenant is “berîth”.


    In the OT5 berîth identifies three different types of legal relationships.

  • A two-sided covenant between human parties, both of which voluntarily accept the terms of the agreement… God however never "enters in" to such a covenant of equality with men.

  • A one-sided disposition imposed by a superior party (Ezekiel 17:13-14) 6. God the Lord thus “commands" a berîth which man, the servant, is to "obey" (Joshua 23:16).

  • God’s self-imposed obligation, for the reconciliation of sinners to himself (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Psalm 89:3-4) 7


    Not only the Hebrew, but also the Greek, emphasises that God’s covenants are not an agreement between equals. The Septuagint (LXX), which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament by 72 Hebrew scholars before the time of Christ, is useful in ascertaining the equivalent Greek terms for the Old Testament Hebrew. In its translation of the Hebrew berîth, more light is thrown in this regard:


    The LXX avoided the usual Greek term for covenant, synthêke (Meaning a thing mutually "put together"), as unsuitable for the action of the sovereign God and substituted diathêke (a thing, literally, "put through"), the primary meaning of which is "a disposition of property by a will." 8


    We are familiar in modern times with contracts where we are not able to negotiate conditions but are obliged to accept what the initiating party has stipulated (e.g. a rental agreement). Our extent of negotiation is in accepting or rejecting the terms altogether, but not in modifying them.


    Likewise, the covenants between God and man do not have the conditions negotiated by both parties. God stipulates the conditions for men, but in his love, also imposes conditions on himself, albeit not due to pressure or bargaining by men (e.g. the Abrahamic covenant). Man’s freedom of choice allows for acceptance or rejection of the contract, but not for variation of God’s stipulated terms.


    Joshua 23:16 If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.9


      1. Major types of Covenants

    In the ancient Near East there were 3 main types of covenants; the Covenant of Parity, a Royal Grant and the Suzerain-Vassal Covenant.


    Commitments made in these covenants were accompanied by self-maledictory oaths (made orally, ceremonially, or both). The gods were called upon to witness the covenants and implement the curses of the oaths if the covenants were violated. 10



        1. Parity

    Parity: A covenant between equals, binding them to mutual friendship or at least to mutual respect for each other’s spheres and interests, Participants called each other “brothers”.11


    This was the type of covenant entered into by Abraham and Abimelech, Jacob and Laban, and David and Jonathan.



        1. Royal Grant

    Royal grant (unconditional): A king’s grant of land or some other benefit to a loyal servant for faithful or exceptional service. The grant was normally perpetual and unconditional, but the servant’s heirs benefited from it only as they continued their father’s loyalty and service. 12


    There were different kinds of covenants in the biblical world, however, just as there are different kinds of contracts today. One type of ancient covenant that serves as a model for certain biblical passages is the royal grant. In this type of covenant, a king or other person in authority rewards a loyal subject by granting him an office, land, exemption from taxes, or the like. It is typical of such covenants that only the superior party binds himself; conditions are not imposed on the inferior party. Such covenants are also referred to as covenants of promise or unconditional covenants. The covenants God made with NOAH (Genesis 9:8-17), ABRAHAM (Genesis 15:18), and DAVID (2 Samuel 7; 23:5) fit this pattern. In each of these cases, it is God alone who binds himself by a solemn oath to keep the covenant.13



        1. Suzerain-Vassal

    Suzerain-Vassal (conditional):A covenant regulating a relationship between a great king and one of his subject kings. The great king claimed absolute right of sovereignty, demanded total loyalty and service (the vassal must "love" his suzerain) and pledged protection of the subject’s realm and dynasty, conditional on the vassal's faithfulness and loyalty to him. The vassal pledged absolute loyalty to his suzerain - whatever service his suzerain demanded - an exclusive reliance on the suzerain's protection. Participants called each other "lord" and "servant", or "father" and “son”. 14


    The Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-24; Deuteronomy; Joshua 24) seems to have been modelled on another type of ancient covenant, the political treaty between a powerful king and his weaker vassal. Following the standard form of such treaties, God, the suzerain, reminds Israel, the vassal, how God has saved it, and Israel in response accepts the covenant stipulations. Israel is promised a blessing for obedience and a curse for breaking the covenant.15


    All covenants between God and man before the New Covenant are either of the Royal Grant or Suzerain-Vassal type, or both.



        1. Testament or will

    Jesus Christ added another model, that of a last will and testament. At the Last Supper, he interpreted his own life and death as the perfect covenant (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). 16


    Table :Types of covenants

    COVENANT

    TYPE

    PARTICIPANTS

    Edenic

    Suzerain-Vassal

    Adam & Eve

    Adamic

    Royal Grant

    All mankind

    Noachic

    Royal Grant / Suzerain-Vassal

    Noah, his descendants and every living thing on earth

    Abrahamic

    Royal Grant / Suzerain-Vassal

    Abraham

    Mosaic

    Suzerain-Vassal

    Israel

    Phinehas

    Royal Grant

    Phinehas

    Davidic

    Royal Grant

    David

    New

    Last will or testament

    All men who believe


    1. Covenants of parity

    Abraham and Abimelech made a covenant of parity. In return for securing property rights for water wells in Beersheba, Abraham promises to be kind to Abimelech and his offspring. The covenant was sealed with an oath and the 7 lambs set apart from the others as a witness were probably used in the treaty ceremony. As equals they negotiate the terms of the treaty.


    Genesis 21:22-31 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, "God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you." Abraham said, "I swear it." Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized. But Abimelech said, "I don't know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today." So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?" He replied, "Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well." So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.


    The Philistine Abimelech who was originally hostile to Isaac, decided to negotiate a covenant of parity indicating mutual respect


    Genesis 26:26-31 Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, "Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?" They answered, "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, `There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'--between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD." Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace.

    Jacob and Laban entered into a covenant of parity sealed with an oath. Boundaries were agreed upon and Jacob promises to be kind to Laban’s daughters. A sacrifice was made to seal the covenant and God was called as a witness. Despite their differences Jacob and Laban agree to a covenant of mutual respect.


    Genesis 31:43-54 Laban answered Jacob, "The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? Come now, let's make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us." So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, "Gather some stones." So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." That is why it was called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me." Laban also said to Jacob, "Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

    In return for offering the Israelite spies protection, Rahab negotiates a covenant for her family’s protection. The scarlet cord, which symbolised this agreement, has been regarded as typical of the blood, which would symbolise the New Covenant, which protects us from God’s righteous anger against sin.


    Joshua 2:17-21 The men said to her, "This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear." "Agreed," she replied. "Let it be as you say." So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

    To confirm certain oaths or seal a contract in Biblical times, a man plucked off his shoe and gave it to the other party, as was the case with Boaz .


    Ruth 4:7-8 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalising transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, "Buy it yourself." And he removed his sandal.

    When Jonathan made a covenant of parity with David, he went even farther than this and gave him his own garments.


    1 Samuel 18:3-4 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

    God does not enter into covenants of parity with men as we are not his equals.


    Isaiah 40:25 "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.


    1. Dispensational covenants

    A dispensation can be defined as a period during which God deals with His people in a particular manner. Each one is ushered in by a distinct covenant and terminated by a judgement. These dispensational covenants are as follows:


    1. The Age of Innocence was ushered in by the Edenic covenant and ended with the judgement of man and the serpent.


    1. The Age of Conscience commenced with the Adamic covenant and ended with the judgement of the Deluge (flood).


    1. The Age of Human Government commenced with the Noachic covenant and ended with the judgement at Babel.


    1. The Age of Patriarchal Rule started with the Abrahamic covenant and ended with the judgement of the 10 plagues in Egypt. While normally the covenant also ended with the dispensation, in this case Scripture teaches that the Abrahamic covenant didn’t cease when the newer Mosaic covenant was put in place (see next section for elaboration).


    1. The Age of Law began with the Mosaic covenant and ended with the judgement of man’s sin through Jesus’ crucifixion.


    1. The present Age of Grace began with the New Covenant in Christ and will end with the judgement of the tribulation.

    Dispensation

    Covenant started with

    Judgement ended with

    Innocence

    Edenic covenant

    Judgement of serpent and man

    Conscience

    Adamic covenant

    The flood

    Human Government

    Noachic covenant

    The tower of Babel

    Patriarchal Dispensation

    Abrahamic covenant

    The 10 plagues

    The Law

    Mosaic covenant

    The crucifixion

    Grace

    New covenant in Christ

    The tribulation

    The Millennium

    New covenant with Israel

    The Great White Throne

    Table 2:Dispensational covenants

    Figure 1:Dispensational covenants and judgements

      1. The uniqueness of the Abrahamic covenant from a dispensational view

    While normally the newer covenant displaced the previous, Paul indicates in Galatians that this was not true of the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant did not cease with the Mosaic covenant and we remain recipients of the main promise of the covenant which is:


    Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed


    Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the seed referred to and all nations being blessed refers to the blessing of salvation we have received by virtue of Jesus who was Abraham’s seed.


    In fact, in Galatians Paul explicitly says that the Mosaic covenant did not set aside the previous Abrahamic covenant, although it was more recent.


    Gal 3:17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.


        1. Is the Abrahamic covenant no longer applicable to Israel but only to the church?

    However although the Abrahamic covenant is still intact and we are recipients of the blessing of the seed – most of the Abrahamic covenant does not apply to the church. This is because the covenant also included very specific promises regarding land to Abraham’s physical descendants (i.e. the land of Israel) which is still to be fulfilled in the future Millennial kingdom. Abraham’s covenant also included the seal of circumcision (not required by New Covenant believers).


    Most Amillennialists take the view that the promises made to Abraham have all been passed on to the church and that God has finished with Israel. However the Premillennial view is that God deals with man in dispensations and that while “Israel has experienced a hardening in part” (Romans 11:25) – Paul qualifies this statement by saying that this is only until “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” He then adds “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26). So God will restore Israel as promised in Romans 11 and then they will receive all the other promises (of land) that were part of Abraham’s covenant.


    Stephen indicates that Abraham’s covenant included the sign or circumcision and the NT makes it clear that we are no longer required to be circumcised.


    Acts 7:8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision.

    Rather the sign of our new covenant is baptism:


    Col 2:11-12 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    So in summary:


    1) Jesus indicates that he instituted a ‘new covenant’ (contrasted with the old Mosaic covenant of Law) with the cross:


    Luke 22: 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


    2) And the book of Hebrews says our covenant is not only new – but better than the Mosaic covenant:


    Heb 7:22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.


    3) So while we have a distinct “new and better” covenant, the church has still received the specific promise of the Abrahamic covenant that was made to “all nations of the earth” (i.e. Abraham’s spiritual sons in faith as opposed to Abrahams physical descendants).


    1. The necessity of blood

    Just as a contract without signatures is not legally binding, so God's covenants with man (except the Edenic because of innocence) are all sealed with a "blood signature”. Blood contains the essence of life, and for this reason God forbids Noah and his descendants to consume it.


    Genesis 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. 17

    This was one of the few regulations that was carried through in the New Covenant as indicated by the letter from the Council at Jerusalem to the Gentile believers.


    Acts 15:28-29 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

    From the beginning we see that the shedding of blood was necessary to clothe man’s spiritual nakedness. After the Fall in Eden man attempted to clothe his nakedness (type of sin) with fig leaves (type of “good works”). God, however, clothed them with garments of skin, which would have necessitated the shedding of blood of an animal (type of Jesus’ sacrifice).


    Likewise Cain's sacrifice of the fruit of his labour (which speaks of good works) was not acceptable, while Abel's sacrifice of fat portions from the firstborn of his flock was (the blood of the innocent being shed for the guilty). Even at this stage it appears that the significance of the blood pointing to future redemption by the “seed of the woman” was accepted by the righteous through faith.


    Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

    Noah sacrificed animals when God established His covenant with him, as did Abraham. The blood of the Passover lamb “covered” or protected those who sprinkled it on their doorframes from God’s wrath.


    Exodus 12:13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

    Notice that charismatic religious fetishes like "pleading the blood" over places are on a par with lucky rabbit's feet and good luck charms. The blood in the Scripture is never to protect us from Satan’s wrath but from God’s wrath. Remember the Passover when God's destroyer passed over the houses when he saw the blood; likewise God “passes over us” when he sees the blood of Christ.


    The Covenant with Israel was a “blood covenant”.


    Exodus 24:8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

    The Law required that the blood of animals be sprinkled on the altar for a sin offering, indicating the substitution of the victim’s blood for that of the sinner.


    Hebrews 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

    To bring about atonement and to establish the New Covenant it was necessary for Jesus to shed His blood.


    Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”



    COVENANT

    BLOOD

    Adamic

    Animals killed for garments

    Noachic

    Sacrifice of clean animals and birds

    Abrahamic B

    Sacrifice of heifer, a goat and a ram, along with a dove and a young pigeon.

    Abrahamic C

    Sacrifice of the ram in Isaac’s place

    Mosaic

    Blood of lambs, bulls and goats

    New

    Jesus’ blood on the cross

    Figure 2:Blood covenants


    1. The covenant sign

    A covenant sign was a visible seal and reminder of covenant commitments. The rainbow was the sign of the covenant with Noah.


    Genesis 9:12-16 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life, Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”.

    Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and the Sabbath was the sign of the covenant with Israel at Sinai. Both of these practices have been contentious issues in the church. However as they are remnants of previous covenants, it is important to remember that legally a more recent covenant supersedes previous ones. This explains why neither of these apply to the those who partake of the New Covenant.


    The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision.


    Genesis 17:9-11 Then God said to Abraham, "…This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you..”

    But Paul writes to those partaking of the New Covenant:


    Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


    COVENANT

    SIGN

    Noachic

    Rainbow

    Abrahamic

    Circumcision

    Mosaic

    Sabbath

    Davidic

    A son

    New

    Baptism,
    the table

    Figure 3:The covenant sign



    The sign of the Mosaic Covenant is the Sabbath.


    Exodus 31:13 "Say to the Israelites `You must observe my Sabbaths, This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come…”

    But Paul writes to those partaking of the New Covenant:


    Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.



    1. The oath

    As was typical of covenants of parity, the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech was sealed with an oath18. So too were the covenants between Isaac and Abimelech19, and Jacob and Laban20. The oath made the covenant binding.


    Hebrews 6:16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.

    Jacob insisted on Esau swearing an oath when he covenanted to give him the birthright.


    Genesis 25:33 But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

    Jehoida’s covenant with the commanders 21, and David’s covenant with Jonathan22 were also sealed with oaths. The oath was seen as a ratification of the covenant, as evidenced by Joshua’s treaty with the Gibeonites.


    Joshua 9:15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

    So too God confirms his covenants with an oath.


    Deuteronomy 4:31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.

    Abraham tells Eliezer about God’s oath:


    Genesis 24:7 "The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, `To your offspring I will give this land'

    Moses emphasises to Israel that their covenant is sealed with an oath from God:


    Deuteronomy 29:12-15 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God but also with those who are not here today.

    The Davidic covenant was bound with the surety of an irrevocable oath:


    Psalm 132:11 The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:” One of your own descendants I will place on your throne…

    When Jesus is appointed the high priest of the New Covenant forever, God guarantees this with an oath.


    Hebrews 7:20-22 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:” The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever.' " Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

    We too as the “heirs of what was promised” in the New Covenant have our covenant confirmed by God’s oath.


    Hebrews 6:17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.


    1. The covenant meal

    In the ancient Middle East there was often a covenant meal, celebrating the sealing of the covenant. Hence we read regarding the treaty between Isaac and Abimelech:


    Genesis 26:26-31 Let us make a treaty with you …. Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.

    When Jacob and Laban entered into a covenant we also read of a covenant meal.


    Genesis 31:43-54 Laban answered Jacob, "…Come now, let's make a covenant, … So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal.

    The first Passover and all subsequent ones were associated with a covenant meal.


    Exodus 12:3-11 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. ….That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. …. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover.

    Jesus used his last Passover meal with his disciples as a covenant meal to institute the New Covenant in which he would be the Passover lamb. Thus the bread and the wine have become the symbols or sign of this covenant


    John 13:1-2 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served,


    Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


    At his last Passover meal, Jesus referred to his body as bread and to his blood as wine--he was the Passover Lamb who was symbolically eaten by his disciples as a covenant meal. 23


    1. Covenant mediators

    A mediator is someone who acts as a negotiator between 2 or more parties either to settle a dispute, or to bring about a settlement or agreement. A covenant mediator belongs to the latter group.


    A covenant mediator is someone who arbitrates between the covenant parties to bring about agreement on the covenant terms.


    Galatians 3:20 A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Since the promise God covenanted with Abraham involved commitment only from God's side, no mediator was involved. 24

    Thus a royal grant requires no mediator, while a Suzerain-Vassal does.


    Once more Joshua assembled the tribes at Shechem to call Israel to a renewal of the covenant. It was his final official act as the Lord's servant, mediator of the Lord's rule over his people. In this he followed the example of Moses, whose final official act was also a call to covenant renewal--of which Deuteronomy is the preserved document.25

    Following is the dialogue of Joshua acting as mediator between Israel and God for the covenant renewal.


    Joshua 24:19-27 Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD, He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you."

    But the people said to Joshua, "No! We will serve the LORD."

    Then Joshua said, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD."

    "Yes, we are witnesses," they replied.

    "Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel."

    And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God and obey Him."

    On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and then at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.

    "See!" he said to all the people. "This stone will be a witness against us, it has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God."

    The 2 central mediators in the Bible are:


  • Mediator of the Old Covenant (Testament): Moses


  • Mediator of the New Covenant (Testament): Jesus



    John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.

    The Mosaic covenant was a formal arrangement of mutual commitments between God and Israel, with Moses as the mediator