God’s Five Covenants.
Jesus was a very Jewish man who was brought up in a Jewish family and lived in the land of Israel. Pilate recognised Jesus as a Jewish man. He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus was the King of the Jewish people. Jesus made it clear in His teaching that He was not finished with Israel. “You will not see me again until.” He ushered in the Kingdom of God and He is the King. The great commission was to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the Earth. The Samaritans were regarded by the Apostles as Jewish. Paul always went to the Jews first before turning to the Gentiles and he appointed a Jewish leader in all the Churches.
Covenant is the key word in the Bible. Kingdom is another key word but it means the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and includes the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan in the New Testament. How many covenants are there? Some say just one – of grace. Some say two – the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “Testament” means covenant. Some say three – Adam is a covenant of works then there is the Law in the Old Testament and grace in the New Testament. Some say there are five. Some say there are seven – dispensations.
There are five covenants in the Bible and only four affect believers.
A contract is a binding agreement between two equal parties. Each needs something from the other – a man and his builder. They have equal strengths and it is a bilateral agreement.
A covenant is an agreement between two parties, one of whom is in a much stronger position than the other to enforce the agreement. The weaker party has to accept or reject the agreement. The stronger party benefits from the agreement. God is the strong party in a covenant. The strong party dictates the terms. A covenant may be conditional or unconditional. These were not contracts, which could be broken by God. He made the covenants on His oath and they are unconditional on what a man does in response
In the Bible a covenant is sometimes sealed in blood and sometimes sealed with an oath. Marriage was seen as a covenant when the two parties were joined, the man being the strong party and inviting the woman as the weaker party. The father gives the bride away and she takes her husband’s name. But today marriage is regarded as a double covenant or a contract, which can be broken. A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract. A will is a covenant made by the strong party. The beneficiary is the weak party, who cannot negotiate the terms of the will. It only operates on death.
God made a covenant with Israel, which He will never break. God does not bargain or make a contract. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Holy One of Israel. He says that He is married to Israel. If God abandoned Israel He would be unreliable. He says time after time: “I will.” God seals His promises with blood sometimes and an oath on other occasions. At times it is with the blood of animals. The New Covenant was sealed with the blood of Jesus. It could not operate until Jesus died. Today believers are heirs of God and have received their inheritance. God is a covenant-keeping and faithful God. There are some things God cannot do. He cannot tell a lie or break a promise. Man has done everything God cannot do. God cannot deny His character. A righteous God always does what is right. When there is an infant death God has done the right thing. God is not obliged to prosper a man when he tithes. A man has nothing that God needs. Everything belongs to God. He has everything a man needs. The covenants are progressive in nature as God works out His master plan of salvation for the World. Those who accepted God’s covenant promise would move from the ways of the World into the pathway to life. The two are in a contra-flow arrangement.
THE NOAHIC COVENANT. Gen ch 6 v 17-19 and Gen ch 9 v 8-19.
This covenant was made with the human race and the animals. It was made with every human being. There have been local floods. These seem to be increasing in number and intensity. Perhaps this is due to better and quicker media coverage. But never again will there be a universal flood. God took the initiative. It is an act of sovereign grace to sinful man. Man could not prevent it happening. The approximate period of time between the creation of Adam and the Flood is 1,656 years. Adam was 930 years of age. Methuselah was 969 years of age. Noah was 500 years of age before he had his three children and then there was a further period of 120 years until the ark was built. There is no obligation on human beings but God has made a covenant and He will not break it. The unconditional and permanent covenant provides for the orderliness of the seasons. The covenant is sealed with the rainbow in the sky. The covenant provides time for human beings to be accepted into God’s family and there is security that it will not happen again. It expresses God’s love to mankind. It demonstrates His love, which endures. It offered survival as well as rain and sun for the growth of food. It provided the sanctity of human life.
God regretted that He had made man. Some parents say that they wish they had never had a child. Before the Flood man had become utterly depraved. Sex and violence had destroyed mankind. They go together. Every imagination was evil all the time. There must be no sex with animals or angels. Each was a separate creation. The Nephilim was possibly women having sex with demons who manifested themselves as men. Only Noah was righteous and God decided to start again with a new phase of World history. This did not solve God’s problem of rebellious children. God provided food in order for the human race to survive. There is enough food to feed everyone in the World but men will not share it with those in need. Some are starving while many are obese. The covenant is sealed with a rainbow – it is like a wedding ring. God married the human race. God could send another flood but He said that He would never do that again. It will last until the Earth disappears in fire. 2 Peter ch 3 v 10-11. God wanted a big family. This cover is only to exist as long as the Earth remains. Jesus said that when He returns it will be like it was in the days of Noah. Luke ch 17 v 26. God is incredibly patient and is giving mankind time to repent. Human life is sacred and therefore murderers must die. They are destroying the image of God. It is God who preserves life. The murderer takes life. Capital punishment was abolished in 1960 in Britain. It was followed by Abortion being legalised in 1967 and euthanasia will follow, if humanists have their way. Society is moving away from God’s covenant. God is colour-blind. He sees no difference in people of different coloured skins. There are still 1,600 ethnic groups without a Bible in their own language. The covenant with Noah is still in force.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT. Gen ch 12 v 1-3. Gen ch 15 v 7-18. Gen ch 17 v 1-8.
God promised Abraham a people living in a particular place for a purpose and in perpetuity. His purpose was to bless all people through the Jewish people.
There are three promises by God.
1. The promise of a particular land. The land promised is referred to as “My land” and it was given in perpetuity.
2. The promise that Abraham would be the father of a great nation.
3. The promise that the Jewish people would be a great blessing to the other peoples of the World.
God took the initiative. There was a condition. Every male had to undergo circumcision and anyone who refused was to be cut off from the people. Abraham took a sacrifice and cut the meat in two and then laid it out in two rows. On this occasion only God passed through between the meat.
This is a covenant of selection. Abraham had eight sons. He left a brick built house in Ur with running water and central heating. God chose Abraham for a purpose and He promised him and his descendants the land forever. He chose to use the Jewish people to bless all the others. There would be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. God heals and He kills. He loves and He hates. When people curse the Jewish people they are cursing God’s selection of them. God’s original promise to Abraham to bless those who bless Israel and to curse those who curse Israel has held good throughout the centuries. This applies to Pharaoh, Babylon, Haman, Constantine, Spain, Luther, Germany, Churchill, the British Empire, Prime Ministers, Presidents and individual nations.
THE MOSAIC COVENANT.
Then 430 years after the Covenant with Abraham God made a covenant with Moses. The Moral law was designed to point man to his sin and the need for a saviour. God chose the Children of Israel for the purpose of revealing His holiness to the World. They were the people through whom the Messiah would come. The promise in Exodus ch 6 v 2-8 was that God would act. 1. I will bring you out. 2. I will free you. 3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. 4. I will take you as my own people. There were four cups at the Passover celebration plus a fifth one (of Elijah) remembering the promise of the land. At the Last Supper Jesus took the third cup indicating that by His outstretched arms on the cross He would redeem the people.
This is a very specific set of rules for the Jewish people. This is known as the Law. Other peoples have found that they are under the moral law, which they did not make and cannot quite forget, even when they try. There is a moral law urging men to do the right thing and making them uncomfortable when they do the wrong thing. He who made the moral law is intensely interested in right conduct – fair play, unselfishness, courage, honesty and truthfulness. God took the initiative. God offered to make a covenant with them at Mount Sinai. It was entirely an act of grace. It was based on the Hittite suzereignty treaty in common practice at the time.
It was a national covenant to provide national security. The land was given forever but it was conditional on the behaviour of the Jews. They were to be a different kind of people and were to live differently. They were to be the happiest and healthiest people on Earth. They would have none of these diseases suffered by the Egyptians. It was intended by God that the other peoples would be attracted to live in that way. It was the best way to live. However the Jews copied the ways of the World. God brought on them disease, earthquakes, raiders to invade and take their animals and finally captivity to Babylon. Israel committed adultery. It took 1,000 years to get the land and 500 years to lose it. Habakkuk said that the just would live by being faithful. Muslims may be allowed to rule Britain in order to purify the believers in Britain.
The covenant was temporary until Jesus came. In Roman law a slave was employed to look after the natural children until the children were of age to be adopted into the family. The father adopted his own natural child who then became an heir and received his inheritance. He was then free. Believers are adopted as sons and heirs. They are free from the Mosaic Law – all 613 of them. The Mosaic Law is called the Old Covenant. There were 15 separate death penalties. God only wants the money a believer wants to give and not money given under a duty. Giving should be out of gratitude. The Mosaic Law pointed out sin and the need for a saviour. Jer ch 18. The potter’s house. The clay decided what it would be. A man decides what God will make of him. A man may be either a thing of beauty or a crude pot. The clay hardens and will then be thrown away as useless.
Moses would have been familiar with such a treaty. The treaty was made between a powerful king and a lesser king. The greater king took the initiative and offered terms to the weaker king. The weaker king contributed men to the army of the greater king along with money and goods for the benefit of the greater king. In return the greater king protected the lesser king and his people from attacks from the enemies of the weaker king. There was something in it for both parties. Archaeology confirms that there were seven elements in such a treaty.
1. There is a preamble naming the author and the parties to the covenant.
2. Then there is a historical prologue setting out the history of the relationship between the greater king and the lesser king.
3. The place, date and importance of the occasion are set out. It is important that the lesser king realises the full significance of the covenant.
4. The greater king sets out the specific requirements of the lesser king – such as total loyalty forever to the greater king until such time as the greater king may choose to terminate the covenant. The responsibilities of the lesser king are also set out.
5. There is a list of the witnesses to the covenant.
6. This is followed by a list of the blessings, which flow from obedience and the punishments, which result from disobedience. The lesser king is in a very vulnerable position.
7. The Treaty is ratified by a feast. Two copies of the Treaty are made and one copy is placed in a location of importance in each land. Then a meal takes place and there is a sacrificial ceremony with blood sprinkled on the altar of each party with a promise on oath to keep the Covenant on pain of death.
Genesis ch 20.
1. A preamble. You have seen what I did and how I bore you on the wings of eagles.
2. The historical prologue. God had led them out of bondage in Egypt. He was the God of their forefathers.
3. The place and date. The third new moon in the wilderness in Sinai.
4. The requirements of the greater king – the Lord. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses. Loyalty was necessary.
5. The witnesses. The dazzling light of God’s presence on the mountain. The mountain quaked. There is no doubt that God was there.
6. The blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience are listed. There was the promise to defend the people from their enemies.
7. There was a feast. The blood was sprinkled on the altar and on the people. They were sealed with the blood of the sacrifice. Breaking the covenant would lead to death.
The Jewish people were chosen for a purpose and not out of favouritism. God had a plan and needed them in order to fulfil that plan – to reveal His holiness to the World. There would be blessings for the people in obedience. Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand. The degree of intimacy depended on the degree of obedience. The Old Covenant led to death when it was broken by a man. It was not meant to last forever. In time its glory faded.
THE DAVIDIC COVENANT. 2 Sam ch 7 v 4-17. 2 Sam ch 23 v 5. Psalm 89 v 35-37.
God then made a covenant with David promising him a successor who would be King of Israel forever. It would also be in perpetuity. There is no way that David could have risen to be king. God did it. Through Samuel God chose David to be king. It was both conditional and unconditional. Disobedience would lead to punishment. The successors of David lost their right to be kings. It was unconditional in that despite the sins of the kings, God stood by His promise and Jesus became the King of the Jewish people. It shows the wise provision by God for a sinful people and that God is working out His plan. God’s perfect plan of salvation will be fulfilled. Bartimeaus called out to Jesus – Son of David. Jesus was born King of the Jews and died King of the Jews. David was King of Israel in Jerusalem for 33 years. (The lifetime of Jesus.) God wanted many sons to be king until the Messiah came to Israel. The penalty for breaking the covenant was a short rule as king. The bad kings lasted only a short time. The purpose was a visible kingdom of God on Earth ruled by His Son – Jesus. It was made with David in Jerusalem. It provided national accession. It was unconditional and forever. The succession was conditional in that they would succeed only if they lived right. Nearly all the kings were bad kings. The good ones reigned for 33 years while the bad ones reigned for only 5 years. The kings influenced the people – Manasseh. (Jer ch 15 v 4.) Jesus was born King of the Jews and died as King of the Jews. He is still King of the Jews and King of the World.
THE NEW COVENANT. Jeremiah ch 31 v 33. Mat ch 5 v 17.
In Jer ch 31 the New Covenant introduced a superior covenant to the Mosaic (Old) Covenant. It did not replace it but improved it. The new covenant is a renewed covenant with the House of Israel. Jesus fulfilled the New Covenant with the Jewish people at the last Supper. Jesus did not abolish the Mosaic Covenant (the law) but fulfilled it. While this was made with the Jewish people it is also personal: acceptance of the death of Jesus as saviour of the World and submission to Jesus as both Lord and Saviour. The believer becomes part of the body of Christ on Earth. The believer has an awareness of God’s presence in his life. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. When the heart is full of the love of Jesus the mouth speaks of Him.
There is a progressive revelation by God through the five covenants. Jesus was the final revelation to man. The New Covenant is the most personal and intimate revelation. Instead of being obliged by a set of duties the believer is led by the Spirit of God to live a life pleasing to God. At the centre of all five covenants is the promise: “I shall be your God and you shall be my people.” The believer can still die spiritually, if he breaks the New Covenant.
God’s moral law has not been abolished. The Ten Commandments are still essential and relevant and they demand the obedience of all people. They reveal the character of God and confirm what is written on the conscience of a man when he is created. Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the law. The old ceremonial laws of Judaism about sacrifices have all been superseded by Christ but the basic moral law of God continues in force even for believers. In Mat ch 5 Jesus expanded the moral law from actions to thoughts and intentions of the heart. Liking included anger and adultery included thoughts of adultery. In Exodus ch 20 v 1-17 God gave the moral law to Moses on tablets of stone. In ch 20 v 21 God set out the law on the altar. Then in ch 21 v 1 God set out the ordinances, which Moses was to set before the people. Jesus endorsed the keeping of the Sabbath, which was made for man’s benefit. Those who work seven days a week tend to suffer from stress. Mat ch 24 v 20. Jesus envisaged the Sabbath being kept at the time of His Second Coming.
It was announced in the Old Testament and promised salvation on condition of repentance and faithfulness. The penalty was to be cut off forever. The purpose was to provide righteous subjects of the Kingdom of God free from sin. It came into being when Jesus died. It replaced the Old Covenant. God is love. This is only possible if there is a Son to love. The three persons of the Trinity love one another. The covenants are there so that God can have a relationship with human beings. Jer ch 31 was a covenant with the Jewish people. It is a Jewish covenant with the Jewish Church. It is not like the Old Covenant in that it is written on the heart. There is an inclination to keep it. Man does not like being told what to do. As a sinner a man likes to make up his own mind. Judges ch 21 v 25. Under the New Covenant man wants to obey and he is inclined to do the right thing. When a believer sins, his heart is not in it. When there is intimacy the believer knows when he has grieved the Holy Spirit. Fallen man runs away to hide from his guilt rather than acing up to it. He makes excuses and blames others. Repentance is accepting personal responsibility. When a man repents God promises never to bring the matter up again. The New Covenant establishes a personal relationship and an individual relationship. Isaiah said that the Messiah would bring it. The Jews believed in two Messiahs and not one who would come twice. Ezekiel said that the Holy Spirit would bring it about. He would give gifts to be a blessing to the family members.
Romans chs 9-11. God’s developing plan of salvation brought in the Gentiles. This had always been God’s plan through Jonah going to the Ninevites. Paul confirms that God has certainly not finished with the Jewish people. The remnant of Jewish people had to change lanes in order to be saved. The Gentiles were grafted into the olive tree, which is Israel. They are part of the commonwealth of Israel. The state of Israel is not saved yet and will act on occasions in an ungodly manner. Even believers act in an ungodly manner from time to time. There is no distinction between a saved Jew and a saved Gentile but there is a difference between the Gentiles and the Jewish people.
The inclusion of the Gentiles led to the Church separating itself from the Jewish roots of their faith. Constantine finished the process and turned the Church into a branch of the Babylonian Mystery religion.
There are signs of a return to the Land of Israel as prophesied in Scripture. It is a sovereign work of God. The return is largely in unbelief. The restoration to the land is in reverse order to the removal from the land. The return is not because the Jewish people deserve it but for the honour of God’s name.
The return will also be established in history and geography. The return will be to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – the capital city of the king of the Jewish people. Satan is aware of God’s plan and has been and is determined to spoil God’s plan. It is essential for the Jewish people to be alive and in control of the land God calls His Land so that Jesus can return.