Many people create things and after they are created if they don’t turn out like they expected they destroy their own creation and they go to work making something new. Although God is a Creator and what He created didn’t turn out the way He envisioned, He didn’t destroy His creation, but instead He pursued it. From the start of God’s creation all the way until He returns for the second time God will oversee, and give help to His creation. The way that God has helped His creation is mainly through what the Bible calls a covenant. Sometimes when we look at the Old Testament we tend to look from a page by page perspective, but it’s important for us to catch a glimpse of the entire story line through the Old Testament to add to our close up perspective. As I cover the idea that God pursues us, His creation, we will discuss what a covenant is and what are the four major covenants in the Old Testament and what is the new covenant.
What Is A Covenant?
According to the Bible, a covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that determines the conditions of the relationship. In so many words a covenant is much like a will. This means that the person who the will is left for is unable to change it, but only receive it or reject it. This means that both parties aren’t equal. The person who writes out the will, is greater than the person who receives the will. The document can only be changed by the writer, not the receiver. This is exactly what’s happening with God and His creation. He has written up an agreement which has implications that are divinely placed by God and His creation either receives it or rejects it, but it’s not up for interpretation.
It’s important that we understand that God didn’t invent covenant’s because He was bored or in need of something else to do. Covenant’s actually flow out from who God is. God has eternally lived in a covenantal relationship within the Trinity. God the Father is bound in relationship with both the Son and the Spirit and that will never change. God is a God of covenant, so He shares various covenants with His creation through history. In the Old Testament the word covenant is used 100’s of times and refers to different things. For instance, Job said that He made a covenant with his eyes. Solomon spoke of marriage being a covenant. David spoke of covenant as being the love between two friends. And the elders of Israel made a covenant with King David. Often times in the Old Testament the establishing of a covenant was called cutting covenant because it usually involved the slaughtering of an animal. As I have mentioned the Bible includes hundreds of lesser covenants but we will examine the five major covenants that God has made with His people beginning with the Noahic covenant.
What Is The Noahic Covenant?
The first covenant that God made with His creation took place with Noah and his family. Genesis 6:9-14 says “This the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons; Shem, Ham, Japheth. The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Something that you need to understand from reading this passage and something that you will see with every other person with whom God made a covenant, it wasn’t that Noah, or any of the rest of these people that we will mention were better than the other guy, but rather they were people who found favor in the sight of God. It was grace appearing to Noah and his family in the Old Testament.
One of the words for grace is favor, unmerited favor. It’s something that finds you, not something you earn or find on your own. This is the case with Noah. It wasn’t that Noah was the best of the best, but rather he was a guy who found favor in the sight of God. God then goes on to give Noah lengthy instructions about what He has for him to do and it includes building a giant boat in his front yard, in a place in the Middle East where it had never rained up until this point. Prior to the great flood of Genesis 7 everything on earth was watered from the ground up, not from the top down like it is now and would be after Genesis.
This boat that God asks Noah to build in Genesis 6:1-22 is the modern-day equivalent of a battleship that could hold 522 railroad boxcars. Noah would spend a large portion of his life building this boat with mostly only the help from his sons, in a environment where it had never rained. Noah was up against a huge task that God was asking him to do, and he moved with Godly fear and built this ark just as God had asked him.
For years Noah would warn the people of his culture that rain was coming and they should help him build the ark and then climb inside prior to the great storm, but nobody listened, and in fact they mocked him and scorned his wisdom to build a boat in the desert. In Genesis 7:1-8-19 God speaks to Noah and tells him to gather the animals into the boat along with his family and close the door because it was about to rain. The rain would descend for 40 days and 40 nights before it would subside and Noah and his family would be able to get off the boat. As soon as Noah gets off the boat, he is overcome with wonder and awe that God just wiped out everyone and everything on the planet except his family and whatever else was in the ark. Noah builds an altar of earth, sacrifices an animal and worships God. God would then respond to Noah and through the sacrifice of the animal He would cut covenant with him giving him a sign for the covenant. The sign that God gives Noah is the rainbow, which meant that God would never again wipe out His creation by way of flood.
A little bit of time goes by and Noah finds himself in a drunken stupor, naked and laying inside his tent. This was a sin before God and his family. Noah’s sin is important for us to see because even though God killed everybody, He was unable to destroy sin, because it was alive in Noah through his our first parents Adam and Eve. Though nobody is left, Noah is still there with his sin nature and all. The external sign of the covenant that God cut with Noah was a rainbow and the internal sign was faith, in that Noah responded to God and built a boat. This leads us to the second major covenant, the Abrahamic covenant.
What Is The Abrahamic Covenant?
In between Abraham and Noah, God hadn’t spoken to humanity. Abraham was nothing different from Noah, just another sinner who found favor in the sight of God. This favor would be like walking around a corner and finding a $100.00 bill on the ground and never realizing that God placed it there. You didn’t really find the money; God placed it there and allowed you to pick it up. The same thing is true with these Bible characters; they found the favor of God not because of what they did, but because of who God is. What we know about Abraham when God called him is that he was married to a barren women and God asked Him to leave his father’s home and go to a place that God would show him.
In Genesis 12:4-9 Abraham obeyed God and did just that, packed up his stuff, left his father’s house and headed out for the place that God would show him. The pattern of God up unto this point would be that though God pursued man, they failed God. What’s so powerful is not that man failed, but that God continued to pursue His failing creation which would be the case for Noah and again for Abraham. God promised Abraham that through him He would build an entire nation. But because Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren, they begin to plan everything out in the natural and try to make it happen on their own.
In Genesis 16 Abraham would force the birth of this promised nation through having sex with his wife’s maidservant and having her carry his child. When this child arrives it becomes clear to them that this isn’t the promised child that will build him a great nation, but something they created on their own. In the midst of Abraham’s sin God visits him and confirms His promise to Him with the cutting of another covenant, circumcision. Circumcision began in Genesis 19 when Abraham was 99 years old and because of the way that Abraham responded to God in the midst of his fall, God gave him the promise of a name change. His name would no longer just mean and exalted father, but it would be changed into father of a multitude. Abraham and Sarah would receive the promise that they have been longing for as she who was once barren would now bare Isaac to them which through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed and built.
After Abraham receives his beloved son Isaac, God then asks him to do the unthinkable, sacrifice Isaac to God. In Genesis 21:1-19 God asked Abraham to do this, and the following morning he rose up, and headed towards the mountain to sacrifice his son to God. Oh, the pain in Abraham’s heart as he now finally, after many years and great difficulty had the promise of his name being spread into all the nations of the earth through this boy, and now God, who gave Isaac to Abraham, had asked him to kill his son and give him back to God. As Abraham sets everything up for the sacrifice of his son, God breaks in over him with a loud voice and commands him to stop.
What relief in the heart of Abraham as God was only testing him with this great blessing that He had given him. The life of Isaac and the life of Jesus Christ have much in common. Here are just a few similarities: Isaac and Jesus were both sons of a promise that was given many years before their birth; Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle; Isaac carried the wood to his own sacrifice, just as Jesus carried His wooden cross to His crucifixion and Isaac was brought back from the dead figuratively and Jesus was brought back from the dead literally.
The internal sign of the covenant that God cut with Abraham was faith and the external sign of the covenant was circumcision. Abraham’s life tells us that we can have faith like him, believing for a son from an aging barren wife, journeying to a land that he doesn’t possess and the obedient sacrifice of a promised son. Because of the promise of God to Noah that He would never destroy the earth again through flood, Abraham is alive and his family is beginning to grow and fill the earth through Isaac, which leads us to the third major covenant in the Old Testament, the Mosiac Covenant.
What Is The Mosiac Covenant?
Moses is no different from Adam, Noah and Abraham; just another sinner who found favor in the sight of God. When Moses steps onto the scene it’s about 400 years after Abraham. From God’s covenant with the elderly Abraham and Sarah came not only one son, but over 1 million+ descendants during the next 400 years. In Exodus 3 God appears to Moses in the burning bush and calls him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and deliver them into the Promised Land. God then began to act on behalf of His covenant people and released judgments on Pharaoh and once again cut covenant with His people through the Passover lamb in Exodus 12. God would then lead His people in Exodus 19 to the foot of Mount Sinai to give Moses and the people of God the Ten Commandments.
Unfortunately the people’s response to God’s gracious gesture to them was to turn in all of their gold jewelry, melt it down and mold a golden calf from it. It was then that Moses’ right hand man Aaron led the great multitude into idol worship as they bowed down before this calf. The people’s response to God would be the same as it was in the past and as it would be in the future, they would drift further and further away from God resulting in more disobedience, defilement and spiritual adultery leading them once again into judgment.
The internal sign of the covenant was faith as Moses was led by God to deliver the people and the external sign of the covenant was the celebration of the Passover which would prefigure the death of Jesus Christ as the great Passover Lamb. Because God is a covenant God and He keeps His word which He spoke to Noah, the earth was never wiped out even though it continued in sin. Because God is a covenant God, He kept His word to Abraham and continued to grow His people from one elderly couple to a multitude of over a million in just 400 short years. And because God is a covenant God, He would keep His promise to Moses and deliver His people from bondage and lead them into becoming 12 tribes and into a promised land where they could dwell forever. This leads us to the Davidic covenant.
What Is The Davidic Covenant?
Just like Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses, David was in the same place, just another sinner saved by grace. David was murderer, a liar and an adulterer and yet God used him to establish His kingdom through him and set up the seat of His second coming. Now that God’s people were growing on the earth, becoming a large people and entering into their promised land the only thing they were in need of was a king and becoming a kingdom. In 2nd Samuel 7:8-16 God chooses David as the next covenant head.
David was inspired that both he and His seed would rule over the people of God forever. David began to turn this loose confederation of tribes into a strong empire. Just like the fall of God’s other covenant men, David would be no different. The prophets foretold the time when both David and his sons would lose their kingdom into the hands of Babylonians, but also foretold the promise that a Seed from David would regain the seat of authority and the right to rule over the people of God forever. This was the prophetic message that Jesus was soon coming to establish His kingdom in the earth, not for a moment, but forever.
When we look at the Jewish race and nation of Israel today, we might ask if God is still true to His covenant promise that He gave them many years ago. The promise that was given to them about a Seed from David overseeing them forever in righteousness has been fulfilled in part and will be fulfilled in fullness in the future. Many of these promises from the Old Testament have what’s called a near and a far fulfillment attached to them which means that some of the fulfillment was near or has already been accomplished and that there is a far reality, or that it’s yet to be fully accomplished.
When Jesus returns at the second coming He will actually sit on the throne of David and rule the earth in fullness as David did in part. The Davidic covenant was with King David and the internal sign of the covenant with David was worship in the temple, and the external sign of the covenant was the throne of David that One would sit on forever from the line of David. Because God was faithful to not destroy the earth it continued to grow. Because God was faithful to grow the earth they moved from a couple to millions. Because God was faithful to give His people a special land, they were taken from captivity into the Promised Land. And because God was faithful to make them powerful, they were taken from being a loose band of tribes that became a great kingdom that was here in part for a moment, but will endure when Jesus returns forever as an everlasting kingdom, who’s government has no end.
The power of the covenantal God that we serve is that though we, His creation, continue to sin, He continues to chase us down and overtake us. This means that it’s not our own love for God that is sustaining us, but His great love for us. It doesn’t matter where you might be in your life, when you look at the faithfulness of God to these weak, broken and struggling men and women in the past, it should empower you to know that God will be faithful to you today. David has the second most words in the Bible, next to Jesus, and he struggled with so much sin and compromise and yet God continued to chase him down and gave him the title of being a man after His own heart. The message of covenant is that God is the One who starts and finishes all things. Be encouraged today that He is after you, regardless of what you have done or are currently doing. Repent, apologize and then press delete and move on with the God who is right at this very moment chasing you down!