“This is the covenant I will make with the house of
after that time,’ declares the Israel
LORD. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be My people.’”
– Jeremiah 31:33
Just about everyone knows the Bible is divided into two sections—the Old Testament and the New Testament. But most of us would be hard-pressed to explain what a “testament” is and why knowing the answer could make God’s Word come alive to us. Well, let me take a stab at it. The word “testament” is a synonym of “covenant.” And contrary to popular belief, a biblical covenant isn’t merely a promise or a contract. It’s much, much more. You see, unlike a run-of-the-mill contract, a biblical covenant requires love and grace.
That being the case, a biblical covenant is a binding contract between two parties, marked by love and grace and containing specific terms and promises. With only one or two exceptions, every covenant in Scripture contains three components: Parties (those who are participating in the covenant), Terms (the stipulations of the covenant) and Promises (the blessings guaranteed by the participating parties to each other if the terms of the covenant are met).
Of the many covenants described in Scripture, five stand out as most important. And each of these five communicates loud and clear that God pursues a love relationship with us. The five key covenants are the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9), Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15&17), Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-24), Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7) and New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:17-21). Consider the great pursuit of God through these five covenants.
The Noahic Covenant. After Noah, his family and his animal friends exited the ark, the Lord spoke to Noah and initiated a covenant with every living creature on earth (Parties). God gave Noah three commands (Terms): 1) Do not murder, 2) Do not eat meat with blood in it, and 3) Multiply and fill the earth. And God made a marvelous promise to Noah and the rest of creation—never again would He destroy the earth with a flood. The Noahic Covenant demonstrates that even on the heels of judgment, God shows concern and loving care for His creation.
The Abrahamic Covenant. When Abraham was around 80 years old, God made a covenant with him and his descendants (Parties). God gave Abraham three general instructions (Terms): 1) Walk with God, 2) Be blameless, and 3) Circumcise every male in your household. And as he walked in faith and obedience to God’s commands, the LORD made three guarantees to Abraham (Promises): 1) His descendants would possess all of
Palestine, 2) His descendants would become a great nation,
and 3) The LORD would be ’s
God. Within the Abrahamic covenant resonates this powerful message of God’s
love: God pours out extravagant blessings
on those who walk by faith and obedience. Israel
The Mosaic (“Old”) Covenant provides a canopy over the first ¾ of the Bible. In Exodus 19-24, God drafted a covenant with Moses and the nation of
(Parties). The requirements of this covenant (Terms) boiled down to this: 1) Israel Israel must faithfully obey the 613 Laws of
Moses, and 2)
must be a holy people (i.e., set apart from sin). If Israel Israel
faithfully followed these two stipulations, God promised to: 1) Keep Israel as
His treasured possession, 2) Protect from attack, and 3) Set them
apart to spread His grace to the nations. This great message resonates from the
Mosaic Covenant: The Lord treasures His
chosen people and sets them apart to spread His grace to the nations. Israel
The Davidic Covenant is short and sweet. But it is, oh, so important. The Lord appreciated David’s desire to build a temple in
, but God didn’t
want a man of war like David to build a temple for the Prince of Peace.
However, in the midst of delivering this message to David, the Lord forged a
covenant with him (Parties). There were no specific terms of the covenant, but
God made this promise to David: He would have a permanent dynasty. One of his
royal descendants would establish a throne over Jerusalem , and His throne and rule
would be eternal. Yes, the Davidic Covenant paved the way for the Prince of
Peace and King of Kings to rule. And this great message is proclaimed: In our violent, war-torn world, God promises
a future of peace and rest to His followers.
The New Covenant is the crème de la crème—the covenant of all biblical covenants. It is the culmination of God’s great love pursuit of mankind. God offers this covenant to every man, woman or child who chooses to be a follower of Jesus (Parties). And the requirements (Terms) of the covenant are surprisingly simple: 1) Believe/Trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, and 2) Obey Christ’s commands. For those who do, God extends three great promises: 1) Forgiveness of sin, 2) The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and 3) Eternal life. Wow! The wonderful message of the New Covenant is: Through Christ God demonstrates His heart’s desire—for you and me to be forgiven and restored to an unbroken love relationship with Him.
From the very beginning of creation, God has been pursuing a love relationship with us. And the only thing that stood in the way was our own sin. But through these five great covenants in Scripture, God was methodically and compassionately paving the way for our relationship with Him to be restored. Yes, throughout human history God has been engaged in a great pursuit: a pursuit of a love relationship with you and me, expressed through covenant.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sunday at 10 am.