Throughout this year we are studying covenants! Our God is a covenant God. The more we learn about covenants, the more we learn how to please our God. That is what you want to do… please our covenant God. So, are learning about covenants.
Once again, this week as I was working on another covenant, I had to revise our elements of an effective biblical covenant. It struck me that covenants are often renewed.
--Abraham’s covenant was renewed at least 3 times.
--The Isaac and Jacob’s covenant were tweaked and renewed several times.
--The Mosaic covenant with the people is rewound several times.
So, let’s add this tweak to number four on our list…
Seven Elements of an Effective Biblical Covenant – v3.5
1) Covenants create relationships by giving identity.
2) The parties in the covenant are named; one superior and one inferior.
3) Valuable blessings are granted.
4) Oaths are given. Covenants are often renewed! Oaths are given and then reaffirmed.
5) A sacrifice cuts the Covenant.
Subpoint… Meals are involved in covenants.
6) There is a symbol to remember.
7) Names and places are significant.
Let’s look at a place where the Mosaic covenant is renewed.
Joshua 1:1-9 After the death of Moses -- the servant of the LORD -- the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun,-- Moses' assistant, "Moses, my servant, is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses… No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go… Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
The LORD renews the covenant he had made with Moses now, with Joshua. The blessings that were granted to the children of Israel under Moses, were renewed with Joshua. The conditional nature of the Mosaic covenant is emphasized again… “be careful to do all the law…” God is pumping up Joshua to strong and courageous because the covenant is renewed in you!
Then, to reconnect the people to the covenant, Joshua does three things as they cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land…
1) Built a memorial of 12 stones taken from the Jordan River.
2) The men were circumcised; another symbol of the covenant.
3) The observed the Passover feast with its sacrifices.
Three symbols of a renewed covenant! There are symbols to remember in every covenant!
We know the story of Jericho…
--They march around the city in silence…
--Then they blew the trumpets…
--The walls came crumbling down!
God honors the covenant! The children of Israel return to the Promised Land. The begin to receive the blessings of the Covenant. Everywhere they step the Lord gives them the land. The LORD is with them just as he promised Joshua.
Side point: In the covenant, when we are strong and courageous God is with us!
But that’s not the point of this sermon. What happens next is.
The next city on their “do-to list” is the city of Ai. If the mighty city of Jericho fell by marching around it… the mostly-insignificant city of Ai only needs a fraction of our forces. Just send a couple thousand guys… it should be enough.
But... the chump city of Ai defeats the Israelites. The men who attacked the city are routed and flee back to Joshua in panic! Surely, God has not deserted them already. What about the covenant?
Joshua 7:7-10 And Joshua said, "Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?" The LORD said to Joshua, "Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?”
The LORD explains… someone broke the covenant. A man named, Achan stole from the city. Under his tent they found the stolen loot. Achan is executed for breaking the covenant. They lost the battle with Ai because they were not careful to do according to all that was commanded.
Here is the point… God takes his covenants seriously.
Joshua and the children of Israel return to the mission. Ai is captured. They are back on track. But Joshua feels it is important to do number 4 on the list of Seven biblical elements, again. The covenant is renewed, again!
Joshua 8:30-35 At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal… And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. And all Israel… stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal… to bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.
Two mountains… double the importance. The law is written on the stones of the altar. Sacrifices are offered… The covenant is re-renewed!
Because… God takes covenants seriously.
Now, let me tell you a story that, at least one person here, does not know.
--All the peoples of the Promised Land were terrified of what Joshua was doing.
--They all gathered to gather to team up against the Israelites.
--All the people of the land, except one group, gang up on the Israelites. There were a people who heard what the children of Israel were doing… They were afraid.
--They traveled from a long distance to make a covenant with Joshua.
--By the time they arrived to where the Israelites were, their gear was worn out. Their sandals were full of holes. Their bread was moldy.
Joshua 9:6-9 And the Gibeonites went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us." But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?" They said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you? And where do you come from?" They said to him, "From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt.”
Joshua 9:15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
Then, surprise, surprise, three days after they made this covenant with the Gibeonites, they discovered that the Gibeonites were, in reality, the next city on their “to-do list”. The only lived three days march away. The Gibeonites had tricked them!
Listen to what they leaders decided to do. It would seem that the Gibeonites’ deception would invalidate the covenant. It would seem to be a breach of contract. The entered the covenant under false pretenses. Listen…
Joshua 9:18-20 The people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them…"
Seriously? The oath of the covenant was “black-black no trade back”. The leaders of the congregation understood the point of my sermon… God takes covenants seriously.
Joshua did not let them off without consequence.
Joshua 9:22-27 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, "Why did you deceive us, saying, 'We are very far from you,' when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God." They answered Joshua, "Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you- so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it." So, he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose.
What is fascinating is… the Gibeonites understood the point of my sermon… God takes covenants seriously. They can’t be taken back!
You are going to find what happens next… unbelievable!
2 Samuel 21:1-2 Now there was a famine in the days of David (David? Wait…400 years later) for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, "There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death." So, the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them… Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah.
“You’re kidding?” Saul probably didn’t even know about the Joshua-Gibeonite covenant. It had been 400 years… 400 years is a long time! There was a famine because Saul broke a 400-year-old covenant with a bunch of cheaters-heads!
God takes covenants seriously… may be an understatement.
So, David makes it right. Saul is already dead. He and Jonathan died in battle with the Philistines.
2 Samuel 21:3-9 And David said to the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?" The Gibeonites said to him, “…let seven of Saul’s sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah..." And the king said, "I will give them…" And he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD, and the seven of them perished together.
Wow… God takes covenants seriously… can you say… for sure!
The lesson for us is obvious.
We enter the New Covenant in baptism. When we join the sacrifice of the death of Jesus in the waters we enter into the New Covenant. If the old covenant was serious, how much more is the New Covenant, cut with the blood of God, to be taken… seriously, serious!
Your commitment to the New Covenant is serious to God.
You should take your commitment to the New Covenant seriously.
Ephesians 1:13-20 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory… 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
God has sealed us in the New Covenant by the Holy Spirit.
We use this power to work his great might.
Remember… Covenants are often renewed… Do you need to renew your covenant with the Lord?
June 2, 2019
Los Alamos Church of Christ