This year we are working towards this statement of Jesus. We are exploring the concept of... a New Covenant. We, as Christians, today, live in the New Covenant of His blood! I am excited as we move deeper into His covenant.
So far, this year, we have been setting the stage for understanding the New Covenant. We have been working up the theological pyramid.
Level One... God is Love. The starting point of theology is 1 John 4:16.
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Level Two... God is Three.
God is One and Two and Three. We think like Scripture. Sometimes the Scriptures talk of one God, at other times there are two and occasionally three. There is community in the Trinity.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Level Three... God is Holy.
Jesus demonstrated holiness flows downhill. Sins are forgiven. Impurity is cleaned. Evil is eradicated. God’s holiness changes us!
Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
Level Four... God is Father.
--As the ideal Father, God listens to his children.
--As the perfect Father, God responds to our requests. Our prayers change the future. Our choices impact eternity. We, as His children, have influence on the Father!
--But, as the ultimate Father... Father knows best. His choice, His freewill, His endgame will ultimately be done.
Matthew 6:9-10 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Level Five... God is Patient
God is love + God is Father = God is patient. God is going to accomplish his will! God is going to have a people who love Him, without doubt! The end is known from the beginning. But, He is inexhaustibly patient with us; waiting for us.
NJB 1 Timothy 1:16 If mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the leading example of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who were later to trust in him for eternal life.
God has inexhaustible patience in accomplishing his will!
This morning we are going to sneak up to level six...
Level Six... God is a Covenant God.
Nehemiah 9:32 "Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love...”
We are going to park here for a while. We are going to dig deep into His Covenant.
The goal of this sermon, this morning, is to understand the biblical concept of covenant. When we finish with this sermon, we are going to understand what a biblical covenant is.
This is going to be a head sermon. All the intellectuals are nodding in anticipation. The enthusiasts are letting out a sigh.
The Greek word διαθηκη (dia-tha-ka) is translated as “covenant” in the New Testament. Διαθηκη is a legal term denoting a formal binding declaration of benefits to be given by one party to another. In the writings of Jesus’ day, outside the New Testament, διαθηκη was most often was used as a “last will and testament.” After Uncle Curtis died there was a reading of the διαθηκη. Thus, we have the Old Testament; old διαθηκη and the New Testament; the new διαθηκη.
The writers of the New Testament appropriated this word to describe the New Covenant. It is as if God is leaving us His estate. Διαθηκη is the legal declaration of the benefits we receive at the death of Jesus. More about that in future sermons. The idea of διαθηκη is the bequeathing of God’s will upon his children!
That’s the Greek used in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for covenant is tyrIB. Ber-ith. The root of this word means “to cut”. It would be right to say, “A covenant was cut between two parties”. Berith, like διαθηκη, is not like our contract. It is not really an agreement between two parties for some sort of services. It to has the flavor of a person in a superior position offering promises to someone in an inferior position.
Let’s look at an example...
If you are up on your Old Testament, Genesis stories, you will remember the story of Jacob. As you remember, the name Jacob means... tricky. Jacob tricks his brother; remember the soup, and Jacob tricks his father; remember his hairy arms. Jacob tricks his family to receive the birthright. Only his mother loves Jacob, so, he is forced to leave home. He goes to Uncle Laban’s house. He works fourteen years for his two wives; Leah and Rachel. Jacob, then, tricks his Uncle Laban out of a huge flock of sheep. So, Jacob needs to leave, again. The trickster takes his two wives, his close to a dozen kids and his huge flock of sheep and sneaks out without telling his Uncle Laban.
There is a tense moment when Laban catches up to Jacob. They are about to go to fist-ta-cuffs...
Genesis 31:25-29 And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead. And Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. It is in my power to do you harm.
Laban has the more henchmen than Jacob. Laban was about to duke Jacob into a greasy spot. But God appeared to Laban in a dream...
Genesis 31:24 But God came to Laban in a dream by night and said to him, "Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad."
So, instead, Uncle Laban decides to cut a covenant with his nephew, Jacob.
Genesis 31:44-55 "So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me." Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Jacob said to his kinsmen, "Gather stones." So, they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Now Laban called it Je-gar-sa-ha-du-tha, but Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me this day." Therefore, it was named Galeed, and Mizpah, for he said, "May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. "If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me." Laban said to Jacob, "Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. "This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. "The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." So, Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.
In this story we find the elements of a covenant.
1) Some crisis instigates the covenant. There is usually something wrong that causes the need of a covenant. In this case, Laban felt Jacob had stolen his kids and his flocks. A fight was brewing. Something is wrong. The covenant fixes the problem. Something is promised... In this case there would be no fighting.
2) The parties are named; one superior and one inferior. Laban is in a power position. Jacob inferior. Laban is the patriarch of the family. Jacob is a trickster.
3) There is something granted. There is a benefit given. Laban agrees to part in peace.
4) The covenant is stated legally. It is usually stated in a binding way. Witness; judge; swearing of oaths. It is written in legalese.
5) There is a sacrifice. The shedding of blood accompanies the initiation of the covenant. Blood is binding. To “cut a covenant” refers to the shedding of blood. When a covenant was formed in the Bible, it typically involves... blood. Blood, in the Old Testament, was considered sacred. Leviticus 17 tells us the life is in the blood and it is to be used for sacrifices.
Most covenants we find in the Old Testament were cut with blood. Blood was the binding agent. Perhaps, the idea is that if one breaks the covenant their blood shall be shed. Covenant breakers suffer the same fate as the sacrifice.
6) Some visual symbol. There is a sign of the covenant. In this case a stack of stones. Mizpah means witness. There is a witness symbol of the covenant.
7) Oaths are spoken by the superior person. Laban speaks the oath of this covenant. Oaths are spoken by the superior to the inferior.
Here is my working definition of biblical covenant.
A biblical covenant is a binding agreement between a superior and an inferior declaring blessings. There are sometimes conditions, sometimes not. It is instituted with a sacrifice; guaranteed with an oath; remembered with a symbol.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to see how this definition works with the five major covenants of the Bible. There are lots of covenants in scripture. There are five significant ones.
Here are the five major covenants in the Bible.
1) Noah’s Covenant
Genesis 9:9-11 "Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
2) Abraham’s Covenant
Genesis 12:1-4 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So, Abram went...
3) Mosaic Covenant
Exodus 19:5-6 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
4) David’s Covenant
2 Samuel 7:11-13 Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
5) The New Covenant.
Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
going to be fun! We are going to explore
each of these five covenants. Understanding
covenant will help us move deeper into the New Covenant!
Here is where our theological pyramid explains why God is a covenant God. His covenant nature is based upon who he is.
Because God is Love... God enjoys giving benefits to his loving people.
Because God is Three... He invites us into His community by way of covenant! Covenant is the way into the community of the Trinity!
Because God is Holy... He thrills in spreading his holiness with those who commit to the covenant!
Because God is Father... He wants to give his children the benefits of His Testament, His will!
Because God is Patient... He waits patiently for many to enter His Covenant of Blessings!
Covenant is all about who God Is! Covenant is an extension of who God is!
We, as Christians, today, live in the New Covenant of His blood! I am excited as we move deeper into His covenant.
March 3, 2019
Los Alamos Church of Christ