Throughout this year we are exploring covenants. We are working our way toward the New Covenant. But we are not there, yet. Several sermons ago, I listed the 7 elements of a biblical covenant. Not all covenants have all seven. But most do.
This morning, I need to modify the seven. “What?” I know this is painful. If I were more organized or maybe a dab smarter, I would have gotten them right the first time. But I am who I am… You got what you got. Here is the modified list.
1) Covenants create relationships. Relationships need to be fixed. There is usually something wrong that causes the need of a covenant. Something is wrong. The covenant addresses the problem.
2) The parties are named; one superior and one inferior.
3) There is a blessing granted. There is a benefit given. There are blessings with each covenant which make promises to fix the problem.
4) Oaths are given. The covenant is stated legally. These two I combined to make room for another element. It is usually stated in a binding way. Witness; judge; swearing of oaths.
5) There is a sacrifice. The shedding of blood, typically, accompanies the initiation of a covenant. To “cut a covenant” refers to the offering of a sacrifice. When a covenant was formed in the Bible, it typically involves... blood. Blood, in the Old Testament, was considered sacred. Many covenants, particularly the major ones, were cut with blood. Blood is the binding agent.
6) There is a symbol to remember. There is a sign of the covenant. There are things that remind the participants of the covenant.
7) Names are given/changed. I considered this when I made my original list. I thought there were too many covenants that did not change names. I was wrong. Names are given. Names are changed. A covenant is often behind a new name. If you see a name changed look for a covenant. Names and covenants; they go together.
This morning’s sermon is going to do connect covenants and names!
Let’s get back to Abraham’s covenant. There are names changed.
Abraham’s Covenant is explained in Genesis 12…
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...
Central to Abe’s covenant is having descendants. To be a great nation you need some kids. To bless all the families of the earth you need at least one descendant. But, for the longest time Abraham and Sarah had no kids. This problem came to a head in Genesis 16.
Genesis 16:1-4 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.
Abram and Sarai attempted to help God’s plan. They were so desperate, they used a surrogate mother. Couples do that today, when they want kids and can’t have them. But this was not what God intended. Sarai, then gets crosswise with Hagar. Hagar’s arrogance does not sit well with Sarai. It goes downhill from there.
Genesis 16:5 And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!"
Sarai is upset with Abram… “Wait, this was your idea.” Abram just wants to get out of the mess…
Genesis 16:6-12 But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please." Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai." The angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress and submit to her." The angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude." And the angel of the LORD said to her, "Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen."
Wow, this sounds like a covenant.
1) Covenants fix relationships.
2) The parties are named; one superior and one inferior.
3) There is a blessing granted.
4) Oaths are spoken by the superior person.
5) There is a sacrifice. No sacrifice… except, maybe, her abuse?
6) There is a symbol to remember. There is a sign… pregnancy?
7) Names are given.
Ishmael means… God has heard. Hagar’s son will be a powerful man. God creates a covenant with Hagar. She will be the mother of a numerous, defiant people! Perhaps, not the best blessing in scripture… But… Hagar takes it!
Names and Covenants; they go together.
Here is where it gets interesting.
Not only are humans’ names changed, but God gets a new name! Listen to the next verse.
Genesis 16:13 So Hagar called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God of seeing," for she said, "Truly here I have seen him who looks after me."
Listen to this verse translated by Robert Alter. Many of our modern translations translate the names of God into descriptions. Listen to this translation, which leaves the new name as a name not a description. I think translations should leave the name. This captures the idea of covenant names, more accurately.
Alter Genesis 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD who had addressed her, “El-Roi,” for she said “Did not I go on seeing after He saw me?”
Hagar names YHWH, “El-Roi”. The “God who sees me”. This Egyptian, outcast, slave girl sees YHWH, talks with YHWH, is given a covenant by YHWH… She names YHWH… El-Roi; the God who sees me!
Wow! There is a private relationship created between Hagar and El-Roi. Hagar, gets to call YHWH a unique name… El-Roi!
Names and covenants; they go together.
Back to the story and more name changing…
Genesis 17:1-7 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; (El Shaddai) walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
God in renewing his covenant with Abram, reveals a new name… El Shaddai! And then he changes Abram’s name to Abraham. From “father” to “Exalted Father”.
Names and covenants; they go together. You can see why I had to add the names as another element of a covenant!
Not only does Abram get a new name, so does Sarai.
Genesis 17:15-16 And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."
YHWH creates a covenant with Sarah. Sarai is changed to Sarah… Something like “Princess” becomes… “Queen Mother”.
Covenants and names… they go together.
Let me speculate as to why names are associated with covenants.
Names reflect relationships. Covenants form relationships. (Say it either way)
--To learn someone’s name is to form a relationship with that person. The first thing we do when we meet someone for the first time, is to introduce ourselves. We tell them our name. Unless you know someone’s name, there is hardly any relationship. I might add, remembering people’s names demonstrates their importance. Names are important because in sharing a name there is relationship. Perhaps, even the forming of a small covenant.
--Alice, our 1½ year-old granddaughter is learning names… She calls me grandpa and touches my arm. She enjoys going through all her family naming them. She is learning relationships. This one is my mama, dada, O, she can’t say Cora… What she is really learning is the covenant of her family. These people whom I know are here for me. The most fundamental of covenants, the family, is reinforced with names.
--When a couple is married names are changed. In 1974 our names were change to Mr. and Mrs. Stidham. A covenant was formed with the changing of names.
--Most couples then develop nicknames for each other… honey, babe, dear, or, in my case… “wife”. The creating of a nick-names forms an intimate covenant-relationship. I have never thought that though before… nick-names form private covenants.
--I have nicknames for most of my grandkids… Griff, B-Ray, LylaHead, Oman, Sweetheart… I haven’t come up with one for Alice, yet. Maybe, you have to be old enough to be in a name-covenant?
--Even outside of family… nicknames form special relationships… covenants. Bill McKerley is the best at this. I’m TimBob. Tanya is Miss T. If you have a nickname from Bill you are special; you have a covenant-relationship with him.
This is my point… Covenants form unique relationships. One element of biblical covenants is the giving of special names. Covenants and names; they go together.
Let’s take a sneak peak into the New Covenant. We are not there yet. But let’s apply what we learn about names and covenants going together with the New Covenant.
Listen to how there is covenant-relationships in “names”.
Romans 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Labels separate. Jew-Greek, black-white, poor-rich, male-female… Labels divide people. But in the Lord, the Greek equivalent of YHWH, there is one people who connect to the covenant through the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the power of the name of the Lord are in the one relationship of the New Covenant. The name of the Lord forms one unique people!
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The name of Jesus creates a covenant through the confession of the name!
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The name of the Lord Jesus drives all of our behavior, because we are in covenant relationship of His name!
The big one…
Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
I’m not sure what all this means. But, when we place this verse in the concept of covenant, Jesus is going to give each person, who conquers, a new name; a unique name, an individual covenant!
Names and covenants; they go together!
March 31, 2019
Los Alamos Church of Christ