Here at our church we make a big deal about covenants.The reason we do that is because we believe that God has chosen to reveal himself and to deal with us by way of covenants.We believe that because we see it in the Scriptures. We see that even in this chapter.
The Holy Spirit structured this whole chapter as a covenant renewal ceremony.It is the coronation of Saul as king of Israel, to be sure.But the whole coronation is couched in terms of God's covenant with his people.The structure:
·Recounting what God has done for them and the way that the people have been unfaithful, 6-12.
·Blessings for obedience, 13-14.
·Curses for disobedience, 15.
·A sign that God was serious, 16-18.
·A promise that God will be their God, 22.
So I would like to take the time today to prepare us to understand this chapter better.I want to do that by looking at how God uses covenants in the Bible to connect everything together, so that ultimately Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all things.
I.A Brief History of Covenants
A.Abundant biblical evidence establishes the vital role the divine covenants have played in God's dealings with man from Noah to Jesus.
1.Covenant with Noah and the rest of creation in Gen. 6-9.
2.Covenant with Abraham and his posterity in Gen. 12, 13, 15, 17, 22.
3.Covenant with Moses and Israel in Ex. 24.
4.Covenant with David in 2 Sam. 7 and Ps. 89.
B.These covenants span the entire OT period and the OT itself is structured around these covenants.
C.Beyond the OT, the promise concerning the new covenant, given during the time at which Israel was on the brink of being cast out of the land, finds its fulfillment in the days of Jesus and extends to the consummation of all things.
Jer. 31:31-34 – Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day thatI took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
Heb. 8:1-2, 7-8 – Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man…. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….
Ez. 37:26-28 – Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.
Jn. 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Rev. 21:22 – But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Lk. 22:20 – Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."
2 Cor. 4:4-6 – And we have such trust through Christ toward God.Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Heb. 12:22-24 – But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
Heb. 13:20-21 – Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
D.All this biblical evidence led the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith to write:
"The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant." WCF 7:1
II.The Nature (definition) of the Divine Covenants – A divine covenant is a bond of life and death sovereignly administered
A.Covenants were very common in extra-biblical society for the period of the OT, but only in the Bible we find record of a deity making covenant with his people.
B.A divine covenant is a bond.
1.This is the most essential aspect of a covenant – it binds people together.
2.It is always a person, either God or man, who makes a covenant.
3.With a few exceptions, it is another person who stands as the other party to the covenant – in the covenant with Noah the beasts of the field are also a party to the covenant, Gen. 9:10, 12, 17.
4.The result of a covenant commitment is the establishment of a relationship "between" or "with" people.
Gen. 17:1-2 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I amAlmighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."
5.To formalize a covenant a binding oath is present in order to cement the bond.
a.Sometimes this oath is verbal.
Lk. 1:72-75 – … to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
b.Sometimes this oath is accompanied or completely replaced by a symbolic action.
Ex. 24:7-8 – Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient."And Moses took the blood, sprinkled iton the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words."
Gen. 15:10, 17-18a – Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two….And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram….
c.This closeness of relationship between oath and covenant emphasizes that a covenant in its essence is a bond – by the covenant, the parties become committed to one another.
6.The presence of signs in many of the biblical covenants also emphasizes that a covenant in its essence is a bond.
a.The rainbow in the Noahic Covenant reminds the parties involved of the terms and bond of the covenant.
b.Circumcision in the Abrahamic Covenant.
c.The Lord's Supper in the New Covenant.
d.We are more familiar perhaps with the sign that we give to our spouse at our marriage covenant ceremony (wedding) – we give them a ring as "token and pledge" of our "constant faith and abiding love," and every time we look at that ring we are reminded of the bond that exists between us.
C.A divine covenant is a bond of life and death.
1.By initiating covenants, God never enters into a casual or informal relationship with man.
2.The bond he establishes with people extends to the ultimate issues of life and death.
3.There are several aspects of the covenants in the Bible that show that they are always a matter of life or death.
a.The term to make a covenant is literally to cut a covenant.
b.In making a covenant with Abraham, God walked among the cut animals signifying the fate of the one who broke the covenant, Gen. 15.
c.The sacrificial system under the Mosaic Covenant.
d.The cross of Jesus in the New Covenant.
4.All these aspects point to the truth that a covenant is bond that continues through life and is dissolved only by death of one of the parties.
Dt. 30:19-20 – I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.
D.A divine covenant is a bond of life and death sovereignly administered.
1.The covenants we have mentioned this morning between God and man were all initiated by God.
2.God set the terms.
3.God provides the sign.
4.God defines the outcome.
III.Is There a Covenantal Unity in the Scriptures?
"Are the covenants to be viewed as successive and distinctive commitments that replace one another in temporal sequence? Or do the covenants build one on the other so that each successive covenant supplements its predecessors without at the same supplanting the continuing role of the more ancient bond between God and his people?" O. Palmer Robertson in Christ of the Covenants
A.The primary covenants in Scripture are those made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant.
1.The covenant with Isaac and Jacob represent renewals of the Abrahamic promises.
2.The covenant with Phineas is part of the Mosaic Covenant and develops the priestly legislation.
B.There is a structural unity in the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants.
1.These covenants do not present themselves as self-contained entities.
2.Instead, each successive covenant builds on the previous relationship, continuing the basic emphasis that had been established earlier.
3.A unity in historical experience
a.Although God initiated distinctive covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, the history surrounding these various covenants emphasizes the unity and continuity of the relationship.
1)To set aside a people to himself, God established a covenant with Abraham.
2)Subsequently Abraham's descendants lived also under the Mosaic and Davidic covenants.
3)When these two covenants were introduced, God wasn't wiping clean the slate; rather, he brought about a further development of the same redemption that had been promised earlier.
b.This principle manifests itself in the history surrounding the inauguration of both the Mosaic and the Davidic covenants.
1)When Israel cried out to God because of the Egyptian bondage, the Bible says that "God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." (Ex. 2:24)
2)Out of the context of the Abrahamic covenant and its promises God began to move toward the deliverance of Israel under Moses.
Ex. 6:2-8 – And God spoke to Moses and said to him: "I am the Lord.I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.'
3)God had made a covenantal commitment to the patriarchs (he had promised them the land of Canaan); because of this promise, God acted sovereignly in Moses's day to deliver Israel from Egypt.
4)This same picture of continuity emerges at the time of the inauguration of the Davidic covenant.
a)God's words to David and David's response to the Lord reflect on the past experience of God's delivering Israel out of Egypt as people to himself.
2 Sam. 7:14, 23 – "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men…." [David's response] And who islike Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods?
b)When David was in his deathbed and charged Solomon, he explicitly gives recognition to the Mosaic foundation of his covenant.
1 Kg. 2:3-4 – And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lordmay fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,' He said, 'you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
4.This principle manifests itself in the way that life was carried out.
a.In reaction to the golden calf, Moses bases his plea for the mercy of God on the promises of the Abrahamic covenant.
Ex. 32:13-14 – Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.' "So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
b.David's song at the time of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem identifies this event as a fulfillment of God's covenant promises to Abraham.
1 Chron. 16:15-18 – Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, thecovenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance…"
5.Another principle that we see at work in these covenants is what we could call genealogical administration.
a.When God determined to relate to a people covenantally, he made his arrangement a genealogical one, or a generational one.
Dt. 29:10-11, 14-15 – All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water…. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today…
1)All Israel was present in the plains of Moab.
2)Only those not yet born could not be present for the covenant renewal ceremony.
3)As Moses renews the covenant, he is not content to include those present; he also extends the provisions of Deuteronomy to include people yet to be born.
b.Often the Bible tells us that the provisions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are eternal.
Dt. 7:9 – Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments…
Ps. 105:8-10 – He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenantwhich He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance," when they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it.
2 Sam. 7:14-16 – I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took itfrom Saul, whom I removed from before you.And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.
C.This unity includes the New Covenant
1.The New Covenant is not like the Mosaic Covenant in its external features, but the law of God as revealed in the Mosaic Covenant will be written on the heart.
Jer. 31:31-34 – Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day thatI took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
2.The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the covenant with David.
Ez. 34:20-24 – Therefore thus says the Lord God to them: "Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep.Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them— My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.
3.In another passage Ezekiel combines the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New covenants all into one.
Ez. 37:24-26 – David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd [Davidic Covenant]; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them [Mosaic Covenant].Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt [Abrahamic Covenant]; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them [New Covenant]; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
a.The New Covenant does not appear in the OT as a novelty previously unknown to God's people.
b.Instead, the new covenant represents the collation of all the old covenant promises in terms of a future expectation.
D.There is also a thematic unity of divine covenants
1.Throughout the biblical record of God's administration of his covenants, a single phrase recurs as the summation of the covenant relationship: "I will be your God, and you shall be my people."
2.This phrase may be designated as the Immanuel principle of the covenant.
3.The heart of God's covenantal dealing with us is that God is with us.
4.This theme appears explicitly in connection with the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and the New covenants.
Gen. 17:7 – And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
Ex. 6:6-7 – Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
2 Sam. 7:14 – I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.
2 Cor. 6:16 – And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them.I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
5.The theme I will be your God and you will be my people is developed particularly in association with God's actually dwelling in the midst of his people.
a.The reality of God's residing among his people displays an ever-increasing significance throughout the Bible.
1)It moves from the figure of the tabernacle to the figure of the temple to the figure of the city of God.
2)It involves the incarnate Christ, the church of Christ, and the final glorification of God's people.
3)In each case, God's dwelling among his people is related directly to the heart of the covenant concept: I will be your God and you will be my people.
b.The essence of the covenantal relation found its initial fulfillment in the form of the tabernacle.
1)God commanded Israel to build a tabernacle so that he might dwell among them, Ex. 25:8.
2)He was going to meet with his people at the tabernacle, Ex. 29:42-44.
c.The book of Dt. emphasizes the centralization of the presence of God in one city and one temple, which came to pass as a feature of the Davidic Covenant.
d.In Jesus Christ, God tabernacles with us, Jn. 1:14.
1)God's people are the temple of the Lord.
Eph. 2:19-22 – Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
2)It is no longer a tent or building, but the Immanuel principle continues into the New Covenant as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which in itself is a promise of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Gal. 3:13-14 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
3)This covenantal theme remains for all eternity.
Rev. 21:3-4 – And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
6.The theme I will be your God and you will be my people reaches its climax through its embodiment in a single person.
Is. 42:6-7 – I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
Jesus Christ is God-with-us.He is the fulfillment and the point of all the biblical covenants.It is this covenantal unity throughout the Bible that guarantees our salvation in Jesus Christ.The God who was faithful to Abraham is faithful to us today.He will never leave us or forsake us because he is our God and the God of our children.