Last week, I presented an exciting riddle about 3,000 souls lost, gained, and then lost again (on American soil). I also mentioned the related relational framework (covenant) that may dictate the presence or absence of God’s provision and protection. We’ll unpack it further in this and next week’s articles.
God has sought partnership with His creation from the beginning of human time when He charged the first man, Adam, with caring for what He had made. Adam cultivated the garden and named the animals (Genesis 1:26-30 and 2:15-20). From then, a relational God who endowed humans with the ability to choose Him has regularly sought “I will if you will” engagements.
Probably the earliest example of a covenantal relationship (two-way partnership with terms and conditions) with God was what He shared with Abraham. In Genesis 15:1-21 and 17:1-14, God engaged him to fulfill a promise to provide a way back and redeem creation after Adam and Eve’s rebellion. The relationship was based on an ancient Hittite suzerain-vassal framework that outlined the arrangement between the lord of the land and its occupants. The lord demanded complete devotion and allegiance and a tithe (10%) of what the land produced. His subjects received, in return, protection and provision. It was the standard arrangement in place at Abraham’s time, and it had a preamble that listed affected parties and a historical prologue providing the “basis of obligation.”
Furthermore, the covenantal agreement listed stipulations (terms and conditions), blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience. Regular readings of the treaty to keep it first and foremost in the participants’ minds was necessary. That God used it should come as no surprise considering that Father and Son have always employed human language, practices, idioms, etc., in communicating with people. The lord-servant arrangement was what Abraham knew. It would have made sense to him. God continued what He had started by reaffirming the agreement through Moses 500 years later.
God remembered His covenant with Israel when the people were captives in Egypt (Exodus 2:24). Upon their rescue via Moses, God confirmed the treaty using the same suzerain/vassal framework:
1. Preamble/Title: “I am Yahweh your God . . .”
2. Prologue: “. . . who brought you up out of the land” (provides obligations and motive).
3. Stipulations/Obligations: “You shall have no other gods before me. . . .”
4. Periodic reading of the treaty.
6. Curses and blessings.
Additional covenantal artifacts exist in scriptures such as Deuteronomy 4:32-40, 6:4-25, and chapter eight.
In summary, a God who exercises choice created humans in His image, and He sought reciprocal relationships with willing participants in the Old Covenant (Old Testament). Next week, we’ll see that this is still the case in the New Covenant (New Testament).