Tag Archives: blessings

Covenant: Part II (New Covenant)

This week, we continue exploring the two-way relationship with the Father through faith in the Son and holding up our part of that relationship.

Quick review: the Old Covenant relationship was modeled after the human suzerain-vassal (lord-servant) treaty in place at Abraham’s time. The New Covenant connection to the Father by way of the Son is a continuation because Father, Son, and mission are the same in both, and so are the terms.

Terms. God’s obligation was to send a savior and love humans (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19). He has honored the terms and continues to keep close to Him anyone who chooses to remain (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39). Jesus expects devotees to profess Christ to others openly (Matthew 10:32), confess sins, and bear each other’s burdens (James 5:13-16). They are to honor the Father with everything they are and have in complete devotion and charitably love one another (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Loving actions born of faith prove allegiance to the Father through Christ (e.g., John 14:15 and 21; 15:8).  Finally, Christ-followers are obligated to grow in spirit and make disciples who, in turn, create more disciples (e.g., Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 28:18-20).

Blessings. Blessings by way of God’s knowing Christ-followers include receiving His Spirit, eternal life, and partnership in the age to come.  However, curses also exist for those whom God does not know—anyone who has rejected Him, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Knowing of God isn’t enough – He must ‘know’ us by our obedient love (1 Corinthians 8:3).

Curses. Negative consequences exist for refusing or walking away from a relationship with God. For instance, Jesus teaches that anyone who does not obey the call to be charitable to others will suffer judgment and destruction (John 15:6; Matthew 25:41-46). The same fate awaits those whose practices oppose God’s standard.  The Psalmist David calls for the unrighteous to be removed from the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28). Similarly, Jesus tells John that He will not remove the name of the righteous from the Book (Revelation 3:5). Finally, the names of the people who will choose poorly and align with the end-times Antichrist will be absent from it (Revelation 13:8 and 17:8).

Remain. A fruitful and continuing relationship demands that both parties remain in, and true to, the agreement. The covenant with the Father through Christ is no exception. The language used to denote the need to stay in a relationship with the Father refers to remaining or staying put. In scriptures like John 15:4-10, Jesus explains the need to stay with Father and Son, sometimes using conditional statements that insist people can choose to remain or leave.  The apostle John continues the theme in 1 John 4:16.

In summary, your Creator has called by giving you a way back to Him through Jesus. It’s your turn: devote, love, and stay.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

The Covenant with God: Part I

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.

5.         Witnesses.

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).