On June 17, 1978, a bride walked down the aisle of the First Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, New Jersey. There in front of friends and family, she promised her groom to love, honor, obey and be faithful to him through sickness and health. He promised the same to her. Of course, I was the bride and my husband Jeff, was the groom. The marriage ceremony is a covenant. The American History Dictionary defines a covenant as a binding agreement made by two or more persons or parties; a contract. We can see how this applies to a bride and groom. Their ceremony is legal and binding.
Early in the morning on March 10, 1979, a nurse placed a tiny bundle in my arms. My son Erick weighed eight pounds, fourteen ounces and was twenty-one inches long. He’s now a fully grown man and at least seven inches taller than I am! But at the moment he was placed in my arms, I promised to love him, to care for him and to teach him everything I could until he was able to make his own way in the world. A mother’s undying love for her children is also a covenant.
These illustrations from life help are excellent tools to help us understand three very important covenants which are woven throughout God’s Word. The Abrahamic Covenant is like the relationship between the mother and child. The Mosaic Covenant is like the covenant between the bride and groom. And finally the New Covenant is also reflected in the parent-child relationship.
The Abrahamic Covenant is foundational to all the other covenants. It first appears in Genesis 12: 1-3. The fulfillment of this covenant rests solely on God and His ability to keep His promise. The Abrahamic Covenant is an unbreakable, unconditional promise that God made to Abraham and upheld through Isaac, Jacob and the Jewish people. However, all believers are included in a spiritual sense in the Abrahamic Covenant (Romans 4:16). The main provisions of the covenant can be summed up in three promises with equal weight which God will bestow upon Abraham: a people, a blessing, and a land. In a similar fashion a child is given a name and genetic traits when he/she becomes part of a family. There is nothing the child does to earn them; they are passed on by the parents and in the same way there was nothing Abraham did to earn the promises of this Covenant. They were passed on to him by the Lord.
The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant between God and the people of Israel. It is modeled after the kind of agreements in the Ancient Near East which were usually agreed upon by kings and their subjects. The books which specifically deal with the actual conditions of the Mosaic Covenant are Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Genesis and Exodus are also considered to be part of the Mosaic Covenant, but they do not list the specific laws and regulations as explicitly as the other books do. The basic command and promise of the Mosaic Covenant is found in Exodus 19:5-6. When the people of Israel agreed to this covenant it became their guide and the Jewish people have tried to be faithful to it ever since. The bride and groom make promises to one another in their wedding ceremony, much like Israel and God made promises to one another when the Mosaic Covenant was ratified at Mount Sinai.
The New Covenant is the covenant God has made with all who believe in Him. It first deals with Israel, and secondly with the church. The New Covenant can be found in Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hosea 2:18-23 and Zechariah 2:10-11. The New Testament indicates that the church is included in the New Covenant (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8, 9:15). The New Covenant is founded on the fact that Christ died for our sins, freeing God to redeem, reconcile and transform mankind apart from human merit or worthiness. The New Covenant is a grace filled covenant that will be observed by God throughout eternity. It is unconditional like a parent’s love for their child.
The most wonderful aspect of all of these covenants is the God who made them. Throughout the pages of Scripture we discover His faithfulness in keeping all of the promises He makes, both conditional and unconditional. We should always keep this in mind as we journey along the road of faith. Whenever we meet a challenge, trial or triumph, we would be wise to take the risk, fight the good fight, have faith in God and move forward. Our Promise Keeping God has not failed us yet and He never will (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
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