The Importance of Covenants – Part II

Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34


I.         Covenants play a major role throughout the Scriptures.

            A.        These are not promises, such as to be somewhere next week. Nor are they just solemn oaths.

            B.        Covenants create a binding relationship between people, much like a treaty.

II.        Parts of a covenant

            A.        People have analyzed not only the covenants in the Bible but also covenants made in other countries, such as the Hittities and the Assyrians, to come up with a list of typical parts.

            B.        There is an identification of the parties involved

                        1.         Since there is a binding of people, who is being bound is spelled out.

            C.        Often a covenant gives a brief history of the people’s relationship to this point in time.

                        1.         It explains why a covenant is deemed necessary or desriable.

            D.        The obligations of one or both parties are spelled out.

                        1.         This is what the people entering the covenant are agreeing to do.

                        2.         The design of covenants is these obligations are beneficial to everyone under the covenant. It is not a list of demands or the subjugation of people.

            E.        The expected benefits for keeping the covenant or consequences from breaking the covenant are sometimes spelled out.

            F.        Provisions for remembering the covenant and reminders that the people are in fellowship with each other.

                        1.         Often a meal is shared between the people, both to remind and show fellowship

            G.        Oaths made to a higher power to fulfill the terms of the covenant

                        1.         Often sealed with blood sacrifices

            H.        Witnesses to the covenant and the oath

            I.         Once entered, it cannot be altered - Galatians 3:15

III.       Covenants God made

            A.        Covenants entered into by God are slightly different from those between men.

                        1.         Men give their oaths to God. God gives oaths by Himself - Hebrews 6:13

            B.        Covenant after the flood

                        1.         The parties involved - Gen 9:9-10

                                    a.          Between God, Noah and his descendants, and all living creatures.

                        2.         The obligations

                                    a.         Never to destroy all life before the world’s end - Genesis 8:21-22

                                                (1)       Note brief history in Genesis 8:21

                                    b.         Genesis 9:1-7

                                                (1)       Animals are given fear of man

                                                (2)       Man is allowed to eat meat, but not blood

                                                (3)       Man is to punish a murderer with death

                                    c.         God promises not to destroy the world by water - Genesis 9:11

                        3.         Blessings - Genesis 9:1,7

                                    a.         Be fruitful and multiply

                        4.         Record and reminder: Genesis 9:12-16

                                    a.         Rainbow set in the sky. Every time it is seen, it will serve as a reminder

                        5.         Oath - Genesis 8:20

                                    a.         Noah gave an offering to God

            C.        Covenant with Abram

                        1.         Given at two different times

                        2.         Who is involved

                                    a.         Genesis 15:7 - The God who brought Abram out of Ur

                                    b.         Genesis 17:1 - The God Almighty

                                    c.         Genesis 17:7 - The other party is Abram and all his descendants

                        3.         History of the parties - Genesis 15:7

                                    a.         Brought out of Ur and to a new land

                        4.         Obligations

                                    a.         Abram was to remain blameless - Genesis 17:1

                                    b.         Land of Canaan given to descendants - Genesis 17:8

                                    c.         A child would be given to them from whom a great nation would arise - Genesis 17:16

                        5.         Reminders

                                    a.         Changed Abram’s name to Abraham - Genesis 17:5

                                    b.         Changed Sarai to Sarah - Genesis 17:15

                                    c.         Circumcision of all male children - Gen 17:10-14

                        6.         Witnesses: God swore by himself - Hebrews 6:13-14

                        7.         Consequences of the covenant

                                    a.         Circumcision required to stay in the covenant - Gen 17:14

                        8.         Oath: Genesis 15:9-11

                                    a.         Sacrifices cut in half (berith)

                                    b.         Notice that God moved between the pieces instead of Abraham.

                                    c.         God was binding Himself

            D.        Covenant with Israel

                        1.         Who is involved

                                    a.         Exodus 19:3-6 - The children of Israel

                                    b.         Exodus 20:2 - I am the Lord your God

                                    c.         Limited - Deuteronomy 4:7-8; 5:1-3

                        2.         History - Exodus 19:4; 20:2

                                    a.         Brought out of Egypt

                        3.         Obligations - Exodus 19:5, 20:3

                                    a.         Obedience and no other Gods

                        4.         Reminders

                                    a.         Exodus 24:3-4; 25:16; 40:20 - The testimony (covenant was placed in the ark)

                                    b.         Fellowship meal - Exodus 24:9-11

                                    c.         Passover meal - Deuteronomy 16:3; II Kings 23:21

                                    d.         Sabbath - Exodus 31:16

                        5.         Witnesses

                                    a.         Deuteronomy 4:26 - Heaven and earth were witness

                                    b.         The copy of the law - Deuteronomy 31:26

                        6.         Consequences

                                    a.         Curses - Deuteronomy 27:15-26 (esp. 26)

                                    b.         Blessings - Exodus 23:20-33; Deuteronomy 28:2-14 (esp. 2)

                                    c.         Summary - Deuteronomy 28:19-20

                        7.         Oath - Exodus 24:7-8

                                    a.         Acceptance and sacrifices

            E.        Covenant of David

                        1.         Parties involved - II Samuel 7:5

                        2.         History of relationship - II Samuel 7:8-9

                                    a.          David brought up from a shepherd

                        3.         Obligations:

                                    a.         Son will build a house for God - II Samuel 7:12-13

                                    b.         Obedience to God - II Samuel 7:14

                                    c.         God’s mercy would not be removed - II Samuel 7:15

                        4.         Consequences

                                    a.         His dynasty will be established forever - II Samuel 7:13, 16

                                    b.         God will be a Father to him - II Samuel 7:14

IV.      Commitment to a covenant

            A.        Covenants last as long as the terms spelled out in the covenant or until either party broke their terms of the covenant.

                        1.         It was a mutually binding agreement between parties that contained both obligations and benefits to all parties.

                        2.         If one party significantly violated the terms, the remaining parties were released from the covenant.

            B.        The Hebrew word is hesed, which contains the ideas of love, loyalty, and aid

                        1.         It is translated mercy, grace, lovingkindness, steadfast love, faithfulness, and loyal love

                        2.         The equivalent Greek word is eleos, which is usually translated mercy

            C.        A covenant is meant to be advantageous to both parties, so even if one fails to keep their part, the other is longsuffering – even helping the other find ways to meet his obligations

                        1.         In other words, the agreeing parties aren’t just waiting for the other parties to mess up so that they can be released from the covenant.

                        2.         The covenant is mutually beneficial, so there is incentive to keep it going.

            D.        Deuteronomy 7:9 - God keeps his covenant and shows loving kindness

            E.        Psalms 89:28-34 - God will keep His part, regardless of man’s faithfulness

            F.        Jeremiah 31:31-32 - God tried, but Israel failed.

V.        The Covenant of Jesus Christ

            A.        We live under a new covenant - Hebrews 8:8-13

                        1.         Parties

                                    a.          All are invited - Galatians 3:28-29

                        2.         History

                                    a.          The whole of the Old Testament - Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11

                        3.         Obligations

                                    a.         Faithfulness, obedience, and loyalty - Hebrews 3:5-6; 4:11

                        4.         Reminders

                                    a.         Written in our hearts - II Corinthians 3:2-3

                                    b.         Lord’s Supper

                                                (1)       Matthew 26:26-28 - The fruit of the vine reminds us of the blood of the new covenant

                                                (2)       I Corinthians 10:16-17 - Shared with Jesus and each other

                                                            (a)       Why it is called communion.

                        5.         It is witnessed

                                    a.         Romans 8:16-17 - By the Spirit and our spirits

                                    b.         A circumcision made without hands - Colossians 2:11-12

                        6.         There are consequences - Romans 2:4-11

                        7.         Oath:

                                    a.         Founded on blood - Hebrews 9:13-16

                                    b.         Covenant entered when our sins are removed - Rom 11:26-27

                                                (1)       Baptism is our oath of loyalty - I Pet 3:21

                                                (2)       Baptism washes away sin - Acts 22:16

                                                (3)       Baptism is the point when we die to sin - Romans 6:3-7

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