The story so far...
Today in our Big Words series, we are looking at the word ‘Covenant’.
The idea of covenant is strongly present in the Old Testament, and particularly the stories that describe the start of God working with humanity, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
What does the Bible say?
These are these two particular covenants in Genesis 1-11. The emphasis shifts in these from a covenant with creation and all humanity to a single person, commencing with a family and extending out to a nation.
Why do you think that is?
What has happened in between these two sets of verses?
The covenant with Abraham appears in two places – Genesis 15 and 17. While there is a very clear crossover, there are also points of change between the two covenants. This is often viewed as two separate covenants, the second being an extension of the first, or two separate traditions of the same covenant.
The covenant begins an ongoing relationship. The importance of God’s covenant with Abraham is demonstrated by its extension beyond his death, as we can see in Genesis 26:24-25 and 28:10-15. This ongoing commitment to promises He made, continuing the relationship with Isaac, Jacob and then his sons show us God’s continued desire to enter into relationship with His world.
Exodus 19-24 describe the ongoing relationship of God and the people of Israel – the descendants of Abraham. This agreement highlights that the covenant is not just something agreed, but it is personal and needs a response.
The agreement is outlined by God and started by Him, but only if Israel follows God’s rules will they benefit from the promises in the covenant. God would continue to be with Israel, in return for them keeping His standards. These standards were communicated to the people in the 10 commandments, and the laws given to them. The sacrifices that the priests in the Old Testament made were there to help strengthen this personal and moral commitment to God – and to make things right when the law was broken.
In the New Testament, the word covenant, the Greek ‘diatheke’, appears much less. When it does, it keeps the idea of relationship with God, but now it is through the sacrifice of Jesus. This is referred to as the new covenant. This makes it something that is not just available to those who have received the law and the sacrificial system of the past, but this covenant with God is now available to all who will accept it in Jesus. This also means that Jesus’ sacrifice is what makes things right between people and God.
Jesus sacrifice, his death and resurrection, delivers humanity from sin and establishes a new covenant, a new relationship, with God, available to all.