>
Home

The Sabbath question

Where shall we gather

More Studies

Contact Us


GOD'S COVENANTS:

God established a number of covenants in the Old Testament.

This study will endeavour to clarify the following points;

- What is a Covenant?
- Why are Covenants important?
- And are Covenants relevant to us today?

A Covenant is simply a Contract or an Agreement.
We all make agreements everyday.
From promises to children, to buying petrol; they all involve agreements.
But there are different types of agreements; one type of agreement is called a covenant.

There are unilateral Covenants.
This type of Covenant is one sided.
It's like a father telling his child, on your twelfth birthday, I will buy you a BMX bike. When the child turns 12, the bike is his.
No conditions, No requirements by him, other than turning 12.
Another term that is commonly used for a unilateral covenant is, "A Promise".

Then there are Bilateral Covenants.
This type of Covenant is two sided.
Like when you sell your house, you make a contract with the buyer. The Buyer agrees to pay, and you agree to hand over the keys. However with a two sided contract or covenant, conditions usually apply, and performance requirements often exist.

Contracts and covenants are a legal issue.
Your words are law within a contract or an agreement, and that includes all words that you sign or agree to.
This means a contract only includes the things that are written within the contract.
And if you are caught breaking a contract, you are liable for the penalty that the contract specifies or implies.

Let's say you and I have an agreement.
You may have ten apples from my basket, but you must turn up at my place at 2pm.
So you turn up at my place; but at 3pm. How many apples would I owe you?
Well, because you did not fulfil all the specifications of our agreement, you are liable for the implied penalty; which is, No Apples.

But let's say you did turn up at my place at 2pm; can you take the 10 apples?
Yes, because that is what the agreement specified.
But there are rosier apples over on the shelf, could you take those instead?
No, because the apples over on the shelf were not included within the wording of that agreement.
With these basics covered, let's have a look at a covenant from the Bible.

At the time of the exodus God told the Israelites;
(Jer 7:23) 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God,…

What then would be the penalty or consequences, if the Israelites did not obey God?
He would not be their God;
(Hos 1:9) Then God said: "Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.

God made several covenants in the Bible.
Most people never distinguish the difference between them.
A covenant must always have consideration, for example, a down payment, something of value that will change hands, OR at least a sign, for example most people making a contract today will use their signature.
This shows that a covenant or contract has taken place, or is in force and valid.
Let's look at four covenants from the Bible and see if you can spot the differences.

In this covenant:
God promised that He would never again destroy all flesh by means of a global flood.
He said;
(Gen 9:13) I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.

What type of covenant was this?
It was Unilateral.
God initiated this Covenant. Noah didn't need to do a thing for this.
It was a promise that God would keep with no conditions.
What was the sign of this covenant?
The sign was the Rainbow.
What was the term of this covenant?
It would last until this Earth is no more.

Next a covenant to Abram:
God said;
(Gen 12:2-3) I will make you a great nation;…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
(Gen 12:7) And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land;…

Now notice there are three separate unconditional Promises here, and just like the rainbow covenant before, there are no conditions involved here.
It is simply an unconditional Promise.

But where is the sign that shows that this covenant is in place. Can you see it? Well in this case it was 'THIS LAND' used as the consideration. The land was the item of value which will change hands because Abram was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. In this unconditional Covenant, we are not talking about a piece of land over in the Middle East; 'THIS LAND' is far bigger than that, but more on that later.

What type of covenant is this?
It was a promise; a Unilateral Covenant.
God initiated this Covenant. Abram didn't need to do anything else. It was a promise that God would keep without any conditions.
What was the sign of this covenant?
The Land was the thing of value, the consideration, showing that the covenant was in place.
What was the term of this covenant?
It would last until the promise was fulfilled.
Many people today say that this Promise was fulfilled in 1948. Is this true?
Well the Bible clears this up quite nicely. We'll show you that soon.

Then another covenant was given to Abram:
This covenant was put in place because Abram asked God a question.
Abram said;
(Gen 15:8) …"Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"

That is, the Promise, and the city, whose architect and builder is God.
So, to keep the knowledge of Abram's promise known throughout the generations, God used this next covenant;

(Gen 17:9) Thou shalt keep my covenant

Straight away we see that this covenant is different from the last, that is, the promise given to Abram, because this one has conditions;
(Gen 17:9) Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

To initiate this covenant, the LORD said to Abram;
(Gen 15:9) …"Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."

These are all animals, which would later be used in the tabernacle for Sacrifices, and ceremonies.
But what use did God have for these animals at the time of Abram?
What you are about to see is how a Blood Covenant is made.

God asked Abram to cut these animals in half;
(Gen 15:10) Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half...
(
Gen 15:17) When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

By walking through the middle of the animal parts, God made his half of this contract, thus making a blood covenant;
(Gen 15:17) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…

Here is another example of the same kind of Covenant;
God said;
(Jer 34:18) The men who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.

These men made a covenant with God the same way that God made the covenant with Abram. A blood covenant.

God then told Abraham how his descendents must sign their half of the covenant;
(Gen 17:10) This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you:

And what did the descendants have to do?

(Gen 17:9) …Every male child among you shall be circumcised;...
(Gen 17:11) and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

Circumcision was the SIGN of this Blood Covenant.

What type of covenant was this?
Well, a Blood Covenant is a Bilateral Covenant.
By walking through the animal halves, God initiated this Covenant. But Abraham's descendents had many conditions they were to abide by.
What was the sign of this covenant?
The sign was Circumcision.
What was the term of this covenant?
A blood covenant lasts until the initiator dies. In this case the initiator was God himself.

So this actually presents an interesting dilemma.
In the previous covenant we looked at, who was Abraham's Seed that the Promise for 'the land' pertained to?
-------
Are you thinking Israel, or the Israelites?
-------
Well let's ask Paul;
(Gal 3:16) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "AND TO YOUR SEED," who is Christ.

Do you understand what Paul is saying here?
Let us paraphrase it so you might understand it a little clearer.

(Gal 3:16) Now to Abraham and his seed were All the promises made. God did not say "and to seeds, as in all Israel".
What God said was, and to thy seed, which is Christ.

What this means is that Jesus is the SEED. And if Jesus is the seed, then the Promise, spoken of in Gal 3:16, that is, the first Unilateral Covenant, was for Abraham and Jesus only.
-------------------
So what purpose did God have for the Israelites?

God initiated the first covenant for Abraham and for his SEED, Jesus; who would come through Abraham's descendents.
God wanted these descendents to be like Abraham, a people of faith. They were to keep the Blood Covenant, looking after the knowledge of the promise, and the land for Jesus, the SEED.

After Moses died they went in and possessed the land; but were the natural descendents of Abraham ever going to own the land?
God explains this quite clearly;
(Lev 25:23) 'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.

The Israelites were simply Trustees. Their possession and use of the land came with many conditions.
Now interestingly, a Trust, like a family trust, is a very similar type of Covenant.

A Trust has some important components.
A Settler or Benefactor - puts value into the Trust.
A Trustee - who looks after that value.
A beneficiary - who will eventually take ownership of that value. (Usually at the end of the trusts term).
Then the Trust must have a sign or be signed, with witnesses, to bring it into force.

So let's have a look at the comparisons.
If this covenant were a trust:
God, who owned the LAND, would be the Settler.
God entrusted a small parcel of the land to Abraham's descendents, being that it was the sign of the Promise, so the descendents were the trustees.
And Abraham's seed, Jesus; was the beneficiary.
And how did they become a trustee, well the Sign of being a trustee was: Circumcision.

But when the Israelites left Egypt, after being in slavery for 400 years, God ADDED some conditions to the Blood Covenant that was given to Abraham.
God said: IF you obey me, I will be your God.
And the Israelites said: Everything the LORD has said we will do."

Then Abraham's descendents ratified the blood covenant that God had initiated, which included agreeing to the commands that were in the Book of the Law;
(Exo 24:7-8) Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient." Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

(Heb 9:19) He took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, (that is the book of the law), and all the people.

Do you remember in our agreement, how you could not take the rosier apples on the shelf, because they were not included in that contract?

When this Blood Covenant was ratified by the people, the Ten Commandments were not even written on stone at that time. And though some of it's attributes were within the Blood Covenant, the Ten Commandments were a legal Covenant of their own and were not included in the Blood Covenant "at all". More on that later.

But did this 'book of the law' and its laws change the original Promise in any way?

Well Paul says;
(Gal 3:17) …The law, introduced 430 years later (i.e. the law that Moses wrote in the 'book of the law' and sprinkled with blood, was introduced to the Bilateral Blood Covenant which God initiated 430 years earlier, when Jacob became ISRAEL), does not set aside the covenant previously established by God (with Abraham) and thus do away with the promise (given to Abraham). 

Did you notice the 430 years from the time that Jacob became Israel?
Like the new covenant initiated by Jesus at the Passover meal, this blood covenant did not start when it was initiated.
It did not start when God walked through the animal parts. It did not start when Abraham and his family were circumcised.
It started when the one to whom this Blood Covenant was made for, that is Israel, turned up. Let us show you.

(Gen 15:13) And he (GOD who does not lie) said unto Abram, Know of a surety that THY SEED SHALL BE A STRANGER IN A LAND THAT IS NOT THEIRS, and shall serve them; and THEY SHALL AFFLICT THEM FOUR HUNDRED YEARS;

The Land that is not theirs, is land outside of Canaan; meaning that none of the four hundred years can include Abram's seed living in Canaan. This means the four hundred years had to start after Jacob left Canaan.

The Bible says that Jacob married Leah and a week later he married Rachel (Gen29:28-30).
Over the period of six to seven years Jacob had eleven sons to four women (Gen29:31 to 30:24).
On the eighth year Jacob made a contract with Laban to stay and keep working for him (Gen 30:28).
After another six years Jacob left Padan-aram. This was in Joseph's 8th year (Gen 31:20).
On the 14th of Nissan, Jacob sent his family across the river but stayed on this side of the river himself (Gen 32:21-22).
Just before morning Jacob fought with God and became Israel (Gen 32:28).
On the 15th of Nissan, Jacob went into the land of Canaan (Gen 32 :28-31).

Here is the chronological order:
Year 0 - Jacob became Israel and entered the land (Gen 32 :28) in Josephs' 8th year.
Year 8 - Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave at age: 17 (Gen 37 :2).
Year 21 - Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream at age: 30 (Gen 41 :46).

The beginning of the hundred years God spoke of in Genesis 15:13.
Year 30 - Jacob and his 12 sons left Canaan and went to Egypt and stood before Pharaoh. Joseph's Age 39 (Gen 47:28).

(Gen 15:16) But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
There are four generations from entering Egypt to the exodus;
(1Ch 6:1) The sons of LEVI (1st generation who entered Egypt); Gershon, KOHATH, and Merari.
(1Ch 6:2) And the sons of KOHATH (2nd generation); AMRAM, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel.
(1Ch 6:3) And the children of AMRAM (3rd generation); Aaron, and MOSES, (4th generation)…

The four generations from entering Egypt were: LEVI then KOHATH, then AMRAM,
then MOSES the brother of Aaron.

Year 430 - Exactly 400 years later on the 15th of Nissan Israel left Egypt (Exo 12 :41).
Year 470 - ISRAEL entered the promise land (Jos 3:17).
Year 480 - ISRAEL had destroyed the seven nations in Canaan.

From Year 0 to Year 430 = sojourning in Canaan and Egypt, 430 years to the very day (Exodus 12:41).
From Year 30 to Year 430 = the years that Israel lived as strangers in a land that was not their own (Gen15:13).

The Levitical Laws were written into the blood covenant 430 years after Jacob became Israel and entered the land of Canaan (Gal 3:17).
Year 30, plus four hundred years till Israel left Egypt, plus fourty years in the wilderness, plus ten years to destroy the people living in Canaan,
makes it 450 years from entering Egypt (Acts 13:20).

400 years from Jacob meeting Pharaoh to the exodus,
40 years in the wilderness,
10 years to destroy the seven nations in Canaan.

(Note: OT dating is often inclusive, e.g. from 25 Adar to 5 Nisan is 10 days but inclusively it is 2 years, and birthdays never have a zero year).

Now do you remember what the unilateral covenant previously established by God was?
It's where God said to Abram:
I will make you a great nation; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Unto thy seed will I give this land.

So why was the 'Book of the Law' added to the Blood Covenant at this time?
(Gal 3:19) What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

The law we are talking about here, is the laws in the book of the Law. With all the tithing laws, food laws, meat and drink offerings, feasts, yearly sabbaths, ceremonies judgements, curses, etc.
So when does it say that it would finish?
It was added only until the Seed to whom the promise referred to, meaning Jesus, had come (Gal 3:19).

And why was this law added to the original Blood Covenant made with Abraham?
Well, it was added because of the peoples, that is, Israel's transgressions (Gal 3:19).
The question is; disobedience or transgression of what?

This brings us to the last Covenant we will look at today.
This Covenant was written by God himself.
(Exo 34:28) …And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant -(And which covenant was this?)- , the Ten Commandments ...

(Deu 4:12) And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire…
Now this is the only time in the Bible that God spoke a command personally to a large group of people.
Do you think what God spoke was important to him?
------- And what did he speak?
(Deu 4:13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments;

In this covenant, did He say anything else to them other than the Ten Commandments?
(Deu 5:22) …and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.

God wrote this covenant with his finger, this covenant is HIS LAW.
(1Jo 3:4) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

What this is saying is; for sin to be present there has to be a Law.
Which law would this be?
Well it's His law, Gods Law; because Sin is simply disobeying God and what he requires us to do, that is, what he commands, which are Laws.
See it's a legal issue.

(Ecc 12:13) …Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Notice it doesn't say whole duty of the Jews, or Israel. It says: for this is the whole duty of man, meaning all men.

(1Jo 2:3) Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

So what does it mean, if we don't keep His commandments?
(1Jo 2:4) He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

What type of covenant is the Ten Commandments?
Unilateral.
God initiated this Covenant.
Moses did not have any say in it.
It was a non-negotiable Law, or covenant, given personally by God Himself;
(Deu 4:13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments;

What was the sign of this covenant?
(Eze 20:12) Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us…

Many people today think the Sabbath means worshiping God or going to church.
But the Sabbath command simply says to do no work on that day, not you or anyone within your gates.
By this sign, God can see who acknowledges Him and His law.
And what day is it?
If you are in Israel, that day is called The Sabbath.
That same day if you are in Italy for example, is called Sabato.
In most of South America, Panama and Spain that day is called Sabado.
And in England, America, Australia and New Zealand the exact same day is called Saturday.

What was the term of this covenant?
The term is Everlasting.
At the close of probation, just prior to the 7 last plagues being poured out upon unrepentant sinners, God's Covenant is revealed in heaven;
(Rev 11:19) Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning…

So to Summarise;
The Ten Commandments are unconditional.
The Ten Commandments actually show us what sin is. Paul said;
(Rom 7:7) …I would not have known covetousness unless the law (that showed me what sin was) had said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." (this is the Tenth Commandment).

So if Sin itself did not end at the cross, would the Law that shows us what Sin is end at the cross?

To Summarise the Blood covenant;
The Blood covenant was known as the Book of the Law, Book of the Covenant, the Levitical Laws or the Law of Moses.
This Law was added to the original Covenant given to Abraham, because of the people's disobedience against God and His Laws.

Let's look at the differences:
The Ten Commandments -----------Levitical Laws.
Unilateral --------------------------- Bilateral.
Identifies what SIN is --------------- Introduced because of SIN (i.e. the peoples disobedience against God and his Law).
God wrote this ---------------------- Moses wrote this.
Written on stone -------------------- Written in a book.
Placed in the Heart of the Ark ------- Placed on the Side of the Ark.
Weekly Sabbath --------------------- Yearly Sabbaths & Feasts.
Still remains ------------------------- Levitical Laws, ie, the blood covenant was annulled when the initiator died on the cross.

The seed came, i.e. Jesus, who was actually the initiator of that Blood Covenant.
So the Blood Covenant Law and the Circumcision finished when the initiator of the Blood Covenant, being Jesus had died.

(Jos 24:26) And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.
(Jos 24:27) "See!" he said to all the people. "This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God."

(Heb 7:18) The former regulation is set aside
(Col 2:14-16) having wiped out the handwriting (book of the law) of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross…

So what Covenant concerns us today?
In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees and the Sadducees encumbered the laws of God, by adding man-made traditions to the Ten Commandments.
Jesus said;
(Mat 15:3) "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

What commandments of God was he talking about?
Well, Jesus clears this up straight away. He said;
(Mat 15:4) For God commanded, saying, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; ( which is the fifth commandment).

And what Covenant concerns us later?
Well, it's 'the Promise' covenant, with the Land, and the blessing.
The land that 'the Promise' involves is not that little piece of land over in the Middle East; the land the promise talks about is all of it, as in;
"all the families of the earth shall be blessed". The land the unilateral promise talked about was the earth.

And here is the great news.
(Gal 3:29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

When will this promise be fulfilled?
Well, it will be fulfilled when the new covenant starts.
Many people think the new covenant started at the cross, but that's another study.
Hebrews 8 tells us exactly when it will start.
Because when it starts;
(Heb 8:11) No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
and that my friend has not happened yet.

Were any conditions attached to the promise at a later point?
(2Pe 3:9) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

And what should we repent of?
We need to repent of disobedience against Gods will.
And what shows us what his will is?
Well it's HIS Ten Commandments.

God cannot allow anyone into His coming kingdom, who is unwilling to submit to His authority. Jesus said it would be transgression of this very covenant, which will keep people out of God's kingdom;
(Mat 7:21-23) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
(note that these people claim to be Christian, they perform many works in Jesus name).

And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

The Greek word for 'lawlessness', anomia, simply means 'transgression of law'.
And what law remains today, for us to transgress?
As we have already seen, it is the Ten Commandments.

Jesus also uses the parable of the Ten virgins (see Mat 25), to reveal that not all self-professed Christians will be saved.
Notice that all Ten are Christian (ie, they are all waiting for the bridegroom, being Christ), but only 5 enter.

(Rev 14:12) Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
(Rev 22:14) Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

Now many of the concepts in this study may be new to you, so please take them to the Bible. Test them and pray about them.
Read this again if you need to, but most of all, allow the Bible to tell you itself, what it says. 
That said, may God bless you in your search for truth.

Home  | More Studies  | Contact Us