It’s all about covenant

And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.” – Nehemiah 1:5

Ever since I began to read the Bible after my transformation from atheist to Messianic Believer 30 years ago, I have based my faith on the fact that YHVH, the God of Israel, is a covenant making, covenant keeping God. If you do not have a covenant-based relationship with the God of Israel, you are ‘outside of the camp.’ Israel and the Jewish people only exist today because God entered into a covenant relationship with Abraham 4000 years ago. In keeping with His covenant with Abraham, YHVH delivered Abraham’s descendants from slavery in Egypt at Passover about 3800 years ago. Since Passover time about 2000 years ago, Jews and non-Jews who have believed that Yeshua of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, have enjoyed the benefits of being in a covenant relationship with the GOD of Israel, the ultimate benefit being the promise of eternal life in His Kingdom.

Most Christians have been aware that their relationship with God is based on the ‘New Covenant’, but over the last 19 years as I have ministered in the nations, I have come to realise that most people do not really know what a ‘covenant’ is. To really receive the full benefits of our relationship with God, we need to really understand the full implications of what ‘covenant’ means. I have written about covenant before (see the section on Covenant in my Back to Bible Basics), but as we celebrated the Passover ceremony last week, I became aware of two dynamics of covenant that I did not know before, and I want to share these with you.

The New Covenant was initiated at the Passover Yeshua celebrated with His disciples the night before He was crucified. As He raised the 3rd cup of the ceremony (called the Cup of Redemption) He blessed it with the Hebrew blessing and then He said ” this is the Cup of the New Covenant in My blood.” About 20 hours later He died on the cross and the blood that poured from His cut and pierced body sealed the New Covenant, opening a new way to come into an intimate relationship with the Father in Heaven. When we celebrate communion in our congregations or homes, we sometimes refer to it as a ‘covenant meal’. And that is exactly what it is!

The Passover Seder we were at last week was led by Australian Bible teacher Kelvin Crombie who spent many years studying and teaching at Christchurch Guest house and centre in Jerusalem. The first new thing that I learnt as Kelvin led the Seder was that in ancient times, whenever 2 parties entered into any kind of covenant, once the terms of the covenant were set and agreed upon, the 2 parties sat down and shared a meal together. Now I see a much higher level of importance of celebrating the Lord’s Supper as being an absolute reconfirmation of our covenant relationship with YHVH. It is also important that we be reminded each time we share the ‘covenant meal’, of the benefits of the covenant.

Kelvin also shared that most covenants are made between a strong and a weaker party. In such a situation, the stronger party is responsible for the well being of the weaker one. In our covenant relationship with God, there is no doubt who the stronger and the weaker parties are. Israel still exists today (in spite of the Devil’s 4000 year history of trying to destroy it) because God is bound to ensure the future of Israel by the covenant He made with Abraham. Likewise we in the New Covenant can also enjoy the benefits of God’s promises.
The other important thing I learnt at the Seder was that in Bible times, the parties of the covenant often exchanged their garments. In 1 Samuel 18:3, King Saul’s son Jonathan enters into a covenant with David the shepherd boy. David’s robe was simple and probably soiled from his work with the sheep, while Jonathan’s armour was that of the son of a king. In verse 4, we see Jonathan and David exchanging their garments. Is this not a wonderful picture of what happens when we enter into a covenant with the God of Israel, sealed by the blood of His Son Yeshua, there is an exchange of garments. In the New Covenant, our sin-soiled garments are exchanged for Yeshua’s righteous robes.

As we participate in the Lord’s Supper from now on, let us give thanks to our Father in Heaven and remember that He is seeing us wearing His Son’s robe, and let us stand strong in faith as we remember the benefits of His covenant promises.

This article originally appeared on Out of Zion Ministries, April 21, 2017, and reposted with permission.