For Whatever was Written in Former Days ….. Part 1, Can we Claim the Old Testament Covenant in these Times?

Not too long ago, this question came up in a bible study. Can an Old Testament Covenant promise of God made specifically to Israel be claimed by Christians?

On the surface, it would seem rather obvious the answer is; “of course we can!”

Perhaps, what seems rather obvious today, may not be really that. A new phrase has been introduced and sledge hammered into our psyche lately; “Fake News!”

While the obvious may remain exactly that despite that phrase, Claiming one of God’s Covenants in our 21st century, requires further discovery and exploration.

Let’s turn to the Word of God to a familiar text from Genesis – Noah’s Covenant.

Genesis 9:8-17 NKJV

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your [a]descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen.

There are many promises of God in the Biblical text. Some are given to specific individuals, such as Abraham, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon. There are also many promises given to entire groups of people and even unto nations. God would seal His promises by making a covenant, which is a conditional contract, with them.

I am one of those who believes that the Bible is not written to us but is for us. People often fall into the trap of what is known as eisegesis, which is reading words and passages in the Bible and applying them to their own circumstances and surroundings without looking at the grammatical and historical context, which is known as exegesis. I was once told by a Pastor mentor that the three major rules of diligently studying the Bible are context, context, and context.

The word “covenant” (Heb:berith) means alliance, a divine ordinance with signs or pledges between God and humanity and first appears in Genesis 6. The word is used with reference to God’s creative and providential activity where He showed Himself to be completely faithful (Jeremiah 33:20,25; Genesis 8:22).

The standard Hebrew phrase (ka·ra berith) is used of God’s covenant with humanity (Genesis 15:18; Exodus 24:8; Deuteronomy 4:23; 5:2; 2 Kings 17:15; Jeremiah 11:10; Ezekiel 34:25),

but the emphasis is laid on the initiative of God by the use of the verbs;

“Establish” in Genesis 6:18; 9:11; 17:7; etc.,

“Grant” in Genesis 9:12; 17:2; Numbers 25:12,

“Set Down” in 2 Samuel 23:5,

“Command” in Joshua 7:11; 23:16; 1 Kings 11:11.

All these verbs at times have as their objects the noun ‘berith’ (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1285/kjv/wlc/0-1/.

In addition, there are numerous references to GOD having “commanded” and given only Israel a “law,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “judgments,” etc. Israel alone was expected to “obey” God’s word of command, to “keep” His covenant, to “remember” it, to “do” it, and to “walk in” it.

However, the Bible shows that Israel “forgot” the covenant, “broke” it, “sinned against” it, “rejected” it, “transgressed” it, and “profaned” it, and as a result, experienced the curses of the broken covenant in the form of natural calamities, war, sickness, exile, and death. Had Israel kept the covenant, it might have enjoyed the blessings of the covenant instead (Lev 26; Deuteronomy 27-28).

God made covenants with individuals such as Noah that affected the entire Earth. God was so pleased with Noah that He said in His heart “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

God blessed Noah and his sons and said only to them,

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. (Genesis 9:7)

It was God who took the initiative to make a covenant with Noah. God’s single promise to Noah was there would never again be a rainstorm causing a FLOOD that would cover the entire Earth, and He signed His promise with a rainbow.

God also made a single covenant with Abraham where He promised a land and descendants to him as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sands upon the sea shores. and he was summarily commanded to “keep” the covenant (Genesis 15:7-21, Genesis 17:1-14, Genesis 22:15-19).

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God said to Him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,” so that He would make a covenant with Abraham that would multiply him greatly.”

Abraham fell on his face before God, who then said to him that His covenant was with him alone, and that he would be the father of many offspring and give him all the land he traveled, including all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and that he would be their God.

God also told Abraham that he and his offspring must keep His everlasting covenant by having every male be circumcised when they are eight days and if they are not throughout the generations they shall be cut off from his people because they broke the covenant. The faith obedience of Abraham was not a condition of the covenant but rather his expected response inside a religious relationship. There could be no blessings and no fellowship without obedience.

God also made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai (Horeb) after He reminded them of His divine acts and His call to obey Him. Then, GOD established Israel alone as a “peculiar treasure,” a “kingdom of priests,” and a “holy nation,” and gave them stipulations that would guarantee the continuance of fellowship between them and He. The covenant was ratified by an animal sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood (Exodus 24:4-8).

God established a covenant with King David and promised him that his direct descendants would have an everlasting kingdom and be known as his sons (2 Samuel 7:12-17; Psalm 89:3,26,34; Psalm 132:11; 2 Samuel 23:5; Isaiah 55:3).

God kept His Covenant Promise – Our Savior Jesus came from the line of David.

God made a promise to King David’s son, Solomon. He appeared to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple and declared it would be the place where all Israelites were to bring their burnt-offerings and sacrifices. God tells Solomon that has heard his prayer and says after he built and dedicated the Temple to the Lord (2 Chronicles 6, 7:1-22).

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The words “my name” refers specifically to the entire nation which was called by God (El), Isra-El, translated “those who struggled with El” or God.

They were a Theocratic nation and not a minority of true believers within the nation. Isra-El had a unique supernatural covenant with God that He initiated from His side. No other nation had that privilege. Their laws and constitution were the first 5 books of Moses called Torah. Any citizen that worshipped another God or prophesied in the name of another God was killed as part of their theocratic covenant.

In the immediate context of the verse noted, God spoke to Israel’s king, saying Israel should obey the Lord’s covenant. God was specifically pointing him back to the covenant that He made with his forefather Abraham. At a specific point in the history of Israel, God told Abraham about his descendants, saying, “I will be their God” and “They will be my people.” That’s what “My people” means.

God reminded a people who had been exiled, enslaved, and defeated that a rebuilt temple or a displaced nation cannot change who they were. They were God’s chosen people and would definitely see the future God has for them.

God had chosen the Temple built by Solomon to be a house of sacrifice (verse 7:12, 15-16) for the people, Israel He had chosen (descendants of Abraham). If there were to come a time when God withholds rain or sends plagues on the land (v7:13), the people are covenanted to pray, with the text seeming to imply this time of covenanted community prayer would happen there specifically.

If the people prayed, did as God commanded, then He would respond, and they would enjoy the abundant blessings of the covenant which included the healing/restoration and fruitfulness of the physical land itself (verse 7:14).

However, if they disobeyed, God would “shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people” (verses 19-20). This is part of the covenant that God made through the ministry of Moses with the people.

A similar promise of physical blessings was made by God previously to Israel if they remained faithfully obedient to His covenant and also what the negative consequences were if they did not (Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 8, also Leviticus 26). The King of Israel and his people are to keep the covenant with God, and in doing so, He would abundantly bless them, even the very land of Israel itself.

The Old Testament is about Hebrews in ancient Israel who receive Old Covenant promises. The New Testament is about people receiving God’s New Covenant promises. The book of John demonstrates that the promises and blessings given to New Covenant people, those who are Born-Again, are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is the better Temple, people, sacrifice, high priest, etc. God made the New Testament Covenant which builds upon the Old Testament covenants, which were given to different peoples of God that were dealt with differently by God.

It was at the Cross where Jesus died, and then was raised from the dead after three days, that the old covenant of Law passed away in its entirety, and every person who becomes Born-Again are then under the new Covenant of grace (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Galatians 3:15-4:7; Romans 6:14-15; 7:4-6; Hebrews 8:1-10:18). The Old Testament is still the Word of God, and along with the Gospel and the New Testament writings of Paul, Peter, Jude, James, John, are the final authority as the infallible, inerrant Word that was divinely breathed out by God.

The Born-Again Christian is no longer under the requirements of the Law and stipulations of the old covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8-13).

They are grafted into the vine of Israel (John 15:1-11), the people of God, and become with them, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” because they were once not His people, but, through Jesus Christ, they become “God’s people” (Romans 11:17-24; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Rabbi Jesus said that all 613 laws of the Old Testament (365 thou shalt not’s and 248 thou shalt’s, or thou art surely in big trouble!) depend on just two laws which are really one and the same, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”… and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34). The law all pointed to fulfillment in Jesus, and it still functions as a moral standard for every Born-Again Christian to live their life in the love of God (Romans 13:8–10; Galatians 5:14; 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:20–21).

Out of all the nations on the Earth, God chose to covenant with Israel. They did not choose to covenant with God. Every person of that individual nation was required to repent just like every person in Nineveh, from the king down to all the citizens, and even all the animals, were required to wear sackcloth, fast and repent, which they did, and God spared them all (Jonah 3). There has never been another nation in the long history of the world or seen in the Bible that had a covenant with God.

The New Covenant that we see promised in the Old Testament texts and made through Jesus is not about a nation but about a community of people who have a steadfast and unyielding faith in God, and the goal of this covenant is not about wealth and prosperity. It is more about the mission of bringing God’s message to the world and for every Born-Again Christian to live as always God intended.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Let us take time to Pray,

Loving heavenly Father, thank You for Your many precious promises – and Lord, when the storm-clouds of life are thundering in on all sides, help me to trust Your Word and remember the precious promises You have made to all Your children – for Your Word cannot be broken in Jesus name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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