Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 17, 2023
One God, One People, Eight Covenants
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: A covenant is a formal agreement between two parties that the parties have responsibilities to do or not do certain things. A covenant is similar to the contracts all of us have signed.
A Biblical covenant is unique in that one of the parties is God. That party (God) has written the covenant, and asks that the other party (humans) accept, follow, and benefit from the covenant.
All contracts between humans are only as good as the good faith of the human signatories. When Linda and I purchased a house in the past, we signed a contract, basically stipulating that the seller would surrender certain property to us and that we would pay a certain purchase price. If the seller removed the house before we moved in or if we failed to make good on the financial consideration we promised, the contract would be void. We would have a major problem to be settled in court.
Either party in a human contract may renege, invalidating the contract. With God as one of the parties, at least one part of a Biblical covenant is solid and will not be broken. If God broke His covenant with humans, He would no longer be sinless and perfect. That is, He would no longer be a God worthy of our respect. Humans, on the other hand, have broken and continue to break God’s eight covenants intended for our benefit. God is unbelievably patient with sinful, stiff-necked humans.
God will not break His commitments He made in a covenant, but earthly conditions may change over time. He can and does create a new covenant, which helps to better define His love for His children and helps to guide us into more perfect relationships with Him and with each other.
When an older covenant needed to be updated, the old covenant did not disappear to be replaced suddenly by the new covenant, as if a switch had been thrown in Heaven. The new covenant added to the body of covenants already in effect. We live under the eighth and final covenant, the New Covenant, but God still honors commitments He made to humans in the earlier seven covenants.
In the covenants, there is included reassurance of God’s mercy:
● The Apostle Peter told of a loving, merciful God, always waiting for His children to come to repentance. << See 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you– not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. >>
● In a parable, commonly called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (see Luke 15:11-32), Yeshua taught of the relationship of an ever-loving father (representing God) and a prodigal son (representing us). The son wasted all he had for his profligate living (representing humans’ sinful life, wasting God’s gifts to us). The son wandered from the father, but the father waited patiently and hopefully for the son’s return. When the son finally returned (representing repentance), the father forgave all (representing God’s boundless mercy).
Eight covenant commitments have been entered into by God. These covenants are briefly defined, following. Explanations of the covenants are scattered throughout the Bible, but representative Scriptures are presented in the parts labeled “Scriptural background.” Other pertinent Scriptures are not included in the covenant discussions because of space limitations in this RR. Let a search engine be your friend.
THE EDENIC COVENANT (GOD’S FIRST COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Genesis 2:15: Then Adonai Elohim took the man [Adam] and gave him rest in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and watch over it. >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: This first covenant granted rights and requirements for those created in “Our (Elohim’s) image.” God’s image is His Spirit. He does not have a head, arms, legs, and so forth, as humans do. When He breathed into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7), He transplanted His immortal spirit into humans. Both in the Hebrew of the Tanakh and the Greek of the B’rit Chadashah, a single word in each language has three definitions– “wind, breath, spirit” – ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek.
Adam and Eve were instructed to rule, populate, and care for the Earth (Genesis 2:15). They were given an ideal home, the Garden of Eden, and food was present for the taking. They were given only one commandment. (Was this commandment a test? Should God have known Adam and Eve would break His commandment? Probably not, since humans have the gift of free will and may act contrary to God’s desires.)
Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). If they disobeyed God and ate of the tree, they would lose their gift of immortality and they would be expelled from the Garden. A series of punishments followed, and persist today to us.
THE ADAMIC COVENANT (GOD’S SECOND COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Genesis 3:15: [Adionai Elohim said to the serpent (Satan)] “I will put animosity between you and the woman– between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: Because Adam and Eve broke the first covenant (the Edenic Covenant), God entered into this second covenant. This covenant defined the conditions under which sinful humans must live on Earth. The covenant included a curse on the serpent (Satan) because of his role in corrupting humans created in God’s image. A lesson for us would be that we may sin, if we lead others into sin. Yeshua warned against leading others into sin (here, children). << See Matthew 18:6-7: [Yeshua said] “But whoever causes one of these little ones who trust in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea! Woe to the world because of snares! For snares must come, but woe to that man through whom the snare comes!” >>
THE NOAHIC COVENANT (GOD’S THIRD COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Genesis 9:8-17: Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now I, behold, I am about to establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you, including the flying creatures, the livestock, and every wild animal with you, of all that is coming out of the ark– every animal of the earth. I will confirm My covenant with you– never again will all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again will there be a flood to ruin the land.” Then God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you for all future generations. My rainbow do I place in the cloud, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the land. Whenever I bring clouds over the land and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant that is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the rainbow is in the cloud, I will look at it, to remember the perpetual covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the land. Then God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have confirmed between Me and all flesh that is on the land.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: The Noahic Covenant reconfirmed the Adamic Covenant. God authorized human governments, whereby humans would establish civil laws and authorities to control and judge human sins. Humans were required to protect other humans through their governments and laws. (See also Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:1-7.) God confirmed seasons. Humans were granted permission to eat animal flesh. Were humans vegans, before the flood and this covenant? Fear of humans was instilled in animals. Noah’s sons were given specific instructions, which proved to be prophetic. Canaan’s (Ham’s) descendant’s would serve their brothers. Japheth’s descendants would greatly multiply. Shem’s descendants would serve the Lord in various ways. Yeshua HaMashiach was a descendant of Shem, through His mother Mary (qualifying Him for His role as Son of Man). God established a sign to seal this covenant. He set the rainbow in the sky as a sign the world would never again be destroyed by flood (see Genesis 8:21 and 9:11-16) nor would the curse on the land from an earlier covenant be increased. In the B’rit Chadashah, we learn that the Earth will be destroyed at the end of the Age of Grace by fire. This cleansing of all vestiges of humankind’s sin will be necessary for the final establishment of all things new and perfect– New Earth, New Heaven, and New Jerusalem. No longer will we be reminded of sin by brothels, casinos, saloons, and other “houses of sin” that existed before God creates a new and perfect home for us.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT (GOD’S FOURTH COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Genesis 15:4-5: Then behold, the word of Adonai came to him [Abram or Abraham] saying, “This one [Ishmael, born to Hagar] will not be your heir, but in fact, one who will come from your own body [Isaac, born to Sarai or Sarah] will be your heir. He took him outside and said, “Look up now, at the sky, and count the stars– if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your seed be.” > Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: This covenant is of utmost importance for those embracing the Judeo-Christian faith. God made the sovereign choice to bless Israel and the nations of the world through Abraham and his descendant, the Messiah. God pledged to bless Abraham and his countless descendants, forming from them a nation of great importance to the world (not the least of which is the first coming of the Messiah). Gentiles would be blessed, if they blessed Abraham’s descendants– the Jews– and if they accepted Yeshua HaMashiach as Savior. But, if Gentiles mistreated Jews, God would punish them. Throughout history, examples may be found of great empires which mistreated Jews and suffered God’s punishment. We cannot help but notice that the United States has been an important ally of Israel, but the United States’ protection of Israel my be waning. Will God’s blessings for America be lifted?
THE MOSAIC COVENANT (GOD’S FIFTH COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Exodus 19:5-6: [God said to Moses] “’Now then, if you listen closely to My voice, and keep My covenant, then you will be My own treasure from among all people, for all the earth is Mine. So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: The Mosaic Covenant expanded the earlier Abrahamic Covenant. God chose the nation of Israel to be His chosen people. In return for God’s blessing, the people of Isreal were required to follow God’s commandments, judgments, and ordinances. What would be our response, if God promised to select America as His chosen nation, provided Americans followed His commandments, judgments, and ordinances? Would the ACLU petition the Supreme Court to tell God to mind His own business? (It’s a “separation of church and state” issue, you know.) God apparently intended for Israel’s citizens to understand His righteousness and His will for the lives of obedient humans. God’s law has been said to be our schoolmaster (guardian), teaching us every important thing we need to know until the Messiah’s return.
THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT (GOD’S SIXTH COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Deuteronomy 30:1-10: [Adonai said] “Now when all these things come upon you– the blessing and the curse that I have set before you– and you take them to heart in all the nations where Adonai your God has banished you, and you return to Adonai your God and listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you today– you and your children– with all your heart and with all your soul, then Adonai your God will bring you back from captivity and have compassion on you, and He will return and gather you from all the peoples where Adonai your God has scattered you. Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the heavens, from there Adonai your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Adona your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, and you will possess it; and He will do you good and multiply you more than your fathers. Also Adonai your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants– to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. Adonai your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. Then you– you will return and listen to the voice of Adonai and do all His mitzvot that I am commanding you today. Adonai your God will make you prosper in all the work of your hand– in the fruit of your womb, and the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your soil– for good. For Adonai will again rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your fathers– when you listen to the voice of Adonai your God, to keep His mitzvot and His statutes that are written in this scroll of the Torah, when you turn to Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) were commanded by Adonai to leave their home in Ur (in present-day Iraq) and travel to a land that would be shown to them. This land, to the west of Ur, was not Israel. It was Canaan, and was inhabited by various peoples not intended by Adonai to possess the land. Abraham’s descendants vacated the land in the exile to Egypt. Then, Adonai raised up Moses to lead the Israelites back to Canaan. Three times after Abraham, the Israelites have been removed from Canaan (Israel) because of their rebellion (sins) against Adonai. These removals have been the exiles in Egypt, in Babylon, and in the four corners of the world (the Diaspora). Adonai has always watched for repentance, and has been faithful to return His covenant people to their Promised Land. In the Palestinian Covenant, God established rewards and punishments for His covenant people. Major steps in restoring Israel have been made made in recent years (especially beginning in May of 1948). When Jews began coming out of worldwide dispersal, the Diaspora, in May, 1948, a major prophetic mile marker for the end of the Age of Grace occurred, as Yeshua told in His Parable of the Fig Tree. << See Matthew 24:32-36: [Yeshua said] “Now learn the parable from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the door. Amen, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.” >> Yeshua used three plants in discussing Jews and Believers– the fig tree, the olive tree, and the grape vine. In this parable, the fig tree (Israel) began leafing out in May, 1948 (return of Jews from the Diaspora and the establishment iof Israel as a sovereign nation). This was the “Spring” of Yeshua’s Kingdom. The “Summer” of His harvest time (the harvest of souls) will come, when He parts the clouds to call His followers home. Note the immediacy of His return– “Amen, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.” I am in the generation alive in 1948, as are many other RR readers. We can know that Yeshua’s return is “near, at the door” (we will all not die until Yeshua’s return). The Jewish nation has never occupied all of the land promised to them in earlier covenants. I do not have space in this RR to outline the promised boundaries, but a little research on your part will outline the boundaries of the Promised Land. The nation of Israel will not be made whole, as promised, until the Messiah returns and the Millennial Kingdom is established. Question: Will New Jerusalem (Heaven) be placed on or hover above the Promised Land, when it descends from above to Earth? Heaven is not “up there” some place. It is here on Earth, which will be eternal (“world without end”), even though made new and perfect. << See Revelation 21:2-3: I [John] also saw the holy city– the New Jerusalem [Heaven] –coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I also heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is among men, and He shall tabernacle among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them and be their God.” >>
THE DAVIDIC COVENANT (GOD’S SEVENTH COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See 2 Samuel 7:16: [Adonai said to Samuel concerning David’s rule of Israel] “So your house and your kingship will be secure forever before you; your throne will be established forever.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: In the Davidic Covenant, God expanded promises to Israel He made in earlier covenants. God established the throne of King David and decreed that David’s descendants (Bnei Yisrael) would rule that kingdom forever. At times, it would seem that God s covenant would be broken (such as, the Diaspora and the Nazi Holocaust), but God’s faithfulness prevailed. Today, Israel is a vibrant, powerful nation. Does anyone doubt that the nation of God’s chosen people will last until the end of time? The Davidic Covenant promises that this will be the case– “[David’s] throne will be established forever.”
THE NEW COVENANT (GOD’S EIGHTH COVENANT):
● Scriptural background: << See Hebrews 8:8b-12: … “Behold, days are coming, says Adonai, when I will inaugurate a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not remain in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says Adonai. For this is the covenant that I will make with Israel after those days, says Adonai. I will put my Torah into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write it. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And no more will they teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Adonai,’ because all will know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and their sins I will remember no more.” >> Other Scriptures may contribute to a definition of this covenant.
● Discussion: The New Covenant was/ is the eight and final covenant. God unconditionally promised that His promises will transform the hearts of His people. God’s forgiveness of human sin is based on the atoning blood sacrifice of our perfect Passover Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach. Yeshua, by His sacrificial death on the cross at Golgotha, has already paid in full the debt for humans’ sins. All any person needs to do is accept that payment through faith. Should this be confusing? No. If you decide to go to someone’s birthday party and bring a nice, beautifully wrapped gift, it does not matter how nice your gift is, unless the honoree accepts, unwraps, and uses your gift. Yeshua’s atoning gift of payment for your sins and Adonai’s merciful willingness to forgive and forget your sins lie at the foot of Yeshua’s cross. Is this gift of God’s mercy (salvation) unused and of no benefit to you or anyone else? Unless you receive this gift through faith and nail your sins to Yeshua’s cross to be covered by His blood, you have not accepted the greatest gift that will ever be offered to you.
CONCLUSION: God has established eight covenants (agreements) with humans. We live under the New Covenant and some features of the seven covenants which preceded it. These covenants have features of human contracts. One major difference, though, is that either party in a human contract may break the terms of the agreement. In God’s Covenants, one Party– God– will not, cannot break the Covenant. Even though humans may break their part of the Covenant (and frequently have done so over the years), one of the parties– God– always has shown mercy and forgiveness, welcoming back in love the errant party (humans). If one party breaks a human contract, would the aggrieved party ask for the untrustworthy party to some back to conditions that existed in the original contract and forgive the breach of contract? You do not have to be an attorney to know the answer to this question. God, though, has always stood ready to welcome humans back into His form of government. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
<< Scriptures from the Tree of Life Version Bible. >>
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 17 Sep 2023 2nd of Tishrei, 5784 Rosh Hashana II
Ge 22 Nu 28:11-15; 29:1-6 Jer 31:2-20[1-19] 1 Co 15:35-58