Theme: Covenant (Part 5)
(Key verses: Gen 9:1-17)
God instituted various covenants in the Scriptures to add to our understanding of His ultimate purpose to bring all in the generation of the first man Adam to be spiritually perfect through Jesus Christ (Rom 1:20; 1Co 15:22-28; Php 2:9-11; 1Co 12:3; 1Th 5:9-10). All physical covenants mentioned in the Scriptures are types of God’s one spiritual covenant which is binding on all in Adam:
Deu 29:14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
Deu 29:15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day.
Isa 59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
Act 2:39 For the promise [of receiving God’s spirit] is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
God’s everlasting or spiritual covenant has been there before the foundation of the world and will not and has never been altered by God because of the actions of His creatures which He works in any case (Isa 59:21; Gal 3:17; Heb 13:20):
Isa 54:10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
During previous discussions we covered a few aspects which are bound up to covenant-making which have such deep spiritual values for our learning, including:
• the cutting and sacrificing of animals are valuable to understand as they point to a separation from our own flesh and carnal thinking;
• the earth-shattering changes that God will cause in our lives point to His righteous judgements to bring about this all important spiritual metamorphosis;
• the obedience He will cause in our hearts through the new blood or life of the indwelling Christ is our only hope of glory and salvation.
(Ref. 2Co 3:18; Rom 12:2; Gen 9:1; Gen 17:5-8; Mat 6:31-34; Act 3:19-21; 2Co 2:14; Heb 8:6; Heb 10:34; Heb 11:16; Heb 11:40; Heb 12:24; Gal 5:22).
Another very important aspect relating to covenants which we can add to this list is the prohibition of murder of another human being which is found first of all in the covenant God made with Noah:
Gen 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Gen 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
The prohibition of the shedding of human blood was also further expounded in God’s covenant with the physical nation of Israel with the permission of the death penalty and killing during wars, but there was protection in the case of accidental killings (Deu 19:1-13; Deu 20:1-20; Num 35:9-34):
Exo 20:13 Thou shalt not kill [Hebrew: “râtsach” = murder].
We know that the laws or commandments within these physical covenants were given for the specific purpose to reveal the heart of all in the first Adam as he and all in his generation were made as a marred or corrupt vessel of dishonour from the hand of the Potter:
Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Rom 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity [Greek: “mataiotēs” = devoid of truth / morally deprived], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
Not seeing or accepting this foundational truth led many to falsely believe that Adam was actually a perfect creature who fell into sin through his so-called free will. Mankind naturally thinks that they can prove their love for God by their own efforts as they also believe that is how God intended things to be done in the first place when He gave commandments. But it is by the very commandments, that God is actually tutoring and informing us of our deprived condition in the flesh. It is indeed “by the law [that] the knowledge of sin” is given because it reveals “the hardness of [our] natural hearts” (Mat 19:8; Rom 5:20):
Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Every physical covenant, with its commandments that are given to keep the natural man in check, is a “ministration of death” with an appearance of glory which will be done away with:
2Co 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
The two stones on which this covenant which came via Moses was written stand as a witness to the spiritual condition of a natural heart (Exo 34:1; Eze 11:19-20; Eze 36:25-27). We find many examples of people in Scripture who were called righteous by doing outward good deeds, like Noah and Job and a few of the kings of Judah. Even the apostle Paul claimed blamelessness according to the carnal law while being filled with hatred towards the church of Christ and consenting to the violent death of Stephen:
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Act 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Act 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Act 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
Act 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
But nobody with a natural or carnal heart/mind was ever righteous by any measure even when the tongue confesses righteous words and plausible human actions can be perceived as pleasing to God (Jer 17:9; Mat 26:33; 1Ti 1:13; Jas 1:26). The natural laws actually expose us as sinners when we use it “lawfully” and see our evil natural heart’s condition:
1Ti 1:8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
1Ti 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for mans layers,
1Ti 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
We live by every word of God and everything God does, even the covenants of death He instituted, is good for His purposes (Mat 4:4; Isa 45:7; Gen 50:20; Gen 1:31). We can see that when we can admit that we are “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, [and] manslayers” by nature. That is why the law of carnal commandments actually made provision for hatred against those we naturally perceive as enemies:
Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
The natural laws of countries, for example, justify wars for this very reason as we want natural borders and high walls as a protection for those things we hold precious for our flesh’s survival and comfort (Ecc 8:11; Mat 16:26):
Jas 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Jas 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Jas 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Jas 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Jas 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
This exposition of our hardened hearts of stone, through the Word of God and the evil things God uses in the process, is such a dreadful but sobering experience as people like Job also had to endure for our learning (Rom 15:4; 1Co 10:11). We received a natural spirit that lusts to envy and hates others as we cannot see a space for them in our worlds. How deep and deceitful is the self-centeredness of the natural heart (Jer 17:9)! Those physical covenants God made in the Old Testament brought all these selfish and evil aspects of our own nature to the fore as we “keep” record of the words written for our admonition (Rev 1:1-3). This was all done to show us that we are all guilty of taking the lives of men and even killing our own Saviour by our carnal lusts and fleshly deeds. But the very adherence to outward legalism actually is the transgression of the spiritual law of Christ:
Mat 15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Mat 15:2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
Mat 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
We all, like Pilate, are convinced in our spiritual darkness that by washing our hands in public we convince others (and ourselves somehow) of our innocence and that good deeds can nullify our guilt and remove the evil thoughts and hatred of others from our hearts:
Mat 27:24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
The evil false doctrine of eternal hell-fire satisfies this natural murderous heart of evil mankind as it hides self-righteousness. King David expressed his extreme abhorrence about the injustice out there, but it was indeed himself to whom the prophet Nathan referred as he was charged with the murder of Uriah (2Sa 12:1-12):
2Sa 12:9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
Although David himself did not murder Uriah, he planned Uriah’s death in his heart (“thou didst it secretly”) after he slept with Uriah’s wife and a child was conceived. He then gave subtle instructions to his commander, Joab, to place Uriah in the frontline of a war in which David himself was supposed to be the leader (2Sa 11:1-2). Through this happening, we also see that the attitude of the heart is central to our guilt in all things pertaining to the first man Adam. The judgment of God, will come on all evil in us including all the murders we have committed through hatred, defaming other’s character and harbouring unloving thoughts of other people (1Co 13:4-5). When we are not involved in the spiritual war inside, we rather keep ourselves busy with slaying our fellow men (pointing fingers at others). But when God’s light has risen in our lives, we shall make full restitution and give an account to God:
Exo 22:2 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
Exo 22:3 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
Jesus equates the anger we have toward another human as the killing of that person:
Mat 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
The outward laws are our tutors or schoolmasters as they are given to bring us to the faith of Christ and not to trust on our old ways of thinking (Gal 3:21-25). Under the spiritual covenant we are enabled for the first time to love our enemies and not resist evil because we are informed about who is behind all things, including evil, that happen in our lives and on this earth (Amo 3:6; Pro 16:4; Rom 11:36):
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
With the new softened heart the spiritual covenant gives us the understanding that we do not trust in strong horses and powerful chariots of our Egyptian flesh (Psa 20:7; Isa 31:1). We accept our spiritual habitation and abilities in the Christ with humility as we can see that God’s house is fitly joined together “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love” (Rom 12:17-21; Eph 2:21; Eph 4:16):
1Jn 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1Jn 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
1Jn 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
This brings another important characteristic of covenants to mind and that is the aspect of a “manifest token” – that is what we can see and observe in our own lives as a testimony of Christ in us and a witness of our election in Him (Rev 1:1-3; Rom 11:5; 2Pe 1:10-12). The token which God used in the case of the covenant He made with Noah was that of a rainbow:
Gen 9:12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
Gen 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
Gen 9:14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
Gen 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Gen 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
Gen 9:17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
The cloud and the (rain)bow in that cloud mentioned here is Christ and His elect as a symbol of those connected to a kingly throne having glory within the everlasting or spiritual covenant. These are the ones who “bare record of the Word of God” (Gen 37:3; 2Sa 13:18; Psa 18:13-14; Eze 1:28; Rev 1:2):
Rev 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Rev 4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
Rev 4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Now we can understand why we are hated for His name’s sake, although we should never personalize the hatred. The hatred we encounter from others is actually directed to God – we suffer for “His name’s sake” (Mat 10:22; Act 9:16; Rev 2:3). Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel, was an outward manifestation of his actual hatred toward God and His preference of Abel’s offering (Gen 4:5). While Cain’s mark is that of a murderer pointing to our evil natural hearts, the token which God used to established His covenant with Abraham includes a symbol which serves as a type of the removal of the (death) mark from us (Gen 4:13-15; 2Th 2:3):
Gen 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye [Abraham] shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
Gen 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Gen 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
Gen 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
Gen 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
This was indeed a painful physical cutting which points to the circumcision or removal of the evil carnal heart (“made without hands”). The new spiritual covenant is indeed the disannulling of the “ministration of death” (2Co 3:4-11; Heb 7:18). As with David and his household, those in the household of Christ will not have the sword (the Word) removed from them as they accept that they live by every Word of God as removes the old heart and mind progressively (Gen 1:11-13; Exo 23:30; Rev 8:7):
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Being in the spiritual covenant with God has nothing to do with physical self-mutilation. We are indeed to sacrifice our bodies as a holy sacrifice to God, but there is a counterfeit sacrifice which mimics the spiritual “fill[ing] up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ (Rom 12:1; Col 1:24). Self-mutilation is a fake mark of preeminence when we are convinced we are God’s elect by being “partial in [our]selves and are become judges of evil thoughts” through the subtle spirit that was seen in Diotrephes, among others in Scripture (Jas 2:1-10; Mat 20:20-28; 3Jn 1:9; Pro 8:13; Rom 12:3,16). This happens when our hearts and lives are still puffed up with self-righteous attitudes when we think that the works of flesh on its own has spiritual benefits. The false prophets of Baal also demonstrated on the mount Carmel in the days of the prophet Elijah that this type of fleshly “token” is a fake humility and not accepted by God (1Ki 18:22-29; Mar 5:2-5):
Lev 19:28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Isa 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
Only in Christ can we sacrifice our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God as our physical bodies are indeed a temple which is also needed in the service of God, even in this earth (Rom 6:19; Rom 12:1-2; 1Cor 6:19):
1Co 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
1Co 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.