Summary: Telling someone "God loves you" seems trite and meaningless. Too many people act as though that's his job. But I have respect the agnostics you say it's presumptuous to believe a Supreme Being would care about us. They get it. The idea that God would
What do the following have in common?
• A man & woman lighting one candle
• A man & woman exchanging rings
• "Dearly beloved we gathered here in the presence of these witnesses...."
They're all part of a wedding ceremony. Middle eastern people in the Bible, from Abraham to Paul, were as acquainted with covenants as we are with weddings. The Greeks and Romans did not have covenants. In fact, when the OT was translated into Greek the first time, they had to use the Greek word for “will” or “testament” to translate the Hebrew word for covenant. Since our society was shaped by Greek and Roman cultures, we don’t know much about covenants either.
A covenant is a comprehensive agreement between two participants with clearly outlined parameters and promises; a mutual understanding between two people that voluntarily bind themselves together. Covenants could be between equal partners or between a powerful king and a weaker person.
God chose to bind himself to humanity in a covenant to express his love for us. We need to understand God’s grace in binding himself to us in a covenant so we can experience the full power of his covenant.
What is involved in a covenant ritual? And what makes God’s covenant with us so important?
I. THIRTEEN PARTS OF THE COVENANT RITUAL (OPTIONS, USUALLY NOT ALL USED AT THE SAME TIME)
A. The Exchange of Robes (sharing of identities)
B. The Exchange of Weapons (sharing of enemies)
C. The Exchange of Belts (sharing of assets and strengths)
DAVID & JONATHAN (1 Samuel 18:3-4 NIV p. 281)
And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
D. The Animal Sacrifice (visual aid for the vows)
E. "The Walk of Death" (more intense visual aid for vows)
GOD & ABRAHAM (Genesis 15:1-18 NIV p. 13)
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward."
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."
Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"
9 So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."
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. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates….”
F. The Mark on the Body / Striking of Hands (permanence of relationship)
G. The Exchange of Names (names mixed to merge identities)
GOD & ABRAHAM (Genesis 17:1-16 NIV p. 14)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."