Pt. 2 - Covenant
In our constant search and longing for a miracle we often overlook what is the pinnacle of all the creative miracles. The intricacies and precision that was required to perform this miracle is mind boggling. It is breathtaking. It continues to confound and elude the scientific minds of our most brilliant. David recognized the incredible handiwork of God in creating man's body. His recognition is captured in Psalms 139:13-14. He examines his own physical body and declared. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Some of us just need to have this revelation. God fearfully and wonderfully made us . . . even when we fail to match up to Hollywierd's unrealistic scale/standard of perfection. God miraculously formed us and He did so by establishing biological systems that carry out specific functions. These systems are necessary for everyday living. Our physical body survives by maintaining or restoring its internal environment.
The body is constructed so perfectly that when God needed an illustration of how the entity that He sent and sacrificed His only Son to establish the church He resorted to the body as the visual representative. And exactly like our physical body our spiritual body consists of individuals and relationships carrying out specific functions! (SLIDE 2) Our survival depends on our ability to maintain and at times restore our internal environment.
Paul taught us in Romans 12:5-6 that, "In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t." Then in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it."
1 Corinthians 12:25 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t.
So in our attempt to continue to confront and combat the principality of isolation that is so deadly and disruptive in the body's ability to function we have talked about being connected. Our survival and significance is directly tied to our connectedness. We need each other.
So let's go one step further because although it is possible to be attached at a surface level and settle for acquaintance deep. However, that level doesn't allow us to function properly. Our connection must move beyond surface and our connection must become covenant. In the following weeks we will talk about carrying/comforting and confronting one another, which are all part of the body's function, but that will never be possible until we enter a deep covenant relationship with one another. David goes so far as to declare in Psalm 92, when talking about the righteous, in verse 13 that, "planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God." Did you catch it? Our ability to flourish is connected to our plantedness. I believe our lack of plantedness is directly attributable to our lack of covenant. We can't be fruited because we aren't rooted. Surface level connection never equals planted. In this day without covenant every wind and wave drives us to something else. I believe We have confused relationships of convenience with those that are covenant. Therefore, what happens is that we avoid or abandon covenant relationships for convenient relationships that we can enter and exit at will with no accountability or responsibility. Then we get confused and sometimes even angry when we expect to reap the fruit of covenant relationships when we haven't paid the high cost of covenant.
Covenant can be explored throughout Scripture. God made covenant with man (Noah - rainbow, Abraham - changes name, etc.). Man made covenant with man.
The making of a covenant was serious business. It was the strongest bond known to men, and had both business and personal applications that extended even to the descendants of the two parties involved. A covenant was typically solemnized by great ceremony and ritual.
One such ceremony we see in Scripture required several animals to be cut in half and arranged along a path. Their purpose was to symbolize the penalty for breaking the covenant - death. The two men entering into a covenant relationship walked between and around the animal parts in a figure eight. (An eight on its side is the symbol for infinity.) This was to show that they understood and accepted the penalty and that the agreement committed them forever.
So covenant was marked by some type of ceremony and contained up to 7 steps.
1. Each man handed his outer garment to the other.
2. Exchanging sword, bow, and other weapons.
3. They each cut themselves in the wrist to make their blood flow and then joined their right hands and forearms together in a gesture from which we get the modern handshake.
4. They let the cut heal in such a way as to leave a visible scar on their wrist.
5. They shared a ceremonial meal, usually of bread and wine.
6. Still another way was for each to take a portion of the other’s name, similar to the way the bride takes the name of the groom in Western culture.
7. And finally they built a monument or memorial to the ceremony.
We are going to focus on one particular account which contained the first 2 of these steps and although we are not told they acted out steps 3 and 4 the way they operated after the covenant let's us know they understood the implications of those steps.
TEXT: 1 Samuel 18:1-4
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 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.
If we are going to function as a body then we must also enter covenant relationship withe one another. We must, at the very minimum, enter the type of relationship David and Jonathan had. Knowing that if we enter that relationship our life and the lives of our children is dependent upon our faithfulness to carry out the covenant.
David and Jonathan's actions reveal the fruit of covenant:
When David and Jonathan hand their outer garment to each other it symbolized that everything belonging to one also belonged to the other. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. You say that isn't even possible in church. Really? All you have to do is turn to Acts 2:44-45 and you see it in action. "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need." And then a caveat is thrown in in verse 47. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Maybe we don't see verse 47 today because our relationships are so shallow that we have replaced verse 44-45 with selfishness! If we are going to function properly we have got loosen the grip on stuff and invest into each other! Remember one of the marks of Kingdom Climate is sharing. We must become sensitive to the need around us. I am not talking about big organized giving opportunities although we have those. I am talking about being so connected that we see need on a daily basis and the covenant demands a response. The fact that we have the ability to turn our head and our attention simply reveals that we have failed to make covenant.
B. Place and Protection
They exchanged robes, sword, bow, and other weapons. They even went so far as to exchange belt (one version says girdle - I like the visual image of belt better).
The exchange of robe speaks to place. When Jonathan disrobed and handed David his kingly robes and took in their place David's shepherd's robe there was a transfer of place. Jonathan literally preferred David over himself. He honored David above himself. There was no jealousy. No struggle for dominance. No jockeying for prominence. Preference. Sounds like New Testament to me.
The exchange of weapons speaks to protection. They were pledging themselves to the other’s defense; placing his power, as it were, at the other’s disposal. Noticed what they exchanged. The sword which is a close range weapon. I won't use my words to strike you. I will not speak evil of you. I won't cut you when we are close to one another. The bow is a long range weapon. I won't strike you at a distance. When you aren't around I will look out for you. My conversation at distance will be the same we had when you could hear me. I won't keep you at arm's length. The belt protected the lower body from a blow. We need folks that will protect one another from low blows. If we are in covenant, you will watch for me and defend me when I am not around. You won't allow cheap shots. You won't allow sneak attacks. We exchange strengths and weaknesses! My enemy is your enemy and your enemy is my enemy. Your friend has access to me just because of you. My friend has credibility with you because of me. Think about that connects us! We build bridges for one another and we build guards for one another. I don't have to have fear about being stabbed in the back. I don't have to question your motives!
Jonathan took this so seriously that he chose David over his own father. Because of covenant David was more family than family.
James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." "Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed." We want the healing but we aren't comfortable with confession! I think that is because we can't come to the place where we confess our sins to one another if we are not in covenant. Why would I share my darkest moments if I don't have a level of covenant that says you won't use that information against me? My confession without covenant can lead to my destruction! However, the devastating truth is that our lack of covenant has led to lack of healing! So here is the equation . . . Covenant + Confession = Healing. Or in the negative No Covenant = No Confession = No Healing.
One of the signs of covenant is that two individuals would cut themselves on the wrist to make their blood flow and then joined their right hands and forearms together in a gesture from which we get the modern handshake. The idea here was that the blood from one was now mixed with the blood from the other. The two had become one. They are “blood brothers”! The Hebrew word translated covenant comes from a root that means to cut. Covenant isn't easy and usually will involve pain. But the fruit is worth it! Then they would often allow the cut heal in such a way as to leave a visible scar on their wrist. This was to alert people that they were stronger than they appeared to be, since others stood behind them pledged to their defense.
I am here to tell you that if we can get in covenant we will be healed. One of the powerful benefits is that our scars will no longer be a source of embarrassment or a sign of weakness. Instead our scars will be a powerful testimony that we have found relationships that produce healing. That will make our scars attractive rather than off putting. People are looking for a place where their wounds can heal and what they have gone through binds us together rather than divides us. A place where broken, hurt, bruised people who have gone through divorce, ailments, bankruptcy, jail, addiction are knit together and the wound becomes a badge of brotherhood! Our scars show we stayed together through difficult times and we not only survived we have healed! Who do you have in your life that isn't ashamed of your scars but celebrates them?
We must graduate to covenant. If we are going to function properly as a body, then you can't be at peace if I am at war. You can't revel in excess while I wallow in lack. You can't relax behind tower and moat and watch me fight for my life in hand to hand combat.
I don't expect you to be in covenant with everyone in this body. However, if I am in covenant with Taurrie and he is in covenant with you then his friends are my friends. Therefore, if he helps I help. If he defends, I defend. If he attacks, I attack. In other words, I just need you to make covenant with one. Because if we can get you in covenant with one, then we are all eventually connected. Our issue is that too many of us are in covenant with no one. You share a row but you don't share needs, victories, or enemies.
We can not continue to complain about what we tolerate. I hear a lot of complaint about not being connected. In order for us to beak out of isolation we must be willing to pay the price and endure the pain necessary to find covenant relationships. Our survival depends on our ability to maintain and at times restore our internal environment.