It was a sunny afternoon, somewhere between 3:15 and 3:35pm on March 5th in the year 1998. I was walking home from Queen Elizabeth Elementary on island in New Westminster known as Queensborough. I had just finished a riveting class of “colouring in the lines” in Mrs. Kosch’s grade one class. The sun was shinning with a few scattered clouds in the sky. The smell of freshly cut grass, and the sight of blooming flowers littered the journey home. Hand in hand with my beautiful mother we were engaged in such deep conversations about the show Mummies Alive and Hot Wheels.
I remember distinctly we were a block from home as I recounted a commercial I had seen on T.V about this really cool dinosaur k’nex set that you could build yourself. I was absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid and I desperately wanted that set, so I asked my mom if she would buy it for me. It took a little bit of convincing and a lot of begging and she finally gave in. She said I don’t have the money right now but I’ll buy it for you at the end of the month. Unsatisfied with a simple word I stopped us in our tracks and asked her “you promise?” She replied, “I promise.” Those were the greatest words I had ever heard in my tiny little life; a promise from the greatest woman in the world, surely the magnitude of its significance wouldn’t be lost to her.
I could think of nothing else the rest of the day. I waited patiently until the end of that month, careful not to bring it up again so as not to nag her. The weight of that promise weighed heavy on my mind, and surely it weighed as heavily on hers too. Or so I thought. The end of the month came…and went, and not a dinosaur k’nex to be found. My little heart shattered into a million pieces I made a pact with myself that day; that no matter what, if I ever uttered the words “I promise” I would be true to my word. As sad as that memory was for me it was a critical point in my life that changed the way I viewed promises. A promise to me became like a covenant. In spirit, a promise to me is like a legally binding contract.
In the Bible there are numerous instances of covenants. There are covenants people make with other people, there are covenants people make with God, and there are covenants God makes with people. In the Biblical context a covenant was considered to be a legally binding contract punishable in the judicial system if one party failed to keep their end of the covenant. While the Bible is full of many different covenants there are 5 Great Covenants made in the Bible. The first Great Covenant is the Noahic Covenant.
It’s a Partnership Not a Rulership
In Genesis 9 God promises never to flood the world again and gives the sign of a rainbow as a symbol of that promise. This first covenant was unique in that God promises something with nothing in return from our end. God promises something with no reciprocating condition required from us. But this idea of covenants was not God’s original intention for us. God doesn’t want or need anything from us for His own sake. When we make a treaty or a covenant there is a reciprocation of benefits. Both parties receive something that they could not otherwise get on their own. But God is still God without us. God is not any less God without a relationship with us. While on the other end we are absolutely nothing without some for of a connection with Him. God’s original plan wasn’t for us to need Covenants, God wanted a partnership not a rulership.
God spends 6 whole days creating space, and filling that space with celestial objects, terrestrial bodies, and all manner of living thing. Nearing the end of those things God is unsatisfied with leaving the creation as it is. He decides to create humanity. Humanity was set as the rulers over Earth, not subjected to God, but rather in partnership with the creator. Both Adam and Eve had a direct an open communion with God, a perfect partnership between God and Humanity.
This didn’t last for very long though, because as is our tendency, we didn’t want a partnership with God. We chose rather to do everything on our own instead of partnering with our creator. Lucifer came into the garden and convinced both Adam and Eve to unknowingly sacrifice everything they had in the pursuit of knowledge and what he considered freedom. He promised to make them like God knowing good and evil. The devil may offer you fame, knowledge, wealth, relationships, anything you could possibly think of at the steep price of your eternal salvation. Everything the devil offers you comes at a price to you. On the other hand God offers you blessings and eternal salvation. Everything God offers you He’s already paid for with his own life.
God wanted to give to us freely. He wanted an open and free exchange of ourselves not out of necessity, or out of responsibility, but out deep love for each other. When Jesus died on that cross for us it’s not because He needs us. It’s not because He’s morally obligated to us as His creator. It wasn’t out of necessity or responsibility. Jesus endured the cross out of pure love for you and me. The reason God entered and enters into Covenants with Humanity is not because He’s going to get something out of the bargain. It’s because His love is so powerful towards us that He wants to give us everything we had lost through Adam and Eve even after we’ve rejected a partnership with Him. So God continues to make Covenants with humanity, and makes the Second Great Biblical Covenant with Abraham.
It Goes Both Ways
In Genesis we see the idea of a partnership continue between God and humanity because the covenant God makes with Abram goes both ways. It becomes a two way street. God promises to bless Abraham, and to make him father of many nations in spite of his old age. In return Abraham’s end of the bargain was to remain faithful to God, and be the channel through which God would bless the whole world. Covenants require two parties. You can’t make a covenant with your self, that would be insane. A covenant has to be some form of give and take. God gives, and we give back.
But 1e can’t expect God to give when we refuse to let go of what he’s given us and give back. When God gives us time we give back our time to Him. When He blesses us financially we give back in our tithes and offerings to support ministry. When He blesses us with different talents and abilities we give back those talents to honour God. Every moment of every day that God is good to us, we turn back to God in praise for all the wondrous things He’s done and we continue to praise in faith for all the things we believe he’s going to do! God cannot give anymore into our hands if our hands are closed, clutching onto what he’s already given us. If we want to receive greater things we need to be willing to give back what He’s already given us.
A Nation of Promise-Breakers
Covenants 3 and 4 are the Palestinian Covenant and the Davidic Covenant. In Deuteronomy 11 God makes a covenant with Israel to grant them conquests in Canaan in exchange for keeping the law of God. In 2 Samuel 7 God promises to establish David’s kingly lineage forever in exchange for him and his descendants ruling in a godly way. Whether it was the Covenant with Abraham, Israel, David, or any other human, one thing has been constant: We are a nation of promise-breakers.
Covenant’s have always been a give and take; a two-way street. For any side of the covenant to receive a benefit from the other party they had to keep their end of the bargain. Abraham had to be faithful to God. Israel had to keep the commandments. David and his descendants had to rule in a godly way. But every single member of those covenants broke them, and broke them often. The entire Old Testament is about God calling people back into the relationship and partnership that they broke.
Paul says it in Romans, that when the mind is inhabited by sin it cannot keep the covenant of God’s law. In our sinfulness it is literally impossible to keep a promise with God. This means that every blessings, every promise, every benefit that God has ever pronounced for our lives is lost the minute we break our covenant with God. If we are a nation of promise-breakers we miss out on all the goodness of those covenants. The covenant that promises us eternal life in exchange for obedience is broken. We can’t be saved because we can’t keep the commandments. But God never wanted a brokerage; He never wanted a deal. God wanted a partnership, so He made one last Covenant.
The New Covenant
All these Old Covenants didn’t work because we couldn’t and still can’t keep our end of the promise! But God wants a partnership with us so bad that He was unsatisfied with leaving us with impossible covenants. So He set up a new plan, a new covenant, writing into our hearts and into our minds (Hebrews 8:6-13). God knew that there was no way that we could our end of the promise which was necessary for us to receive the eternal life and partnership He intended for us since the beginning so, He came as Jesus Christ.
Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, the spotless, blameless, perfect lamb, keeping every single one of God’s commandments perfectly. Jesus fulfilled for us the side of the promise we couldn’t keep. That’s insanity. That God would make a covenant with Himself, where He does all the work, but we receive all the benefits. Wrap your head around this: we can’t be saved because we can’t keep the commandments but God couldn’t leave it at that.
Jesus kept the commandments. Jesus paid the price of sin. Jesus became the mediator of the New Covenant and because He kept our promise on our behalf, now we have access to the promise of eternal partnership with God through Jesus. We can’t keep the commandments; we can’t keep the promise; we can’t be saved because we’re promise breakers; we are failures; we are broken; we are lost. But then steps in Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant. Now we can keep the commandments through Jesus! Now we can keep the promise through Jesus! Now we can be saved only through Jesus! Now we are champions through Jesus! Now we are complete and whole through Jesus! Now we are found only through the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross!
The Greatest Pinky Promise was made between God and His Son Jesus so that we could receive all the benefits. This is insanity, that God would make a covenant with Himself, put in all the work (which required His death) just so that we (a nation of promise-breakers) could reap the benefits. But to me this is Genius because I couldn’t and still can’t do it on my own. I’d never be able to keep my end of the promise. I’d never be able to earn the salvation God longs to give me, but now through Jesus salvation is already mine, and it’s already yours.
Jesus thank you for your New Covenant. Thank you that you saw my weakness and died on the cross to forgive me of my sins. Thank you for keeping my end of the promise for me so that I could reap the benefits of an eternity with you. Help me to accept your grace and your forgiveness. Help me to live a life that honours you in praise for all you’ve done for me. Amen.