Covenant: Looking More Closely
by Judy D. Gassett @Spirit-Digest.com
First article of five part study
This is the first article in a five-part study which starts with exploring covenants at the time of Abraham and will end with the sealing of the Old Covenant with the real blood of Jesus Christ spread on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, just as prophesized in Daniel 9:24. The same event initiated the New Covenant by Jesus, Himself. By journey's end I will show that Mary is proven to be immaculate, Jesus is proven to have been born of a virgin, and God the Father is proven to be a father, not neuter, or a female. Further, Although Jesus serves as a our high priest in offering Himself, His sacrifice was required to be mediated by a real Levitical priest of the Old Covenant. Finally, the 'abomination which causes desolation', spoken of in Daniel, 12:11 is likely a perversion of the sacrifice of holy Mass, and/ or the re-institution of the Jewish temple sacrifices, which I will show became an abomination to to God . This is an ambitions undertaking so let's start with discussing covenants as constructed in the Old Testament in the time of Abram.
Covenant making was honored through out the ancient world from the earliest times of civilization. It was a sacred, holy, formal agreement. Partners were bound to it for life. The closest thing we have now incorporating most of the features described below is the marriage covenant. Marriage covenants are initiated and completed within a hour or two. Our sense of timing, convenience, and reliance on marriage as a model contract leads to expectations that biblical covenants will be compact and easy to find. As revealed God's perfect timing often does not fit human expectations. Another big difference is that biblical covenant often are replete with prophecy. While the holy agreement between Abraham and God has all of the requirements listed below you must search the biblical account to put the pieces together, as I have done below.
Cutting a covenant, literally
For This series of articles, the Mosaic Covenant was the offering of goats as the blood offering for sins once a year. The Old Covenant was the offering of a first born son at the request of the covenant partner.
The making of a covenant was called 'cutting' a covenant in the ancient world because shedding of blood of the covenant makers, as well as sacrificial animals was always involved. Blood of the two covenant makers was often co-mingled and often drunk. The last act of the ritual was sharing the covenant meal of lamb, a kid, or calf. According to Manners and Customs of the Bible, eating meat daily was quite rare so the slaying and preparation of an animal for eating denotes the solemnity of the occasion. This is exactly what the Eucharist is today, sharing that covenant meal of the New Covenant, the real body and blood of Christ, "so that sins can be forgiven". I will show that in the covenants in which our God is a partner, bread is also present.
The basic steps practiced at the time of Abraham were
1. Take off the robe and give it to the partner for this means: "I am giving you myself". Recall the priestly, seamless robe of Christ stripped from Him but which He freely gave up.
2. Take off the belt and give it to the partner. The belt did not hold up the pants, it held the sword, shield and armor (bow, arrows, dagger), It represented strength, defense from threats, protection, and support. The Lord discusses His robe, belt and shield of protection and offers them to Abram in Gen. 15: "Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceedingly great reward". The Lord does not have a 'robe' so offers Himself as the robe.
3. Cut the covenant. Sacrificial animals were taken and split in half. Each half is laid on the ground and the partners stand in between the two halves, backs to each other and walk among the bloody halves in a figure eight and then stop facing each other. This symbolizes that the partners are dying to themselves and giving up the rights to their lives to begin a new walk with the covenant partner to the death. The partners are saying that if the holy covenant is broken, "God split me in half and feed me to the vultures if I break this sacred pact". Recall that Abram awoke to see a bright light (God) moving about the dead animal halves on the ground (Gen 15:17 ). God literally came down to earth and physically made a binding covenant with Abram by moving as a "furnace" among the parted animals on the ground. Prior to this Abram fights off the evil (vultures) trying to interrupt the solemn ceremony. God then puts him to sleep, possibly for his protection, or perhaps because no one is holy enough to dance with the Lord among the animal carcasses.
4. Scarification and blood shedding. The covenant makers usually scarified themselves or cut themselves and pressed the wounded flesh together. Soot might be rubbed into the wound which would serve as a visible, ever-lasting mark of the covenant. Commonly in other covenants, arms are cut and the blood from the wounds mingles signifying that the partner's lives have become one life. Scars, (Gen 17), are made upon the bodies of the partners as a permanent testimony to remind of covenant responsibilities. The scar is displayed to enemies to let him know that the covenant partner will avenge wrongs. The covenant partners were bound to protect each other's interests from that time forward. In the Abrahamic covenant, we see Abraham's and all Jewish males' circumcisions as a 'mark' and a shedding of blood which Jewish males carry down to this day. To signify the Mosaic Covenant had ended for the Jews who became Christians St. Peter is informed in a dream, circumcisions and dietary restrictions are no longer necessary for Christians (Acts 11).
5. Give the terms of the covenant . " You shall have the land from the Nile to the Euphrates, you shall be the father of nations. You will father kings and a great multitude. Your seed will be my people and I will be their God. All nations on earth will be blessed through you. You will have great abundance and will live to an old age. I will protect you forever. Blessed are those that bless you, and cursed are those that curse you"(Gen 17). God continued to utter this last particular term down through the ancient pages of the Old Testament to this day. Hitler slaughtered 6 million Jews. Now, Israel is a nation of 7 plus million, a force among nations and one to be reckoned with.
6. The covenant partners plant a tree marked with blood, or sometimes painted/ sprinkled a tree with their blood as a lasting memorial (along with the scar). The tree then is a visible a memorial of the covenant and a universal sign to nations of the sacred oath and protection. I can only think of one place where God planted a tree after the Eden..some 3,000 years later when the Old Covenant was ended...and the New Covenant began. And yes, this tree became a universal symbol of God's promise to Adam before Abraham and through him a blessing for ALL nations.
7. Names are exchanged
and new ones may be given. New names given
are both a prophecy and blessing for Abraham and Sarah
The new names were usually a recombination of the existing given names. Abram and Sarai both received new names, Abraham and Sarah, meaning, "father of many nations" and "princess" by the addition of the breath sound, 'Hey', the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, to their names.
The fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands for breath because it is the sound of respiration made when it is pronounced. It is also the letter which means blessing. Rabbinic tradition holds that God took the Hey letters from His name YHWH, to make the new names and in so doing blessed Abram and Sarai. So the changing of the names of these very first patriarchs became both a prophecy and a blessing.. God's name was changed to "The God of Abraham". In the New Covenant our names are changed to "Christian". Note also, to this day, names are changed in marriage covenants with the new name added to the old one.
8. Finally, the covenant meal.
In the olden days, covenants were sealed by having a meal together with the covenant partner. This exactly what the Eucharistic meal is, but of the New Covenant, with many stunning metaphors and pointers in the Old Testament customs and rituals.
When God appeared with two angels the overjoyed Abraham had a meal prepared with meat. The Lord tells Abraham that his wife of 90 years will be with child within a year.. The partners then ate a memorial meal in which unleavened bread is mentioned . In the Old Covenant, three heavenly beings, including God, Himself, feasted in Abraham's tent to declare that Abraham would have an heir within a year.
Please note that Moses, who wrote the account of the covenantal meal in Genesis, takes care to mention that the bread had to be made in haste. Therefore it was likely served as unleavened. Abraham does not say to the three strange men at his tent that he will serve them meat to be strengthened, but a "morsel of bread to comfort their hearts" (Gen. 18:5). I think it is amazing that the Lord personally came down to earth for the formal covenant meal with His partner, Abraham. This is the last time we see God the Father on earth. So our Creator, Himself, is dining on unleavened bread. There are various animals which are acceptable for a covenantal meal, but bread is bread. And it was probably unleavened as the account states that Abraham rushed to Sarah and told her to hurry and make the bread on the hearth (not in the oven). Genesis 18:7,8.
To further emphasize that this is a covenantal meal, rabbinic tradition holds that Abraham is "sore" after circumcising himself, but yet runs on a hot day to greet the 3 strangers who have come into his camp. Abraham cut has himself as a sign of the covenant with the Lord. At that time the Lord promises him a baby boy within a year but delays cutting himself on the cross at Mt. Moriah at which time the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began.
A new way to look at the Eucharist
In the New Covenant, at the Last Supper, Christ announces that He, Himself, is the bread which will be literally broken, "so sins can be forgiven". One stunning tidbit seemingly unnoticed by theologians such as Brian Petrie, in his new book, the The Christian Roots of the Eucharist, is that God, Himself, reclines in Abraham's tent and EATS bread fulfilling requirements for the covenantal meal which "refreshes" everyone..(See Gen 18). This critical element is overlooked in The Christian Roots of the Eucharist. The unleavened bread is the unifying element of the shared Old and New Covenantal meal. The bread of promise and life-long commitment is present on the table before the covenanting parties way before anyone suspected. Think that this is ridiculous? Jesus, Himself, knows the importance of the covenantal meal (Eucharist) of the New Covenant, and exempts Himself from partaking while the covenant is open and operating until the elect and the fruits that they have borne are gathered with Him at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
Abraham's obligation under the covenant with the Lord
Covenant partners understood that they must aid each other including offering their first born. Thus, Abram was required to offer Isaac if the Lord requested it. Abraham was tested as no other man until Christ. The sacrifice of Isaac years later was Abraham's just obligation under the covenant. Isaac was thought to be around 30 years old at the time of the sacrifice. Journeying to the place where God wanted Isaac to be sacrificed is described in Genesis 22:4, "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off". The "third day" means 3,000 years time. Abraham sacrificed his son 3,000 years before God sacrificed His. "Abraham Lifted his eyes and saw the place far off": This usage of "saw" in this biblical context always means seeing into the future. Abraham saw that this place would be one of profound sacrifice, not only his, but for future generations. Notice how both sons carried the wood for the immolations
Parallel with God the Father's sacrifice on Calvary, Abraham, the father of the Jews, attempted to slay Isaac on Nisan 14th, the same date that the Passover was required to be celebrated and that Christ initiated the New Covenant and sealed up the Old Covenant, literally with his blood, to the astonishment of all.
Homosexuality seem specifically excluded from the promise to Abraham of a son and heir?
The covenantal meal was enjoyed with God, Himself, and an heir promised on a day when the next act was to finalize the plan for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This may be a spiritual underscoring of God's repeated repudiation of the sin of homosexuality down through the pages of the Bible, to the next to the last book in the New Testament. Jude 1:7: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire".
To drive home the point, God permits a debate with His covenant partner. Abraham does not try to talk the Lord out of the destruction but makes sure that no righteous perish in it. A community of 20,000-50,000 men and not one righteous person, save nephew, Lot? What does this say about the enormity of the sin of homosexuality?
The astute reader should note the extraordinary emphasis made by this scenario. No single sin is more condemned in the Bible more. Homosexuality is no ordinary sin because it destroys communities, incapacitates nations and arrests civilizations. The Lord came to complete His covenant with Abraham and then on that very same day He completes final plans to wipe out two homosexual communities. This reminds His covenant partner who will be multiplied into the myriads, that sexual pleasure is holy, God-given, and is the fountainhead of the Jewish race, the messianic line, and is not to be perverted or abused.
The next article will describe the ancient Jewish rituals of sin offerings under the Old Covenant and the special way blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat to atone for sins once a year.
Manners and Customs of the Bible (Basic information on how covenants were made in the time of Abraham. Interpretations are my own). This link takes you to Amazon.com.
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