Covenant or testament, a more popular term in the Bible, is a very important word in the life of a Christian. Whether we realize it or not, this word has the meaning of salvation and redemption for those who believe in Jesus Christ. But unfortunately, this word is only known to differentiate the two major parts of the Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
If only the Bible was written in today’s modern world, the word covenant would be better understood if it was written as a contract or agreement or even probably legal. Because these words are used so often on a daily basis in modern life, they are understood better (without the need to explain at length) by so many people as a legal contractual agreement that both parties must obey legally. If someone violates it, that side will be in trouble with the law, not just only with the other party.
A contract is a legally binding document between at least two parties that defines and governs the rights and duties of the parties to an agreement. A contract is legally enforceable because it meets the requirements and approval of the law. Read more.
Just imagine if the Old Testament is called the Old Contract or the Old Legal and the New Testament is called the New Contract or the New Legal. Indeed, people will surely wonder what contract or legal is there? Who made this legal? What are the requirements, what binds its legality? And many other things, of course. But what is clear is that everyone will quickly understand that the Old and New Testaments are not just a collection of books that make up the Christian Bible.
The New Testament, or New Contract, is not simply a collection of the 27 books from the Gospel of Matthew to the book of Revelation that makes up the second half of the Bible. But it is an Agreement that God legalized it for us with the shedding of His blood on the Cross. These 27 books tell us: how its history, how it happened, and what it means to us plus so many other things about this New Contract including how we should live afterward.
This New Contract does not erase the Old Testament, but fulfilled and completed it for us. Our part in this new one is to repent of our old life and believe in Him, have faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” Luke 3:10, ESV.
Repent and be baptized, God will forgive your sins. Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, TB (New Translation, Indonesia).
That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16, ESV.
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rome 6:23, ESV.
A Renewed Contract
The death of the Lord Jesus on the cross was the shed of blood that legalized this New Contract (or New Covenant). For… without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22b. The shed blood of Jesus, our Lord, is the legal entity that ratifies and validates this New Contract. A Renewable Contract, as I titled this section above. I call it this way that because it has existed before actually since the beginning in the Old Testament, the Old Contract.
Since the beginning, when God built a relationship with mankind, He always binds that relationship with a contract, so-called a covenant in the Bible term. And the contract He made is always validated with blood to become a legal contract! Yes, a blood covenant!
Genesis 3:15, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” When Adam sinned, God gave a promise that brought hope to him (and to all his descendants later) that there would be a Man, a descendant of Adam (his seed or offspring), who would crush the head of the deceiver or Satan even though Satan would also crush Man’s heel. This is the first promise of a coming Messiah.
This promise was sealed with the blood of a sacrificed animal and its skin was used by the Lord God later in Genesis 3:21 to make clothes or covering for Adam and Eve. God put this animal skin on Adam and Eve with the blood which was still on its skin, covering their backs and most of their bodies. This is what is believed in the Jewish tradition of what happened by that time. Adam and Eve understood that this was God’s first legal contract, His first covenant with humans, with them. A first contract that was sealed with animal blood, a blood covenant that covered their sins.
God’s covenant is progressive, step by step God would make it clearer to us. In the next generation, when Noah came out of the ark into the dried land after the flood began to recede, he built an altar to the LORD; He took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar, Genesis 8:20. He slaughtered animals, he performed a ritual sacrifice as mentioned in the book of Leviticus chapter 1. Even though he lived long before the time of Moses. He understood that his relationship with God had to be sealed with blood. The blood of an animal that was offered as a burnt offering.
As a result, when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. Genesis 8:21. This was God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants.
Genesis 12 tells us about God’s promise and call to Abraham. Verses 1-3 says, now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Verse 4 shows us that Abraham then left Haran for the land of Canaan. When he arrived there, to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh (verse 6), he built an altar to the Lord there, who appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring, I will give this land” (verse 7). He also built his second altar between Bethel and Ai in verse 8.
Amorites Binding Contract
Interestingly in Genesis 15, when God repeated His promise to Abraham, there are verses 9 to 12 which tell how God took the human way of that day to convince Abraham that He would fulfill His words. Verse 6 shows us that Abram believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. He believed in God who promised him that his servant Eliezer (verse 2) would not be his heir, but your very own son shall be your heir. (verse 4). When God continued with His promise (verse 7), Abram asked for a sign (verse 8). He asked this because in the previous chapter, Genesis 14, he had just given up his very own rights (verse 23) as the one who should have owned the land of Canaan (the area of Sodom and Gomorrah). He just recently defeated King Chedorlaomer and his allies (verse 15) who conquered the 5 kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (verses 8-10).
Genesis 15:9-12, He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.
What God did to Abraham in Genesis 15:9-12 is what the Hittites (the Amorites, Genesis 14:13) customary would do when they entered into an agreement or contract between them. Yes, for sure in that era there was no government legal seal or a legal notary that would ratify a 2-party agreement. So what they did was to take a few animals to split or cut in half and then the two parties who promised each other should walk in between them. It was as if they were saying to each other if I fail to fulfill this agreement I may be slaughtered like these animals. It sounds scary, but that’s the legal agreement of the people of that era. A blood contract.
When God and Abraham were supposed to walk among these split beasts, Abraham fell asleep (verse 12), he slept like being hypnotized. And only God walked between them in verse 17, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. It was as if God was saying to Abraham, if I fail, you can cut me into 2 like these cut animals. Of course, Abraham could not cut God into 2 as he was only a human. But this action showed Abraham that God was really sincere in His words, in His promises, so that He wanted to come down to humble himself like a man of that age who made a contract in between them. Covenant in Hebrew word means to cut in 2.
Later in Genesis 17, God repeated His promise to Abraham again. He started this chapter with verse 1 to instruct Abraham, walk before me, and be blameless. Yes, Abram failed to keep his part in continuing to trust God when he bowed to the pressure of his wife Sarai, Genesis 16. And fortunately, Abraham fell asleep in Genesis 15:12, otherwise he would have died being cut in half by God.
What happens in Genesis 17 is that this agreement must be made in the terms and conditions of God, no longer according to the way humans make the agreement. As Abraham failed in Genesis 16, the first contract (Genesis 15) needs to be renewed in Genesis 17. Verses 4 in Indonesian translation, it said from My end, this is My covenant with you. From God’s side, He promises that Abram shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” What a promise God made to Abraham.
Reading chapter 17 of the book of Genesis is like reading a legal contract letter from a notary where there is a first party and a second party. Verses 9-14, from your side, your end, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. We can not imagine the look on Abraham’s face listening to this, he had to cut off his own foreskin of his own genital! He did this to himself later in verse 24. To take part in this contract with God, he himself now, had to bleed! Not just with a knife that cut only into the palm of his hand until the blood dripped out, but to cut out his own foreskin. An act that would not only cause a man excruciating pain (no medical sedation by that time yet) but also would leave Abraham’s entire camp vulnerable to enemy attack in the next few weeks. Yes, because all the males that day were circumcised with Abraham, Genesis 17:27.
Miraculously, no one dared to attack Abraham at that time. Though perhaps the whole area heard the screams of the men from Abraham’s camp for the next few days. If only the king of Sodom wanted to conquer Abraham with his 318 soldiers (Genesis 14:14), this would be the right time. Wasn’t he trying to exchange his wealth for Abraham’s power? Genesis 14:21. Simeon and Levi used the same tactic against the Hittites in Genesis 34 when they took a grudge against the rape of Dinah (sister of Jacob’s 12 children) by Shechem, son of Hamor, the Hittites, king of the land.
This time God made a covenant with Abraham, and it is a blood covenant again!