Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Covenant

I mentioned yesterday that I sat in on a class on Abraham's Covenant with God. Actually it was a video, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing (40 minutes-ish with really poor audio to start, but gets better a couple minutes in). A disclaimer up front: I'm a naturally heady guy. I'm left-brained and I have to challenge myself during my Bible study that it is about becoming more Christ-like and building a deeper relationship with God than it is about finding something new. But when I learn something new, my wheels won't stop turning. So this post may not be your cup of tea, but bear with me. I'll try not to go a whole 40 minutes!

What was first pointed out was how this covenant, found in Genesis 15, followed the same format of common covenant/treaties at the time: the suzerain (sovereign)/vassal (servant) covenant. First, the sovereign is introduced (v 1, 7), then the servant (this actually is skipped and I'll explain why in a second), then the conditions of the covenant (v 5) with blessings and curses (v 13-16), then an animal is sacrificed and split in two (v 9-10). Next, the sovereign and servant pass between the animal carcases to seal the covenant with an oath by saying something along the lines of, "if I do not uphold this covenant, may what happened to this animal happen to me." Of course this happens in front of witnesses. But here's where Abraham's story diverges. Abraham falls into a deep sleep (v 12) and it is God himself who passes between the sacrificed animals (v 17) and Abraham was the witness. In other words, it is God's responsibility to uphold his covenant with Abraham, not Abraham's. Also, these treaties were recorded and referenced every year or so to remind everyone of their duties. Here, the recording and reminder shows up in Genesis 17 in circumcision. Instead of being written down and read as a reminder, this covenant left a physical mark so that the reminder was constant. I speculate the reason for circumcision is that the covenant is specifically related to Abraham's seed and therefore for all future generations.

Ok, so that's nice. But what does this have to do with the theme of this blog carnival? Well, we see the same structure in the New Covenant with Jesus. Jesus made this covenant with his disciples at the Last Supper. There wasn't a need for introductions and the disciples themselves were the witnesses. Blood was spilled (Luke 22:20) as Jesus himself was the sacrifice. But where is the circumcision? In Colossians 2, Paul writes, "In [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." (v 11-12) And like with Abraham, this New Covenant is for "you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:39). As for the reminder, we go back to the Lord's Supper: "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19)

Like I said, stuff like this gets my wheels turning. In this case, I'm in awe of how complete and consistent God's word is. I'm also challenged by the common Christian practice of downplaying either the Lord's Supper or baptism, when both are necessary parts of our New Covenant with Jesus. Hope you learned something, I sure did (and watch the video and you'll learn even more!).

5 comments:

Helen said...

True that the Covenant between us and God needs to be remembered.

Peter P said...

It annoys the pants off of me that people downplay communion and baptism.

Thanks for the reminder, Frank!

Bridget Chumbley said...

As for the reminder, we go back to the Lord's Supper: "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19)

I love this reminder... thanks, Frank!

Fatha Frank said...

@ Bridget: I was tempted to just post that scripture with the comment, "nuff said." But that was before this lesson. Glad y'all liked!

Bernadette Pabon said...

We must continue to come to the table of our Lord, for we must be fed continually in order to grow and follow Him, we cannot do it alone.