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Saturday, July 28, 2018

“Covenants and Christ…”

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul's Anglican Church
June 17. 2018

Genesis 9:14-15  “And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:  15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

Today’s Old Testament reading deals with the aftermath of the Great Flood.  We hear God telling Noah and his family to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” It is time to re-populate the Earth.  Additionally, we see the first instance of man’s mastery over the animal kingdom.  Man shall rule the animals, and they shall provide food for him, as well as the plants God has made. It was an unfortunate result of the Fall that we must kill to eat, but so it is. Sin always has consequences.

An interesting point about this passage is that we begin to see the Mosaic Law start to take shape, in rudimentary form. Man is told to refrain from eating meat with the animal’s blood in it, which is the beginning of the Kosher food laws. Also, we hear the first of behavioral law for man, as God tells Noah that he who kills man will also be killed of man.  It is a sin to kill another man, because he is made in the image of God. Surely we hear echoes of “an eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” here, as the Law would be later given to the Jewish people.

The main point of this passage comes in the giving of the covenantal sign to Noah. The sign of the covenant between God and man is the rainbow, the sign of which indicates that God promised never to bring water upon the earth again, to the extent of the Great Flood.

God deals with us in terms of covenant, which is a solemn agreement between two parties.  Even modern contracts often use the word “covenant” to express such an agreement or understanding. 

We know God is the Great Ruler over all things. Another word for absolute ruler is “suzerain”, or King of Kings. In such manner, God’s covenants reflect the great Suzerainty Treaties of the ancient Near East.  Once a suzerain had established his power over a region, either by conquest, or by offering a treaty, several common features appeared.  Using the acrostic THEOS:
Transcendance:          This was the statement(s) stating the power, majesty and glory of the suzerain.
Hierarchy:                   The authority and makeup of dealing with the suzerain
Ethics:                         The stipulations of the covenant or law (or code) was laid out.  This was the body of the law.
Oath:                           A statement of blessings and cursings that would follow from
                                    keeping the covenant or breaking it.
Succession:                 The succession section indicated how the covenant was to be kept for ensuing generations and by whom.

The first covenant was the Adamic. This was the first covenant made between God and His Adam.  God gave Adam dominion over the earth, to subdue it and use it. Also, God provided a garden for Adam and Eve for a dwelling.  He had one commandment, that he not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This first covenant was based on obedience to this commandment.  In return, Adam and Eve would enjoy life in the Garden forever.

The sign of the covenant was the Sabbath, because the Lord God rested on the seventh day from his labors.

Noahic  This was the second covenant made between God and man.  God found a righteous man, Noah, and made a covenant with him. God commanded that Noah build an ark and gather into it all species of life, thus to be saved from the ensuing flood.  The basis of this covenant was grace.  God would preserve Noah, his family, as in Genesis 9:1:
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.“ 

The principle sign of this covenant was the rainbow, a sign that God would never again destroy the earth by water.
Abrahamic.  The third covenant with man was with Abraham, whom God accounted faithful and righteous.  The basis of the covenant was promissory, that, in return for Abraham’s faithfulness, God would bless Abraham, as in Genesis 22:17:
“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; “ 

The sign of the covenant was male circumcision.

Synatic or Mosaic. The fourth covenant God made with man was Synatic or Mosaic. The basis of this covenant between God and the Jewish nation was obligatory.  The people were to keep the Law because they were a holy, blessed and saved nation unto God. The covenant was primarily expressed in the Ten Commandments and extrapolated throughout the book of Deuteronomy. 

The principle sign of this covenant was the Passover.

Davidic. The next covenant God made with His People was the Davidic. This was expressed in the kingship of David. The basis of the covenant was promissory; the promised blessing being a continuation of David’s line on the throne for succeeding generations.

The principle sign of the covenant was the throne.

Universal or New. The last covenant made with God and His People is universal, extending from the Jews to all mankind through Jesus Christ.  This is the Renewed (or New Covenant), in the Greek called Kainos.  The basis for this covenant is both obligatory and promissory, for through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ and keeping of His Commandments, we are promised eternal life.

The principle signs of the New Covenant are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 
Covenants are God’s way of dealing with mankind. We in Christ’s Church are blessed to be covered by the final, complete, and covenant of Jesus Christ.

To Him be honor, glory, power, and dominion, world without end.


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