Digging into the meaning of covenant, leads to the question, what are the major covenants in the bible. I wanted to look at them with the understanding that covenant is a bond of fellowship, a bond to relationship. It is in these conditional and unconditional covenants that God displays for us his desire for our hearts, his desire for our hearts to long after him. He desires hesed, as he said in Hosea 6:6 For I desire steadfast love (Hesed) and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 

Before we jump to the five major covenants in the bible, I would like to clear up what the purpose of conditions in covenant do for covenant? Unlike a contract where conditions are agreed upon so that I can leave the contract. Conditions on covenant are designed such that inside of these conditions are where relationship grows. This becomes obvious when one observes a wedding. When the bride and groom say their vows, they are putting conditions on the covenant, and what do these conditions do? They define the covenant, they define how the relationship is supposed to work. With the marriage vows, we see till death do us part, to honor and obey, in sickness and health, etc... the vows are not ways to leave covenant, but ways to bring the covenant parties into a tighter bond of relationship.

God desires steadfast love from us, because it brings us into a tighter bond of relationship with him. His desire is for us to desire him. Jesus said that all the law and prophets hang on the greatest commandments, and those commandments are to love... God knows that if we love him, we will live life the way it was meant to be lived in relationship. Specifically in relationship with him, and with other people. So when God gives us conditions on His covenant, he is defining our relationship with him.

  • God makes five major covenants in the Bible
    1. Noah and his family.Gen 6:18; 9:9-17 through Noah God brings judgment of sin, and brings salvation by grace to the family of God and a new world free of sin and its effects.
    2. Abraham and his descendants.Gen 12:1-3; 15:18; 17:1-14; 22:16-18 Through Abraham, God brings blessing to the nations of the earth.
    3. Moses and the Israelites. Ex 3:4-10; 6:7; 19:5-6 24:8 Moses is God’s prophet who revealed the law to the people, allows God’s wrath to pass over his people because of shed blood, conquered the enemy pharaoh, redeemed the people from slavery, and journeys with them toward home despite their sin and grumbling.
    4. David and the kingdom of Israel. 2 Sam 7:8-19 Ps 89:3 David who is seated on the throne ruling as King, appointed by God. A king whose line is established for ever, and will bring peace and prosperity.
    5. The new covenant of Jesus and the church.Matt 16:17-19; 26:28; Luke 22:20

The first place we see covenant in the bible is with God an Noah (unless you are counting Adam... "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant--they were unfaithful to me there." Hosea 6:7

In Noah's time Man was desperately wicked all the time, but Noah found Grace in the eyes of God. Because of this Grace Noah was righteous and blameless in his generation. Noah preached the destruction coming, while proclaiming the means to salvation. A new life free from sin after the flood. 

If we compare Noah to Jesus we see a lot of similarities. Noah is a shadow of Jesus to come. Jesus is a greater Noah. In Jesus time men were wicked, but Jesus found favor in the eyes of God, God says "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". Jesus was righteous and blameless in every situation. Jesus preached the Gospel. Jesus came to bring life and life abundant, a life free from the bondage of sin. 

Through Noah God brings judgment of sin, and brings salvation by grace to the family of God and a new world free of sin and its effects. In Covenant with Noah God promises that man would continue living. The sign of the covenant was the rainbow, and the terms of the covenant were to not murder. However it is clear from our generation that people do not keep this covenant. In the news almost every day we could find talk of murder. It is also clear that God is still keeping his covenant with us, for man still lives. Even though man doesn't keep covenant with God, God keeps covenant with man.

God said you will prosper and multiply, man will not be destroyed, and relationship will grow, and murder will destroy all of that. He said inside of these conditions is where Life and prosperity and relationship will happen. God is a promise keeper, but more so God continually purses the beloved. 

The second major covenant in the bible is seen when God seeks and calls Abram to himself. He calls him out of the land of his father, out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, the city that mostly likely where the tower of babel was. God called Abram to follow him.

Abraham was a shadow of Jesus to come, but unlike Jesus, Abraham and Noah were not perfect, and did not fulfill covenant. Jesus is a greater Abraham, and a Jesus is a Greater Noah. Abraham was a friend of God, Jesus was the son of God. Abraham obeyed God and was willing to sacrifice his son, Jesus died as our sacrifice obeying God. Abraham cut away the foreskin as a sign of the covenant, Jesus circumcises our heart, cutting away what is keeping us from growing in relationship with God. Abraham was counted as righteous because he obeyed God, Jesus was righteous and obeyed perfectly. Abraham Mediated with God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus is always mediating for us at the right hand of God. Abraham was given a new name, through Jesus we are given a new life.

God made a couple covenants with Abraham, some conditional, and others unconditional. The unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham, was that he (Abraham) would have a son, that He (God) would give them Canaan, and he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations, and that through his (Abraham) descendant the nations would be blessed.

The conditional covenant that God made with Abraham is when circumcision happened. The sign of the covenant was circumcision, the conditions of the covenant were to be blameless, and the blessing of the covenant was as God said "I will be God to you". God was throwing the entire weight of himself into this covenant. He was implying the same thing that is implied when a man says I will be your husband. I will be everything that a husband is, God said "I will be God to you" This was huge, and I think we miss it most of the time. God says he will be our God, the creator of the universe says he will be God to us. For those of us who have responded to his invitation to be children of God. If we have confessed with our mouths, and believed in our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord.

However Abraham was not blameless, and did not fulfill covenant. God however keeps his promise, and continued to be God to him. God said inside of these conditions is where relationship will flourish.

The Third major covenant in the bible is seen with Moses and the people of Israel. God remembers his covenant he had made with Abraham, his covenant to give them the land of Canaan. God calls Moses in the desert, out of his hiding, to free His (God) people, and bring them to the promised land. Moses who had tried and failed to save his people, who feared for his life ran to the desert for safety. God is calling him to return to Egypt in order that God might fulfill covenant once again.

Moses was a shadow to come, like Abraham and Noah, but unlike Jesus, Moses Abraham and Noah were not perfect. They did not fulfill covenant. Jesus is a greater Moses, Jesus is a greater Abraham, Jesus is a Greater Noah. Jesus fully fulfilled covenant. Moses was a deliverer from slavery, from Pharaoh a false god, Jesus freed us from slavery of Sin. Moses lead the people to the promised land, Jesus is bringing us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Moses gave them the law, Jesus fulfilled the Law. Moses delivered the good news that God would deliver them, Jesus delivered and was the Gospel. Moses saw the affliction of the people, Jesus became man, and dwelt among the afflicted. Moses acted as savior under his own strength, Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit to endure the cross to save his beloved. Moses was a mediator for the the people of Israel, Jesus is the mediator for all mankind. God was with Moses, revealing to the people the truth of his words, and the truth of the promises. Jesus was God with the people, and revealed the truth of His words. Moses shed blood of a bull to cut covenant, Jesus shed his blood to fulfill covenant. Moses was used by God to fulfill covenant, God had remembered his covenant with the people, his promise to give them land. God used Moses to bring his people to the promised land, Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundant.

God through Moses expounded on his covenant he made with Abraham to the people of Israel. The sign of the covenant was the ark of the covenant, the conditions of the covenant were to keep the commandments. The blessings of the covenant were that they would be His treasured possession, a Holy nation, a kingdom of priests.

God expounded on the original covenant saying that not only will I give you the land, but if you love me, you will not experience miscarriage or still birth. He expounded on the original covenant saying that if you love me, not only will I be God to you, but you will be my treasured possession. Off all the nations of the earth I choose you. Of all the ladies I choose you to be my wife. Did the people of Israel pursue God, and keep his commandments? No they broke covenant, but God keeps his promises. God said that inside of these conditions is where relationship is free to grow. Even though the Israelites did not keep covenant God kept covenant.

The fourth major covenant we find in the bible is the covenant made with King David. God has been pursing the people of the world since the dawn of time. With Kind David we see a man who has responded to the great romance seen in God, in the pursuit of man. David a man after Gods own heart, a great king, and man of great faith having responed to Gods love for him, and loved God back. This David is the same David who broke covenant with God, the man who took a census of the people, a man who took another mans wife, and killed that man. David was a shadow of Jesus to come, but unlike Jesus, David did not fulfill covenant. Jesus is a greater David, Jesus is a Greater Moses, Jesus is a Greater Abraham, Jesus is a Greater Noah.

David was chosen by God to lead the people of Israel. Unlike Saul who the people chose, God chose David because of his heart, not because of his image. God looks at the inside but man looks at the outside. The bible says that there was nothing special physically about Jesus. However there was everything special about Jesus' heart. Jesus pursued God in everything. David had a heart after Gods, Jesus heart was Gods. David was a shepherd, Jesus is the Great Shepherd. David was king, Jesus is King of Kings. David lead the people of Israel, Jesus leads us, and is an example for us. David respected authority, and was humble to the authority even when the authority should have acknowledged his right to the thrown. Jesus said give unto cesar what is cesars. Jesus king of kings, appoints the rulers of the earth. David had his mighty men, Jesus had his disciples. David fought in the battles, Jesus won the battle.

God Made a covenant with David, one that stated his descendant would remain on the thrown. A promise that even if his son broke covenant He (God) would keep his promise to David. This covenant was made from Gods heart to Davids heart. This covenant is seen fully fulfilled in Jesus who sits on the thrown of David. This promise is seen being remembered by God as he once again reiterates it to Zerubbabel. God says to Davids descendant,

“‘On that day’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:23

God remembers his covenant with David, and speaks to Zerubbabel, he says you sit on my hand as a symbol. It is through Zerubbabel that Jesus is born. God fulfills covenant fully, not only keeping his side, but also through Jesus God fulfills our side of the covenant. Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. 

The fifth major covenant and the covenant promised to us from Jeremiah 31, is the covenant made through Jesus , the greater David, Jesus the greater Moses, Jesus the greater Abraham, Jesus the greater Noah. Jesus the fulfiller of covenant. 

There is a question asked I have heard asked. And it says, "Why did it take so long for God to give us the law?" From creation to the flood was about 1500 years. From the flood to the law was 800 years. Why did it take about 2300 years for God to give the law?

As you read the bible and you view it through the story God is revealing through the lenses of covenant you it becomes a bit clearer why it took God so long to give us the law. God has been pursing man since the dawn of time, but man has not been pursuing God. This is seen in the times of Noah when men were desperately wicked all the time. God had given them 1500 years of absolute freedom, but man did not pursue God. So God gave us a fresh start, free from a world of Sin. Man still did not pursue God. 300 years later He said if I call you out and am God to you will you pursue me. Still man does not pursue God. 400 years later God says if I give you things to do in which to pursue me will you, man still did not pursue God. 300 years later God calls chooses David to shepherd the people. 

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand Psalm 78:70-72

God says if there is someone to lead you will you pursue me, and now as soon as the leader no longer pursues God, the people no longer pursue God. God shows us through the story of history that Man does not pursue God , that God pursues man. And in the fifth Covenant God says

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31–34

God says he is the one who will fulfill covenant, He will give us a heart that desires him, he will give us the ability to pursue him. We love God because he first loved us. We love because he loves, we are faithful because he is faithful. God tells Moses ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. Exodus 31:13 It has been God plan since the before the foundations of the earth the Jesus would fulfill covenant. God tells Moses that He (God) will fulfill covenant, that He (God) would be the one to make you holy. God did not say be holy of your own power. God says I will make you Holy, and this is through the redeeming work of Jesus.

God has been revealing to us his plan to save us, and this is seen throughout history as God has continually pursed mankind in covenant relationship. The purpose of covenant was to address the problem of the human race and of the entire created order. Across the Old Testament echo the promises and relationships in the covenants that will redeem God’s people and restore God’s sin-alienated creation to himself. `

* It is important to note that covenants themselves do not solve the problem, but they do point to Jesus who does.*

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