In the last article on Covenants, I mentioned some of the major covenants in the Bible known as blood covenants. There are covenants between nations, clans, husband and wife and between God and mankind. Divine Covenants are God initiated — such as the Blood Covenants He made with Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and Israel, David, and eventually in history, God made covenant through the life and blood of His son Jesus (Yeshua) with Israel (Jeremiah 31-32) and anyone wishing to be “grafted into” that covenant (Romans 9-11).
In the Ancient Near East, covenants between households/clans or nations are often seen as compatible to modern day treaties or contracts. But Divine Covenants are in a class of their own, the class where the initiator – God Almighty — will always remain faithful to His end of the agreement; there is no “risk” involved when entering a relationship with Him.
Covenants are never about just one individual’s salvation but rather about relationships in community. In the modern western world Biblical Covenants are viewed as, “What will God do for me?” (Will He forgive me, save me, be good to me?) Yet in the Biblical Culture, Divinely initiated covenants were acts of kindness by God toward mankind (clans or tribes or nations or even all of mankind—see Matthew 5:45 ) then out of reverence and gratitude, the receiving party is obligated to respond to the giver with the same kindness they received. Thus Israel obeyed and walked after their God and became a witness to the world of the goodness and power of God (Exodus 39:42; All Exodus).
The Hebrew word “hesed,” pronounced with a guttural-rasping “ch”—“chesed,” is a term we must understand when talking of Biblical Covenants. In English Bibles this word is often translated “loving kindness” (Exodus 34:6-7). Hesed cannot be defined with one English word, but contains at least four ideas and actions in its meaning:
1) Unmerited benevolence toward another, based on pure compassion and not obligation by the giver;
2) Once hesed is experienced-it invites-even demands reciprocity – an obligation upon the one receiving the kindness to show benevolence back to the one who gave it, (1st John 4:19);
3) “Pay it forward”—“pass it on” show benevolence/kindness to others as an extension of what was so freely given (Matthew 10:8). Hesed is the foundation of all true fellowship between God and mankind, and mankind with each other;
4) Hesed is not individualistic. It is relational, not just between God and an individual. “Hesed does not exist without community.” All the blessings (grace, mercy, forgiveness, salvation and justice) of knowing the God of the Book and being in covenant with Him rest on this one word hesed (skipmoen.com/2011/11/22/the-heart-of-the-covenant).
Dr. Tim Hegg defines hesed as it applies to God as “covenant faithfulness;” God has made a commitment to Himself that according to His own character (true, compassionate, faithful and just) He will always keep His covenant promises (Hebrews 6:13).
Genesis Chapter 1-4 is a case in point: Adam and Eve were created by God and placed in a garden that supplied all their needs. God even walked and talked with them (What would that be like?), He entered into covenant relationship with them and gave them power (to create life) and a purpose and work (guard & keep the earth).
God placed only one negative rule for them to follow: “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—and if you do you will surely die.” That was the promise, one of the terms of the covenant. You may already know the story, Adam and Eve did eat of the forbidden tree and death would soon follow just as God had promised (Genesis 4:1-6; 5:1-5).
When Adam and Eve sinned by eating fruit from the forbidden tree, both they and God knew that their relationship with each other would never be the same. Mankind had broken the wonderful covenant of life and provision they had with their Creator. And since the foundation of the earth (Revelation 13:8), God has been initiating and keeping covenants with the children of men in each generation, compassionately seeking to reestablish a close committed relationship with them. Goodness, I think we need a “Part 3.” To be continued.