Tuesday: God’s Covenant People

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Peter is writing very much from an Old Testament perspective. And central to this perspective is the idea of covenant, a theme so central to Jewish and Christian theology.

What is the covenant?

Covenant with the Lord

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

“Covenant” (Hebrew, berit) is a word that describes a treaty or formal agreement between two parties. It could be made between two individuals (for example, Laban and Jacob in Genesis 31:44) or between two kings (for example, Solomon and Hiram in 1 Kings 5:12, where berit is translated as “league” in the KJV, and “treaty” in the NRSV). It could also be made between a king and his people, such as David and the elders of Israel (2 Sam. 5:3).

Prominent among these themes is the special covenant relationship that exists between God and His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham.

Read Genesis 17:1-4, Exodus 2:24, Exodus 24:3-8. What do these texts tell us about the covenant God made with Israel?

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, recounts how God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:9-21, Gen 17:1-26). God “remembered” this covenant when He rescued His people from oppression in Egypt (Exod. 2:24). God renewed it at the time of Moses, when He gave the Ten Commandments and other laws to the children of Israel (Exod. 19:1-24:8; especially Exod. 24:3-8).

But the covenant promises were not unconditional. “The Lord covenanted that if they were faithful in the observance of His requirements, He would bless them in all their increase and in all the work of their hands.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 574.

Indeed, the prophets repeatedly warned Israel of the dangers of disobedience to God’s law, often using language reminiscent of the covenant. It has been argued that with the possible exception of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, many prophecies in the Bible are conditional. That’s how central the idea of obedience is in regard to the covenant promises. The covenantal prophecies of blessing were conditional on obedience to God’s law, and prophecies of doom applied only to the disobedient.

What does it mean to you to be in a covenant relationship with God? What obligations does this covenant relationship place on you?
Amen!(2)

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