Theme: The Power of Covenant

Text: 2 Samuel 23:1—5; Hebrews 6:13-20

Introduction: Covenant is so crucial in Christianity that affects everybody and everything we hold true about our faith and future.You would have never been saved without covenant. Similarly, you have no claims to blessings without covenant. You would still be dead in your sin, and bound by Satan had it not been for covenant. Thank God for Covenant!!

What is Covenant?

– First, Covenant is more than what you and myself know in legal terms as CONTRACT.

– Covenant is a special spiritual agreement in a class of itself with physical and spiritual implications. Eg. Gen. 2:16,17; 3:4-19 –demonstrate just how tough it could be for covenant breakers (Curse…leading to death). When Adam and Eve broke their covenant, as a consequence there was physical sufferings and death, and spiritual death as well- Relationship with God was broken. Christian Marriage is the same, because it involves vow before God.

– Covenant is God’s natural initiative and response to human wellbeing, needs, problems, and predicaments. It is based solely on God’s love but according to His grace and wisdom, and includes His mercies, compassion, favour, blessings and justice.

a. Because of His love, grace, mercies, compassion, favour,

b. Examples: Gen 9:1-17 (Noah); Gen. 15:18 (Abraham);Gen 28:13-22 (Jacob); Psalm 89:3, 28, 34 ( David); ‘Jacob I love, Esau I hate..’ John 3:16 blessings and justice, He makes solemn promise with every intent to fulfil promise.

– Christian marriages are perfect examples of Covenant. Make no mistake, Christian marriage is never a CONTRACT, it is more than that. Obviously many now enter into marriage as a contract because they want so-called security upon divorce so that they can share properties.

– As a Covenant, true Christian marriage is founded on a solid foundation of life-time commitment to begin with. And that’s why God categorically states, “I hate divorce”.

Few Truths about Covenant that makes so solid: it involves

1. Condescending (Webster: to descend to a less formal or dignified level : b : to waive the privileges of rank.) Phil. 2:5-11 –Our Lord Jesus Christ is our greatest example when it comes to condescending.

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It doesn’t make one inferior, it only shows one is human). A very unique form of condescending that recognizes who one is and does not abuse their power or position but rather use it to help others. – Romans 12: 15-19  – what has Romans got to do with Covenant—well, covenant has to do with relationship and this text tell us how to relate to others who may not be exactly like us.

15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.  16Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 

One of the things condescension recognises is that, Covenant is never a CONTRACT. We can never condescend in Contract, because Contracts says ‘hold our fort; fight, defend, and stand your grounds’! You are the most important person here, advance your interest and nothing else. Push for yourself, and get all you can at all cost. Bluntly put, Contract has no conscience and if any at all, then it is the terms of the contract already agreed which all must stick to! On the other hand, Condescension is an art of good conscience putting others before oneself. It is the apt use of ones freedom to exercise their conscience in  seeking its own interest but only if others best interests are been faithfully served as well. There’s something of mutual benefits to both parties, but the one who is condescending is really making that sacrifice of a sort to serve the interest of the other. However, the condescender interest is meanly served when the interest of the other is truly served.

 A perfect picture and illustration of this kind of condescension that serves other’s interest before theirs is John the Baptist. In responds to the Jews and leaders asking if he were the Christ, he said, ( John 3:28-30) 28Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30He must increase, but I must decrease. Also Galatians 4:19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you

2.  Covenant involves freedom. Unlike contract with it inflexible legal obligations which infringe on one freedom, covenant is actually the freedom for one to exercise their rights responsibly with tangible and intangible rewards. There’s always a benefit for following through on covenant. Whereas contract could be unfairly one-sided and lopsided or unbalanced simply tailored to make you meet an obligation, covenant on the other hand involves your free choice and the free use of your will to bring benefit to others or in certain cases to serve mutual benefits.

So, those who are eager about maintaining their freedom in relationships, ie marriage, covenant is the way forward, and indeed Christianity is the right way for those seeking loving relationship with God but in the bounds of true freedom.

3. Covenant is about Commitment. In covenant one makes a commitment to fulfil the covenant, and this is all based on trust, like ‘I swear I will do it’ as we Christian had under the Old Covenant. However, under the New Covenant which is in Christ Jesus and ratified by His Blood, our commitment is sealed by ‘yes’ or ‘no’; ‘I will or I will not; I do or I do not.’

James 5:12, But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

2 Corinthians 1:17-20, 17When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?  18But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.  19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.  20For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Romans 15:2 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

Now because our Christian covenant requires commitment and this commitment now requires just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it therefore calls for  something every  Christian must have, INTEGRITY.

The question is can I trust you enough to deliver on your promises? Well, if you are a person of integrity, then I can trust you, and if you do stand by your integrity, you will try to delivery on your promises all the time except it were became humanly impossible which is obviously understandable. But, when it comes to our relationship with God, the Lord is never going to require anything of us which He has not first and foremost made us able to do. Our God is Just and will not require more than we can bear:

1 Corithians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Isaiah 43:2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

4. Covenant Seeks and Protects the Interest of Others

This is one of the unwritten rules that governs people in covenant, for covenant to be real covenant, those concerned must champion and protect the interests of those in covenant with them. The reason being that covenant works and stands only when the principle of true partnership is at its core. Rivalry, selfishness and antagonism which is normally associated with contract has no place in covenant, but rather self-sacrifice for the good of the other is encouraged.

When we consider Christian marriages in biblical cultures and other similar cultures like in Africa and the West were the woman is to be loved and cared for among other things, the man is assumed to be the ‘stronger vessel’ and the ‘woman the weaker’. (1 Peter 1:3) Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Obviously the term ‘weaker’ is used in no derogative sense, as women being subservient to men, but it’s just about roles and responsibilities in the marriage. It meanly deals with one’s inner heart condition and disposition in relationship, and toward the other as regards respect for one another. 1 Pet. 3:4-6 4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:  6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

After all, if women are ‘weaker’ then men are ‘weak’. Of course, only the Lord Jesus Christ is strong on our behalf in all things including the issues of covenant.

But, the point of our analogy is normally the man (the weak vessel) proposes to marry the lady (weaker vessel) of his dream. The man condescends to the lady, so to speak. The principle of ‘condescending in covenant takes over the moment he decides to take the lady in marriage, and he vows to love, protect and to provide for his wife. Similarly, the wife reciprocates by loving her husband, reverencing and respecting him at all levels.

Ephesians 5:22-25, 33 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Colossians 3:18-19 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

We realize Sara was comfortable in according her husband Abraham, Lord (1pet 3:6) no doubt a sign of her love, respect and affection for her husband. That did not take away anything from Sara but instead it became something to be lauded by Scripture and which wives and younger ladies are encouraged to emulate. When Queen Vashti refused to honor but showed disrespect to her husband Ahasuerus the king of Persia, the king’s wise men advised that the behaviour of Vashti would send wrong signal across the provinces and would offer bad examples for other ladies who looked up to her. Because of Vashti, the wise men were afraid wives and ladies within their provinces would begin to despise and dishonour their husbands, a behviour which irrevocably lead to other things including family anarchy and collapse. Here’s the wise men remark according to Esther 1:17 –22  17For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.  18Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.  19If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.  20And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.  21And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:  22For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.

Further in the Book of Esther, right after Vashti’s despicable choice to dishonour her husband, something discouraged within the entire Kingdom, another lady called Esther takes her place as the Queen. Vashti chose to dishonour her husband, but Esther chose to honour her husband and the results are vastly different. Esther, although a foreigner finds great favour with her husband the King, and was able to save all people who were under threat of annihilation. We learn here that,  Honour protects and promotes but Dishonour demotes and disgraces.

The lives and stories of Sara, Esther, and Vashti only confirms this one truth, that it is safer acting in line with covenant principles. In addition, violating the principles of covenant and breaking covenant hurts all involved. One who stays within the bounds of covenant is praised like Sara and indeed worth emulating.

Ruth, Oprah and Naomi

The book of Ruth no doubt does a brilliant work with covenant, especially our present discussion on seeking and protecting the interest of covenant brokers.

Ruth 1:16-18 reads: 16And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.

The more one sees the issues of covenant the more one appreciates the level of personal sacrifice and selflessness it entails as opposed to selfishness. The more we discussion covenant the more we appreciate the art of marriage from a relational point of view. Because in marriage, we want to seek the best interest of our husbands or wives above our own, which is in contrast to the way contract work. Contract says, ‘it’s all about my rights, and I will fight and defend it as much as I want’.

The Lady, Ruth who was the daughter-in-law of  Naomi teaches us a great deal of what we already know about covenant, especially the element of personal sacrifice and seeking the interest of others. Ruth is not deterred that her interest may not be served leaving her own country to follow her widow and now childless mother-in-law to Israel. Ruth’s husband died and her father-in-law died also in Moab, Ruth’s country. She’s survived only by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, Orpah whose husband had also died and shares similar plight of uncertain future with Ruth.  But compared to Orpah, Ruth’s decision is radical she covenants to go and stay with her mother-in-law in Israel no matter the consequence to herself. She offers no pre-conditions or enters no contractor agreement regarding a back-up plan just in case things don’t turn out right. She vows to always love, serve, honour and follow her Naomi come-what-may, even to death. And then she seals it all by insisting, please do not counsel me otherwise, Naomi. Truly Ruth’s love and commitment goes beyond just ordinary admiration for Naomi. She remains ever determined to commit to Naomi’s best interests, her welfare and wellbeing.

In the end, because of Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi, God Almighty, the God of Naomi and Israel blessed Ruth who is not an Israelite with a wonderful husband. She is also blessed with a beautiful child of God, who has a prophetic future to be in the lineage of the David the great King and the promised Messiah. It’s so easy and natural to be blessed once you abide faithful in covenant (Deut. 28). And ofcourse the Psalmist also declares, (Psalm 41:1- 3) 1Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.  2The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.  3The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness. It is the same as doing the work of God for the love of it and not for selfish gains or promotions, you will be blessed even if no one recognizes your effort and sacrifices.

Whereas Ruth because of her personal sacrifice to remain faithful in covenant to look after Naomi, a poor widow, we will keep reading about her and her life will continue to serve many others as long as the earth remains. She literally immortalised herself, so to speak, and she is mention many times elsewhere in Scripture whenever the genealogy of Israel is recounted. But, Orpah is looked in just the first chapter of Ruth. The last we hear of her is her kissing her mother-in-law goodbye.

So, while Ruth is a shinning light for how to relate in covenant, Orpah represents all that is not right, selfish ambition, flickering commitment, lack of compassion, and not willing to delay personal gratification. Orpah may have easily joined Naomi if she had promised on contract that ‘I will get you another husband, a son of mine or a close relative whom I am sure will be willing to take you in right away’.   Probably if Naomi had assured Orpah that I certainly have some rich relatives who have will look after them, Orpah would have made the journey to Israel. But Naomi, is so opened and transparent regarding the uncertainties that lie ahead and promises no future for herself or her two daughters-in-law. So, Orpah was only very grateful to turn back and enjoy the security of her own country, and all Naomi gets is a decent kiss and a nice cuddle for Ruth.

When we Break Covenant

Obviously covenant involves two or more parties, but when it comes to our Christian faith, our covenant surround our relationship with God, our Father. He loves us and seeks our good always and as a result breaks His heart when we turn away from Him or the very mechanism He in agreement with us puts in place for our own protection and prosperity. Any loving father must get disappointed if his child consistently violets and breaks his promises especially if this father has done everything to help his son to keep his promises. The question of trust, commitment and responsibility, and I may add respect/ reverence for his father’s own feelings and person ensue right away. Hence, in as much as the father loves his child, he will not always be so pleased with his son for continuously reneging on his promises. Same is true even for our marriages.

Isaiah 24:4-20

4 The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; The haughty people of the earth languish.  The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, And those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
And few men are left. 7 The new wine fails, the vine languishes, All the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends,  The joy of the harp ceases. 9 They shall not drink wine with a song; Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The city of confusion is broken down; Every house is shut up, so that none may go in. 1 There is a cry for wine in the streets, All joy is darkened, The mirth of the land is gone. 12 In the city desolation is left,  And the gate is stricken with destruction. 3 When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, It shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, Like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done. 14 They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; For the majesty of the LORD They shall cry aloud from the sea.        15 Therefore glorify the LORD in the dawning light, The name of the LORD God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. 16 From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: “ Glory to the righteous!”  But I said, “I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously, Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.” 17 Fear and the pit and the snare  Are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth. 18 And it shall be That he who flees from the noise of the fear Shall fall into the pit, And he who comes up from the midst of the pit Shall be caught in the snare; For the windows from on high are open, And the foundations of the earth are shaken.
19 The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly.  20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, And shall totter like a hut; Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, And it will fall, and not rise again.

The preceding texts say exactly what happens when we failed to follow through on our covenants. They do not necessarily come as punishment from God but the sad outcome of failing to avoid what could have been avoided through simple obedience and not using our freedom in the wrong way. It is paramount to understand what God is doing in covenant, that is basically saving us from our selves, the consequence of our own actions and inactions because of our sin nature. So that the covenant we have with God is in actual fact a ‘safety valve’, a ‘sign posting’, and a safety net to keep us from eminent and potential pitfalls, dangers and perils which our own sinful nature have introduced to stop us from being and coming the best that God wants for us. So, the problem is sin and ofcourse satan who is looking for one to devour. Hence it is really in our own interest to keep covenant with God for our own protection, provision and prosperity. We simply can not help ourselves in that sin has made us weak, blind and susceptible to fall and destruction. But in Covenant with the One who alone is Greater, Stronger, loving and caring, and also wisely using our freedom to follow up on the covenant, we are safe always.

Exodus 19:4-6

4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Whereas covenant keepers are always blessed, covenant breakers are under a curse. The rationale is simple, the truncation under covenant is about trust, truth, commitment and responsibility that involve as well a degree of sacrifice. Because covenant involves emotions and feelings, often breaking it brings along disappointments and hurt, and guilt and breaking of trust…etc. With disappointment and heart-break curse is almost always activated owing to natural law of cause and effect????

Cursed and not blessed

Galatians 3:10-11

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”

Cursed Blessings

Malachi 2

1And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.  3Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.  4And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.  5My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.  6The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.  7For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.  8But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.  9Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.  10Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?  11Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a trange god.  12The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.  13And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.  14Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.  15And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.  16For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.  17Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

The Power of Covenant

Galatians 3:17-25 – the curse is broken

Colossian 2:  – Hand writing of requirements blocked out

Romans 8 – that the blessing of Abraham comes upon the gentiles.  Sons of God. Co-heirs of Christ, and heirs of God.

Requirements of Covenant (in relations to God) not a kind of pay-me-back what you owe

  1. gratitude (appreciating His Sacrifice) Psalm 103:1-5
  2. reverence (Worship)
  3. Obedience (‘Ye are my friends if you do my commandments’. The Lord Jesus says His yoke is not difficult nor His commandments grievous. Best of all, it rather helps us to not take things for granted. His commandments (Deut 28) are sign postings to help us get to the promised blessing (Purchased Possession) without falling into traps of the enemies along the way.