Biblical Covenants Require Loyalty

In what ways did biblical covenants require loyalty?

Answer:

Through the covenant, God shows his steadfast love to us and gives us blessings and good things, but he requires, or asks, man to respond to these blessings by obeying his commands. Such obedience is through a genuine love for God. So, when the commandment says to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, it means that you must love God with all of your being, a perfect love with a perfect loyalty and dedication to the Lord in the context of the covenant. Actually, there is a close relationship between loving the Lord and obeying the Lord. That’s why Jesus, in John 14:23, said these words:

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).

Here, Jesus connects love in a direct way with obeying his commands. But Jesus didn’t stop there. Because of the great importance of this issue, he also mentioned it in a negative form. Just like mentioning it in a positive form, he mentioned it in a negative form. In verse 24, he said:

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words (John 14:24).

Therefore, love here is a voluntary act that stems from a conviction of faith from a person who is committed towards the Lord within the covenant. Man loves the Lord because he obeys the Lord, because the Lord has already shown steadfast love to him and taken the initiative in the covenant by giving him many blessings and good things. In Exodus 20, we read the Ten Commandments, and especially in the second commandment, God says these words:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).

Our Lord here connects keeping the commandments with love when he mentions “those who love me and keep my commandments,” I will show them “steadfast love.” Therefore, the commandment to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls is closely and directly related to the covenant God made with us.

Ancient Near Eastern Treaties and Biblical Covenants

How has the discovery of ancient Near Eastern treaties helped us understand biblical covenants?

Answer:

Ancient Near Eastern archaeological discoveries have helped us understand biblical covenants. The ancient Near Eastern treaties had a certain structure or form that was divided into five main parts. The first part is the introduction in which the suzerain, or the sovereign, identifies himself. He announces his name and he plainly expresses his desires in this covenant. He also literally identifies himself and clearly and explicitly declares that this treaty is his full intention, and he was not forced into it. The second part is a historical prologue in which the suzerain, or the greater leader, mentions a certain historical event where he showed his benevolence or good deed to the other party — the vassal — of the covenant. He starts by reminding the vassal, or the servant, of the benevolence he provided in history. The third part or item is that, based on the suzerain’s identity and the benevolent work that he showed over history, he now sets his stipulations or laws. The general or main condition is loyalty, exclusive allegiance — “I gave you benevolence” — and as a result, it’s expected that the vassal be fully faithful and loyal to the suzerain. Also, there are more specific and detailed written stipulations in addition to the main condition, which is loyalty and faithfulness. The fourth part, is the sanctions or consequences. If the vassal obeys the stipulations, and behaves according to them, there will be blessings and more benevolences from the suzerain. But, if he disobeys or rebels, there will be sanctions. All of these were written in much more detail in the treaty. Finally, there’s the administration of the treaty. After the treaty is made, and all these details are written down, they make two copies, one for the suzerain and the other for the vassal. Each of them puts the treaty in the sanctuary where he worships his god … to be a reminder and to add a sacred attribute to this document or agreement. Such an important document was put in their holiest place to indicate the importance of the document and how serious this agreement was and what was included in it, and that there was no way to manipulate or disrespect it.