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.

Definition of a Covenant

What is a covenant?

Answer:

A covenant is an agreement or treaty between two parties — a stronger one and a weaker one, a suzerain and a vassal, a greater and a lesser. In this agreement, the suzerain, or the master, sets stipulations for the covenant and imposes certain requirements. He commits to provide protection and offers some sort of blessings or aids to the weaker party, the vassal. On the other hand, the vassal, the weaker or the servant party, is required to offer his loyalty to the suzerain in the context of the covenant. There are also promises of more and greater blessings for faithfulness. At the same time, there are consequences for rebellion and disobedience where there will be punishment from the suzerain or the master. So, the covenant is an agreement between two parties in the form of a treaty that includes certain conditions and has consequences and sanctions in relation to the vassal’s commitment to these conditions.

God’s Promise of Natural Stability and Natural Disasters

If God promised natural stability in his covenant with Noah, why do we still experience so many natural disasters?

Answer:

God, through his covenant with Noah, promised natural stability, yet we still see some natural disasters happen in our day. To answer the question of why we still see disasters, we have to go back to the text itself. We have to return to the covenant God made with Noah. Prior to the covenant, in Genesis 8:21, when Noah came out of the ark and offered a sacrifice to the Lord, it says that:

When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done” (Genesis 8:21).

So, the Lord revealed a clear intention that he would never again strike down every living creature as he did in the flood. In chapter 9, God established his covenant with Noah, and in verses 1 and 2 it says:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered” (Genesis 9:1-2).

This mission is similar to the mission God gave to Adam and Eve, to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Therefore, God didn’t destroy all of mankind or all of the earth through the flood, so that this mission would be fulfilled. The earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and Noah and his decedents would be fruitful and produce children who would know the Lord and worship and glorify him. Within the context of the covenant, in 9:11, it says:

I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth (Genesis 9:11).

Two times here, God asserts that there will never again be a flood that destroys the earth or destroys “all flesh.” The main idea is that the earth will never again be destroyed by the waters of a flood. Finally, the Lord says:

I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh (Genesis 9:13-15).

So, three times the Lord asserts that humanity will never again be destroyed by the waters of the flood. The words here are very specific and very clear. It doesn’t promise that there will never be any other types of disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. There’s no promise that those things won’t happen. The language is very specific; there will never again be a flood that destroys the entire earth and every living creature.

Today, natural disasters still happen, but not in the same way that God accomplished his judgment in Noah’s day. We still experience earthquakes and volcanoes because all of creation is groaning from the sin and corruption that man brought on earth by his rebellion, because of the curse of sin that man brought by his transgression against the Lord. We read in Romans 8:20-23 that all of creation groans. But the time is coming when the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption, and we will never again see any sort of anger, the anger and the groaning of creation. When Christ returns, the curse will be lifted from the earth, and the earth will be restored to the beautiful and good form that the Lord created it to have in the beginning. But in the present time, we experience the manifestation of the groaning of the creation because of man’s corruption and the curse. And this doesn’t contradict God’s promise to Noah that he will never again destroy all creation by the waters of a flood.

Prophetic Office and God’s Covenant with Israel

How was the prophetic office related to the covenant God established with Israel?

Answer:

The prophetic office in the Old Testament was directly related to the covenant God established with his people… This is because the prophets were the emissaries of the covenant. In other words, they were guardians. They guarded the people’s commitment to the covenant. God sent the prophets to remind his people of the covenant he had made with them, to warn them of the danger of disobedience and the coming punishment, and to affirm for the people the promises of blessings for obedience. Their role was that they were sent from God as emissaries to make sure that the people were keeping the covenant and living a faithful and loyal life to God within the covenant.

Hosea’s Family Life and God’s Covenant with Israel

What does Hosea’s family life teach us about a prophet’s role in representing God’s covenant with Israel?

Answer:

God entered into a covenant relationship through which he took the initiative to show mercy and benevolence to his people. But, just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful and an adulteress, the people were unfaithful in their relationship with God. They were worshiping other gods and committing various sins that kindled the Lord’s wrath… Within the covenant, God had entered into a relationship in which he adopted Israel as his people, and he was their God. Through this covenant, he declared his name to Moses saying, “ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am who I am.” So God, through Hosea’s last child, was saying to Israel, “You are not my people” — “Lo-Ammi.” Moreover, he said, “I am not your God.” In Hebrew, “I am not” is the reversal of his covenant name that he declared to Moses. He was saying, “I am not,” or “not ehyeh” — “I will not be your covenant God.” Thus, Hosea’s marriage and children illustrate how God dealt with his covenant people. He declared his judgment over the people because of their sins and because they had acted contrary to the conditions of the covenant, conditions that required their loyalty in response to the covenant mercy and grace that God had initiated and shown them.