“Does a piece of paper really matter?” Maybe you’ve heard this saying as it refers to marriage. What difference does a formal ceremony make if two people really love one another?
There is a world of difference between a commitment and a covenant. A commitment is to be dedicated to something; a covenant is to be bound together. While a covenant doesn’t necessarily intensify love, it definitely secures it. When you know that you are loved regardless of what circumstances may come your way, the feeling of love is not your security. Rather, the security comes from knowing that situations may change, but the promise and covenant does not.
The Bible uses the language of covenant to describe the relationship between God’s people and God himself. Throughout the Bible, we hear God say, “I will be your God, and you will be my people,” and this is covenant language. Like vows at a wedding, God has vowed to be bound to his people like a husband is bound to his wife.
What is hard to understand is how the Bible uses covenants. Many people have disagreed on how to understand the flow of the Bible story. However, if we see that God relates to his people by nature of a covenant, we can have the knowledge of a secure relationship with the God of the universe. Further, as the Bible story unfolds, God’s covenants progress. From creation, God calls his people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. But when sin enters the world, God begins by promising to Noah to not destroy the earth again. Then God promises to make Abraham’s descendants fruitful and cause them to multiply, giving them the promise of a land and blessing. Then God calls Israel, through Moses, to be bound to him. That if they will obey his commands and be bound to him, the Lord will make them a blessing to the world. But as Israel fails, God promises David that he will be fruitful and that his kingdom will multiply as there will be a descendant of David who will reign forever. And through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God tells his people that though they have been unfaithful, he will put a new heart in them, and give them his Spirit, so that he will be their God and they will be his people. And as Jesus sends out his disciples, he tells them to be fruitful and multiply by going and preaching the gospel.
Every covenant has a sign: a rainbow (Noah), circumcision (Abraham), the Sabbath (Israel), an everlasting king and kingdom (David), and the communion meal (the new covenant). In the same way, the sign of a marriage covenant is the exchanging of rings – a reminder of the vows made to be faithful and love one another as long as they both shall live.
And just as a covenant has a sign to remember the promises made, every covenant has blessings and curses: Adam could eat of any tree, but to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would result in death; Abraham would bless the world, but he must walk before the Lord (Gen. 17:1, 14); Israel would experience blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience (Deut. 28). And David’s descendants would flourish if they obeyed but be disciplined if they sinned (2 Sam. 7:14).
All the covenants, however, were pointing to the promised One – Jesus. The One who would take the blow of judgment and bring about the new creation, the One who would be a blessing to the entire world, the One who would perfectly obey the Law, the One who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And by trusting in his sacrifice, what you experience is his unconditional forgiveness and unwavering promise to be your God, to keep you, and to change your heart to love him forever.
Covenants aren’t just a piece of paper. They’re the foundation for a life lived with security, hope, love, and a future. God is for you – and this is a covenantal truth for all those who are in Christ Jesus!
So rest in the very promises of God to you, and follow him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength!
Secure in his love,