Why Is It Important to Understand What a Covenant Is?

By: Cathy Sims; ©2010
Our God is a Covenant-keeping God. A covenant is a solemn, binding agreement. It isn’t like the contracts and commitments that most of us make – these can be broken.

Will Jesus Have the Scars in His Hands Forever? and Why Is It Important to Understand What a Covenant Is?

In order to answer these questions, we have to realize that our God is a Covenant-keeping God. A covenant is a solemn, binding agreement. It isn’t like the contracts and commitments that most of us make – these can be broken.

In order to gain an understanding of what “covenant” means, we need to look at the different aspects of a covenant. We see a covenant between two men in 1 Samuel 18:3-4:

Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.

The first thing that happened when two people entered into a covenant was to exchange robes with one another. This symbolized putting on the character of each other. Our clothes are an outward expression of who we are. Our personality comes through in our clothing (we see this in some people more than others). Paul tells us in Romans 13:14:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

And he tells us in Ephesians 4:24:

  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. When we give our life to Christ, we are in covenant with Him and we put on His robe and become holy, even as He is holy.

Jesus, as our covenant partner, put on our robe of humanity. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

The second article of clothing that they exchanged in covenant was their belts. A man’s belt held up his long robe and kept him from tripping over it when he was in a battle. It represented a man’s strength. When you submit your life to Christ, you are exchanging your strength for His. Whatever you go through, whenever you feel like you can’t go on, remember that you don’t have to operate in your own strength. Isaiah 40:29-31 reminds us:

He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength;They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

When Paul prayed three times for the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” this was His answer in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

  And he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The third act the covenant partners performed was to exchange their weapons. This symbolized taking on one another’s enemies. When you are in covenant with someone, you hold everything in common with each other – including one another’s enemies. Really think about what Romans 12:19-21 is telling us to do:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus warned His disciples about His enemy (the world) in John 15:18-19:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

After they had exchanged robes, belts and weapons, the covenant partners would cut an animal in two, lay its parts on the ground and walk through the pieces in a figure eight pattern. This was called the “walk unto death.” They would point to the dead animal and say, “God, do so to me and more if I break this covenant.” This meant that if either of them broke the covenant, it was punishable by death. That’s how binding a covenant is! This also signified that they were dying to their own rights and pleasures and living for the other person. This is what our Lord is calling us to do when each of us gives our lives to Him. This is what Jesus said in Mark 8:34:

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember the covenant that Jesus instituted. God told His people in Malachi 3:1:

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.

After the covenant, the covenant partners made a cut on their bodies (usually their wrists) and mingled their blood. They would rub something into the cut, so they would have a constant reminder of their covenant. They were now to live for the other person, they were obligated to each other forever.

Read what these passages have to say about Jesus’ scars. Isaiah 49:14-16:

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands (emphasis added).
John 20:27 Then He (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Jesus kept His scars, even in His resurrected body. So, the answer to our first question is “Yes;” Jesus will keep His scars forever as a reminder of our covenant relationship with Him.

To answer our second question – it is important to understand what a covenant is because we are in a covenant relationship with our Lord. Everything that God does for us is based on covenant. We have gone over the fact that in a covenant something has to die. We have died to ourselves and Jesus has died on the cross for us. Since we are in covenant with Him, He will share all that He has with us forever!

 Psalm 25:14 The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.

“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)

If you would like to read more about the covenants in the Bible, click on this link:

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