Psalm 103:1-6 (ESV) – 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Who is the psalmist talking to?
What is the psalmist talking about?
What is a covenant?
A covenant is a bond between two parties that creates kinship and that is sealed by swearing an oath.
- A bond between two parties
- Creates kinship
- Sealed by swearing an oath
Covenant and Contract Distinguished
[Unless otherwise indicated, quotes derived from: Scott Hahn, “Covenant,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).]
- Contracts are initiated by exchanging promises. [Breached contracts cost money or time in jail]
- Covenants are initiated by swearing oaths. [Broken oaths cost blood]
- Contracts are about the exchange of property [e.g. money for products delivered or services rendered] (e.g. “this is yours, that is mine”)
- Covenants are about the exchange of lives ( e.g. “I am yours, you are mine”), “which covers a virtually unlimited range of human relations and duties.”
- “contracts are based on profit and self-interest”
- “covenants call for self-giving loyalty and sacrificial love.”
- “Contracts are temporary”
- “Covenant bonds are permanent, even intergenerational”
Cutting A Covenant: A Cultural Background
Role of Covenants in the Ancient World
God’s Covenant with Israel
The Language of Covenant and Its Symbols
- The Jewish idiom “for making a covenant is literally to “cut a covenant,” using the verb כָרַת (kārat, “cut”).”
- Genesis 15:7-21
- Hosea 10:4
- Jeremiah 34:13
- The idiom of “‘cutting a covenant’”. . . “probably refers to the cutting ceremony that accompanied the making of a covenant agreement Scott Hahn, “Covenant,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).], the practice of sacrificing an animal to ratify the covenant (Jer 34:17–21).
- “In Jeremiah 34:18, the cutting of the animal is used as a symbol of what will happen to those who broke the agreement. “[Michael R. Jones, “Covenant,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).]
- Jeremiah 34:18 (ESV) – 18 And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts
- Once you understand the nature of covenants, you also understand how personally invested God is in keeping His promises to us.
- God initiates a covenant to give Abram assurance of His promise: Genesis 15:7–10 (ESV) – 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. [probably due to their size]
- God elaborates on His promise to and doubles down on its certainty: Genesis 15:13–16 (ESV) – 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
- God takes personal responsibility for the covenant: Genesis 15:17–19 (ESV) – 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
The covenant is a point of reference to help us remember the validity of God’s promises.
Stop thinking, talking and acting like someone who has no covenant with God.
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2023