part 1 of 2
*EIGHT COVENANTS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN* are recorded and they incorporate the most vital facts in man’s relation to God throughout the history of the race. Each covenant represents a divine purpose and the majority of them constitute an absolute prediction as well as an unalterable promise as to the accomplishment of whatever God has designed. Reckoning from the time a covenant is made, it always anticipates the future and is intended to be a message of assurance to those to whom it is addressed.
The covenants of God are grouped into two classifications:
*1. THOSE THAT ARE CONDITIONAL*
A conditional covenant is one in which God’s action is made to be contingent upon some action on the part of those to whom the covenant is addressed. A conditional covenant guarantees that God will do His part with absolute certainty when the human requirements are met; it also declares with equal certainty that He will not do according to the expectation of the covenant should the human responsibility fail.
*2. THOSE THAT ARE UNCONDITIONAL*
An unconditional covenant is simply a declaration on the part of God as to what He is going to do and is made without reference to human action, purpose, or merit. This form of covenant is illustrated in Gen15:1-18. Believing fully in the promise of God concerning a seed (Gen15:6; Rom4:16-22), Abraham sought to have that promise ratified by an outward seal in action. Thus God directed in the preparation of the bodies of the animals to be used in this ratification, and though it was no doubt the custom that both parties thus entering into covenant should walk together between the pieces of the carcasses, God caused Abraham to become utterly inactive by a deep sleep while He passed through alone. Since this was an unconditional covenant in which Abraham had no responsibility, it was fitting that he should in no way appear in the ratification of the covenant. God had not said: ”So shall thy seed be, if…”; but He had said, “So shall thy seed be.”
Since all human life is lived under some qualifying conditions belonging to the covenants of God, and since every passage of Scripture draws its color to some degree from the covenant under which it belongs, the importance to the Bible student of a clear understanding of these age-characterizing, world-transforming declarations of God cannot be estimated.
The eight major covenants are:
*1. THE COVENANT WITH MAN IN EDEN* (Gen1:26-31;2:16,17).
According to this record, God entered into a conditional covenant with Adam in which life and blessing or death and cursing were made to depend on the faithfulness of Adam. Human failure followed and the terms of the covenant were executed in righteousness.
*2. THE COVENANT WITH MAN AFTER THE FALL* (Gen3:16-19)
This is an unconditional covenant in which God declares to man what his lot in life will be because of his sin. There is no appeal allowed, nor is any human responsibility involved.
*3. THE COVENANT WITH NOAH AND HIS SONS* (Gen9:1-18)
In declaring the far-reaching details concerning the course and destiny of the human family as represented in the sons of Noah, in faithfully promising that there would be no recurrence of the flood, and in establishing the authority of human government on the earth, God again entered into an unconditional covenant. However, this covenant anticipated the most minute control of all human life and destiny and could in no case be realized apart from the cooperative action of uncounted numbers of human wills; yet by the terms of this covenant God is committed to accomplish everything He has promised even to the molding and moving of the will of each individual who makes up the countless myriads of humanity who were to appear on the earth.
There is an insoluble mystery presented in every effort to reconcile the facts of divine sovereignty and human choice; but in an unconditional covenant, God is seen to be in absolute authority over all the forces of the world as well as over every thought and intent of the human heart. Yet in the outworking of the covenant no human being is conscious of divine coercion or of restraint upon his own freedom of choice. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance” (Is40:15)
*4. THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM* (Gen12:1-4;13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8)
In like manner, this covenant reaches on through all time and into eternity and involves the blessedness of all the families of the earth. It is unconditional in the most absolute sense, being set forth in seven ”I will’s” of God, and is confirmed to Isaac (Gen26:24) and to Jacob (Gen35:12). This covenant anticipates the sovereign will of God in Abraham’s personal blessing, in the everlasting mercy to Israel, and the coming of the Seed which is Christ.
*5. THE COVENANT WITH MOSES* (Exod 20:1 to 31:18)
In transmitting the three-fold law (the commandments, Exod20:1-17; the judgments, Exod21:1 to 24:11; and the ordinances, Exod24:12 to 31:18) to Israel through Moses, God entered into a conditional covenant with that nation. The terms of the law may be stated in the phrase — ”If ye will I will, and if ye will not I will not”. In Deut28:1-62, as in various portions of the Old Testament, these stipulations which condition the covenant of the law are expanded in greater detail as to their application. Though the covenant was made to depend on the faithfulness of Israel, God foretold their failure and the suffering that would follow (Deut28:63-68). History has only confirmed the divine prediction as to their failure. It should be noted that no child of God under grace is subject to this hopeless conditional covenant of law works (Rom6:14).
*6. THE COVENANT WITH ISRAEL CONCERNING THEIR LAND* (Deut30:1-10)
This unconditional covenant looks on to Israel’s final possession of the land. Nothing will hinder this blessing. Even Israel herself will be willing in the day of His power, regardless of what the modern Jew or the foe of Zionism may be saying today. Coming up out of Egypt, that nation came to Kadesh-barnea where God made it a matter of their own choice as to whether they would at that time enter the promised land. By so much He then put them upon a basis similar to that of a conditional covenant. They rebelled and were turned back into the wilderness for thirty-eight more years of wilderness wandering. Later, and without the slightest reference to any choice on the part of Israel, God took them into their land with a high hand. He did not take them in against their wills, but He so controlled their wills that they went in with songs of rejoicing. The time is coming when that nation, though scattered over all the earth, will all be regathered into their own land to possess it forever. At that time Israel will not limit God by her own choice in the matter. God will regather them with sovereign power. Nor are their wills to be coerced; for it is written that they shall enter with songs of praise, and “everlasting joy” shall be on their heads (Is35:10;51:11; 55:12;61:3,7). The heart-attitude of Israel toward God in the kingdom is also anticipated in this covenant, which attitude is fully stated under the New Covenant (Jer31:31-33). The final placing of Israel in her own land is thus assured by an unconditional covenant of God which can never be changed or broken (Jer23:8; Ez37:21-28).
…end of part 1 of 2