The Bible is a book of Covenants. As such, covenant terminology is threaded all the way through its pages, from Genesis to Revelation. This study will help us understand the language of Covenant and open our eyes to a deeper revelation of what the Scriptures say about this vital area of doctrine and life.
Our covenant with God through Christ is the very basis of our faith. He has committed Himself with absolute loyalty to ensure that all that was lost in Adam is now restored to us in Christ, and that nothing and no one can prevent this from happening. The means to accomplish this phenomenal act of grace is through the Blood Covenant. We will be exploring the implications of this for the believer in the next two sessions.
What is Covenant?
A Covenant is “an indivisible, unlimited, contract, binding literally forever those covenanted.”
Covenant is the deepest relationship that any two human beings can enter into. It is stronger than any familial connection.
- A solemn agreement that is binding on all parties
- A commitment of loyalty
- A blood covenant is a totally binding commitment even unto death.
The word “covenant” comes from “con”, together, and “venio”, I come. The word signifies and agreement, a meeting, a coming together of two or more parties.
In our case, the parties are frail humanity, and God Himself.
Unfortunately, in our Western mind set, the deep implications and solemnity of covenant in blood has been replaced with contracts in ink (that are jokingly made to “be broken”). In this study we will seek to open the covenantal language and nature of God’s Word, and realise together that the Bible truly is above all else a Book of Covenant in the truest sense of the Word.
Kenneth Copeland says in the notes for His series of teachings on covenant:
“To seize the real meaning of the word covenant, you need more than just a definition. You need a revelation from Almighty God. The definition will only tell you what a covenant is. A revelation will cause you to stand steadfast against the devil when he comes to destroy you. The mere definition does not have the power to uphold you against the storms of life.” Covenant made by blood, Kenneth Copeland
The primary Hebrew and Greek words used to describe Covenant in the Scriptures are:
Strongs #1285. ber-eeth´; from 1262 (in the sense of cutting (like 1254)); a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh):—confederacy, (con-)feder(-ate), covenant, league. The cut where blood flows.
Strongs #1242. diatheke, dee-ath-ay´-kay; from 1303; properly, a disposition, i.e. (specially) a contract (especially a devisory will): — covenant, testament.
The writers and early readers of the Bible understood with stark clarity the meaning and language of Covenant. Words of God throughout the Scriptures such as “lovingkindness” (steadfast love), “friend”, and “remember” needed no interpretation as to their real significance. These are covenant terms, and far removed from many of the sentimental implications we place upon them today.
From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden we witness covenants being made (and unfortunately broken by mankind), and throughout all of the great redemptive history of Scripture we thankfully also witness God’s unwavering commitment to His agreements.
The idea of Covenant was born in the heart of God, and as such are designed to impact the entire being; spirit, soul and body, affecting a lasting remembrance. It is impossible to enter into a true covenant without being deeply aware of what one is entering into.
God’s intention in using Covenant (and in particular Blood Covenant) is to engage mankind at the very root of their life and personality – beyond weak, reasonable and civilised agreements – reaching to the very heart core of our humanity, the living essence of who and what we are as human beings.
The importance and significance of what it means to make Covenant with someone cannot be over emphasized.
Peter Wilks, in his study ‘Covenant of Blood’ says of Blood Covenant:
“There are many forms of covenant, but this is the most sacred of them all. It is regarded as the intermingling of lives, and nothing can transcend it. It forms a union, a tie that cannot be dissolved. In marriage divorce is possible, not so in the covenant of blood.”
Throughout all of ancient history the powerful reality, mystery and life-giving power of blood has been recognised, and blood covenants feature in every culture as the strongest and most binding of all agreements. A Covenant made in Blood has always been looked upon as something holy, unbreakable and all-powerful.
The Bible makes it very clear that Blood represents life. When blood is used in the cutting of a Covenant, the overwhelming awareness is that this agreement, this contract and ‘friendship’, involves life itself and, if necessary, death.
“And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.” (Leviticus 17:10–14 KJV)
Those who entered into such an agreement did not do so lightly. They recognised without question the gravity of the commitment they were entering into. Covenant practices, described later in this section of the notes, further seared this reality on the hearts and imaginations of those entering into a Blood Covenant.
This awareness of the significance of blood is something that resides in the heart of mankind, whether Bible believers or not, and history is full of stories of blood covenant and its power.
A very interesting example of how seriously a Covenant was adhered to is found in the Book of Joshua.
Joshua and the Gibeonites
In Joshua chapter 9, we find the Gibeonites deceiving Joshua into making a covenant with them. They knew that, once made, it could not be broken (Josh. 9:3-27).
In fact, the Gibeonites knew that to honour a covenant was paramount, and even called upon their new covenant partners to fight for them (Joshua 10). Joshua did not hesitate to act on their behalf. Were the Gibeonites deserving of Joshua’s help? Possibly not, but the Covenant demanded loyalty.
The Lord Himself is also shown to be party to such covenants, and will do all He can to honour them. In the time of David, the Lord brought a famine on the land as a result of Saul breaking this very same covenant with the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1-3).
Another example from history is told of Henry Stanley and David Livingstone in their missionary work in Africa:
The Stanley Covenant By Fred Handschumacher
“The following story is from the exploits of two famous British missionary/explorers named Stanley and Livingstone who travelled the continent of Africa from the late 1800’s and early 1900. The story is actually about Stanley. It illustrates how a blood covenant can heal even a hopelessly hostile situation. Whether we realize it or not, a “hostile” situation existed between man and God. In the Garden of Eden man rebelled against God’s revealed will. Where a love relationship once existed—eternal death, judgment and division took its place. God’s response to this unacceptable situation was to cut a blood covenant that would end forever the enmity and would bring eternal reconciliation between Himself and the human race.
Stanley set out on his missionary journey to Africa with no idea of the circumstances he would face and the strange customs he would encounter. Upon entering Africa, he ran into trouble with different African tribes. One Chief in particular was very determined that he should leave and not return. Stanley had a guide and advisor during his travels. Being familiar with the customs, this guide suggested that Stanley make a “blood covenant” with the Chief. This involved a ceremony where incisions were made on the wrists of both men. Drops of blood from each man was mixed in some kind of drink (either wine or goats milk) and both drank from the cup. They then clasped hands as in a handshake allowing the blood from the wounds on their wrists to mix together. Drinking the wine mingled with the two bloods and the handshake symbolized the two men becoming one blood, one life, one new man. A substance was applied to the wounds that left an indelible mark where the cut was made. Wherever these men went they bore the “mark of the covenant.” At this point, these two men were considered “blood brothers.” The ceremony concluded with an exchanging of gifts where each gave the other something of great value. What the Chief wanted from Stanley was the goat he owned. As he had a stomach disorder, Stanley needed the milk from this goat and didn’t want to give it up. The guide persuaded Stanley that it would be wise to give up this goat. In exchange, the Chief gave Stanley his spear that had a large copper coil near the head. Stanley thought to himself, “Great! I give up my only source of food and relief and all I get is this spear!”
At that time, Stanley didn’t know that this Chief was the head of the most powerful tribe in all of Africa—and this man was now his blood brother. He soon discovered that everywhere he went in Africa that spear was recognized as “the” symbol of authority. Whole tribes would literally bow their knee to it. That spear was the key that opened up the whole continent of Africa! Any tribe that chose to stand against Stanley knew they had to deal with this Chief, Stanley’s blood brother.
Stanley and Livingstone stated that to their knowledge a blood covenant was never broken on the continent of Africa. To break a blood covenant made you a condemned man. A broken blood covenant caused your own family to hunt you down and kill you. The thing I find interesting in this story is reconciliation. These two men start out as being enemies. The blood covenant turned them into committed friends.”
As one entered Covenant in this manner, the overwhelming consciousness was that the lives of the two parties were being forever intermingled – that they were becoming one flesh and one spirit together – an inter-union of natures.
This understanding and the implications of it for us as Blood Covenant partners of Almighty God are significant indeed.
Why did God make a Covenant with mankind?
First we need to understand that God made Covenant within His own counsel, between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is referred to in Scripture as ‘the Everlasting Covenant’. As part of this Covenant, which pre-empts all others, and encompasses all others, the ‘Lamb of God’ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). In one sense, Jesus blood was shed for the remission of sins before even one atom of this created universe existed.
Because Blood Covenant is so intimately tied with and represents ‘life’, it was this and this alone that could break the power of ‘death’ which was the awful result of man’s sin.
The Scriptures describe how blood is essential for the purifying and cleansing of sin.
“[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.” (Hebrews 9:22 AMP)
Covenant, and particularly the New Covenant in Christ, was the means to offer the only life and blood that could ever possibly realise a lasting removal of sin’s power, and of death’s grip on mankind. What could never be accomplished through the blood of an animal, or even the blood of another sinful human being, God accomplished once for all through the sacrifice of His Son:
“Nor did He [enter into the heavenly sanctuary to] offer Himself regularly again and again, as the high priest enters the [Holy of] Holies every year with blood not his own. For then would He often have had to suffer [over and over again] since the foundation of the world. But as it now is, He has once for all at the consummation and close of the ages appeared to put away and abolish sin by His sacrifice [of Himself].” (Hebrews 9:25–26 AMP)
It is this love that is the pillar and power of the Covenant.
The “Chesed” (Hased) of God
Chesed (Strongs #2617. kheh´-sed) is most often translated loving-kindness; steadfast-love; merciful (kindness), mercy, pity, love or grace.
Taken together three ideas or meanings are encompassed in the word; strength, steadfastness and love.
As Bible teacher and pastor, Rod Anderson emphasises in his notes and teaching on the subject of Blood Covenant:
“Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. “Love” by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet “strength” or “steadfastness” suggests only the fulfilment of a legal or other obligation. The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But checed is not only a matter of obligation; it is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy.”
Throughout the Scriptures the word “chesed” is one of the most important in Old Testament theology. It speaks of the unfailing, unending love and loyalty of God Himself. Throughout the Old Testament the words mercy, loving-kindness and kindness are covenant terms, and it is God’s unfailing love and faithfulness that is the unbroken strand that runs through all of Israel’s Covenantal history.
An Example of covenant commitment and love: Jonathan & David
A Biblical example of ‘chesed’ and covenant at work is seen in the relationship of David and Jonathan. We find this covenant being made between the two potential rivals in 1 Samuel 18:1-4.
The extent of this commitment is noteworthy. Consider the following results of their covenant in 1 Samuel chapter 20:
Verses 12-17: The Covenant commitment is stronger than family commitment. It extends not just to the two individuals but also to their entire house and progeny. They were committed to honour one another through the generations.
A powerful demonstration of this is seen in 2 Samuel 9:1-13. David is committed to show ‘kindness’ or covenant faithfulness to the house of his covenant partner. He actually seeks out Jonathan’s remaining relative, Mephibosheth, and gives to him all of Jonathan’s inheritance, land and servants. David was desperate to find a way to express ‘chesed’, the Hebrew word translated kindness.
Of this kind of love Kenneth Copeland writes
“The mentality of this love is not just kindness. It is practically desperate to demonstrate undying loyalty no matter what happens to destroy the relationship. Even though Saul was trying to kill David and had even turned his whole house against him, David just wanted to be loyal…
David’s loyalty to Jonathan did not end when Jonathan died. This young boy (Mephibosheth) did absolutely nothing to deserve the love he received from David. David’s love was motivated by his covenant and nothing else…
When you see the depth of loyalty in a covenant relationship, you begin to understand God’s loyalty and devotion to us. His love toward us and the blessings He bestows on us are not based on our conduct. They are based strictly on His overwhelming desire to love and to give. God is in hot pursuit of us so that He can bestow His love and blessings upon us.”
Such outrageous and unreasonable love is the very motivation of our Father’s heart as He pursues us.
God “Remembers” His Covenant
It is this “chesed”, this faithfulness, this steadfast, strong love that causes God to continually “remember” His Covenant – and to act on behalf of His Covenant partners.
The Old Testament often speaks of God “remembering His Covenant” or His people, and then acting on their behalf to fulfil that Covenant.
“And I will remember my covenant…and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9:15 KJV)
“And it came to pass…that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.” (Genesis 19:29 KJV)
“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Exodus 2:24 KJV)
The promise of remembrance continues into the New Covenant. Here, not only is the promise to remember, but also to forever forget!
“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17 KJV)
Similarly, God’s people are called upon to remember their Covenant, and the One whom they are in partnership with.
Again and again throughout the Psalms and other books we hear the refrain, “remember the works of the Lord” [See Psalm 77:11-12; Psalm 143:5; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:148].
Recalling the Covenant, and meditating upon its promises, is an integral part of our lifestyle as Blood bought covenant Believers.