VIDEO PRESENTATION – PROLOGUE
(see written transcript below)
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Lesson Transcript: “Introduction to Covenant”
I want to begin our study together by sharing with you three interconnected little stories that, I think, will help us better understand both the meaning and the power of the word “covenant.”
“A Tale of Two Courtrooms”…
It was a joyful, tearful day–and a very big day for us–when, not so long ago, my wife and I, our son and daughter-in-law, and our three, soon to be, beautiful granddaughters—Destiny, Jewel, and Kahana—along with a few other precious family members and some close friends, were due to appear in family court before a judge in Honolulu, Hawai’i. This was the day we had all been waiting for; the day that the adoption was to be finalized and these three beautiful children would become ours, forever. But as we sat in the atrium area, waiting to be summoned into the court room, my head was spinning with memories of another such day, years earlier, when my wife and I, and a precious little girl named Rachel, entered a similar courtroom in California.
Rachel was only two years old at the time. Her mother had been killed in a terrible auto accident. Rachel had been in the car with her, but she somehow miraculously survived with only minor injuries. At her grandmothers request, Rachel had been placed in our care and had been living with us for about 7 months. Of course, we had fallen madly in love with this little girl and had made it our intention to try to adopt her.
And this was the course that we were pursuing as we entered the courtroom that morning with Rachel in our arms, hope in our hearts, and a prayer on our lips. But we departed that courthouse an hour or so later in tears, with no Rachel; and our hope completely shattered. That morning some strange people, who we had never before seen, appeared in the courtroom. We were informed by the court that a man had emerged from the shadows claiming to be Rachel’s biological father; and the state mandated blood-tests indicated that, well, he was. So, because the adoption was not yet finalized–we had no formal, binding, legal covenant in place–his desire to take custody of Rachel was all that was necessary for her to be taken from our arms and handed over to him.
So, we went back home to face an empty room filled with Rachel’s toys, Rachel’s clothes, Rachel’s empty bed–but no Rachel. I remember running out into the woods behind our house and weeping before my God that afternoon. I had only one pressing question raging in my broken heart—“Why?” Why, after all the hard work and effort, after all the sacrifice and commitment, after all the prayers that had been offered up–not only by us, but by people all over the State of California; in fact, people all over the southwestern United States had been praying for our family, and for little Rachel. But, still, God said “no!”
But, back to Honolulu – “today would be different,” I told myself. Today, these three beautiful little girls would become forever ours. Still, I couldn’t help constantly looking over my shoulder, surveying the atrium, eyeing all the people there and wondering who these people sitting all around us really were. Were we in for another surprise of some sort? Well, after what felt like hours, it was our turn to go before the judge and, I’ve got to tell you, I was more than a little relieved to see that we were not followed into the courtroom by any strangers that we could not account for.
Well, after reviewing all the paperwork provided by the state social worker, the judge proceeded to question us as to our understanding of the situation and the intent of our hearts. You see because, “covenant” always begins right there–with the intent, or intentions, of one’s heart. So, the judge asked my son and daughter-in-law several questions regarding their desire to adopt the girls, making sure that they completely understood the ramifications and possible consequences of their commitment. He also queried each of the girls, allowing them to express their feelings about the matter; which I thought was very beautiful. And then, surprisingly, he even turned to me, the ole granddad standing against the wall in the back of the courtroom, and asked me to comment on my feelings and my understanding of the obligations I was taking on as a grandparent. I remember the judge asking me what would occur should—God forbid—something tragic happen to my son and daughter-in-law. That judge wanted to make sure that my heart and my home would always be open to the girls. Well, it was all very emotional, very beautiful, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.
Anyway, after seeing that all the paperwork was in order, and having satisfied himself as to the intent of our hearts–seeing our conviction as a family to make this thing work no matter what challenges may assail us–the judge pounded his gavel and pronounced the adoption finalized. That day, that very moment, we entered into a formal, legal, binding, and beautiful covenant with one another. We became “family,” in every sense of the word that very moment. And we are family now not by blood, but by covenant; and nothing will ever change that.
I want you to see and understand that, the court proceedings that we participated in that day were the inauguration of our covenant. Our covenant became legitimate, legal, and binding when it was formally and legally recognized in a court of law. The adoption papers, certified by the State of Hawai‘i, became the tokens–a perpetual legal witness–to our covenant; always there to remind us of, and to declare to the world, our life-long commitments to one another as family.
A covenant is defined as:
…a formal, solemn, and binding agreement: a compact,” or “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.(Covenant, 2013)
Well, words get used in different ways in different contexts, don’t they? And this word, like so many other words in the English language, is not always used in precisely the same ways it has been used down through history. But what we want and need to comprehend is how the beauty and power of this word, “covenant,” is presented to us in the Bible. You see, while a covenant is founded upon promises–every covenant begins with a promise, the declarations the intentions of one’s heart–it is much more than a promise. It is much more than a mere agreement. It is even much more than a contract drawn up between two parties; as the term is sometimes used in the business world today. You see, at least in the Biblical sense, a covenant was something that literally bound two hearts, two parties, together as one. And, though selfish, immoral people in the world around us tend to spurn and belittle the concept–just as they do God and every other beautiful, precious, and spiritual thing around them–in the Biblical usage of the word, a covenant is absolute, it is binding, and it simply cannot be broken except under the direst of circumstances; and not without incurring severe consequences.
“A Tale of Two Lovers”…
Yes, this one is all about me and my sweetie. So, when Ne’ and I fell in love with one another, many years ago, we knew that we wanted to make our relationship permanent. That was the intention of our hearts. So, on one bright and beautiful morning in May, just as the sun was coming up over the distant mountain ridge, my bride made her way down the pathway as I played on my guitar and sang to her a favorite love song. And there, amid my grandfather’s roses, with the roosters crowing in the background, and surrounded by a hand full of people who loved us, we declared the intentions of our hearts and made promises to one another.
But these were more than simple promises whispered between to lovers; these promises were sealed with vows to keep them “till death do us part!” There was also an officially licensed state representative present–in this case, our local minister–who performed the ceremony and who furnished legal and binding paperwork that had to be duly signed by the appropriate witnesses. It was all very solemn, very beautiful. We are now husband and wife, family, not by blood–everyone knows that husbands and wives are not typically blood kin–but they are family none the less, not by blood, but by the power of covenant.
For Ne’ and I, our simple little wedding ceremony was the inauguration of our covenant; that was where and when the our covenant came into effect and became legally binding. Our wedding rings–now her name tattooed on my left ring-finger–became the tokens of our covenant; along with the marriage license issued by the State of New Mexico and our yearly anniversary remembrance. These precious tokens are there to continually remind us of, and to declare to the world, the continued intentions of our hearts and our life-long commitment to one another. We, she and I, are family, and nothing will ever change that.
“A Tale of Father and Child”…
And, yes, this one involves both you and me; and I hope you can see how this story of God’s love for you, and His desire to “covenant” with you, relates to some of the ideas and concepts that have been set forth in the two previous stories.
So, anyway, you’ve become a Christian now. You understand that, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB). You also understand that a living faith goes far beyond merely believing in something. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:19-20, NASB). An authentic, living faith is active; it moves us and prompts us to respond to the will of God–to obey Him!
And so, because of your faith in Christ and what He has accomplished for you, and because you do love Him, you’ve surrendered your heart and life to God. You have “died to sin” [repentance] and you have also declared the intentions of your heart in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s teaching when he said, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). And, just like that court official of Candace Queen of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian eunuch who, when he heard the message of the Gospel, cried out, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36), you, too, have been to the water for the “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). You have expressed your faith in Christ’s life giving sacrifice by being “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “into His death” (Romans 6:2-3, NASB) “for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NASB). Trusting not in your own works, or your own obedience, or even in your own faith–we do not put our faith in the fact that we have faith–but trusting only in His saving grace, you were “buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12, NASB). Your baptism was an expression of your faith in the working of God; not in your own works!
And now you, like me, have become one of God’s children by covenant—a “covenant child.” And I want you to know that there is great power and much beauty in that fact because it means that your place, and mine, in God’s forever family is no accident. The Apostle Paul says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4, NASB).
Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44, NASB). Think about that for a moment; and think also about all the people and influences that God has used in your life to draw you to Him. God went to work on us and, over the course of our lives, He used one person then another, one experience then another, one situation after another—some tragic, to be sure, and some very joyful—to, somehow, someway, make sure we heard the beautiful story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.
So, although Jesus said, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, NASB), God knew, already, that you and I would be among those who would respond to the Gospel and answer His calling. And so, He intentionally chose you and me to become His own children; and He has made us His children by calling us into a covenant with Him.
What that means is that, because God delights in us and desires an intimate relationship with us, and has even chosen us, He has made certain promises to you and me. But He has gone far beyond merely making promises, He has also acted upon those promises by making certain provisions whereby such a relationship with Him can actually become possible. And in response, you and I by faith have intentionally reached out to claim those promises and by laying hold of those provisions and have, thereby, entered into a formal and binding relationship with Him—a covenant—and have become “God’s own possession” (I Peter 2:9, NASB).
You should know, I hope you know, that our baptism into Christ–symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, as well as our own death to self, burial with Christ into His death, and resurrection to walk in newness of life–was the inauguration of our covenant with God. For you and me, as individuals, our covenant relationship with God started right then and there. Yes, He had been working with us, calling us to Himself, in a plethora of ways down through the years but, ultimately, it was all to bring us down to that very moment in our lives–that moment of surrender, that moment we expressed our saving faith in all that God has done for us, that moment when we where formally, legally–from heaven’s viewpoint–sealed with God in covenant.
As for the tokens of our covenant, on the spiritual side of things, “The Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (I Corinthians 6:19, NASB), and on the physical side of things, the Lord’s Supper [holy communion] where in we “remember” and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:24-26 NASB)–are the God appointed tokens of our covenant relationship with God. These beautiful tokens, both spiritual and physical, continually express the intent of our hearts–our personal intentions and well as God’s intentions–to be bound together as one eternal family. But, we will talk more about these “tokens” more specifically in lessons to come.
I hope you can see how these three stories are interconnected; how they each revolve around the concept of covenant. A covenant validates the intentions of one’s heart. A covenant formally, legally, and solemnly binds two hearts together as one. A covenant creates family. A covenant grants certain rights and privileges. A covenant sustains and protects the rights of the parties involved. Without the power of covenant one has no legal recourse, no protection, no rights and is subject to the whims of the powers that be.
But there is something more that you and I share, now that we have each become a covenant child–His children by covenant. We are both now on a spiritual journey, a sojourn, a voyage of discovery, a quest for an authentic life in Christ that pleases God and brings Him glory. We seek that full and radiant life that Jesus promised when He said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NASB); the life that will one day issue into eternal life with God in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13, NASB).
I would like to believe, beloved child of God, that neither you, nor I, are interested in just following the religious doctrines and traditions of man. This quest that we are on means much more to us than that, doesn’t it? We have not surrendered our hearts and lives to the Lord just to perpetuate man-made religious hierarchies; or to allow ourselves to be used as pawns to facilitate human political and social power structures. The mission our Lord has set before us is far too important for us to settle for the artificial imitations of man. Our calling and our mission is, in fact, of eternal, heavenly significance. Therefore, we seek only those things that we know are authentic and real, those things that are of Him, those things that, as Jesus said, can only be found “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB). It is a quest for understanding, enlightenment, and for authentic Christianity as we seek to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NASB); and to discover how God’s love continues to reveal itself and play out in our hearts and lives each and every day in this, the dawn of a new, third millennium.
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