In our last post, we looked briefly at the Ark of the Covenant, a piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, which the ordinary Israelite never saw. Only the high priest was allowed into the compartment where the ark was kept and that only on special and very limited occasions.
The word “covenant” occurs numerous times in Scripture. What is a “covenant”? Simply put, it is an agreement between people or groups of people to do certain things, or perhaps not to do them. We might use the word “treaty.” And this covenant might be “conditional” or “unconditional”. A “conditional” covenant is an “if-then” covenant. One or both parties are required to do or not do certain things, upon which certain results depend. An “unconditional” covenant is one which does not have such requirements, but is basically a promise by one party to do something for another party regardless of what that other party does.
There are several “covenants” of both kinds in Scripture. And there is a great deal of discussion about them. It’s not our purpose here to get into that discussion. We only want to look at a couple of these covenants and then spend some time on the covenant referred in particular by the Ark of The Covenant.
The first covenant in Scripture is the one God made with Noah after the flood, the first covenant God made with men. In Genesis 9:8-11, God said,
“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (NKJV)
These verses ought to answer those who believe that the Flood was just some local affair, blown out of proportion by eager ignorance. It will soon be spring and floods will be reported all over the country. If Genesis just refers to some local event, then God lied, because there have been innumerable “floods” since then. But there has never been another universal flood.
There are those who believe that there was an earlier covenant – in the Garden of Eden. Referring to Hosea 6:7, these scholars speak of a “covenant of works” God entered into with Adam. In many versions, Hosea 6:7 says, But like Adam they transgressed the covenant. The discussion centers around the word translated “Adam.” It is also translated “man” or “men”.
Genesis 1-3 gives us the account of Adam and Eve. It clearly shows the responsibility Adam had to take care of the Garden and the one restriction which was placed on him: he could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Every other tree was made available for his use, God saying to him, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” Genesis 2:16, emphasis added. Some teach that if Adam had been obedient to God, he eventually would have entered a state where he would have been confirmed in righteousness or innocence or some such thing. The thing is, there was no restriction placed on him with regard to the tree of life. He could have gone immediately and eaten of the fruit of that tree. By doing so, he could have gained “eternal life” right away. There was no “covenant of works.” There was just his dismal failure.
The second covenant we’re interested in is found in Genesis 12:
Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out from your country.
From your family,
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;..,”
Genesis 12:1, 2a, emphases added.
In Genesis 13, we have the account of Abram’s trip from Egypt. Leaving aside the difficulties encountered because he didn’t fully obey God in this trip, we read in v. 14, And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth:..,” emphasis added.
The book of Joshua gives us the account of Israel as they began to enter that land God had promised Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob. In Joshua 1, after the death of Moses, God told his successor Joshua, “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving them – the children of Israel. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory,” vs. 2-4. This is the only “land” and its location described as being given to a particular people – Israel, and it’s repeated in different forms several times.
Granted, Israel has had a lot of ups and downs during her history, and still isn’t done with them, for that matter. If I read Scripture correctly, there is coming a time when it will finally seem that Israel has been destroyed, Zechariah 14:2. This isn’t the only such reference. But God isn’t done with her, in spite of those who teach otherwise.
Ezekiel 48:1-29, which is yet future, gives an extensive listing of the division of the land of Israel, beginning with the tribe of Dan to the north and ending with the tribe of Gad on the south. “This is the land which you shall divided by lot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions,” says the LORD GOD, v. 29.
Israel’s possession of the land doesn’t depend on her military prowess, on the agreement of other nations or groups or on political pronouncements from, say, the UN. It depends on the purpose, promise and power of God. It is His covenant with them.