A (Brief) Overview of Biblical Covenant

There are many ways to categorize the different covenants of scripture. Perhaps you’ve heard of terms and phrases like the Mosaic or Davidic Covenant (references to Moses or King David), dispensations of history, or the Old vs. New Covenant. This is obviously a complicated topic in biblical studies. But the broader truth of the matter is simply this: The bible is full of promises from God to humanity.

Covenants usually have some sort of physical symbol or act to help humanity remember the importance of these divine promises. For instance, a rainbow was the symbol of God’s promise to Noah to never flood the earth again. For Abram (or Abraham), God used circumcision as a physical symbol to remind people of the covenant of being “set apart.” You might remember the stone tablets Moses received–they were tangible signs of the holy law that God granted the Israelites. And in David’s time, the temple itself was a big part of God’s covenant, with God promising a future everlasting kingdom. These physical objects and/or practices helped to remind people of God’s promise to humanity.

One thing I notice while reading the bible is that we see how God’s character is constant throughout. We see in scripture that God has always shown love, compassion, and care for the lowly and marginalized. God wants a relationship with all people. For this reason, when we connect and relate the various biblical covenants one another, we see how God is continually pursuing humanity all throughout history.

You might have a hunch as to where bible covenants lead to. Ultimately, we find God becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. Jesus not only taught us how to live, but showed us the true heart of God. And of course, Jesus died for us on the cross. It could be said that Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday was the sacrifice to end all other sacrifices. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have hope and are reunited with God. The covenant Jesus granted us was yet another renewal of God’s promise to all humanity. (And as Christians, we believe it to be the most universal and important!)

One of the beautiful things about the grand biblical covenant is that God continually reminds humanity of his promises and devotion to us. God will never leave us nor forsake us. Even during tough times of exile or idolatry, God still pursued God’s own people. And that covenant continued to grow. God promised Abraham that through his ancestors, all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-9). God promised David of a hopeful future where God’s kingdom would be enthroned forever (2 Samuel 7). And with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God continued to pursue us and grant us salvation (Hebrews 10:15-18).

We might label some covenants as “old” (for instance, we don’t follow every Mosaic law from the book of Exodus). But these covenants still show us who God is and how God never abandons us. When you reflect on biblical covenants, remember this… God is not far from you–we just have to seek the comfort and hope of Christ. God will always be there for you.

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