Seven Keys to Unlock the Treasure of the Bible: Key Three – The Covenants

This is the third installment in a series of seven articles called, “Seven Keys to Unlock the Treasure of the Bible.” There can hardly be a greater endeavor in all of life than to do the work of unlocking the amazing treasures found in the Bible, God’s word. These keys are critical to help us do just that. They bring the real and deep understanding of the Bible into the grasp of every believer in Jesus Christ.

We saw in the second key that the Bible is a story. Since the Bible is a story, it probably has a structure. Most good stories have some kind of discernible structure that moves the story along. The Bible is such a story. For the Bible that structure is the covenants. The message of the Bible, that God brings salvation through Jesus, is told through the story of the Bible, which unfolds in four parts: creation, fall, redemption and restoration, and that story is developed through its structure in the covenants. The Bible’s storyline is built on four main redemptive covenants that God makes with his people. There are other covenants mentioned in the Bible, but these four are the redemptive covenants that drive the plan of God. This plan of God is to rescue the world from its plight of alienation from him through their sin. Because of the disobedience and rebellion of the first people, God’s good creation was corrupted. God’s creation that he declared good is no longer good. It is fallen. God’s redemptive plan is to restore his creation and reconcile his people to himself.  

These covenants form the framework or skeletal structure of the Bible’s story. Each covenant takes center stage in its part of the story and each new covenant builds on the previous ones. The covenants provide the tension that drives the story forward to its resolution. Biblical redemptive history is seen through the lens of the covenants. One cannot fully appreciate the story until they understand the covenants. 

A covenant is a special relationship of grace between God and his people that involve promises and responsibilities. People enter into all kinds of relationships with other people that involve promises. One of these is the marriage relationship. There are promises made to one another and responsibilities ensue. The covenants that God makes with people are like these human covenants. God initiates each covenant with individuals and groups. He calls people to come into a relationship with him. In the relationship God makes promises he will fulfill and he gives his covenant partners responsibilities to fulfill to maintain the relationship. God reveals his plan of redemption and brings it to fruition through the covenants. The four main redemptive covenants are: the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant and the New covenant. These covenants also form a timeline throughout the history of the Bible.

     The Abrahamic Covenant

The redemptive covenants begin with the Abrahamic Covenant. God entered a relationship with one man, Abram, later to be renamed by God as Abraham. That special relationship with God was passed on to his son and grandson. In this relationship with Abraham the Lord made promises of seed, land and blessing that would be not only for Abraham’s descendants, but ultimately for the whole world. The promises of the covenant with Abraham are enumerated in Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-21 and 17:1-14. The Abrahamic covenant lays the groundwork for all future covenants. They are built upon the foundation of its promises. The children of Abraham will be the people of God through whom he brings his plan of salvation to fulfillment. The story of the Abrahamic covenant is told in Genesis 12-50. The ultimate fulfillment of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant is realized in Jesus Christ. He is the seed that is the blessing for all the world.

     The Mosaic Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant is a covenant with Israel, Abraham’s descendants, made through Moses. The Mosaic covenant is a continuation and partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. This covenant is called the Torah, or law and are instructions for holy covenant living. God is holy and his people must be holy. The word holy means to be separate or set apart for God. The law God gave through Moses explains how that happens and is maintained. God redeemed his people from bondage to Egypt and called them to live for him as a testimony to the world. The Mosaic law contained many moral, legal and ritual stipulations for the people of God to fulfill their part of the plan of God. The Mosaic covenant is found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Ruth. The Mosaic covenant was in force throughout the Old Testament until the coming of Jesus Christ who fulfilled all its commands, stipulation and rituals in order to provide salvation to the world.

   The Davidic Covenant

The third redemptive covenant is the Davidic Covenant. The Davidic covenant narrows the focus of the covenants given to Abraham and Moses. In this covenant, God enters a relationship with David and makes promises to him. The Davidic covenant is a covenant about a kingdom. David was promised an eternal kingdom. This kingdom would someday be the everlasting, universal kingdom of God with a descendant of David on the throne. The prophets spoke eloquently of the Messiah who would be the son of David, sit on his throne and rule the nations.  But the kingdom was divided and went into exile, Israel in 722 BC to Assyria, and Judah in 586 BC to Babylon. When the children of Israel returned to the land there was no Davidic king to fulfill the Davidic covenant. It looked as though the covenant promise to David would not be fulfilled. But in the perfect timing of God’s plan the covenant finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the son of David. The historical development of the Davidic covenant is found in 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Further development of the covenant is found in Psalms, Proverbs and the Prophets. The kingdom of God through Jesus Christ is the reign and rule of God in the hearts of his people and ultimately throughout the whole world.

     The New Covenant

The New Covenant fulfills all the previous covenants in Jesus Christ. Jesus, being the central message of the Bible, is the central focus of the redemptive covenants. He fulfills them all through his birth, life, death and resurrection. The tragedy of the Fall is redeemed through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He fulfills the Abrahamic covenant by being the promised seed who blesses all the families of the earth. Jesus fulfills the Mosaic covenant by perfectly keeping the law of God, and by becoming the sacrifice for sin the law demands. He also fulfills the Davidic covenant by being the son of David and the Son of God who establishes the eternal kingdom of God. The New Covenant is prophesied throughout the OT, especially in the Prophets. It comes to fulfillment in the NT gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The impact of the New Covenant on the plan of God and the redemption of the world is seen in the books of Acts and the Epistles culminating with the book of Revelation. We live under he New covenant and enjoy all the promises of God provided by the person and work of Jesus Christ.

When we understand how the covenants work and how they progressively unfold the plan of God, we hold in our hands another important key to unlock the rich treasures of the Bible. Without this understanding the Bible remains, in some measure, locked to us. But as we see the plan of salvation developed through the redemptive covenants, we not only understand the Bible better, we also experience our relationship with God in deeper and richer way.

One thought on “Seven Keys to Unlock the Treasure of the Bible: Key Three – The Covenants

  1. I learned today that Romans first and then maybe as equal Isaiah, is the most profound doctrines in the Bible according to Paul.

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