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Going Deeper—Covenant God (with Study Guide #7b)

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Dear Readers,

What does the word loyalty mean to you? What kinds of expectations come to mind? What kinds of disappointments?

Compared to generations past, today’s society appears to value loyalty far less. Consider that patriotism has waned, that few people stay in one job for life, and that traditional marriage has disintegrated into a smorgasbord of choices involving various types of partners for any duration.

It’s easy to remain detached about “society,” but to prepare our hearts to understand the sacred covenant God established with us, let’s examine ourselves with a couple of questions: “To what or whom am I utterly loyal? Is there anyone in my life who has pledged his/her absolute allegiance to me?”

Covenant God

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By Ruth Wood and Kay Smith

“I’m getting married next year because I love my fiance. However, if things change, I won’t hesitate to divorce him.” This quote in Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage highlights the wariness towards marriage today.

Marriage, however, was given to us by God as a picture of His covenant with us. Paul says,

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Through the marriage covenant we learn something about the nature of God’s commitment to us:

He covenants to “cleave” to us by sending the Holy Spirit to live within (John 14:16).

He covenants to never leave or forsake us, promising that we’ll be together forever (Hebrews 13:5b).

He covenants to go and prepare a place for us (John 14:3).

Blood Covenants

To further understand the meaning of covenants, we can learn from tribal “blood covenant” practices. E. W. Kenyon in The Blood Covenant tells a story about Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh journalist and explorer famous for the well-known greeting, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

While exploring Africa, Stanley “cut the covenant” with the chief of a war-like tribe. During the ceremony they selected two substitute men; one represented Stanley and one represented the chief. After cutting their wrists and dripping blood into a cup of wine, the men drank it. Gunpowder rubbed into their wounds left a permanent black mark, forever indicating the covenant bond between the two leaders.

Exchanging Gifts

During the “gift giving” portion of the ceremony, the chief asked for Stanley’s new white goat. Stanley depended on the goat to nourish his poor health and did not want to part with it, however, the chief could not be dissuaded. Finally, Stanley relented, and in exchange, the chief presented him with his personal “seven-foot copper-wound spear.”

The effect of the blood covenant was immediate. Whereas before Stanley and his men struggled to deter thieves, now if anyone stole from him, their new blood brother, it meant the death penalty. And the chief could not seem to do enough for him. After this, Stanley found that wherever he went in Africa, at the sight of the chief’s spear, all people quickly bowed and submitted to him.

Spiritual Parallels

Before the proceedings, when Stanley asked his interpreter what a blood covenant would achieve, he’d been told, “everything the chief has will be yours if you need it.” This phrase might remind us of what Jesus said to the Father, “All I have is yours and all you have is mine . . . (John 17:10a.) By shedding his blood, Jesus cut the blood covenant with us. We now belong to each other like He and the Father belong to each other, “I in them and you in me . . . ” (John 17:23a). We are family now, and this means serving one another as well as being able to ask for things we need.

Stanley’s experience also illustrates how God’s blood covenant exercises power over the enemies of our soul, demanding their ultimate compliance. As the book of Job illustrates, when we belong to God, Satan may be allowed access for a time, but his license to tempt is finite. Ultimately, we triumph because like Stanley’s protection under the chief’s spear, we possess God’s sign of authority, the Holy Spirit’s seal of redemption, which all forces of darkness must respect.

The Seal of Authority

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

God’s good intentions and purposes toward us become more and more evident throughout all aspects of the blood covenant—the depth of commitment He displays could not express His love more.

©2013 Ruth Wood and Kay Smith. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Published by www.Comfort-Cafe.net. Contact info: ruthywood@gmail.com

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