Broken Covenant

In another blog, I talked about the first covenant with Adam. A covenant at its base is an agreement with a condition. This could be enough, when both parties consent, to form the covenant. However ‘covenant’ also has the idea that it is not casual consent. Each party pledges themselves and all they are, their honor, their name, and their possessions to one another.

The partaking of a meal, the exchanging of gifts or names can further signify a covenant. It is an agreement full of honor. However honorable a covenant may be though, it can still be broken.

Sometimes when we read a familiar writing or hear a familiar song we know so well, we no longer hear what is being said. Take the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Ring Around the Rosie’. As a young person growing up, I know I recited this poem, dancing around in a circle of friends, to see who would be the last to ‘fall down’. It wasn’t until I was an adult and heard there was another meaning to this rhyme, did I really examine the words and realize the macabre reality behind it.

With this in mind, I would suggest we take a look at the first part of the Book of Genesis from a new vantage point. For some of you, it will be to get behind each word and imagine the scenery, the awesomeness of Adam’s position and the incredible relationship he had with the Creator of the universe. For others, you will need to lay aside the skeptical view you have fostered, maybe for many years, and imagine (for just a moment) it could all be written exactly as it happened. Imagine that a loving awesome all-powerful God decided to create a world where He could interact and have a deep friendship with His creation. Imagine.

We know from the Bible that God gave the earth and all living creatures to Adam to rule over. (Genesis 1:26-28) Then in Genesis 2:16-17 God draws a line. God has created Adam in His own image. God has been in relationship with Adam. He has given him the position of authority over all creation with one caveat: Adam must respect God’s boundary. All creation depends on this fact: Adam must remain in harmony with God. This harmony rests on one condition. Adam must not eat of this one single tree in the garden.

But, without this condition, Adam is just a slave. He has no free will. A true friendship, a love relationship, is not free if it is forced. If I say “YOU MUST LOVE ME!” there is no love.

And, at just the right moment, if God jumped in to beat back Satan, He would be in violation of His covenant with Adam. He can’t say, (not Bible–my thoughts) “Well Adam, I am sorry, I take it back, you cannot be the ruler of the Garden. I can see you are not capable. Sorry, I made a mistake.” If He does this He is not true to His nature as God. He would be faithless. The garden was a gift to Adam. Your life is a gift to you. He had to allow Adam to choose.

And choose Adam does. (me again) “Sorry God, not this time. I know you said I would die, that’s why I let Eve eat first. And really, ‘Good’ is so ‘yesterday’. Been there, done that.”

Is your heart breaking? Mine is. Do you have children? Do you know a loved one or friend who is making/has made bad choices? Did you warn them? Did you watch and realize the choice was not yours?

I wonder what God felt? He knew. And yet, He made us with free will. He wanted a real relationship: a real love relationship. Genesis 3:8 says “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God, all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful, is searching for Adam. Maybe He is searching Adam. Maybe He is ready to forgive. But, Adam and Eve are not ready to repent. He did, she did, it did, not me! Mercy cannot be received without acknowledgement of the transgression.

So God starts the process. The way of salvation is begun. How can a holy, perfect, sinless Being commune with rebellion? Only sacred life-blood can cover sin. God sheds the blood of an animal, one He has lovingly created, and takes its skin as a sign that the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (rebellion) is covered. With the covering comes a partial restoration of their relationship. It is just an ‘atonement’. The Hebrew word atonement means covering. It can only cover their transgression. God teaches them to continue this tradition to remain in relationship to Him. (We know this because later in Genesis, Abel offers an animal sacrifice to God. Genesis 4:3)

Many years later, after Mankind is ready to ask for forgiveness, a true offering will be made. When Mankind becomes weary of sacrifices and traditions.

Then and only then, an offering that is a perfect representation of Man will be offered as a sacrifice for sin. Once this perfect sacrifice is offered…it will be finished. The atonement will not be a covering; it will be a propitiation…a perfect substitution for the sin of every man. This perfect sacrifice—Jesus—will once and for all shed His blood so that Man can be forgiven.

I woke up this morning with the words to an old Isaac Watts hymn on my mind:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Jesus, the NAME above all NAMES, thank you. What can I say? How do I express my thanks for what you were willing to do? And WHY? I know there are times when the ‘apple’ still looks good to me. Even though, like Adam and Eve, I have known you. It could have been me instead of Eve, or Judas, or Peter; I could just as easily have betrayed you. But, you always hang in there with me. You continually extend your hand of friendship towards me. You don’t turn your back on me. Your name is Faithful and True. All I can offer is a humble thank you.

Another Covenant

What does covenant look like then in the Bible? When God placed Man in the garden, there was a covenant relationship established between God and Adam.

Genesis 2:15-17 tells us “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

So, what is this? It is an agreement with a condition (oath covenant). (paraphrase) “Adam you may have supremacy over this place. It is yours. I put you in charge. But, just so we are clear, just so I KNOW you will honor our agreement, there is a condition. You must not eat of the fruit of this one tree.” Why do you think God put a condition on this promise to Adam? It could have been anything! Adam, don’t eat from………this tree over HERE! Or, don’t wash in THIS STREAM! Or, don’t touch THE FLOWERS ON THIS BUSH! Get the picture? It was just a line, drawn by God, that Adam was not to cross. Why did God do this? Why was it absolutely necessary for God to say that?

Well would free will have anything to do with it? God had made Adam in His very own likeness. God had given Adam the Garden, something of his own to take care of, to cultivate. However, without a choice did he really have free will? If you cannot choose one from another, then NO you do not have free will. You have what your father has given you, nothing more.

Interesting, that Eve is not on the scene yet. Read the next verse: Genesis 2:18 Then the lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

Here’s a recap so far.

  • God made the earth and everything in it.
  • God made Man separately and different. He gave him dominion over creation, with one condition; he could not eat of one particular tree.
  • God saw that Adam needed a mate. In verses 21-23 God creates Eve and presents her to Adam. (Adam is pretty excited!)

Then comes the saddest chapter in the Bible. Genesis chapter 3. We don’t know how long it took to get to this point, but in comes the serpent. And…Eve seems like she is close to the forbidden tree. It appears that Adam told her what God’s command was, but she is walking close……..

Stop here. I realize I believe the Bible is divinely inspired. This means that every word, every scene, has had HIS personal stamp of approval. I also realize that I am human, and as such, was not there when this scene was played out. God ends up cursing the serpent, so it sounds like a real creature. If I were Eve, and a serpent started talking to me, I wouldn’t hang around. But, maybe this was the hundredth time he had spoken to her. And, isn’t that how we are tempted? At first, it may seem horrific, we run. But, over time, the horror is lost and we start to entertain the titillation of the action. Then we plot ways to creep up NEXT to it, but not partake. At this point we have probably lost the battle to stay pure, but we don’t accept that. We can still run, we reason…….just one more look.


In comes the Tempter…….and in Genesis 3:6, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.”

WAIT! Adam was THERE with her! WHOA! Adam, what were you doing? You are master over all of the creation. A creepy snake is talking to your woman and you are just standing there? The Bible always refers to the sin of Man as Adam’s sin. (Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man”) Eve was the first to partake, but Adam was in charge. This sin was a huge deal. Up until now, the Garden was in perfect harmony with God. When God had finished creation (Gen 1:31) He looked over it and pronounced it very good.

There was a choice to break harmony, but it had not been exercised. Now look at the contrast:

  • they felt naked, (Gen 3:7)
  • they felt fear, and hid from God, (Gen 3:8)
  • they felt shame and blamed each other, the serpent, and even GOD for their transgression. (Gen 3:12-13)

Prior to this, there was no sin on earth. God (who is sinless) could walk among His creation. He walked with Adam during the day (wonder what those conversations were like)! When Adam sinned, something happened, something terrible, something that could not be erased. There was separation between God and Man. Adam saw that he was naked because the glory of God left him. (Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) What was left was raw and fearful and ugly. The Garden was not very good any longer. It was out of harmony with God.

So, what do Adam and Eve do? They sew fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. What do we do when we realize we have done wrong? We construct righteousness for ourselves! We try to make fig leaf excuses to cover our actions. Another name for this is self-righteousness! They hid from God! When God said “Adam where are you?”, (Gen 3:9) He knew where they were. It seems like God is giving Adam a chance to say he is sorry. Ah, if only we would come to God with our failures, our messes, instead of trying to fix them ourselves. Could this be why so many these days deny God even exists? If HE is real, we have to face our wrongs.

If He doesn’t exist………………..we’re good.

Covenant Journey

I can’t say how many times I have read the word ‘covenant’ in the Bible and had a vague definition in mind when I did. However, I never dreamed how important, how intense was the meaning behind that small word.

I am not the kind of reader that enjoys a novel when the development of each character takes chapter upon chapter. I am more of an action junkie. Take me to the conflict, the chase, the ‘angst’. If you don’t take me there quickly, I will find it myself, read it, and be on my way.

What kind of reader are you? Do you mull over each sentence? Or, like me do you wonder ‘where are we going?’ and ‘how long is it going to take to get there?’

Just for fun, write down some things that come to mind when you think of a covenant in today’s world.

Now, when you think of the Biblical version of covenant, what comes to mind?

Imagine my surprise when I went through a class on the ‘Blood Covenant’, and found that the entire Bible has ‘covenant’ as its central theme.

Write down what we call the collection of the first 39 books of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi.

Now, what do we call the second group of 27 books of the Bible from Matthew to the Revelation of John?

If you answered ‘Old Testament’ and ‘New Testament’ you would be correct. But, did you know ‘testament’ is another word for ‘covenant’? Would it surprise you if I said that the following statement by Jesus in Luke 22:20

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”,

could not have happened without the old covenant? God is not a god of mistakes or second thoughts. He doesn’t say ‘Let’s try this plan and move to plan B if necessary.” The old covenant was Part A; the new covenant Part B. The old covenant was absolutely essential for Part B.

Let’s start at the beginning. As much as I would like to jump to the end of the book, the pieces are each intense in their own way.

When you wrote down what a covenant means in today’s terminology, you may have written court of law, will, contract, wedding vows. These are some ways a covenant can be expressed. The dictionary defines covenant as: an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified. In the Western world, the word covenant is not used as much in today’s language as it was in the past. In fact, even this dictionary definition leaves out very important pieces of a covenant relationship.

To be in covenant with someone, is to pledge your entire being to the other person. The words spoken are an oath, sometimes before God of the intentions of each party to fulfill the contract. This is not a casual friendly relationship. In some cultures, this meant the exchanging of blood. When I was growing up and watching shows on television about cowboys and Indians, one of my favorites was the Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger and his Native American friend Tonto were blood brothers. Tonto would call the Lone Ranger ‘Kemo Sabe’ or ‘trusted friend’. They fought bad guys together and you knew that one would die for the other if necessary. Even as a child, I knew there was something special about that relationship. When we would play, we would pretend to cut ourselves and enter into a blood brother relationship with our friends just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

Sometimes a token of the relationship is given such as a ring, or an amulet. This is a remembrance to the covenant partners and as a sign to the rest of the community. They may also change their names or take part of each other’s name.

Also a covenant often had at least one condition attached. One may say, “So that we understand each other, I need for you to do ______________________. That way I KNOW you are bound to the covenant.” A non-Biblical example of this is the relationship gang members have towards one another. There are some gang initiation rites where you would be accepted into the gang, but then you must show you are really a member. You would be required to steal something or even to kill someone. Then your membership would be sealed.

The reverse could also happen. If you break the covenant there could be a consequence, sometimes a very severe consequence. Today, in some cultures, if a young woman goes outside her religious community and marries, her brother or father could kill her. This is a terrible thing. I am not condoning this practice. But, in their eyes, she has brought dishonor to the family, to their name and must be punished by death.

Often in a covenant, gifts are exchanged. The marriage covenant has this in mind when the two persons are joined together. Everything I have is yours and everything you have is mine. (This even includes your charge card debt and your tax burden!)

A covenant can also be established with the partaking of a meal together. A meal is a very traditional way to establish a relationship of importance between two parties. Dinners with heads of state are an example at a very high government level. How many treaties have been ratified over food before a piece of paper was ever signed? And, of course what happens in a typical wedding? Maybe a sit-down meal is a part, but most of the time there is a CAKE! What happens with the cutting of the cake? Everything stops! The friends and family gather around, everyone stops talking, for the CUTTING OF THE CAKE! We have lost the symbolism for this in Western culture, but it is a symbol of the marriage union expressed in sharing bread (cake). Bread is the symbol for sustenance, for livelihood. The couple expresses their commitment before witnesses that they are now one by feeding each other a bite of cake.

NEXT: Another Covenant……………….