Excerpts from the book "MASKED" by R.A. Vukovich
A covenant is a binding and solemn agreement between two parties which is unbreakable. Remember when the Israelites led by Joshua proceeded to conquer the land of Canaan? When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what the Israelites had done to Jericho and Ai, they devised a plan to deceive the Israelites into a binding contract. The Gibeonites lied and deceived the Israelites into believing they were foreigners from a distant land beyond Canaan. They wore old torn clothes, shoes and brought old bottles of wine and stale bread. They went to Joshua at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We come from a far country, now therefore, make ye a league (covenant) with us” (Joshua 9: 1-27). The Gibeonites were a heathen people that did not know God, but they knew covenant.
The Gibeonites knew that a covenant was a binding, solemn agreement. They would rather enter into a covenant with their enemy than fight them. Covenant would give them the protection and survival they needed. In turn, they had agreed to be Israelite’s servants.
Scriptures says in Joshua 9:14, “The men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” Joshua made peace with Gibeonites and made a covenant with them to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to Gibeonites (Joshua 9:15). It took the Israelites three days before they realized that the Gibeonites were there neighbors and that they dwelt among them. Joshua 9:19 says that they could not harm the Gibeonites because the Israelites made a league with them and had sworn unto Gibeonites by the Lord God of Israel. It sounds like a binding, solemn agreement. You would think the covenant was invalid because the Gibeonites had lied 124 Masked and deceived them into making it. The Israelites should have inquired of God first, but because they didn’t, they were obligated to keep the covenant promise that they swore before God and men.
Word soon got out to other tribes in Canaan that the Gibeonites had come into covenant with their enemy, the Israelites. Soon five kings and their armies gathered to come up against Gibeon. The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua to come up quickly and save their servants from the attack of the Amorites (Joshua 10:5-6). They reminded Joshua of the covenant promise when they stated to Joshua not to abandon their servants (Gibeonites). What was Joshua’s response? Joshua responded to the Gibeonites’ urgent request because of covenant. Despite the Gibeonites’ ungodly and deceptive ways, the Israelites were bound to a solemn and binding agreement.
Everything God does is based on covenant. Why covenant? It was the only way to redeem humanity and to restore that which was lost in the garden. Covenant restores our authority and dominion in the earth, our relationship with God, and so much more. It’s awesome to think that God would cut covenant with mankind while still sinners, alienated from God. It could only be unconditional love. His most precious creation—people—made in His likeness and image could again be clothed in His glory and bask in His presence.
Since God is sovereign, He would not take back the authority and dominion which was intended for man who unknowingly gave it to Satan through disobedience. Since mankind lost the authority and dominion, they would have 125 R.A. Vukovich to regain it back—but how? The only way was through divine covenant. In order for God to cut covenant with humanity, He had to find someone who understood covenant—and he found it in a man called Abraham.
Friend of God
Covenant is a bond of friendship. This bond was closer than the bond between siblings. To refer to someone in primitive culture or from a biblical perspective as “friend” was to infer covenant.
The writer of Proverbs 18:24 states, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” The Apostle James writes, “The scriptures was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23).” In Isaiah 41:8, God refers to Abraham in Isaiah “Abraham, my friend.” In 2 Chronicles 20:7, when a great multitude came up against Jehoshaphat and Israel to battle, Jehoshaphat cried unto God. Jehoshaphat knew the benefit of covenant when calling upon God for help. He refers to the covenant, saying, “Abraham thy friend for ever?” What was God’s response? “Thus saith the Lord unto you, be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). God fought Israel and Jehoshaphat’s battle because of covenant.
In the case of Abraham, the term “friend” is unique, because it refers to his relationship with God. Abraham was the only person mentioned in all the Old Testament as a friend of God.
As we continue to look at divine covenant, we will see striking similarities to the covenant rites of men found at the beginning pages of this chapter and various verses in the Bible. Man’s covenant rites include blood cutting, binding contracts, and bonds of life and death. Man’s covenants could redeem property, influence, or land—as we have seen with Mephiboseth and Stanley—but it could never redeem souls. I personally believe covenant originated with God, not man. It is man, not God, who chose certain portions of covenant which would be beneficial to him and formed a similar covenant pact. We have seen some of those examples. This does not minimize the rite of covenant, nor human understanding of covenant.
The first recorded writing on covenant is found in Genesis 6:18 in the story of Noah. God said to Noah, “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and the sons wives with thee.” Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations and Noah walked with God.” This is the obvious reason God spared Noah and his family. However, I cannot help but to wonder if because of covenant, there was another reason—and the underlying reason was because Noah was a descendant of Seth, Adam’s son (Luke 3:36- 38).
How far back does covenant really go? Could it be that covenant had its origin in the Garden of Eden between God and man (Adam)? Look at what God said to the serpent, Adam, and Eve after the fall of man. First He said to the serpent in Genesis 3:14 “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all 127R.A. Vukovich cattle.” Then God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 verse sixteen, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” And then God turned His attention toward Adam in Genesis 3:17, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” I always thought this was a little harsh. God could have said, “You blew it big time, Adam and Eve. Because of your disobedience, you must leave this paradise and never return. You will die and know the sorrow of separation, and so shall the seeds of thy loin. Everything that was handed to you can no longer be. You will have to work the land and provide for yourself and family.” You would think that would be painful enough. God not only told them the consequence of their sin, but He also pronounced curses. Why curses? The only reasonable answer is that there had to be a covenant that had been broken. It is no wonder primitive cultures understood the gravity of breaking covenant.
Although Abraham had an understanding of covenant, we see that the rite of divine covenant was not performed at one time, but in progressive intervals. The first account of God’s covenant with Abraham is found in Genesis 15:7– 21. A second account appears in Genesis 17, and the third account in Genesis 22. I believe these separate but continual rites of covenant had to do with Abraham’s faith and spiritual maturity. As Abraham’s faith increased and his relationship with God deepened, he was able to relinquish and commit more to the covenant.
To be continued...