The Covenant, How God Makes Himself Ours

A battle is being fought over us, to determine what we are going to be. For we are no longer what we once were, and “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be.” [1]

Long ago, the light of knowing God flowed in man, a living current coursing as freely and fully as the blood in our veins. Our faces shone with the glory.  [2]

But then something happened . . . something called the fall.

  • Doubt was cast upon God’s character and being,
  • The truth of His word was disputed.
  • The justness of His order was challenged.
  • Our naïve confidence in His goodness and His provision was assaulted.

Did God say…? Are you sure you have it right? Did He really mean…? You surely will not die!  For God knows that your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God . . .” [3]

In a single instant of time, man ceased to believe in His loving goodness and provision; and we went dark. . . and not only we, but our world with us. The light of knowing God that had flowed as a current in us was instantaneously cut, and we were changed. We still walked and talked and looked normal . . . but we were fading, no longer alive to Him, as we had been. Yahweh was full and bright and as powerful as ever, but we were blanketed by a veil [4] — that quenched the power of His presence, that numbed us to the power of His love so that it could no longer be felt or responded to by us.

We do not remember what we were, apart from the trace of memory left in dreams, myths and archetypes expressing our yearning for what we can no longer even name. It has been such a long time darkened, that today, only a few dare to express their longing to know God  — in a world that mocks the possibility.

When the darkening happened, we knew fear for the first time, and the world was no longer so safe a place. Life became hard. Adversity gained a hold on our planet, in opposition to every desire of our hearts and our ability to thrive . . . bringing misfortune, calamity, affliction, distress and a growing state of unhappiness.

But all this time, it is like Someone left a radio transmitter on. . . and it has been generating a signal, beaming its message to us.  This message comes from another dimension telling us that we have not been abandoned, that God still loves us, that the battle being fought over us is not finished, and that there is a huge turnaround coming. It is a miracle each time one of us decodes this message, this Good News, this euangelion, this gospel that is the power of God to lift us out of our darkened state.

We have forever lost the innocent naiveté of what we once were, and we suffer darkness for now, but the message comes to promise us, “It will not be like this always. Hold on, connect to Me, trust Me . . . “

 

We shall yet be changed. That river of the light of knowing Him that coursed through us will flow again — many of us already feel it now, ebbing stronger the deeper we go. But when we are changed, we shall be infinitely wiser, humbler and truer to Him  than we were before.  In the interim, He has made a way for His power, for all that He is and all that He has to be made available to us.

 

The Covenant

As an anthropology student at Duke University, I was often struck by the similarity of patterns and customs that would appear in widely different cultures, across time, among widely differing people who had no direct link with each other. How did they share these symbols and ideas in common?

The Greek philosopher Plato described how things on earth were pale copies of the real thing (the archetype [5]) that existed in another dimension. That stuck with me . . . that there might be an actual, real “something” in another dimension that we “sensed” or “saw” through a glass darkly . . . from which our shared ideas sprang, to which humanity’s shared symbols pointed. Then, when I studied Jungian psychology, I was fascinated by Jung’s insistence that archetypes were a kind of racial memory shared by all men in their deepest selves, showing up in our dreams and experiences, to speak to us through their symbolic meaning.

As my own spiritual journey progressed, I found myself recognizing messages coming to me through the repetition of linked concepts and symbols.  How many times did a specific phrase have to be brought to me from different sources, before I realized this was a message  being sent to me from a higher source?

After Jesus was revealed in me, I began to recognize the appearance of archetypes in Scripture, and the ecstatic realization overwhelmed me — that God has been beaming His message to all of us, throughout time, across cultures, in the symbols and imagery we share.  This slowly evolved into my recognition of the divine dialogue.

Whenever I find a concept replicated across culture and time, I seize that symbol or idea as a word — in God’s coded language — pointing to a reality He wants us to see in that other dimension, though we see it through a glass darkly.

 

“Covenant” is one of those words

pointing to “a reality” He wants us to see. 

Marriage is a covenant relationship known to all throughout time, in which two become one. Every covenant, cross-culturally, is an agreement by which the strengths and possessions of one member are made available to the other.  Both the stronger covenant member and the weaker member pledge all that they are to the other in mutual support and defense.  Covenant is not to be entered into lightly; in some cultures, to break covenant has been worthy of death.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for covenant is berith, derived from a root word, which means “to cut;” a covenant is formalized by a “cutting.”  Men become blood brothers by one of two means: by birth sharing the same blood, or by a “cutting”  covenant. Skimming through the Wikipedia examples of cross-cultural, blood brother covenants quoted below . . . is there a reality to which they are all pointing?

  • In ancient Lydia blood brothers nicked their arms with a sharp object, licking the blood off of each other’s arms.
  • Among the Scythians, the covenanters would allow their blood to drip into a cup; the blood was subsequently mixed with wine and drunk by both participants.
  • The Romanian haiducs had a similar ceremony, though the wine was often replaced with milk so that the blood would be more visible.
  • In Asian cultures, the ceremony of becoming blood brothers is generally seen as a tribal relationship, bringing alliance between tribes. . . practiced most notably among the Mongols and early Chinese. There is some evidence that Native Americans also did it for this purpose.
  • In ancient Mediterranean Europe, whole companies of Greek soldiers would become as one family. It was prevalent in the Balkan Peninsula during the Ottoman era, as it helped the oppressed to fight their common enemy more effectively.
  • Some relics of this tradition survive to this day, as a throw-back to tribal times. The tradition of intertwining arms and drinking wine in Greece and elsewhere is believed to be a representation of becoming blood brothers.
  • In modern times, a common blood-brother ceremony includes having each person make a small cut, usually on a finger, hand or the forearm, and then the two cuts are pressed together and bound, the idea being that each person’s blood now flows in the other participant’s veins.

To what archetypal reality do all of these examples refer?

 

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”   And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

Matt 26:26-29

 

This COVENANT  is  the reality

to which every other covenant is pointing.

 In preparing this lesson, I was moved deeply. . .  realizing that Jesus made Himself my blood brother twice. First He was born of the same blood, coming into this world as a man. And then, He made Himself my blood brother by covenant, on my behalf.

God did not make this covenant with us; rather, He made it with Himself. It is an irrevocable covenant established between Father and Son — in the cutting of their hearts, in the mingling of their ethereal glory spilled out and broken on an earthly cross. The Son becomes a man, so that He can represent us in this covenant, including us in His access to its provision. All that belongs to the Father has been given to Him, and He makes it available to us, His blood brothers. By means of covenant, God can make Himself ours.

It is all very legal because there are laws, and God obeys His own laws.  We were automatically darkened as a legal consequence of the immutable laws put into motion by God to uphold a moral universe. Our enemy knew this full well. The battle over us is a legal battle . . . it is a battle of wits.  But in that legal battle of wits, our enemy never saw what was coming.  THE COVENANT is the legal instrument, the Father made with the Son, giving Him the means to cover our vulnerability, compensating for what we lost in the fall — by  bringing us into the benefit of that covenant relationship and making all that He is and all that He has available to us.

The fall gave our enemy a savage moment of triumph and a hard glitter in his eye, when he thought he had gotten God with the ultimate catch-22. . . putting Him between a rock and a hard place.

  • If God chose for the universe to remain Holy and just, He could not overturn or arbitrarily suspend the eternal laws supporting that universe…and He would have to watch us be slowly be destroyed by the gruesome outworking of the death we had brought upon ourselves.
  • If God chose love for us, arbitrarily suspending the outworking of the moral laws at work in His cosmos, neither He nor the universe He had created would remain holy.

Both of these were unthinkable for God. But while His enemy deployed diabolical genius, he is no match to His creator.

COVENANT gave God the means to protect us, without having to arbitrarily suspend the outworking of the cosmic laws He had put into place. By creating a covenant relationship, in which we could become a partner, all that He has and all that He is could become ours (a breath-taking thought)  — to fully overturn the ravages of the fall.

  

This message has been sent through the Hebrew prophets and the Jewish people, to the rest of the world, from the beginning. . . and then captured in Scripture. Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Daniel… writing from his captivity in Babylon, recorded multiple visions of the future given to him.  He wrote:

“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” . . .   Dan 9:26

As Daniel wrote this, he used the Hebrew root-word karath to express “will be cut off.”
Karath means to cut (off, down or asunder) . . . by implication, to destroy or consume . . .  specifically, to covenant . . . to make an alliance . . . by cutting flesh[i]

About 33 A.D. Jesus, Messiah was cut off.

In 70 A.D. the Roman legions under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple, pulling down every stone so that not one remained upon another.

It is all there… written into the cross-cultural symbols and archetypes that inhabit mankind’s deep consciousness… written in prophecy… written into time… written into history…   the message being sent to us.

* * *

As I finish this writing, it is the anniversary of Jesus’ last week before He was taken, tried and crucified.  A week ago I had no intention to do a study of covenant. But He, intimately and intentionally, brought me to it . . . showing me that this covenant relationship is how He gives me all that He is and all that He has . . . It is crucial to His defense and protection of me.  Will I bring all that I am and all that I have to Him?

But even more, this becomes deeply personal and reflective as I see flashes of myself in The Garden at the beginning of time. . . in them and a thousand times since, not trusting His loving goodness and provision . . . And then, I hear Him ask, “Will I trust His covenant now?”

I feel more deeply than ever before His defiant optimism . . . beneath the fiercely tender, protective agony of His heart, as He intentionally walks out these last days.

 

 * * *

 The next posting will be April 12th

 


[1] 1 John 3:2

 

[2] Exodus 34:35, Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43, Matthew 17:2,

 

[3] Genesis 3: 4-7

 

[4] Isa 25:7

And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,

Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.

 

[5] “An archetype is a universally understood symbol, term, or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated.”  From Wikipedia

[i] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

 

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