In modern times we define a host of relations by contracts. These are usually for goods
or services and for hard cash. The contract, formal or informal, helps to specify failure
in these relationships. The Lord did not establish a contract with Israel or with the
church. He created a covenant. There is a difference. Contacts are broken when one of the
parties fails to keep his promise. If, let us say, a patient fails to keep an appointment
with a doctor, the doctor is not obligated to call the house and inquire, "Where were
you? Why didn't you show up for your appointment?" He simply goes on to his next
patient and has his appointment secretary take note of the patient who failed to keep the
appointment. The patient may find it harder the next time to see the doctor. He broke an
informal contract. According to the Bible, however, the Lord asks: "Can a mother
forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though
she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15) The Bible indicates the
covenant is more like the ties of a parent to her child than it is a doctor's appointment.
If a child fails to show up for dinner, the parent's obligation, unlike the doctor's,
isn't canceled. The parent finds out where the child is and makes sure he's cared for. One
member's failure does not destroy the relationship. A covenant puts no conditions on
faithfulness. It is the unconditional commitment to love and serve.
Statistics and Stuff
The covenants of Scripture: Covenant and significance
Eternal covenant, Hebrews 13:20 :The redemptive covenant before time began, between the
Father and the Son. By this covenant we have eternal redemption, an eternal peace from the
'God of peace', through the death and resurrection of the Son.
Edenic covenant, Genesis 1:26-28: The creative covenant between the Triune God, as the
first party (Genesis 1:26), and newly created man, as the second party, governing man's
creation and life in Edenic innocence. It regulated man's
dominion and subjugation of the earth, and presented a simple test of obedience. The
penalty was death.
Adamic covenant, Genesis 3:14-19: The covenant conditioning fallen man's life on the
earth. Satan's tool (the serpent) was cursed (Gen 3:14); the first promise of the Redeemer
was given (3:15); women's status was altered (3:16); the earth was cursed (3:17-19);
physical and spiritual death resulted (3:19).
Noahic covenant, Genesis 8:20-9:6: The covenant of human government. Man is to govern
his fellowmen for God, indicated by the institution of capital punishment as the supreme
judicial power of the state (Genesis 9:5-6). Other features included the promise of
redemption through the line of Shem (Genesis 9:26).
Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:1-3; confirmed 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8: The covenant of
promise. Abraham's posterity was to be made a great nation. In him (through Christ) all
the families of the earth were to be blessed (Galations 3:16; John 8:56-58).
Mosaic covenant, Exodus 20:1-31:18: The legal covenant, given solely to Israel. It
consisted of the commandments (Exodus 20:1-26); the judgments (social) - (Exodus 21:1;
24:11) and the ordinances (religious); (Exodus 24:12-31:18); also called the law. It was a
conditional covenant of works, a ministry of 'condemnation' and 'death' (2 Corinthians
3:7-9), designed to lead the transgressor (convicted thereby as a sinner) to Christ.
Palestinian covenant, Deut 30:1-10: The covenant regulating Israel's tenure of the land
of Canaan. Its prophetic features include dispersion of disobedience (Deuteronomy 30:1),
future repentance while in dispersion (30:2), the Lord's return (30:3), the restoration
(30:4-5, national conversion (3:6), judgment of Israel's foes (30:7), national prosperity
(30:9). Its blessings are conditioned upon obedience (30:8,10), but fulfillment is
guaranteed by the new covenant.
Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7:4-17, 1 Chr 17:4-15: The kingdom covenant regulating the
temporal and eternal rule of David's posterity. It secures in perpetuity a Davidic 'house'
or line, a throne, and a kingdom. It was confirmed by divine oath in Psalm 89:30-37 and
renewed to Mary in Luke 1:31-33. It is fulfilled in Christ as the World's Saviour and
Israel's coming King (Acts 1:6; Rev 19:16; 20:4-6).
New covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Hebrew 8:8-12:
The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ. It
secures blessing for the church, flowing from the Abrahamic covenant (Galations 3:13-20),
and secures all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic,
Palestinian, and Davidic covenants. This covenant is unconditional, final and
Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Handbook,
Revised by Gary N. Larson, Moody
Press, Chicago, 1984, p. 595.