I had always been taught about salvation using the model of a courtroom and I was the condemned prisoner and the Judge took my place. That model is useful but there was something that seemed missing for me in scripture as I read the writer’s accounts. Like they knew something I didn’t. There was something that they knew that interpreted the cross, the shedding of Jesus blood and the Resurrection. Prayer fell in the same category: what did it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? What was missing was the understanding of God’s blood covenant with His people. Understanding this is tantamount to handing you a new Bible. Does your spiritual life consist of a weekly round of church services, attempts at Bible study and prayer and trying to keep rules that deal mostly with the physical life? Then read on.
The concept of a covenant is almost unknown to the Western world. But this concept is known in ancient societies and the third world even today. Remember how we used to hear in westerns the term “blood brothers” used by the American Indians? Well this had to do with swearing loyalty to one another and that is exactly what a blood covenant is, but there is so much more to it. The people in the pages of the Bible knew all about covenants. The Bible is divided into two main parts we call “Testaments”, but the correct term is Old Covenant and New Covenant.
The Old Covenant was a covenant made with Abraham and his descendants. The New Covenant is a covenant made through Jesus which does away with the provisions of the old one and starts something “new”. A covenant is literally a binding obligation. It is the ultimate expression of committed love and trust and was usually made to define and make binding a relationship that had been in the making for some time.
A definition: “a covenant is a binding unbreakable obligation between two parties, based on unconditional love sealed by blood and sacred oath, that creates a relationship in which each party is bound by specific undertakings on each other’s behalf. The parties place themselves under divine retribution should they later attempt to avoid these undertakings. It is a relationship that can only be broken by death.”
A covenant is not a contract. A covenant is the giving of one’s whole person and life to another and the whole hearted receiving of the other person and his or her life. So when one people group was going to make a covenant with another people group, they both picked someone to represent them. This person could speak and act with authority on behalf of group. For all effective purposes, they were the group. Promises, terms and responsibilities were often written down and read at specified times in remembrance of the covenant being made. See I Samuel 20:14-15 and II Samuel 9:7.
The Covenant Sacrifice (From “The Power of the Blood Covenant” by Malcolm Smith)
“At the making of a covenant there was always the shedding of blood. An animal was slain and its carcass was split down the middle into two halves. The parties making the covenant walked through the bloody path between the pieces of the divided animal. In vivid symbolism they proclaimed that they were entering into a death and were journeying into a new life. They were dying to living for their self interests alone and passing through that death to a new relationship of union with the other party to the covenant. They also shed their own blood, usually drawn from the right arm or hand. They would raise their bleeding right arms, calling upon God to be their witness. The combination of bloody sacrifice and their own bloodshed combined to give the powerful statement that each was implicitly making: ‘I will keep this covenant even if my blood has to be shed in order to do so.”