Genesis 9:12 – And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations”…
Throughout the Old Testament, covenant love is referred to hundreds of times in various terms. Various English translations of the Bible refer to it as love, lovingkindness, mercy, steadfast love, loyal love, devotion, commitment, or reliability.
Covenant refers to God’s lovingkindness – the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, one-way love of God. We struggle to understand a covenant relationship with God because our relationships tend to be two-way. We give expecting to get in return. We do something for someone else, but our motives are mixed because our actions also benefit us in some way. Perhaps the closest we get to a covenant relationship is between a parent and a newborn child, which helps explain why the Bible often speaks of God as our Father and we as His beloved children. God does love the world in a general sense, but covenant love refers to a narrow, limited, fierce love between God as our Father and we as His children (e.g. Hosea 11:1).
When our children were little, each night I would tuck them in for bed by spending some time visiting, praying, and reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. Throughout that great kids’ Bible, the line about covenant love has always been one of my favorites, referring to covenant love as the “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” Covenant love is the love God promised to His people and which they, in turn, were to respond in kind – loving God with all their hearts, minds, and strength.
When speaking about covenant relationships, it is important to remember that Christian marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:13-15). Oftentimes, as selfish, fallen humans, we can fall into the trap of seeing relationships more as a contract, but God’s desire is for a marriage relationship to mirror the same type of covenant He promised with His people. It’s helpful to look at the difference between the two to help us further understand what a covenant is.
Between 2 people Between 3 people
I seek my will We seek God’s will
You serve me We serve each other
Performance is recorded No record of wrongs is kept
Failure is punished Failure was punished at the cross
A professional relationship A personal relationship
When we go to work, we must have contracts for our professional relationships. When we get home, we must have a covenant and personal relationship with our spouse and kids. If we only do contracts, we will win at work and lose at home. People who default to their athletic background with a barking coach, military background with strict rules and punishments, or workplace job descriptions and performance reviews will have a family that lacks fun and warmth. If we only do covenants, we will lose at work but win at home. If you do not clearly set out expenses, timelines, and expectations, people will love working with you because they will ruin you to enrich themselves. The key is to have contracts for professional relationships with your employees and contractors and covenants for personal relationships with your spouse and children.
In your own words, how would you describe a covenant relationship with God, and how does this differ from other kinds of relationships?
To help you study the book of Genesis with us, we have the first of three free e-book study guides here. To learn more about covenants, turn to chapter 6 of the Doctrine book in both English and Spanish.
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