Exodus Part One: Dive

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As you journey through Genesis and Exodus, have you noticed the language that is used for the Israelites’ relationship with God? Language is really important in the Bible and once we start to recognise the way it is used, it will bring our Bible reading to a whole new level.

Time and time again, we hear this word ‘covenant'. Now, I looked up this word in my Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (a great study book to get if you can), so let me give you a brief overview. The word ‘covenant’ means ‘a binding agreement’ or ‘relationship’ usually drawn up with a solemn vow. Covenant can refer to binding legal agreements (contract) including personal (Gen 31:44), familial (1 Samuel 20:16; Malachi 2:14), business (Jeremiah 34:8-10) or international settings (Joshua 9:6, 1 Kings 15:19). It occurs over three-hundred times in the Old Testament. The Dictionary says this ‘In relation to the dominant usage of this term, berit (covenant) may be defined as an intimate relationship between God and humankind, sovereignly initiated, maintained and fulfilled by God alone; and involving a commitment to life and death from both God and humankind’.

understanding covenant

Let me show you some examples of where the word ‘covenant’ has been used in Genesis and Exodus. Genesis 6:18, God establishes His covenant with Noah and the sign of this covenant is the rainbow. Genesis 12, 15 and 17, it is found in relation to God’s covenant with Abraham that he will be the father many nations, he will be fruitful, God will give him the land of Canaan and the sign of this covenant agreement was circumcision. God then confirmed this covenant with Isaac, Jacob and the people of Israel.

I think the term ‘covenant’ is hard to understand in a society that does not hold to any oaths or promises, let alone keep a covenant agreement for generations and generations. God’s covenant with Abraham is so powerful when you look at it in terms of the dictionary definition above. It’s primary motivation is about a relationship with God that it is initiated, maintained and fulfilled by God alone. God does all the hard work, all we are called to do is respond to this covenant agreement with consecration of heart to God and loyalty to Him.

the outworking of the covenant

God wants us to be His alone, you can see that expressed in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 the first two address our heart to God, we are His and His alone. Have you noticed the language in Genesis and Exodus ‘You are my people, I will be your God’ giving that sense of exclusiveness in our relationship with God. Again, in a society where exclusive relationships are mocked we need to understand what being exclusive to God means. It means love, protection, we are special to Him, it’s a binding agreement, it is special, it is sacred. When we discuss a covenant relationship being exclusive we need to be really careful not to read an abusive relationship into the nature of God.  This covenant relationship is out of adoration and love not abuse of our freedom or control.

Going beyond the Old Testament, this incredible covenant relationship is seen in the salvation that is offered to us through Christ, the sign of this covenant agreement is the Holy Spirit. We will look at this concept as we continue to study the New Testament. I love this understanding of having a covenant relationship with God, it defines and encompasses our identity, this is who we are. We don’t need to strive to belong in our society because we are in the family of God, we are sons and daughters of the Most High and in the New Testament, our identity is in Jesus Christ.

The language for the people of God is one of protection, love, devotion, jealousy and commitment. God was completely devoted to his people, they were special, precious, his own and he expected that kind of devotion back in response. So when you read the incredible word of ‘covenant’ in the Old Testament you can see this relationship of commitment that was unfortunately broken by the Israelites and therein broke the heart of God.

God says time and time again to the Israelites ‘you are my people and I will be your God’. This incredible two-way relationship of the covenant agreement of God with his people is the basis for the whole Bible. He wants to walk with us, protect us, he wants to be ours and we His, don’t let our society that doesn’t honour oaths, commitments or exclusive relationships taint this beautiful relationship that God promises those who are His. Covenant agreement of love, devotion and acceptance, that is what He desires with us.



extra resources

exodus part one

exodus part two