God could rule the world all by himself, but he desires to share his rule and partner with humanity. What does this tell us about his character?
How would your group begin to describe the purpose and definition of a covenant?
As a group, summarize the four covenants God makes in the Hebrew Bible. What promises are made, and what commitments are required in each agreement? Review the video or dive deeper by reading Genesis 9:8-17, Genesis 17:1-22, Exodus 34, as well as 2 Samuel 7:12-17.
Describe one way Jesus’ new covenant relates to and completes the four old covenants (e.g. Luke 1:31-33, John 3:16-18, Colossians 2:10-12, as well as 2 Corinthians 3:4-18).
Take time to discuss other themes, questions, or key takeaways from what you learned together.
Genesis 1:28-29Genesis 12:3Genesis 8:20-22Exodus 19:1-62 Samuel 7:8-17John 1:1-18Revelation 21:1-4Genesis 1Genesis 3Romans 3:23Genesis 9Genesis 15Exodus 19-242 Samuel 7John 1:14Revelation 21
God’s Desired Partnership with Humanity [00:00-01:40]
Jon: If you’ve been around Christians, you’ve probably heard of the idea of having a personal relationship with God, which can mean different things in the Bible, like having God as a friend, or your father, or maybe your teacher.
Tim: But there is one particular way that the Bible talks about this relationship that you find it all over, but, strangely, we don’t talk about it that much, and that’s the idea of a partnership with God 1.
Jon: A partnership, like working alongside someone to accomplish a goal together.
Tim: Right, and this is actually what you see at the beginning of the Bible. God creates this good world full of all this potential2. And then God appoints these unique creatures, humans, as his partners in bringing more and more goodness out of all that potential 3.
Jon: But the humans don’t want to partner with God. They rebel and try to create a world on their own terms4.
Tim: And so this broken partnership is the Bible’s explanation for why we’re stuck in a world of corruption and injustice and the tragedy of death.
Jon: It’s not like there’s just one or two humans who have bailed on this relationship. In the story of the Bible, everyone has abandoned the partnership with God5.
Tim: So what God does is select a smaller group of people out of the many, and he makes a new partnership with them called a covenant 6. And in a covenant, God makes promises and then in exchange asks his partner to fulfill certain commitments. And the purpose of all of this is to somehow use this covenant relationship to renew his partnership with everybody else 7.
Jon: Now there are actually four times in the Old Testament that we’re told God initiates a covenant relationship––with Noah8, Abraham9, the nation of Israel10, and King David11.
Tim: And it’s through these that God is forming a covenant family into which all people will eventually be invited.
Jon: So let’s see how these work. The first one is with Noah12.
God’s Covenant with Noah [01:42-02:13]
Tim: So in this story, God has just brought the flood to cleanse the world of humanity’s corruption, and Noah and his family are the only ones left13. And so God makes a covenant with Noah saying, “Listen, I know that humans will continue to be evil, but despite that, I’m not going to destroy it like this again. Instead the earth will be this reliable place for us to work together.”14
Jon: Great! So what does Noah have to do?
Tim: Nothing. And that’s what’s so interesting about this first covenant–iIs that God is promising to be faithful, even though he knows humans won’t be15.
God’s Covenant with Abraham [02:14-02:38]
Jon: The next time we see God make a covenant is with a man named Abraham. God chooses him––promises to bless him, give him a large family, lots of land where they can flourish16.
Tim: And in return, God asks Abraham to trust him and train up his family to do what is right and just 17. And the whole reason for this covenant is that God says somehow he’s going to bring his blessing to all families of the world through this one family18.
God’s Covenant with Israel [02:39-03:05]
Jon: So that’s Abraham. The next time we see God make a covenant is when Abraham’s family has grown into the tribe of Israel.
Tim: And this covenant is with the whole tribe. God asks them to obey a set of laws, which are these guidelines for living well as a community of God’s partners. And if they do this, then God promises to bless them, and then they will become a people who represent him to the rest of humanity19.
Jon: That’s the covenant with Israel. The last covenant is with King David.
God’s Covenant with David [03:06-03:42]
Tim: Yeah. The tribe of Israel has become a large nation ruled by David, and God asks David and his descendants to partner with him by leading Israel and obeying the laws and doing what is just and right. And God promises that one day one of David’s sons will come and extend God’s Kingdom of peace and blessing over all the nations.
Jon: So those are the four covenants that God makes in order to restore his partnership with the whole world.
Tim: But here’s what happens: Israel breaks the covenant. They worship other gods, they allow horrible injustice, and so they lose their land and are forced off into exile 20.
Jon: So it seems hopeless, but during this time, Israel’s prophets talked about a day when God would restore these covenants in spite of Israel’s failure––somehow 21.
Tim: Yeah. They called it the new covenant.
Jesus Fulfilling the Covenants [03:42-05:10]
Tim: And this is actually what’s so interesting about Jesus is that he’s introduced into this story as the one who fulfills all of these covenant relationships.
We are told that he’s from the family of Abraham22, and so he will bring the blessings of that family to the whole world 23. We are told that he’s the faithful Israelite 24 who is able to truly obey the law 25. And we’re told that he’s the king from the line of David26. And so he goes about extending God’s Kingdom of justice and peace to all 27.
Jon: That’s really remarkable for one guy.
Tim: Yeah, and what it highlights is perhaps the most surprising claim of all made about this man––that Jesus is no mere human, but rather God becomes human 28. And God did this in order to be that faithful covenant partner that we are all made to be but have failed to be 29. And so through Jesus, God has opened up a way for anyone to be in a renewed partnership with him 30.
Jon: So Jesus calls people to follow him 31 and become part of his new covenant family.
Tim: And despite their failures 32, Jesus is committed to making them into partners who are becoming more and more faithful.
Jon: The story of the Bible ends with a vision of a fully renewed world full of goodness and peace33.
Tim: And there’s this renewed humanity there, partnering together with God to expand the goodness of his creation34. So the end of the Bible’s story is really a new beginning.