Lesson 1 — Prophets as Preachers of Restoration, Part II

What a Covenant Is

A covenant is a document outlining the terms of the relationship between a king and his subjects.

Six Aspects of a Covenant

1. Not negotiated

The terms on the covenant are imposed on the subjects by the king.  The role of the vassal is not to determine what the covenant ought to be, but to obey it.  Vassals have no rights, but only privileges and obligations under the terms of the covenant.  They likewise have no recourse if the Suzerain fails to deliver other than to appeal to a more powerful king to make them his vassal.

2. Sealed by blood

When a covenant is made, it is said to be “cut.”  Typically this involves killing an animal, separating it into two piles of pieces, and having both parties pass through the remains as if to say, “May I be like this animal if I violate this covenant.”  See Genesis 15:7-18

3. Based on history

A covenant between a king and his subjects (or superior and lesser king) typically lists all the ways the vassal has benefited from the relationship in the past.  Covenants typically were not cut between strangers.  Likewise, covenants often served to ratify and codify (and oftentimes enhance) the present reality rather than create a new condition of servitude.  See Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6.

4. Proclaimed aloud

When a covenant was ratified, the terms were known to all parties.  Witnesses were often called to acknowledge the covenant’s existence and terms.  See Leviticus 9:23-24, as “The glory of the Lord” appears to sanctify the tabernacle in view of all the people.  See also Deuteronomy 27:9-13.

5. Prominently placed within the community.

Oftentimes, a covenant would include a clause requiring it to be read by the vassal regularly.  The covenant was stored in the most important place in the community, often a temple.  The Suzerain and the vassal each had a copy.  See Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16, Deuteronomy 27:1-8.

6. Rewards and punishments are clear and unambiguous.

In human covenants, the primary purpose was to keep peace.  This was best accomplished by making sure everyone knew what to expect from everyone else.  Those who violated that peace disturbed the good order of the empire, and were punished.  Those who were active in maintaining the peace were likewise rewarded.  The goal of the Mosaic covenant was “shalom,” or harmony within the community and between Israel and God.  Most of what is commanded in the Law enhances that fellowship, while most of what is prohibited obstructs the relationship.

Example of covenant texts in the Old Testament – Genesis 15, Deuteronomy 30

Restoration
Restoration is the act of putting something back in its original condition.

In the prophets, restoration is:

1. An act of God.

Restoration happens because God decides to make it happen.  His love motivates Him to do what is necessary to live in relationship with His people, even if those people have forsaken Him.  Whenever there is a threat of punishment in the prophets, there is at least an implication of eventual restoration.  See Psalm 85

2. Dependent on human response.

People have to want to be restored before God will bring it about.

Deuteronomy 30:1-10

3. A result of belief as well as repentance.

God wants what is best for His people.  He only needs His people to rust Him and to cooperate with His plans.  Even the prophet himself must believe that restoration is the will of God.

Jeremiah 29:10-14
Jeremiah 15:19-20

4. Complete.

When restoration happens, it is as dramatic as the initial delivery of Israel from Egypt.

Isaiah 1:24-28
Jeremiah 16:14-15

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