Covenant and Promise
It’s funny how words at times can lose their integrity and meaning or simply fall out of usage with time. As such, sometimes when we read, some words loose the power and potency which they should pack and it is somewhat diminished.
Promise is a word that is probably over used in our society today, as are a lot of words. Covenant has strong links with this word yet no one really outside of a church congregation is likely to know or to use this word at all.
There are probably a small percentage of the people we know who we would completely trust and be completely open with our secrets to. These tend to be the people who are closest to us in our lives. These are generally also the people whom you do not need to hear the phrase “I promise” from because you know their word is good. Essentially that is what promise is, that you keep your word. It’s an assurance.
Covenant is related to promise yet is deeper. You know what promises are like; people make them on a whim, usually to get a piece of gossip or out of trouble or to show some contrition for something they have done wrong. Some are sincere. Some are trustworthy. But I am sure most reading this have heard the phrase “Promises are made to be broken.”
In that worldly sentiment lays the difference between Covenant and Promise. Promise lacks some integrity as the integrity of the promise cannot be greater than the integrity of the person making the promise.
Now covenant on the other hand is totally different. If you look up covenant in the dictionary you will come across synonyms like “contract” “warrant” “guarantee.” All words with legal connotations. Contracts are legally binding. A manufacturer’s warranty is binding for the time scale given. And if something is guaranteed, it is completely assured.
When I think of covenant I think of the term “Divine Promise.” Something which is divine is perfect in nature and integrity. So a covenant is a guaranteed, assured promise. Therefore it cannot be broken, and is completely binding. When God makes promises to us, this is the fullness of what it means.
Promises are lacking because it is based in the integrity of man. Covenant is complete because it is based on the integrity of God. However like a lot of things of this world promises are a reflection of something which is divine, which is why the misuse of them has devastating effects.
For this reason God takes our word seriously. Especially as Christians, which is why Jesus says to us to let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no.” Because even though our promises as mere humans can and do fall short they are a reflection of that which is pure and complete. And if the reflection is muddied and rippled it will distort people’s view of the Covenant making God who has made the ultimate covenant for us. This is why promises should be held dear and in much more reverence for a promise broken fails to reflect the beauty which lies in the Divine Promise. And as Christians we should be doing all we can to reflect all of who He is.
I was going to discuss particular covenants in the Bible more and have a look at the covenant which is marriage. However I may leave that for another time as I think this thought is deep enough.
Remember to test all things and hold fast to what is good.