So I’ve heard and read of Biblical covenants for decades, but this is the first time I’ve paused to understand the profound difference between this covenant (with Moses and the Israelites) and the ones God makes with Noah and Abraham…and ultimately through his son, Jesus.
God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis Nine is unilateral, promising that the world will never again be destroyed by flood…ever. It’s unconditional. Which means that God will keep this promise no matter how idiotic the world becomes.
God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis Twelve is also unilateral. It’s unconditional, promising that Abraham’s descendants will be blessed and will be called God’s own people…always. No matter what. Nothing is required of Abraham. God will keep this promise regardless of mankind’s actions.
Then there is the covenant with Moses and the Israelites in Exodus Twenty Four. And things change…completely. This time, it’s bilateral. It’s a covenant with condition; an “If…then…” agreement that requires something of both parties. If the people obey, then they’ll be blessed. If they disobey, then they’ll be cursed. (these details are outlined later, in Deuteronomy 28) The concept is quite simple. The implementation…not so much.
Considering the profound difference between these two types of covenants, makes me think about the covenant of marriage from a different perspective. And it makes me wonder how different marriage might be if we lived it as a unilateral covenant…a covenant like God made with Noah and with Abraham. A covenant that is unconditional. Risky? Perhaps. Difficult? Certainly.
For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. No matter what.
Keeping this promise….really keeping it….is totally against human nature. I find it quite simple – instinctive even – to inspect the actions and intentions of my spouse and find areas of failure. It’s so easy to focus on how well (or poorly) I’m being loved…cared for…and appreciated. So much easier than focusing on how well I’m loving my husband…caring for him…and showing appreciation. Why is it so natural to fixate on how I can be treated better? And how others can improve?
God made his covenant with Noah, not to flood the whole earth ever again, knowing that things would get just as bad – worse even – than the original cause of the flood. He knew it. But still he promised.
We say “I Do” knowing that we are marrying an imperfect person…knowing that there will be hard days, weeks, and years.* But still we promise. And here’s the thing, if I live life looking for a reason – for justification – of why I have the right to break the covenant, I’ll find it. But if I live life focused on my own performance and my own heart, my whole perspective changes. It’s embracing my opportunity to serve, instead of demanding the right to be served. It’s living like Jesus. Serving people isn’t something Jesus did on earth…it is who he was. It defined him.
May it define me. And may I find new joy in this perspective of marriage.
*When “hard times” and “imperfections” become abuses, it’s time to seek Godly counsel. Living in fear is not the same as living in inconvenience. Here are links to help you FIND a Christian counselor near you and information to help you CHOOSE the right one.