Covenants, Marriage and Coverings Understanding our Walk in Yahweh
Miscellaneous Sermons & Articles, September 2002
Have you ever kárat b'rit? If you wondering what that means, it is to "make a covenant" or contract. When you buy a home you kárat b'rit, when you get married you kárat b'rit, and when you are baptised into the Messiah you kárat b'rit. You enter into a mutual agreement, and that agreement is, the Scriptures tell us, binding, unless it is illegal or anti-Torah (e.g. two homosexuals entering a marriage kárat b'rit in which case they are committing fornication). Some covenants are unilateral and do not involve the second party. Yahweh announced to Noah that He would establish His b'rit (covenant) with him, a sovereign dispensing of grace on His part. The security arising from this b'rit is solely from the action of Yahweh. Yahweh established it because it was His covenant. And since He never breaks covenant, He can be relied upon to fulfil the self-imposed conditions of that covenant.
Although this was a unilateral (one-way) covenant there were, and are, nevertheless, corresponding obligations on the part of man. Noah and his family were to come into the ark and he was to bring with him the specified number of animals, birds, and creeping things (Gen.6:18b-21). Thus there is no conflict between sovereign administration of grace and ensuing obligation.
The absence of any concept of a bilateral agreement is likewise manifested in the post-diluvian covenant that Yahweh entered into with Noah. The keynote was: "And I, behold, am establishing My covenant with you" (Gen.9:9). It is important that we note the salient features of this b'rit:
(a) The covenant is conceived and established by Yahweh Himself;
(b) It is universal in its scope. Although it was only entered into with Noah it embraced his seed after him and every living creature. The scope demonstrates that the grace bestowed is not dependent upon intelligent understanding or favourable response on the part of the beneficiaries;
(c) This covenant is unconditional; no commandment or requirement is appended which could be construed as the condition upon which the grace bestowed is contingent. In fact, there is no ensuing obligation for Noah and his seed which could be regarded as the means through which the grace promised is to be realised. Hence the thought of breaking the covenant is irrelevant;
(d) There is no human contribution to the agency by which the promises are fulfilled. The sign does not even take the form of an ordinance to be performed by man at Yahweh's behest. The rainbow in the cloud is for the purpose of attesting the faithfulness of Yahweh and is to bring to His remembrance His covenant promise. It is not a sign over which men exercise any control;
(e) The covenant is everlasting. No uncertainty or mutability (change) can belong to Yahweh's unconditional promise.
It is not my purpose today to analyse in depth all the different biblical covenants - the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and the Messianic. All of these build upon the Noahic Covenant but have additions and conditions added to them. What I propose to do is make an examination of the Messianic Covenant and the Marriage Covenant because they are so intimately connected as this will help us better understand how we are to walk a spiritual life in Yahweh.
The New Covenant or Messianic Covenant is the b'rit of the fulness of time. It is the consummation of the ages (Gal.4:4; Heb.9:26) and may therefore be regarded as the "covenant of covenants" - the ultimate covenant. It is therefore rightly called the "everlasting covenant" (Heb.13:20; 12:28). This does not mean, as we know, any negation of previous covenants, but simply that it brings Yahweh's grace to its fullest exhibition and bestowal: it is Yahweh's covenant relationship on the highest level of achievement. And it is everlasting because it is not to be - and cannot be - displaced by any other "more complete" realisation of what covenant grace embodies. Covenant grace has now reached the finale of its revelation. And the result will be consummated bliss for those of Yahweh's people who walk in it, depicted in the Book of Revelation as an allegorical marriage feast. It could not really be otherwise. For the New Covenant is correlative with the grace which Christ is, and brings.
Galatians 3:17-22 clearly establishes that the previous covenants are not made null and void by the New Covenant. We learn that the Mosaic Covenant did not make void the Abrahamic Covenant. The Mosaic was an addition, not a suspension - an addition subserving the interests of the promise which found its focal point in that which was to come. And when Paul in his letter to the Hebrews (9:16-17) makes the astonishing comparison between the New Covenant (B'rit Chadashah) and a "last will and Testament", we are led to understand that there is no more possibility of rendering that Covenant void than there is of making the last will and testament of a person void after his death. The Covenant is permanent - it can never be changed.
Unfortunately far too many Christians view the marriage covenant, which is used as an illustration of the permanency of the New Covenant, as something that can be ended or modified by human whim. They view it as a bilateral contract much as Talmudic Jews still do today. But this is not New Covenant marriage. Whereas the imperfect Covenant of Moses could be broken by the parties concerned under certain conditions, and Yahweh could metaphorically divorce Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem) and then later metaphorically remarry them, under the terms of the New and Everlasting Covenant of the Messiah, such is impossible. Once the contract is entered into it, it is permanently fixed.
Each of the parties of a New Covenant marriage does so unilaterally in the same way as Yahweh entered into a covenant with Noah both before and after the flood. There is no quid pro quo - if you do this I'll do that - concept in New Covenant marriage. The parties do not, for example, mutually enter into an agreement, saying: "If you (husband) love me (wife), I (wife) will obey you" (per pro Paul's injunctions), but each unilaterally (using this example) declare: "I (husband) will love you (wife)" and "I (wife) will obey you (husband)". There is no "if" clause. No conditions. In the same way when we enter into baptismal covenants with the Messiah, we do not say: "I will love and obey you (Yah'shua) if you (Yah'shua) will save me", because the blood of redemption has already saved us if we will simply appropriate it through faith - our covenant of obedience is independent of any promised saving act. It is quite simply expected of us as creatures of the Creator! That obedience was mandated before Yah'shua (Jesus) ever came into the world and offered us a new covering for sin, that of His Son in place of animals.
We often talk of obedience to Torah as a heart-response to salvation. And from our point of view this is most likely the primary emotional reaction to the act and experience of salvation. Our sense of deep gratitude will certainly inspire us to give everything we have to Him - our obedience and our loyalty. This is not, however, our primary obligation: our primary obligation is to obey no matter what Yahweh does for us because we belong to Him and His creation! This is surely the constant message we learn from Scripture from such men as Job who sought an explanation for their sufferings and finally realised that to demand such a thing was presumptuous in the extreme. The principle of ownership is underlined in the several potter parables (Isa.28:16ff; 64:8; Jer.18:4ff; etc.). Our concept of justice is not Yahweh's because we technically speaking don't have any "rights" at all. Our place is to simply trust that He is an all-loving Creator who does nothing but good to us, and to trust that the adversity we experience in life is part of the process that leads to that consummation of goodness. And if we need any evidence that He loves and cares for us, we have only to see what Yah'shua's (Jesus') redemption means for us in terms of eternal life.
The same principles hold true for Christian marriage. Because this is New Covenant marriage, it is ipso facto everlasting marriage - it is a covenant that never ends! IN this fellowship we believe that we in fact entered marriage covenants before we were even born, and that Yahweh established these covenants on the basis of His sovereign will and His intimate knowledge of us and our needs. And though we enter marriage "contracts" on earth which govern our behaviour whilst on earth, there is within that contract a pre-existing one which is in every way greater than the earthly one, since earthly ones are not everlasting. When foreordained couples enter covenants, they are in truth simply renewing their premortal covenants so that they can be consummated in the flesh, because the covenants we make in heaven are of an exclusively spiritual nature. The eartjly covenant simply ensures we may have a sexual relationship. The nature of these mortal covenants are such that should those who marry on earth do so with those who are not their eternal marriage companions (a mistake that frequently happens, especially in the light of all the divorce and remarriage that takes place), then they are obliged to remain married to those persons until at death the earthly contract is nullified, as Yah'shua (Jesus) pointed out to the Sadducees when He reminded them that no marriage contracts are entered into in heaven. In the resurrection, if mistakes were made on earth, we are then returned to our eternal spouses.
I was once of the opinion that we personally chose our marriage companions in heaven before we came here but in the light of the covenant-nature of Yahweh which we see in the several Biblical Covenants, I am persuaded that this is not true. I quite simply do not believe we are wise, clever or inspired enough to make such a choice. Rather, the illustration we have of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah persuades me that Yahweh, as Abraham did, knows what is best for us. The mess we see in the choice of marriage partners in this earth life is further testimony to me that we are incapable of choosing right unless Yahweh has already made that choice for us. It is only as an eternal marriage unfolds in Christ here on earth that we begin to see the wisdom of His choice, and why it is that certain couples are seemingly "thrown together" by events and circumstances that are irresistible, if not always comprehensible at first, when we are fully yielded to Him. When we are not, and are operating under the guidance of our carnal nature and its unspiritual appetites, then wrong marriages often result.
Our relationship to Christ is not at all unlike our marriages to one another. There are honeymoon periods and dry periods. All relationships undergo upheavals especially when the individuals within marriage covenants change spiritual direction, for good or evil. If we are making a change for the good - especially if we are dealing with sin issues that lead to repentance and rebirth, our spouse can often feel left behind and threatened as the spiritual basis of the relationship shifts into a new mode. If we are making a change for the worst, then our spouse can undergo unspeakable suffering as once deep and intimate bonds are weakened. Either way, it is the covenant of marriage which glues the marriage together and allows the couple to struggle to find a new balance and harmony, rather than be cast out into the darkness occasioned by the unilateral or mutual termination of the marriage contract. Where Christians are being true to covenant - and it is covenant that is the key - they is no divorce. Let's examine the nature of the marriage covenant in light of the Noahic Covenant (see above) and then consider that important facet of marriage called the "covering".
Nobody truly understands the implications of a marriage covenant when they first enter into one. We enter "green" and hopefully come out "vintage". In many ways we enter marriage blind because we do not really know our marriage companions until we have lived with them for many years. Marriage is a journey of mutual discovery just as walking with Christ is a journey of divine discovery. The Person of Yahweh takes a lifetime to begin to comprehend, and it likely an understanding that will only come to maturity throughout the eternities. Thus the grace in a marriage at its inception, like the Noahic covenant, "is not dependent upon intelligent understanding or favourable response on the part of the beneficiaries". We marry in faith not knowing a whole lot about each other.
The second parallel with the Noahic Covenant and marriage that we learn is that "the covenant is unconditional; no commandment or requirement is appended which could be construed as the condition upon which the grace bestowed is contingent. In fact, there is no ensuing obligation for (the parties to the marriage) which could be regarded as the means through which the grace promised is to be realised. Hence the thought of breaking the covenant is irrelevant". True marriage is built on grace and the moment you even consider the possibility of the contract ending, you are moving out of grace and into the domain of the flesh. And when you do that, you are immediately divided in yourself and confusion reigns. Because a marriage contract is unbreakable in the New and Everlasting Covenant of Christ, the moment you start thinking that it is, you start moving out of Christ.
This is a thought-mode completely alien to our secular philosophy which sees truth and contracts as something relative. In the Spirit of Yahweh this is not so. The Spirit of the New Covenant is immutability. Which leads us to the fourth aspect of the Noahic Covenant which is that we exercise no control over our marriage covenants. The covenants are established by Yahweh, upheld by Yahweh, and brought to full realisation and consummation by Yahweh. The covenants are nothing to do with us at all! Our responsibilities as husband and wives are to love and obey in Yah'shua (Jesus), respectively. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church or Messianic Assembly, and the wife is to obey and respect her husband in all things as the Church or Messianic Assembly obeys and respects Christ in all things (Eph.5:22-33). Our marriage covenants to one another are inextricably tied to our salvation covenants in Christ - you cannot actually separate them. Which is why the covenant of marriage is so sacred.
The sign of this covenant is the rainbow consisting of the seven primary colours. My wife and I have recently been having some health and spiritual struggles as sin issues are confronted and spiritual rebirthing takes place as a result of repentance. As we were driving home following the beginnings a wonderful reconciliation, a beautiful sight greeted our eyes. She laughingly remarked that I was bound to see this as a sign, and as I matter of fact I did, and still do, though at the time she said that she didn't and I was inclined to at first agree with her.
What we saw were two huge rainbows, one on top of the other, the larger one covering or arching over the smaller though brighter one. I asked her to "pick" the one she would like and she chose the inner one, recognising as she did the principle of the covering of a husband over his wife. It wasn't until I sat down to write this article four days later that I saw the spiritual significance of what we witnessed. It was a confirmation to me of the Noahic nature of the marriage covenant. For we had no "control" over this sign - Yahweh knew we would see it when we did, and knew that a few days later I would see its spiritual significance. Nothing in this world is coincidental.
There was another interesting facet to this rainbow experience. The larger one was partly invisible by virtue of its positioning above the smaller one. And this is very true of the spiritual covering that Christ both gives to us through His blood, and that husbands give to their wives. We are providing a covering that those being covered almost never see.
Because of the everlasting nature of the marriage covenant between myself and my wife, and because of my calling as a spiritual as well as temporal protector and provider, I am constantly aware, by virtue of my walk with Christ, of the spiritual processes taking place in her, particularly at night when my mind is not occupied with the concerns of daily life. I am aware of invisible forces that are arraigned against her and am able to go into intercession in prayer (Eph.6:12). If she is going through a difficult time, I may find myself spending up to half the night in prayer. I am aware of both demonic activity against her as well as hostile psychic warfare against her by people not walking in the way of Christ. Because I have been given the rôle by Yahweh as her covering, any spiritual attacks that come her way come to me first of all. Because of agency principles, sometimes she may consciously remove the spiritual covering from herself by entering into a false personal covenant to "do it herself". Or a husband can do the same thing by refusing to be that covering spiritually, in which case the wife must take the full force of any demonic or psychic attacks. One of the obligations a husband takes upon himself when entering into a marriage covenant is to be this spiritual covering, and if he walks away from it, he is in serious transgression. This "coverer" is part and parcel of his responsibility as the head of his wife and a reason, when she understands what it is he is doing for her, why she is willing to submit herself to him in her heart as her head. Though the b'rit is not quid pro quo, the heart-reaction frequently is.
This covering principle is one of the most beautiful both in terms of salvation and the marriage arrangement. Yahweh covers Zion with "a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night" (Isa.4:5, NKJV), themselves a symbol of the spiritual covering He gives us from the powers of the adversary, from sin and from death. A husband is his wife's covering as Yahweh covers Israel, and Yah'shua (Jesus) covers the Church or Messianic Israel. Scripture is rich in the symbolism of these coverings - the long hair of a woman is her head-covering (1 Cor.11:15); and as she covers both head and hair with a shawl to denote her submission to her husband's authority in all things (1 Cor.11:-16), so he is required by Yahweh to wear tzitzit (fringes or tassels - Num.15:38-41; Dt.22:12) to indicate his submission to Torah. Her law is her husband's, which is Torah, which is Yahweh, for he is the interpreter and dispenser of Torah for her.
As New Covenant Christians we are under covenants or contracts with Yahweh, and they are the foundation of our spiritual life. Where there is no covenant, there is no relationship, whether between God and man, or between man and man. And where there is no relationship, there is no security, only uncertainty.
My whole life revolves around my covenants. My wife can safety trust in them for I will not violate them. Ever. These days people do not care too much about being promise-keepers and are only too ready to break their vows. A son or daughter of Yahweh will recoil with horror at the thought of ever doing such a thing, and would rather die. For without the bond of one's word, how can there ever be stable relationships? The prayer on our lips should ever be: "Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your Word" (Ps.119:17, NKJV). When we say we are living for Yahweh, we are also saying that we are living for His Word - His Torah: "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from your Torah" (v.18). Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep my Torah (Word); and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (Jn.14:23, NKJV).
Our covenants are entered into in faith. We know very little about Yahweh, actually, but we trust Him nonetheless on the basis of the evidence we already have. It is the same with marriage covenants. Spouses don't know a great deal about one another because of the veil of forgetfulness which shields the knowledge we have of one another from the premortal life, and yet there is a wordless "knowing" that there is a sacred bond there. May Yahweh be praised for these things and may we ever be true to our covenants. Amen.
This page was created on 2 October 2002
Last updated on 2 October 2002
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