Covenanted in The Blood
by Dan Kidd
In the ancient world, it was understood that covenants were serious business. They were agreements, or promises, entered into with a lot to gain and a lot to lose. Think of the king-subject covenant, where a powerful and conquering king strikes an agreement with the chieftain of large tribe that, as so long as the chieftain will pay homage to the king, and not be violent to the king's people, the king will protect the chieftain and his tribe from other kingdoms or tribes. Consider how important this agreement is between these two. The king relies on such agreements to enjoy a sense of peace and stability across his kingdom. The chieftain relies on the king to keep his word and protect his tribe, and hopes that the king will be good and merciful to his tribe. And imagine how important this covenant would be to the tribe members--whose livelihood and peace depended on the faithfulness of these two men to keep their ends of the agreement. So much was at stake when these types of covenants were arranged. If they were broken, violence was rather imminent. No wonder they were taken so seriously.
And no wonder that, when Israel was aiming to make good on their covenant with the Lord, the restoring of the covenant relationship (their response to their deal-breaking sinfulness) was only satisfied when taken with the utmost seriousness: a blood sacrifice. In covenant parlance, slaughtered animals are meant to convey the consequences of the party who broke their end of the promise. "If ever either of us break our promise, let it be like this animal for them." Sacrifice, then, in part, served as something like a substitution of the life of an animal in place of the life of the covenant-breaker. The animal sacrifice also served to feed the priests and those in need in the community--so this was likewise a relational reparation for those who had sinned against the Lord and their community.
This is what the author of Hebrews has it mind when they depicted Jesus as the High Priest, entering into the perfect, heavenly tabernacle. Jesus plays the role of the High Priest who would annually enter into the temple with a cleansing blood sacrifice--to atone for his own sin and the sins of others left unsatisfied. But Jesus enters the temple and performs an ultimate and final act of rectifying the old covenant, and replacing it with a new one, because he was himself the perfect sacrifice; because his blood washes away not only the sins that had happened but all the sins left to come. No more did God's people need to fear that their sinfulness, deathly serious as it is, would not be covered for. That's not to say that the new covenant isn't as gravely serious as the old one. This covenant is a matter of life and death--and even more that than that: life after death or death after life. But here is the promise to us, Christians: because of Jesus, and his reparative, reconciling, and redeeming self-sacrifice, we can live our lives as those washed clean and entirely forgiven of our sinfulness.
So I ask you, Christian, are you living today in the liberty and weightlessness of one washed free of sin and in restored relationship with the Lord? Our new covenant is Christ crucified for us.
Cup Prayer – This prayer will help you pour your heart out to God (Ps. 62:8). Begin with your hands folded together like an upside-down cup. Pour out before the Lord all your fears, anxieties, guilt, sin and shame. Tell him what troubles you. Take time to be specific. When you feel like you’ve poured out your heart, flip your hands over, folding them like an open cup, ready to receive from God. Sit in silence, asking God simply to fill you with his Spirit. If your mind runs back to sin, shame, anxiety or concerns of the day, flip your hands back over and pour it out to the Lord. When you are finished praying, consider re-read today’s Scripture and listen as God shares His heart back with you.