The Lord Jesus Christ Given as a Covenant of the People
By Al Stoner
The moral havoc introduced by Adam’s transgression made necessary, among many other things, a covenant for restoring the pristine and sublime order that once prevailed in God’s creation of the world. This covenant would be one that would summon men to faith in God through the blessed Savior given by Him, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and it would make provision for the complete and thorough putting away of iniquity, transgression, and sin (cf. Dan. 9:24). For those receiving this wondrous provision by their obedience to the gospel, that which God has provided would effect their transformation into the Divine image, even the image of God's dear Son. This is the work of God! The Father has made a covenant with His Son (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:8) , identified in Isaiah's prophecy as My Servant, and in Psalm 89 as My Chosen, and all who are in the Son of God, having believed upon His Name, partake of the benefits of this covenant.
After sin entered, men in their best state were like Job and his three friends, who though they were friends, they were in fundamental disagreement with regard to the reason for his affliction. Another example would be that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when they made covenants with such ones as the Philistines and with Laban with regard to the proper adjudication of property and wives. By way of contrast, in their worst state there were ones like Cain, who slew his brother, and the men of Sodom, who, in the words of Jude, were going after strange flesh (that’s any flesh outside of divinely sanctioned husband and wife relationship), and consequently suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. And lest some would think themselves better than others, let us here clarify that the best men have within them the moral potential to be like the worst of men, and therefore all men stand equally in need of the blessed remedy for sin that God has provided in His beloved Son.
The entrance of sin into the world has fostered a fundamental distrust, disunity, and disagreement among men, both Godward and manward, making covenants, treaties, agreements, pledges and promises essential even unto a temporary fix for a very grievous situation. Men stand in need of covenants and pledges because of the inveterate distrust that sin has brought into their constitution received from Adam's transgression. But most significantly there resulted a need for the Lord Jesus Christ to be given as a covenant of the people. And by this means God would effect the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world.
The covenant made between the Father and the Son was not, however, done so out of distrust amongst Themselves. What was entered into by Them was agreed upon amongst Themselves before the foundation of the world (cf. Rev. 13:8). The Son’s need for assurance is a commentary on the depths to which He willingly humbled Himself. The Father said to Him, I WILL HOLD THY HAND (spoken to the Son as a needed confirmation and commitment of faithfulness to Him). God’s redeemed sons and daughters stand desperately in need of comprehending by their faith this covenant made between the Father and the Son, and of their consequent incorporation into the Godhead. This comprehension of these blessed provisions is abundantly made known and effectualized unto men in the preaching the gospel. God has chosen by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, the Scriptures declare.
The Word Covenant. "The Hebrew word for 'covenant' in the Old Testament is berith, which the Septuagint consistently renders with the Greek word diatheke. There is little doubt that the New Testament authors followed the practice of the Septuagint and employed the term diatheke to mean berith, 'covenant.'" --The Lexham Bible Dictionary The word berith signifies a cutting in twain of an animal sacrifice, and those making covenant would pass between the parts of the sacrifice, making a solemn oath that the covenant they were entering into would not be broken. In Genesis 15 and Jeremiah 34 we see mentionings of this kind of covenant and oath. In the Genesis 15:1-17 text it must be noted, however, that Abraham did not pass between the parts of the slain covenant victim, but rather the LORD Himself, represented by the smoking furnace and the burning lamp. The covenant spoken of there did not rest on the merits of Abraham, but rather was rooted in God Himself. The covenant between the Father and the Son was being foreshadowed there, with Christ being given as a covenant sacrifice, and "a covenant of the people" for the putting away of their sins.
"Contracts and covenants differ in a few areas. In terms of initiation, contracts are made by the exchange of promises, whereas covenants are sworn by solemn oaths. In application, contracts are limited by the terms of the exchange of property (“this is yours, that is mine”), while covenants involve an exchange of life (“I am yours, you are mine”), which covers a virtually unlimited range of human relations and duties. In terms of motivation, contracts are based on profit and self-interest, while covenants call for self-giving loyalty and sacrificial love. Contracts are temporary while covenant bonds are permanent, even intergenerational. Such distinctions do not imply that covenants are necessarily opposed to contracts, since covenants call for both promise-making and oath-swearing" (Heb 6:13–18). --The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Some Names by which this Covenant is Called in Scripture
- "A New Covenant" (Jer. 31:31-34). The newness which characterizes this covenant is never fading. It is a newness which is is not diminished by the passing of time, nor by the change of circumstance.
- “The everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20). Though this covenant is taken hold of by men who are living in this present world, its blessed benefits and effects extend into the ages to come, world without end.
- “The covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ” (Gal. 3:17). The new covenant has its foundation and roots in eternity past.
- The mercy promised to the fathers (Lk. 1:72). The new covenant is a demonstration of the merciful character of God, comprehended in the sending forth of His Son into the world that we might live through Him.
- God’s holy covenant (Lk. 1:72). The new covenant has proceeded forth from the Holy One, and partakes of His holy character.
- “The covenant which God made with our fathers” (Acts 3:25). Both the covenant and the promises were made to Abraham, and to his Seed (which is Christ).
- “For this is My covenant unto them (Israel), when I shall take away their sins” (Rom. 11:27). One of the hallmark provisions of the the new covenant is that of the complete and effectual removal of sin from before the face of God (which was accomplished in the death of God's only begotten Son).
- “A better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6). The new covenant is better because the reception of its benefits are conditioned upon believing the record which God has given of His Son.
- “The promise which He hath promised us, even eternal life.” The new covenant is elsewhere called "the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus".
The concept and significance of the word "covenant" (berith) originated with God Himself, and was not borrowed from heathen nations. Rather, the covenants associated with heathen nations were corruptions of that which originally proceeded from God Himself. The very concept of a covenant was conceived by, and proceeded forth from, God Himself, and not from men.
As we have said, when sin entered into the world, the entire natural order was thrown into a condition of moral disarray and chaos on every level. The whole creation has being groaning and travailing unto this day. The wind howls, the sea roars, animals seek their meat from God, the sun and the moon continually make their tireless journeys from east to west by the ordinance of God, and they shine faithfully shine their light upon both the evil and the good. The natural creation is travailing. Evil men are waxing worse and worse, violence is filling the earth in seemingly boundless measure.
But in spite of all this there is still a righteous seed here in the earth, whose path is growing brighter unto the perfect day. They are the blessed offspring of the Seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been begotten by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. They are begotten of God, Their seed remains in them, and they cannot sin, because they are born of God.
Christ, a Covenant of the People. God had purposed that Christ would be this "covenant of the people" before the foundation of the world. As we generally conceive of things, a person cannot be a covenant. Typically, a covenant is something that is proceeds from persons, and is separate from persons. Such was the case with the Law of Moses. It was given by God through Moses, but it was separate from the people.
With regard to the New Covenant, however, it is embodied in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His holy and righteous Person, in His eternality, in His enfleshment and humbling of Himself, in His sufferings and death, in His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God, in His High Priesthood and intercession, He has become the embodiment of this covenant. The Lord Jesus Christ is everything that is needed for bringing to fruition God’s eternal purpose in Him. This is because of who He is, and also what He has accomplished in our behalf, when He layed down His life that He might take it up again.
There is not, neither has there ever been, any other covenant like this. In every other instance, covenants are separate from persons, and persons are separate from covenants. Persons make covenants, and covenants are made, and mutually agreed on, by persons. The very use of covenants testifies of the great scattering caused by the entrance of sin into the world.
But God has sworn with an oath, declaring His immutable purpose regarding those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and who take shelter in the blessed provision that God has made in Him. "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb. 6:17-20).
Christ is also everything that pertains to the covenant: Christ needs no added accessories for the performance and bringing to fruition of this covenant outside of His own glorious Person. The things pertaining to His Person of which we speak, are: who Christ essentially is, and what He Himself has accomplished salvationally in our behalf. Who Christ is ensures that all that He has accomplished will not fail, but shall be brought to full fruition to the praise of God's glory.
- Christ's own blood is the blood of the covenant.
- He Himself is the Mediator of the covenant,
- Christ is the covenant ark (i.e., all the necessary and precious things pertaining to this covenant are resident in Him),
- He is the candlestick (all the necessary illumination regarding our complete reconciliation to God proceeds directly from Him).
- Christ is the mercy seat (the propitiatory, the propitiation) overlaid with gold (not the gold of Ophir, but the gold representing the preciousness of His own blessed Person.
- He is the rod that budded, and still buds,
- Christ the table that supports and upholds all thing precious things pertaining to this covenant.
- Christ is the shewbread, the evident source and means of sustenance and nourishment of those who are the beneficiaries of this covenant.
- Christ is the golden pot containing manna, the precious Container and Substance of the necessary sustenance for those on the heavenly sojourn.
- In Christ are the tables of the covenant. Instead of the requirements for acceptability with God being inscribed on tables of stone, they are now embodied in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are in Him, and abide in Him are indeed accepted of God. They are accepted in Christ, the Beloved One.
- In the preaching of the gospel, Christ the Shewbread is set forth before His people, nourishing them, and sustaining throughout their heavenly sojourn.
GOD GAVE HIS SON. He gave His Son for the world, He gave Christ to be a propitiation for our sins, and He gave Him to be a covenant of the people, and a light to the Gentiles. It seems that in each of these instances of God giving of His Son, in some way, it was a sacrifice to God Himself, as well.
God gave His Son as a covenant of the people, His only begotten Son. He gave Him up, in order that He might be able to receive us graciously, to the praise of His glory.
Each of the representations in Scripture of God giving His Son should call to our remembrance somewhat of the full-orbed significance of what was involved in this giving, both as it pertains to God and to men. He was given in demonstration of God’s love for the world. He was given as an offering and a sweet-smelling savor to God. He was given as a ransom for many. He was given to be the propitiation for our sins. He was given as a covenant of the people.
Giving Christ to be a covenant of the people and a light of the Gentiles would be the wellspring of blessedness, and that which follows in verse 7 would be the result.
Isaiah 42:6 Renderings of the Text
"I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles"
"I will give You for a covenant to the people [Israel], for a light to the nations [Gentiles]" (Amp.)
"And I have given thee for a covenant of the people" (DRB).
"I will give you as a covenant for the people" (ESV).
"I will appoint you as my promise to the people" (GW).
" . . . appoint you as a covenant to the people" (ISV).
I have "set thee for a covenant of the people" (JPS).
I will "place thee as my covenant unto the people as light unto the Gentiles" (JUB). (The two thoughts, covenant and light, are joined together). It seems that the thought here is that those who have embraced Christ, the Covenant of the people, will provoke to jealousy those who are yet strangers to the covenants and promises.
"And I have presented you as a covenant of the people" (CPDV).
"I Hashem have called Thee in tzedek, and will take hold of Thine yad, and will keep Thee, and give Thee [Moshiach] for a Brit [Covenant, Mt. 26:28] of the Am (people) (Orthodox Jewish Bible).
Isaiah 49:8 Renderings
I will "give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages" (KJV).
I have "given thee to be a covenant of the people, that thou mightest raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed" (DRB).
I have "given you as a covenant for the people, to restore the land, to reassign the inheritances that have been devastated" (ISV).
The Psalm 89 Texts
“I have made a covenant with My Chosen, I have sworn unto David My Servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up Thy throne to all generations. Selah” (Ps. 89:3-4).
“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance” (Ps. 89:14-15).
“Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah” (Ps. 89:35-37).
The Incorporation into the Godhead
Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (Jn. 14:8-21).
“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17:14-26).
The Effectual Nature of this blessed Incorporation and of the Divine Working in the New Covenant
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18-19).
“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. 32:17).
“He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” (Lk. 1:54-55).
“And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it” (Isa. 25:6-8).
“. . . there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby” (Isa. 33:21).
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Lk. 1:68-75).
“And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5).