“The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” ++ (Psalm 25:14)
A HIDDEN COVENANT?
There is a “hidden” covenant alluded to in Psalm 25 since it is “the secret of the LORD” that He will “show” those who “fear Him”? The word translated “secret” is the Hebrew word sodh, and it carries with it the idea of “secrets” or “mysteries” that is often shared between those who are in a close, intimate relationship. But what is this “secret” or “mystery” and which “covenant” does it deal with? And why will the “covenant” need to be “shown” to them? Aren’t all of God’s covenants clearly discussed and described in Scripture?
A FRIEND’S CHALLENGE
It was back in the late 1980’s, and I was beginning to get pretty heavy in studying the Jewish Roots of the Christian faith. This was before I had ever heard of the Messianic Movement or of any any such groups. All I knew was that the Lord was revealing things to me from the Torah (five books of Moses), and I was seeing how they made the whole Bible come alive for me in ways like I had never experienced before. And I was so excited about these discoveries that I was trying to share them with family and friends.
Everyone around me thought that I had lost my mind, including a close friend of mine, who challenged me to go back and re-read the book of Galatians in the New Testament. I decided that I would go above and beyond that. I got out my Greek New Testament and my dictionaries and concordances, and I went verse-by-verse, and I re-translated the entire book from the Greek language to English, but I tried to do it from the mindset of an Orthodox Jew, which Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was, from the first century. It was during this process that I stumbled across God’s “hidden” covenant.
The term that caught my attention was “promise.” It is a term that’s repeatedly used by Rav Sha’ul (Paul) in his teachings and writings. For example,
And now I am standing trial for the hope of THE PROMISE made by God to our fathers; (Acts 26:6; Emphasis Mine)
What “promise” is he referring to, and who are “our fathers”? I wondered. But then as I continued my translation of Galatians, I came across this portion of the letter:
What I am saying is this, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. (Galatians 3:17)
There it was again, “the promise.” I began to wonder, what was this “promise”? Obviously, it was not part of the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Siani since it came 430 years before that event. I kept reading.
For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Galatians 3:18)
In both Romans and Galatians, the one individual that Rav Sha’ul (Paul) refers back to repeatedly is Abraham. The promise that he spends so much time talking about and discussing has to do with a promise that God gave to Abraham. But what promise? The following is what God’s Spirit revealed to me as I researched this further.
GOD’S CALLING OF ABRAHAM
In my previous post, “The Life of Abraham: An Important Lesson for Every Believer,” I mentioned that we see four principle stages illustrated in the life of Abraham: God’s calling of him, a time of development of that relationship, God entering into covenant with him, and then, afterwards, God requiring obedience of him as a way of walking out and expressing that relationship. I also mentioned that any individual who seeks a relationship with God will go through the same basic stages.
In God’s calling of Abraham, there’s an illusion to this promise, which comes at the end of God’s promise to bless him:
And I will bless those who bless you, and the ones who curses you I will curse. And in you shall all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)
Notice it says that “all the families of the earth,” meaning Jew and non-Jew alike, will “be blessed” in “you” (Abraham). Have you ever wondered, “How do I find my blessing from God in Abraham?” I did. This same verse is quoted by Rav Sha’ul (Paul) in the book of Galatians:
And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles (non-Jews) by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:8-9)
So this last line in Genesis 12:3 is in some way connected to the gospel (or “good news”) preached by Yeshua/Jesus, the early disciples, and by Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul). But the connection was still unclear. It wasn’t until I got to chapter 15 of Genesis that God revealed to me the connection.
GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
As i mentioned in my previous post “The Life of Abraham,” the covenant process begins with a question about how Abraham would know that God would indeed give him the land. Although I did not get real detailed in that post, I need to now in order for you to see “the promise” and its connection to the good news proclaimed throughout the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), particularly in the writings of Rav Sha’ul (Paul).
THE COVENANT PROCESS
In response to Abram’s (later changed to Abraham) question, God instructs him to get the following animals: a three-year-old heifer, a three-year old she goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtle dove and a young pigeon. Except for the two birds, He instructed him to cut the animals in half lengthwise and to put one half of the body on one side and the other half of the body directly across from it, making an aisle in the middle between the two parts. The two birds were not cut in half but remained whole.
This particular covenant was well known to Abram, and, in fact, it is also used partially again by the officials of Jerusalem and Judah in Jeremiah 34:18-20, but they violated the covenant, in contrast to God who always keeps His covenant. But according to some researchers, elements of this covenant process is still used by some tribes in Africa.
The two parties would then make a figure eight as they walked between each of the pieces, making the sign of infinity, and then they would meet in the middle. This walk is known as “the walk of death” since this is a life and death agreement that the two parties are making with one another. Then when they meet in the middle, the two parties would then exchange vows and curses. Again, this was an UNBREAKABLE covenant, and if Person A did violate the covenant, then PERSON B was to chase down and kill Person A in a physically violent and painful way as symbolized by the cut up animals that each of them had just walked through.
During the exchange of vows, for example, they would —
- Exchange coats. A coat was a symbol of one’s status and authority.
- Exchange belts. A belt contained one’s weapons, and in exchanging them, they would say, “I shall teach you and protect you”.
After making these vows of what they would do to bless the other, then they would exchange curses of what would happen if the other would break the covenant, including killing the other in a physically violent and painful way as previously stated.
THE PHYSICAL MARK (OR SIGN)
After the exchange of vows and curses, there would be physical mark that was made. Usually, each of the two parties would cut their right hand and then bind them together to formulate them into one new family. As their right hands were bound together, they would raise it and swear by the blood of their tribes and families, an oath was made, followed by the statement, “I will never leave you or forsake you, so help me God.”
SIGNS OF MEMORIAL
After this, this some stones would be set up as a memorial or marker of the covenant that had been made that day.
Upon completing the covenant process, then the two groups would enjoy a meal together, further making the two parties one, since the same food becomes part of the bodies of both parties. During this meal, the elders would feed one another and say, “This is my body, take eat,” meaning “I’ll die and let you eat my flesh before I will let you starve.” And then, they would feed each other wine, representing the essence of life, saying, “Everything that I have is yours, even my sons, daughters, food, possessions, everything.”
A SPECIAL CREATION?
This is what Abraham was expecting to do with God. However, when the time came for Abraham and God to participate in the covenant ritual, the Scriptures state, that God placed Abraham “in a deep sleep” (Genesis 15:12). This same phrase is used in Genesis 2 when God places Adam “in a deep sleep” and then creates Eve (Heb. Chavah; Genesis 2:21). In using this phrase, there is an indication in the text that God is about to do some creative work here.
In a vision, Abram saw a burning furnace and a flaming torch pass between the pieces. Both Jewish and Christian commentators agree that these two images represent God. But what I found interesting is that the Scriptures says, “In the same day, the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” (Genesis 15:18a).
Now every text that I have seen written on this portion of Scripture has stated that by God walking between the pieces alone, He was changing the essence of the covenant from a conditional one to an unconditional one since Abram did not take part in the covenant process. In essence, this covenantal process was just an elaborate way for God to tell Abram, “I promise.” However, I believe that there is more here than what they see.
WHY DIDN’T GOD ALLOW ABRAM TO PARTICIPATE?
The one question I had was, Why didn’t God allow Abram to participate in the ritual with Him? I discovered that if He had, then when Abram died, then the covenant would have died with him. However, since God is an eternal Spirit and does not die, then by God walking through the pieces, He makes this covenant eternal, just as He, Himself, is eternal.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS?
But if God walked through the pieces Himself since Abram was “in a deep sleep,” what were the legal ramifications for God, since the text says, “On that day, God entered into a covenant with Abram”? I believe that the commentators are wrong when they say that this is just an elaborate promise. I believe that God walked through the pieces not only for Himself, but also for Abram. In essence, He became Abram’s legal proxy. So by doing this, God took upon Himself not only His own legal obligations to satisfy the requirements of the covenant, but Abram’s as well.
- What did this mean for God? First of all, by doing this, God was promising to keep
and to maintain the promises He made to Abram and to his seed. Also, it meant that He was promising to give Abram and his seed all that He is, His Spirit, His characteristics and strength, His possessions and resources, as well as God’s enemies now became Abram’s. We see the same thing happen when two people get married, another type of covenant. What was mine, became my wife’s, and what was my wife’s became mine.
- What did this mean for God as Abram’s Legal Proxy? It meant that God was taking upon Himself the responsibility to make sure that Abram and his seed maintained and kept the covenant. This explains the giving of the Torah at Mt. Siani, the sending of the Prophets and their constant plea for the people to return to the Torah, the need for the B’rit Chadasha (“new covenant”), and for the giving of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh), so that “the seed of Abraham” could be empowered and equipped to walk in obedience to the covenant.But it also meant that if Abram or Abram’s seed should break the covenant, that God would have to die a physically painful and violent death represented by the cut up animals that He walked between. God had walked these pieces alone. Abram was “in a deep sleep,” so God took upon Himself in this legal act to suffer the penalty of death for the sins of Abram and his seed.
But not only that, but Abram’s assurance of the Promised Land, as well as all the other promises God made, was also based upon the act of God walking between the pieces, His act and promise of legal proxy.
ON WHAT DAY DID GOD MAKE THIS COVENANT WITH ABRAM?
What I found really interesting was on what day this covenant was made – Passover. Although it was made 430 years before the day became known as “Passover” in Exodus 12, it was on this “self-same day” as when this covenant was made. For before God walked between the pieces, God prophesied the following to Abram:
Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14)
Did this happen? Yes, the book of Exodus begins by describing how after Joseph died, there arose a king who did not know Joseph and enslaved the people of Israel. And it then goes on to describe how God liberates His people from Egypt using Moses as His mediator. And it is in Exodus 12, after the last plague against Egypt, the death of the firstborn, that the Scriptures say,
And it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years TO THE VERY DAY, that all of the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:41; Emphasis Mine)
On the very day that God promised Abram that his descendant would “come out with many possessions,” God liberated His people in the Exodus from Egypt. Rav Sha’ul (Paul) also refers to this in his letter to the congregation in Galatia,
What I am saying is this, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.(Galatians 3:17-18)
Therefore, the covenant that God made with Abram happened on Passover – before it was called Passover, and He fulfilled His promise to Abram on the same exact day that He made it, although 430 years later.
DID ABRAM AND HIS SEED BREAK THE COVENANT?
But what about the promise that God made when He walked between the pieces? Did Abram or any of his seed violate and break the covenant? The answer is yes, they did. We know from the testimony of Scripture that Abram’s seed, or descendants, did, in fact, break the covenant on numerous occasions. One of them being the sin of the golden calf, described in Exodus 32. Consequently, if Abram and His seed did break their covenant with God, then the question we would wonder if how is it possible for God, who is an eternal Spirit, to keep His covenantal obligation to to die a physically painful and violent death?
It should also be remembered that the Scriptures state, “On that day, God entered into covenant with Abram.” So the covenant was made between God and Abram and his seed. So since it was Abram’s seed, or descendants, who violated the covenant on a number of different occasions, then justice would demand that someone representing the seed of Abraham should likewise pay the penalty of those violations.
God’s solution to this dilemma is found in the writings of the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), and it is commonly referred to as the incarnation. God sends an angel to a young virgin girl named Mir’yam (Mary) in the village of Nazareth:
Do not be afraid, Mary: for you have found favor with God And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus [Heb. Yeshua]. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His Kingdom will have no end. (Luke 2:30-33)
Through the incarnation, the child born to Mary would be both God and a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thereby representing both sides of the covenant in Genesis 15, God and Abram and his seed. Just as the first anointed one mentioned in Scripture is Aaron, the Priest, and then later the various kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, so the Messiah came first to be a priest, offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins committed by Israel and the nations, in fulfillment of God’s promise of walking between the pieces, and then in the next coming, He shall indeed comes as King and reign over Israel and the nations.
This is why Yeshua/Jesus had to die such a physically violent and painful death, and why it had to happen on Passover, on the very day that God walked between the pieces, although two millenniums later. This is why Rav Sha’ul (Paul) states in Acts 13:32-33,
We tell you the Good News: what God promised our fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus (Heb. Yeshua)…
Rav Sha’ul (Paul) refers to this promise again in his trial before King Agrippa, as I stated previously,
And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. (Acts 26:6)
Finally, Yeshua/Jesus Himself refers to the fact that Abraham witnessed His coming and His death:
Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)
Question: “When did Abraham see the day of Yeshua/Jesus?”
Answer: “When he saw in a vision God passing between the pieces.”
Question: “What about the non-Jewish world? How do they have a part in this?”
Rav Sha’ul (Paul) answers this question. He writes,
Understand, then, that those who believe are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7)
If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)
Notice that Rav Sha’ul (Paul) did not write, “If you belong to the Messiah, then you are heirs according to the promise,” but “If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed,” and it is when we are part of the seed of Abraham, having accepted God’s fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in and through Messiah, that we then become “heirs according to the promise.”
So by belonging to the Messiah, whether one is a Jew or a non-Jew, we are made a part of this renewed covenant that God has fulfilled in and through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah. And in addition, the promise of God’s own Spirit, living on the inside of those who are part of this renewed Abrahamic covenant, is also made available to all who will believe:
He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Nations through the Messiah Yeshua, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).
And it was Shi’mon Petros (Peter) who said in his sermon on that first Shavuot (Pentecost) after Messiah’s death, burial, and resurrection, when Shi’mon Petros (Peter) and the other disciples of Yeshua/Jesus had received the baptism (the full immersion) of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh)::
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Yeshua HaMoshiach (Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah) for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, and for all whom the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:38-39)
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What will you do with God’s gift, the fulfillment of His promise to the fathers? Will you accept it and begin to enjoy intimacy with God, the living of His Spirit on the inside of you, and His other blessings as part of the fulfilled Abrahamic covenant? The covenant is open to all who will come, whether Jew or non-Jew. And with each person that comes to God, accepting His fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, then God’s promise to Abraham comes closer to its complete fulfillment:
And in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)
If you wish to receive this promise, pray the following:
Father, forgive me of my sins. I accept the gift that you have given, the fulfillment of your promise to the fathers by Yeshua (Jesus) coming and dying on the cross for my sins, and I ask you to come into my life and fill me, so that I might experience the intimacy and blessing of covenant that Chris has described in this article. I, like Abraham, want to have such a close relationship with you that I too might be called “a friend of God.” Thank you Lord for your gift, in the name of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Amen.
If you prayed this prayer and have asked God to make you a part of His fulfilled Abrahamic covenant, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I might pray with you once more and answer any further questions that you might have.
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