Exodus 34:10 (NIV) — “Then the Lord said, ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord will do for you.’”
What is a covenant? An agreement between two groups or individuals with rules, promises and stipulations that each group must do. A covenant is a bond. A covenant is an agreement that binds lives together — sometimes for the short term or long term, but you have entered into a mutual understanding. Such a covenant relationship can be between God and human, or human and human.
Hahaha … Bear with me as I try to put what I understand into actual words.
The result of establishing a covenant commitment is the establishment of a relationship.
The Promise: Genesis 12:2-3 — “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you: I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse whosoever curses you, I will curse: and all the people of the earth will be blessed through you.”
The conditions of a covenant: It begins with a basic understanding that each party is responsible to fulfill their part of the promise. If one breaks a covenant, breaks the promise, then the other party is released from their part of the covenant promise.
Now, as simple and straightforward as that sounds, I assure you it isn’t always accepted as such. It’s a common experience to enter into a covenant where one person breaks their part of the agreement but still expects the other party to keep their end of the deal, and then they get highly angry when they don’t. I personally find that simply amazing!
I did a little word search: Dictum meum pactum is Latin for “my word is my bond.” There is some interesting history associated with that phrase. I share two points that caught my attention.
One was related to the London Stock Exchange founded in 1801, which has carried that same motto since its beginning.
Second, are you familiar with Geneva Smitherman? In her book “Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner,” she takes an old saying from the Black oral tradition and rephasing it: “Yo word is yo bond.”
Sometime in the mid 1960s, an Islamic group used that as a type of identifier for themselves.
So, for me, recently I was going through some personal photo albums with pictures of family, friends, events and, of course, myself. I was remembering the many agreements, covenants I had either witnessed or been a part of. Some were highly formal like weddings or legal contracts signed in an attorney’s office.
Most of those that I witnessed were just a handshake or a handshake and a signature. It caused a wave of sadness to reflect on so many broken covenants in so many different lives from the past and present.
One of the first Latin quotes I heard and, later, the first one I memorized was, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (But who will guard the guards themselves?)
Proverb 4:23 — “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”
When I was a youngster, I remember there was a lot of expectation to tell the truth, to keep your word, by those who failed to do so. A lot of “do as I say not as I do.” So now I’ve lived long enough to know regret and remorse and today do my best to live a life as a covenant person.
Proverb 24: 3-4 — “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
Our God of the Bible is a covenant-making, covenant-keeping and covenant-fulfilling God.