A covenant is defined as an agreement to create a peaceful existence between two parties, usually creating a bond. There is something highly beautiful about God’s covenant with us.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21.
There were historic covenants between men, between people, and between men and God. There was no distinction between the words “covenant” and “treaty”, as both were agreements and/or concessions required for two parties to live in peace.
We have ancient documents forming covenants between men from ancient civilizations. The treaties between peoples typically had:
1) a preamble that identified the parties,
2) an historic summary that explained the need for a treaty,
3) the stipulation of the treaty,
4) the list of witnesses to the treaty, and
5) blessings and curses, blessings for those who keep and curses for those who broke the treaty or covenant (The Standard International Bible Encyclopedia, Bromily).
6) an animal, anything from a bull to a donkey, was often sacrificed to make the covenant binding.
However, there are some unique characteristics of God’s covenants with men. First, they were always initiated by God. They were set into place unilaterally, and stipulated unilaterally. Man had no input except a call to obedience.
Though some covenants required no stipulations for mankind or creation (Genesis 9:9-11), the most startling, and the ugliest, aspect of God’s covenants with men which have stipulations for man is man’s universal failure to obey the stipulations. From Adam to the Pharisees, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We can see that God determined if He was going to have a relationship with mankind, He would have to come down Himself and fulfill our stipulations of the covenant. There is the beauty!
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:4-5.