Joseph Herrin (09-23-09)
First Foundation – Covenant
As I set forth to present this teaching on the sanctity of the marriage covenant, I have chosen to approach the task by laying some foundations before addressing more specific issues. The first foundation to be laid is that of Covenant.
Yahweh is a covenant-keeping God. Moses wrote:
Know therefore that Yahweh your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
King David declared the following:
I Kings 8:23
And he said, “O Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, who is keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart.”
The nature of Yahweh is faithfulness. As the apostle Paul also declared:
II Timothy 2:13
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
When Yahweh says something, the matter is certain.
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.
In saying that God will not repent, Moses is declaring that Yahweh will not renege on a promise. Whenever a man ‘renegotiates’ a contract, he is reneging on a deal. Such a man has lied. He has broken faith. His own personal interests have led him to defraud and act treacherously toward another person to whom he has given his word.
In sports we see this happen all the time. Whenever a professional athlete has a good season, it is almost automatic that he will seek to renegotiate his contract. Although he has made a legally binding promise for services, they will either directly, or through an agent, seek to alter the terms of the contract in his/her favor.
The history of America’s broken treaties with the native Indian nations is one of deplorable treachery. Whenever it seemed desirable in the light of self-interest, to breach a treaty, it was simply set aside, and a new treaty drawn up, which would also later be broken.
When I was in my early twenties, and just entering into marriage, I was self-employed, having started a company called Handyman Painting and Home Repair. I was a very conscientious worker, and always sought to do skillful work at a fair price. I often had a couple other men working with me, and I had to estimate time and labor on every job I took. Very often I bid low on a job as I sought to provide a fair and reasonable price to those for whom I was working.
On many jobs I found I had bid too low. After paying for materials, labor, and other expenses, I at times did not make any money. The thought suggested itself in my mind at times to seek to renegotiate with the person who had hired me, but I never entertained the thought. I remembered the following words of the Psalmist, as he answered the question “Who will dwell in Your Tabernacle and dwell on Your holy hill?” The answer is supplied, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalms 15:4).
I knew it was better for me to receive financial injury myself, than to fail to honor my word. The unfaithfulness that is commonplace to man is foreign to the nature of Yahweh. Yahweh does not merely sign a contract with man when He gives His word on a matter. He seals it with an everlasting covenant that cannot be broken. What God has declared, He will perform.
“I am Yahweh; I have spoken, and I will perform it.”
From mankind’s inception, God determined to fashion a creature in His own image, after His own likeness. Mankind was designed to be a perfect reflection of the nature and character of Elohim. Satan has succeeded in marring the image of man, and bringing forth his own perverse image in the heart of mankind. When Adam fell, we were all in Adam, for we were his seed. Consequently we also fell and became subject to the beast nature.
This lowly, corrupt beast nature is revealed in the curse placed upon the serpent. “On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat the dust of the earth.” There is a great parable in these words. “On your belly” signifies that the beast nature is driven by its appetites. It is always selfish, seeking to satisfy the desires of the flesh. Eating dust is a symbol of craving fleshly things, for the flesh of man was formed of the dust of the earth. Paul uses this same imagery to describe Christians who crave evil things.
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly…
When Adam submitted himself in obedience to the beast, he took on the beast nature. As the apostle Paul declares, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Romans 6:16). Mankind fell into slavery to a lower, bestial nature, when Adam transgressed in the Garden of Eden. The character of God was no longer present in man. Man became “formless and void” even as the earth had in the second verse of the book of Genesis. Man was formless in that He lacked the image of God. He was void in that he was devoid of the Spirit, for which he had been created to be a temple.
Due to sin, whenever God wanted to demonstrate to mankind that a promise was given that could not be broken, He presented it in the form of a covenant. Mankind was prone to lying, deception, selfishness, and unfaithfulness. Therefore, Yahweh instituted the covenant that man might have a way of binding himself, and being held in perfect accountability, to an agreement with another party. The only way out of this type of compact was through death.
With God, such covenants are not necessary, for His nature is faithfulness. Yet fallen man is unfaithful. Therefore the covenant was given to testify with great certainty that when man gave his word it could never be altered, renegotiated, or broken. The consequences of breaking covenant was death.
There were certain symbols and elements that were used to establish a covenant. Their presence holds great meaning. We read of one such covenant that God made with His friend, Abraham. The context of the passage is a discussion between Yahweh and Abraham in which Abraham asks for an heir. Yahweh promises Abraham that he will have a son from his own loins, and that he will become a great nation and possess the land in which Abraham was sojourning.
And [Abraham] said, “O Yahweh God, how may I know that I shall possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him… And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram.
(Click on Image for Larger View)
It is important here to note that Yahweh chose specific items to denote the covenant that was made. These same elements appear in other covenants that Yahweh has made. These same symbols are found throughout His creation wherever a covenant is present. At times these symbols will be hidden from our eyes, as they appear in some other form, but they are present nevertheless. As we will see, they are present whenever a man goes into his virgin bride for the first time.
What are the identifiable elements here? There is flesh, represented in the beasts. There is a division of the flesh, even as the animals were cut into two halves. There is blood, which is always the consequence of the flesh being cut. And there is a passing between the pieces of flesh in the path of blood.
Henry Stanley, who spoke the famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” wrote of the prominence of the blood covenant rite in his travels through Africa. One way in which the blood covenant was practiced is observed in the illustration above. Animals were cut in two and the halves laid opposite one another. The blood would run down between the pieces. The two men who were making covenant would then each walk barefoot through the blood between the pieces.
It was understood by the covenanting parties that “life is in the blood.” By walking in the blood of these animals they were effectually pledging their lives to one another. There were also often terrible imprecations spoken, indicating what would happen if the covenant was not upheld. We witness this terrible aspect of the covenant in Yahweh’s compact with Abraham. Although no threatening words were uttered by God, we read of Abraham’s sense of great terror. “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him…”
A covenant was the most solemn agreement that could be made. It was literally a death pledge. Traditional marriage vows end with the words, “until death do us part.” This is because a marriage is more than a contract, or a partnership. A marriage is more than a social arrangement of mutual benefit. From the very beginning, Yahweh ordained the union of a man and woman to be a covenant unto death.
It will be demonstrated conclusively in this series of teachings that the marriage union is most certainly a blood covenant. One of the major subjects of covenants found throughout Scriptures is the promise of sons, or of godly offspring. This was the context of Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham. Abraham had remained without a son for many years as his wife Sarah was barren. Abraham desired greatly to see fruit come forth from his loins, and to be a father. Yahweh promised Abraham that he would indeed be the father of many nations, and that one nation in particular would be set aside as holy unto God.
This promised son, and the nation to arise from him, was to be the fruit of the union of Abraham and his wife Sarah. All the other nations that arose from Abraham’s loins came either through Sarah’s Egyptian servant Hagar, or through Abraham’s second wife Keturah, whom he married after Sarah had died.
Yahweh has created man in his image and likeness. One of Yahweh’s great desires is to have sons in His own image, and He has placed this desire in the heart of man. What Yahweh had actually promised Abraham was that he would father sons who would be holy unto Yahweh.
When two men enter into a blood covenant of friendship, they literally are pledging themselves in every area of their lives to one another. Yahweh literally pledged to Abraham that He would undertake for him to raise up a godly seed. Abraham had no power to accomplish this by any power of his own. Therefore Yahweh walked between the pieces alone. He promised to accomplish all, for man cannot in his own strength raise up a seed that will be “holy unto Yahweh.”
I have been greatly blessed in my study on the Blood Covenant to come across a book written in 1885 by H. Clay Trumbull D.D.. The book is titled Blood Covenant: A Primitive Rite, and its Bearing on Scripture. It is filled with historical examples of the blood covenant through the ages to the present time. Trumbull gives one particular mention of the blood covenant from the Egyptian religions that pre-dated Abraham. He writes of a quotation found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The Ritual goes on to say: “The blood is that which proceeds from the member of the Sun, after he goes along cutting himself”; the covenant blood which unites the soul and the god is drawn from the flesh of Ra, when he has cut himself in the rite of that covenant. By this covenant-cutting, the deceased becomes one with the covenanting gods. Again, the departed soul, speaking as Osiris, – or as the Osirian, which every mummy represents, says: “I am the soul in his two halves.” Once more there follows the explanation: “The soul in his two halves is the soul of the Sun [of Ra], and the soul of Osiris [of the deceased].” Here is substantially the proverb of friendship cited by Aristotle, “One soul in two bodies,” at least two thousand years before the days of the Greek philosopher.
As this writing pre-dates Abraham, and is from the very region in which he was living when Yahweh made covenant with him, I believe it is helpful in discerning some of the symbols of the ritual. I have never heard the elements of the covenant taught upon with any authority, and I have depended upon the Spirit to direct me in making investigation of this very profound matter.
I had wondered at the meaning of the animals being split in twain, and laid opposite one another with the blood flowing between them. My attention was caught by the words of the ancient Egyptians, “I am the soul in two halves.” The two halves thus mentioned were the Egyptian god, and the deceased man.
Consider that just prior to Yahweh appearing between the pieces as a smoking oven and a flaming torch, Abraham fell into “a deep sleep.” Sleep is often used as a synonym for death in Scriptures. Thus we have an image of Abraham in death, and God walking between the pieces enacting the covenant. It was appropriate for Abraham to be symbolically “dead,” for he had nothing to contribute to the covenant. He could not promise to perform anything. God would undertake both Abraham’s part, and His own.
We read of a smoking oven and a flaming torch passing between the pieces, and these things most assuredly symbolized God, for He was the One enacting the covenant. Yahweh had to pass between the pieces down the bloody path. The smoking oven, if I have not missed my guess, represented Yahweh, for He is described elsewhere as “a consuming fire.” The flaming torch, would then have likely represented Yahshua. He is the light of the world, and He did truly walk the path of blood as He carried His cross to Golgotha’s hill.
Yahweh was in effect promising that Abraham would have a godly seed, and a holy nation would arise from this seed. Abraham could not perform his own part in this matter, so Yahweh undertook for him. Yahweh would have His own Son to be born of the family of Abraham, and His Son would fulfill the covenant. Christ would insure that a Godly seed, and a holy nation, would arise in the earth.
Later on, we find Yahweh once again speaking to Abraham of this covenant, and the promise of a Godly heritage. Yahweh required Abraham, and his offspring to receive a sign of the covenant. Since the covenant was focused upon a godly seed, it is appropriate that the sign of the covenant should be made in the procreative organ of the man. Yahweh required that Abraham be circumcised.
The timing of this was very important. Abraham’s first son Ishmael had already been born. He was thirteen years old, but he was not the promised seed from which a holy nation would come. When Abraham had relations with Hagar, he was not yet circumcised.
Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
The circumcision of the male sexual organ is literally a cutting away, and removal, of the flesh. It represented that man’s fleshly strength would not be utilized to fulfill the promise of a godly heritage. “The flesh profits nothing.” The flesh of man could not produce righteous and holy seed. God would bring forth this seed, and He would insure that Abraham would have the offspring his heart desired, an offspring that could forever stand in the presence of a holy God.
It was immediately after Abraham was circumcised that Yahweh again appeared to him and informed him that the next year when God visited him, he would have a son through Sarah. Thus, Isaac was born AFTER the covenant of circumcision was made between Abraham and God.
This was not a covenant of Law, for the Law would not be given for another 430 years (Galatians 3:17). It was a covenant of promise. Yahweh was saying He would accomplish what had been promised, and Abraham’s part was to believe God.
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.
This covenant of circumcision involved some of the same symbols as the earlier covenant. There was flesh that was cut, and there was blood. There was also symbolized the impotence of man to accomplish the purposes of God. The removal of the foreskin of the male sex organ was a testimony that man’s flesh must be removed out of the way in order for God to accomplish His promise. Man could not contribute anything from his flesh. His part was to look to Yahweh in faith.
Abraham had sought to accomplish the promise of God, and obtain a hope of a godly heritage, by having relations with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar. Yahweh rejected this “fruit” for the same reason that He had rejected Cain’s offering. It was the fruit of man’s own fleshly efforts. It was not an offering of faith. Man must be brought to realize his impotence to produce anything from his own fleshly strength that will merit God’s regard.
Returning once again to the early covenant where the animals were cut in two and the blood flowed between them. The Scriptures declare that “the soul (nephesh) is in the blood.” What did these severed pieces of flesh and the blood signify but “the soul in two halves.” There was the blood, containing the soul of the creature, and there were the two halves. Yahweh was symbolically testifying that the soul of Abraham and the soul of God would become as one. They would stand together to see the promise completed. Yahweh would accomplish it, and Abraham would believe.
All blood covenants have this in common; they represent the union of two souls into one.
In the introduction to this series, I mentioned that the physical consummation of the marriage union contains all the elements of a blood covenant. Even as the male sex organ is sanctified as the chosen instrument of God’s covenant with man, so the female sex organ is chosen as the covenant organ between man and woman. Even as the flesh of man is torn, resulting in a flow of blood, so the virgin hymen is torn as the woman has intercourse for the first time with her husband, resulting in bleeding.
What is the object of the covenant thus enacted between the man and the woman? It is to produce offspring in the image of the man, even as Yahweh’s covenant was to produce offspring in the image of God. Both actions are the same, for man has been created in the image and likeness of God. Male and female He created them.
Let us refer back to the words of the prophet Malachi to discern the intent of the marriage union.
Yahweh has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring?
The prophet is saying that the purpose of the marriage union is to seek a godly offspring. Yet in the pursuit of a godly offspring, the men of Israel were acting treacherously against their covenant wives. Their actions were ungodly. How then could they expect that the fruit of their ungodliness would result in godly offspring. The prophet declares flatly, “Not one who has done so has a remnant of the Spirit.” Is this not an indictment against many in the church today who are acting with treachery toward their covenant wives?
We see then, that the focus of these blood covenants is the production of godly offspring. Yahweh desires sons in His image and likeness. Similarly, those who are of the faith and heart of Abraham seek for the same. Yahweh enters into covenant with man to undertake for him, and man enters into a covenant with woman to undertake for her.
Examine the Scriptures and you will see that those women whom God esteemed as godly all sought desperately to raise up offspring. Many accounts of barren women in great travail are brought before our eyes in the Scriptures. Eve was grieved when Cain slew righteous Abel. She therefore rejoiced when Yahweh gave her another son, Seth, who would carry on a righteous lineage.
Sarah was barren until her old age, and rejoiced greatly when Yahweh opened her womb. Her delight leaps forth from the pages of Scripture.
And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Rachel, the favorite wife of Jacob remained barren while her sister bore many children. She cried out in her desperate desire for children. Her complaint even arose before her husband.
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
See Rachel’s desperate desire to raise up godly offspring. She said, “Give me children, or else I die!” What a reproach this is to Christian women today who have used contraceptives and birth control, who have elected to have surgery, in order that they might have the pleasure of sexual intercourse without raising up children. The ungodly influence of the world has affected the thoughts of the people of God. They “Let me have one or two children, and that is enough.” They think of the expense and the responsibility of a larger family, and wanting to maintain their freedoms and a high standard of living, they cast away the most precious gift Yahweh has given to mankind, the ability to raise up a godly offspring. Many even kill the baby while it is developing in the womb, an act of the most profound horror and selfishness.
Jacob had undertook for his wife Rachel to provide the children she desired, but her womb remained barren. Finally, God heard her plea of desperation and opened her womb. She gave birth to Joseph, and later to Benjamin. It is perhaps no coincidence that Jacob’s godliest son arose from the most desperate cry for children.
Later we read of Hannah, who was also barren. She pled with God for a son in such agony of spirit that when the High Priest Eli observed her, he thought she was drunk.
I Samuel 1:10-16
And [Hannah], greatly distressed, prayed to Yahweh and wept bitterly. And she made a vow and said, “O Yahweh of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” Now it came about, as she continued praying before Yahweh, that Eli was watching her mouth. As for Hannah , she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before Yahweh. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman; for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”
People of God, can you see that this is the purpose of the marriage union of the man and woman! From the beginning of creation, when God created them male and female, He spoke to them the command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” If we bear the image of God, we will also desire to raise up a godly heritage to His name.
Not all are married, and not all are able to have children, but Yahweh will allow them to have many sons and daughters as they give themselves to disciple others. They will be given spiritual children in an everlasting kingdom. Yet, whenever we consider the purpose of the marriage union, this idea of raising up godly offspring should not be far from our thoughts. It is a righteous aspiration, one that arises from God’s own heart.
If there is one foundational motive in Yahweh’s heart as pertains to man, it is to have sons in His image and likeness. In pursuit of this He has bound Himself with a covenant of blood, a promise that cannot be broken, as demonstrated to His friend Abraham. All about this matter is holy and sacred. All has been spoken from the lips of God with perfect faithfulness. He has said it. He will perform it.
As we consider the marriage union of the man and woman, we are to understand that they become partakers with Yahweh in this same holy and sacred pursuit. The union of the man and woman is sacred and holy. They are brought together in a lifelong, inviolable covenant, to accomplish in their bodies the will and command of the Father.
Giving birth is but the beginning. All the energy and focus of the husband and wife should be turned toward training up a godly generation. When their children are themselves adults and married, their task is not over. One brother in Christ recently lamented to me, “It is no wonder that the children are perishing and families are overcome with evil. The older generation who should be giving themselves sacrificially as prayer warriors and seeking to promote a continued godly heritage in their children and grandchildren; these ones are spending their time on the golf courses, at the clubs, watching endless hours of television, and living at ease. It is no wonder that this generation is falling into apostasy.”
From the oldest to the youngest, Christians have departed from the will of God. We must return and rebuild the ancient ruins. We must re-establish the age-old foundations. We must repair the breaches and restore the streets in which to dwell (Isaiah 58:12).
Returning to an understanding of covenant, and the purpose of God in creating man and woman is a step in this direction. If we truly have set out hearts to raise up a godly offspring, then will we seek to accomplish this high purpose through actions of unfaithfulness, treachery, and selfishness? Let us not be deceived. He who practices righteousness is righteous. May Yahweh give His people great grace, allowing them to repent and return to the narrow way.
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