AAACF 1989 CONFERENCE
REV. PADDY BERESFORD
THE HEART OF GOD
THE BLOOD COVENANT
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The covenant that God has made with His people has its origins in something that God did with Abraham, and the benefits of that we still reap today in a marvellous way.
This is a blood covenant. If two Israelites were to enter such a covenant with each other they would do four things.
1. They would lay at each other’s feet their shield and sword. That was a symbol that they would be one another’s protector.
2. They would lay their belts and their coats at each other’s feet. That was a symbol that everything they owned belonged also to them.
3. The covenant would be sealed in blood in two ways. They would sacrifice an animal, cutting the carcass in two and placing the two sides a little distance apart so that they could walk between these two walls of blood.
They would walk together in the figure of an 8 (symbol of eternity) and then they would make an incision in their wrists so that they drew blood. They would allow the blood to trickle down into the palms of their hands and they would then shake hands (origin of handshake).
4. They would swop names.
And they finally swopped names. The name of God in Hebrew is an unpronounceable YHWH - the sound of breath.
Now when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham He was doing much more than changing the meaning from “Father is lofty” to “Father of multitudes/nations”.
God added His name to Abram - Abraham - this is even clearer with his wife as there is no significant difference in meaning from Sarai to Sarah - but in adding God’s name the earlier Hebrew rendering of “Princess”, Sarai, is now known as Sarah, meaning the same. And God from this moment onwards is known as the ‘God of Abraham’ and later ‘Isaac and Jacob’ are added also. The marriage covenant of many nations follows this covenant.
Now when God entered into covenant with Abram they followed this procedure - except Abram had nothing to offer God, he couldn’t protect Him, all that he had was given by God anyway. So God did His part. The statement “I am your shield, your very great reward” is God saying that He is Abram’s protector and provider.
The animal is sacrificed as we mentioned - but since Abram could not meet with God, God caused him to sleep while He passed through the carcass. Indeed, Abram could not participate in any of this, all that he was was given by God anyway, so Abram’s great contribution was to snore in a corner while God did His part!
Relevance for us
Now what does this have to do with our Christian lives today? The answer lies in the events of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, which culminated in the cross. For here, He entered into a NEW covenant with His people.
And He, the firstborn of all creation, was to make us joint heirs with Him - joint heirs of all that He inherited from the Father as the only begotten Son. Heirs of the promises of God, heirs of the wealth and riches of God, and heirs of the authority of God.
SHIELD AND SWORD
In NT terms that shield, sword, belt and coat is part of the spiritual armour that Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6. In the making of the blood covenant the shield and sword stood for protection over one another. We learn from the NT that the shield is the shield of faith and the sword is the Word of God. Apart from the personal application, there is a corporate/fellowship application as we pray down God’s protection over one another by using the shield of faith and the Word of God.
BELT AND COAT
Likewise the belt and coat have the NT counterparts. We are told that the belt is the belt of truth. The covenant that God has made with us in Christ is one of truth. Jesus often prefaced what He said with the emphatic “truly, truly”. When we believe in Him we “know the truth, and the truth sets us free.”
The coat is the robe of righteousness. A coat the speaks of the fact that we are in a right relationship with God.
For us He took upon
Himself the name we bear because of our character - sinners. And we, in turn, take on His name as we are
know as CHRISTians.
THE LOVE OF GOD
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To ask any of the disciples which act of Jesus impressed them most, would, I’m sure, have prompted a variety of responses. For Peter, I’m sure this incident would have left a lasting impression on his mind. In a later letter, remembering how Jesus got up and tied a towel around His waist, Peter calls his readers to “clothe yourselves with humility” - (lit. “tie around yourselves the apron of humility”). John records it with vividness too. This event brought from Jesus “The full extent of His love”.
On the surface, this should have been an ordinary scene. It was the duty of the host to arrange for someone to wash the guests’ feet. Among a group of men such as the disciples it would probably have been the youngest - but none of the disciples volunteered. Jesus was obviously waiting to see which disciple was prepared to serve the others.
Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave. For most of us when it gets near the time to leave a job the tendency is to slacken off. But for Jesus it meant showing a greater, more intense love. But as far as the 12 were concerned they weren’t in the mood for niceties and courtesies - indeed they’d spent much of the day debating amongst themselves - who was the greatest. Lk. 22:14, 24f
It was a silent/searching rebuke. It is an action that draws out their pride: “You shall never wash my feet”. It must have hurt their pride to take in what Jesus was doing. He taught them to receive His ministry - or else they had no part with Him. They needed to be cleansed of their pride, their self-sufficiency, their pre-occupation with themselves.
It is not easy to receive love if there has been a history of hurt/rejection/confidence-destroying in your family life.
From teaching them about their relationship with Him - He teaches them about their relationship with each other. He’d washed their feet - they were to wash one another’s feet.
God’s love is revealed by Servanthood.
Servanthood is the giving of oneself - “God so loved the world that He gave.....” The great theme that is picked out here is the “servant theme”. He is teacher/Lord - but amongst them as “one who serves”. Lk. 22:27 (one who serves) OT Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12. Mt. 12:17ff - Acts 3:25f /4:27,30.
But perhaps the greatest analogy of all is to link this passage with Phil. 2:5f.
Jn:13:4f Phil 2:7f
Laid aside His outer clothing - made Himself nothing
Took a towel - took the nature of a servant -
Poured water into a bowl - poured out His life unto death
And the washing of the physical dirty feet becomes the cleansing of spiritually dirty lives.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.............
The covenant love of God is shown in the immense ability of Christ to lay down His reputation by becoming a servant - which led eventually to Him being willing to lay down His very life.
“God so loved the world that He gave....” (Jn.3:16)
Later in one of his letters John says:
“Dear friends, since God first loved us, we ought to love one another....”
The willingness to learn these things is our willingness to become a servant like Him. Phil 2:5ff
“Tie around yourself an apron of humility” - serve one another.
That is the heart of God.