This begins a new (and occasional) series on Covenant.
In the beginning God created..., begins the only book in the world that claims to explain Gods nature, His great works, and His relation to those made in His image, us.
Why did God create the Earth? Why was the creation of the Earth so important that it is the first thing mentioned in the Bible? The answer is startling.
In the beginning . . . , that time about six billion Earth years ago, God began to form us. Systematically, He arranged that all the necessities of life would develop from the initial black hole containing all matter and energy to the Big Bang when the universe began spiraling outward, to the formation of the Earth, and to the planet as we see it now.
Most scientists now agree that there had to be a first Cause because they realize that the universe had to have a beginning, that it could not have always existed. Believers in God call the first Cause, the Creator. (Note: On April 30, 2001, scientist discovered further proof of the Big Bang, as reported in the papers.)
The Hebrew for created is bara, and for covenant, beriyth. The two words are related linguistically because the root of beriyth is bara. While the Hebrew definition of beriyth is translated covenant, it has another meaning, a compact sealed by fire passing between riven pieces of meat.
What fire, you may ask, passed between objects in creation? Surely, when God caused the ultimate Black Hole to expand, He used His Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Fire. Also, when the time was right, God created the photon, the element of light, sometimes fiery light. So, even in creation, there are elements of covenant.
When God created the Earth for us, He, by the nature of the creation, made a covenant with us. It makes sense because why would God create the Earth unless He agreed to provide certain necessities, shall we say, for human life to live on the planet He created. The creation implies a lot more as we will see.
You need to know that God makes two kinds of covenants, conditional and unconditional. The former requires certain activities from the receiver of the covenant. For example, God told Israel that if they kept the Commandments, all ten of them, He would bless everything they would put their hands to.
However, the creation covenant is unconditional. We do not have to do anything, well almost nothing, to receive the benefits of the covenant.
In both kinds of covenant, God obligates Himself to certain things, either unconditionally or conditionally. What does God obligate Himself to with the creation?
God Created Laws for Us Unconditionally
As time continues, scientists learn the physical, chemical, biological, health, and even social laws that God put into place to sustain the universe. The physical laws control such things as gravity to keep us from floating into outer space and keep the atmosphere near the surface so we can breathe. There are laws too numerous even to begin to go into.
If we do not use the laws for our benefit, our misuse of them can cause injury or death. If we step off a high roof, we are likely to fall at an accelerated rate of 32 feet per second, per second, until we impact a hard surface, likely killing us. Obvious, indeed! We learn to operate within these laws for our well being. Not so obvious are biological and health laws. Scientists have just begun to plumb the depths of life and what maintains it well. The Bible does offer some advice on growing plants, treatment of animals, as well as proper foods, mental attitudes, and exercise for health.
God Created Life On Earth
We all know what life needs to proliferate on a planet, such as Earth. Scientists have defined some twenty-five elements. Ill review some of the basics. The Earth needs to be the right distance from the sun: too close, too hot. The Earth needs to be slanted in its rotational axis in order to have seasons, which allow life to follow a certain sequence. The Earth needs to be a certain size to provide the right gravity to allow optimum sized creatures.
The Earth needs the proper atmosphere with the correct ratio of nitrogen, oxygen, CO2, water vapor, and other small amounts of inert gases. After temperature, seasons, and atmosphere, we need water, fresh and salt lots of it. Because, you know, water composes most of life, and it (well, the algae in water) provides oxygen for life; these aquatic plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. The sea around us also modifies and promotes weather and rainfall, as well as fish food.
We go on. The land provides all the minerals, plants and animals for necessities such as building materials and energy, clothing and footwear, food and vitamins.
What about tides? What about heavenly light and photosynthesis?
Mathematicians know that there are not enough planets in the universe or time from the beginning of creation until now for any planet to acquire all twenty-five variables for life without some type of intervention, divine intervention.
God gives us all we need and more. He did introduce the Sabbath Commandment into the mix. Six days shall you labor, the Commandment begins because effort (sometimes great effort) is required to get food from the ground, sea and air, materials for shelter, water for drinking, and fabric for clothing. It is interesting how the sweat of ones brow proves the existence of God, who as a good Father, would not let His children be lazy and indulgent, except for those who try to escape His inexorable Law by inventing spurious entitlements or who violently oppressing others to work to their will. In any case, hard work is needed to extract Gods gifts for life.
God Created Us to Have Reason and Purpose
Not by bread alone God created the universe to develop more than an ability to gain wealth or enough for a comfortable life. In forcing Earthlings to struggle to get the necessities of life, God also forced them (us) to use their (our) brains and ingenuity to accomplish these goals. Indeed, God created people with only two hands when we mostly need four to twenty to get things done; therefore, we have to use our minds to work with others for similar objectives. Our minds develop interpersonal relationships.
Even with these reasons for developing our minds, God made our minds capable of language and grammar, reason and creativity. Animals are mostly instinctive; people are products of language and culture, which is mostly language. He always intended us to be more than we imagined. Our cerebral cortex, the part of our brain for reasoning, has some twenty billion neurons which can interact with any other, any number or all remaining neurons. Quite an impressive array of intellectual power God gave us.
But with all these language skills, humans have never been satisfied with just eating and drinking. People need reasons and purposes for life, and many, most, search for deeper meanings for life. Philosophy and religion try to give reasons. But, only the Bible gives the true reason for living becoming part of Gods family and living forever in the Kingdom of God.
God Taught Us How to Live Life to Its Highest Level
This yearning for meaning does not go unrewarded with the Bible at our elbow, hopefully opened. No other book promises to give those made in Gods image the highest values and self realization possible. No other book says people are made in Gods image. No other book says God formed man from the clay of the earth.
No other book reveals Gods interaction and relation with His mostly recalcitrant children.
If God created us in His image, He obliged Himself to present to His children the way to greatest attainment He could do no less. A person who learns the ways of the Bible rises to Godly maturity, more regal than kingly, more noble than lordly. All this He freely gives without any action or participation on our part; He gives it unconditionally. For sure, we need do nothing more than buy a Bible to find the Way to perfect life.
God Gave Us Examples of Greatness
Hebrews 11 lists the greatest human, aside from Jesus, achievement in the service of Our Father in Heaven:
Our Response to Gods Love
|Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mis-treated--the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Heb 11:1-40)
All people of good will looking at the creation and the life God gave all of them unconditionally must respond.
Let me ask you a question. What would be your response if someone took you to dinner or gave you a special present or a lot of money? You would be thankful, for sure. But, wouldnt you want to respond beyond mere words? Suppose a person gave you food and shelter, what would be your response? Again, more than thanks would be in order. For all my readers, they would want, no, they would insist on returning the favor and giving back to the giver.
What is your response to all God has given you? Praise and thanksgiving are not enough. You must want to do for God to give back to Him for all Hes done for us. God gave the hint. He asked believers, why are you stealing from me? And they could not understand. How can a person steal from God? He has everything in the universe and does not need anything from us. God disagreed. Yes, they were stealing. But how?
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, How do we rob you? In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-- the whole nation of you-- because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the LORD Almighty. Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land, says the LORD Almighty. (Mal 3:8-12)
We pay rent to the landlord, we give the merchant money for our food and clothing, we pay the electric company, we buy our cars, and we, or our medical provider, recompense the doctor for helping our bodies to heal and stay alive. Yet, people forget to honor God for life and all that he provides for life with a tiny ten percent of their income (profit or moneys from work, pensions etc.). The government takes up to forty percent. God only asks ten. Not giving to Him or His emissaries on Earth His due, is stealing breaking one of the Commandments of Life. Just consideration and courtesy impel a person to give something back to someone who has given to them, common decency demands people tithe to the God, who has shown them so much love and generosity.
God Made a Way to Save Us from Our Sins and Death
Part of the law that God introduced in the beginning, was the law of sin and death. If a person broke any one of Gods Ten Commandments, the penalty is and was death, permanent and complete. God would not and could not have any person who refused to accede to His authority be in His Kingdom and live forever.
Unfortunately, perhaps not, no one (except Jesus) ever lived a life without breaking a single commandment. As Paul said, all have come short, all have sinned. It would seem then that God could have no one to come into His Kingdom. So completing His mercy and judgement, God had His only begotten son die for our, not his, sins and thus, remove the death penalty, which hung over our heads. Jesus paid the death penalty for sins, and thereby, God could show mercy to the ones who accepted him as their savior from God.
He created the universe for mankind, for their entry into the Kingdom of God, and for their reception of eternal life. But He knew without special help salvation was not possible for them. He knew that people would not have the love and discipline to obey Him, except for His son. He knew His son would be capable of loving obedience.
God Gave Us a Choice of Eternal Life or Death
All right, God said in the conditional New Covenant, if you want eternal life and become a member of the Kingdom of God, this is what you have to do. Up to making the choice for life, everything was unconditional from the creation to the establishment of His Laws, to Jesus providing salvation.
This is what you have to do: you must make a commitment to believe and obey, or die. After the Jews fully understood the Truth of Peters preaching on Pentecost, they asked him what must they do. He said, repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, with its attendant, prophecies, tongues, and miracles.
How do people repent? They must want to imitate God and rest on the day He rested on, the Sabbath. They must want to rid themselves of idols and believe in His Oneness (not trinity), and not take His Name in vain. They must want to be kind to their parents, tell the truth, not murder, commit adultery, or covet.
Now people have a chance. It is their choice, life or death.
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1Jo 5:3)
Covenant comes from:
Derivation: Derived from 1262
Definition: a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh).
The reason the definition talks about passing between pieces of meat is that is how God demonstrated His covenant with Abraham.
The root of beriyth is:
Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: to select; also (as denom. from 1250) to feed; also (as equiv. to 1305) to render clear (Eccl. 3:18)
Barah is related in the Hebrew sound-root system to create:
Strong's reference number: 1254
Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: to create; (qualified) to cut down (a wood), select, feed (as formative processes)