It’s an old word, but I like it. The word “covenant” is such a significant word for we moderns precisely because we have seemed to have forgotten the power of “covenant.” Our society is gripped by hyper-individualism that seems to be intoxicated with the notion of “rights” and “privilege” and “power.” This intoxication has created such chaos that even our very way of knowing our own identity has become confused. We think our identity is exhausted by our desires or even our delusions. We’ve abandoned a “covenantal” way of thinking about our relationship with ourselves, one another, and God Himself.
So, let’s explore the notion of “covenant” today.
Look at our lesson in Genesis 9:8-17:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”
Merriam-Webster defines “covenant” as “a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement.” And that is certainly a root meaning of the word. But, as usual, our Orthodox understanding of the word is going to insist on a bigger and wider, and fuller understanding to avoid the temptation of a minimalistic mistake!
God is the first Covenant Maker. Here He makes a covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy the earth by water. In fact, God uses the physical beauty of the rainbow to create a reminder for humanity of His covenant. Every time we see a rainbow, we are called to remember God’s covenant with Noah. Of course, today’s society has co-opted the rainbow to mean “diversity” and, as usual, this materialistic identity crisis so clearly illustrates the drift of modern society from their true selves. What was meant to remind humanity of God now is used to “remind” “woke” society of itself. The narcissistic cancer of a society insane with ego can’t be confronted with God without shrieks of hatred and anger and rejection.
But God’s covenant was meant to remind humanity of his connection with the Creator and this mutual connection was then meant to transform our connectedness with each other. But when we forget God and His Promise Keeping Covenant and insist that God is irrelevant to our lives, naturally, our lives descend into chaos and confusion.
And then we get confronted on just why covenants are so vital. A covenant insists we take each other seriously. A covenant means we dialogue and we speak to one another and we hear each other. But we won’t be able to be covenant keepers with each other if we leave God out of the conversation.
God tells Noah that rains will still come. Clods will still darken, and storms will still happen. BUT they will never again signal complete destruction. And God will always prove His faithfulness to His covenant by putting a rainbow in the clouds, to remind humanity of His faithfulness.
That’s what covenants do, they remind us of our mutual connectedness to God and each other. Covenants require faithfulness, attentiveness, and discipline. Covenants call us to stay awake to that primary relationship we are all called to have with God!
Today, are you attentive to the Faithfulness of God in your life. He has, and always will, keep His covenant with us. And He knows that we will struggle to keep our side of the covenant, so He gives us repentance as the way of salvation. Why not schedule confession soon and renew your covenant with God in His So, our Lord Jesus, and be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord, God of faithfulness, courage, and love, You have remained faithful even when I am unfaithful. You have stayed consistent, even when I am weak and unreliable. I struggle with guilt when I see how faithless I can be at times, and the evil one uses my guilt to keep me away from You. But You have never made me feel guilty. You have always embraced me with open arms and loving-kindness every time I have come to You in repentance. Please help me remember that so I don’t stay gripped by chaos and fear. For You are the Covenant Keeper and You are truly the only Lover of Mankind. Amen