Questions 36 & 37


What is a covenant*?


A covenant is a serious promise between two or more persons.



What covenants did God make with the people of Israel*?


God promised to make Abraham’s family into a great nation. He promised to bless all the nations through Abraham. God gave Moses the law. He promised to be with Moses and to bless Israel if they obeyed him and followed the laws he gave them. God promised David that one of his sons would become a great king and rule forever. God promised that one day he would make a new covenant. He promised to forgive people’s sins and to change people’s hearts.

A covenant is a serious promise. Two people can make these promises with one another. A master and a slave can make these promises. Or a covenant can be a promise made between a king and his people. The covenants God made with Abraham, Moses, and David are like the promises that a king might make with his people.


God made a covenant with Abraham. He told Abraham that he had chosen him. He would be Abraham’s God. God would bless him. He would give Abraham a land of his own.[1] He would give him a son. This son would give Abraham a large family. And that family would become a great nation[2]. They would be more in number than the stars in the sky. God would bless this family. And God would also bless all nations[3] through Abraham. God made these promises to Abraham. He told Abraham’s son Isaac* and his grandson Jacob* that this was their promise as well[4].


Later, God made another covenant with Israel. He made this promise through Moses. He told Moses that he would be his God and the God of his people. He promised to make them a kingdom* of priests and a holy* nation[5]. He would take them out of the land of Egypt.* He would take them back to the land that God gave Abraham.


God did bring the people out of Egypt. He delivered them by doing many wonders there. After the people left Egypt, God gave laws to Moses. These laws told the people how to live as God’s chosen people. When they obeyed these laws, the nations near them would see that Israel’s God was great.


God promised the people that he would bless them if they obeyed him. He would watch over them. He would protect them from their enemies. They would be able to stay in the land that God had promised to Abraham.


But, if they did not follow the laws, the people would have many troubles. God would remove his blessing* from them. Their enemies would come into the land. And, if they did not turn back to follow God’s laws, God would remove them from the land.[6]


When Moses told the people about this promise, they were happy. They promised to obey the laws that God gave them. They agreed to do all that God had told them[7].


Many years later, God made a covenant with David. When he made this promise, God’s people were living in the land that God promised to Abraham. David was their king. God told David that he would keep the promises that he made to Abraham and Moses. He would provide a place for his people[8]. Then he promised David that his son would follow him as king. This son would build a house to honor* God, a temple*[9]. Then he promised David something more. He promised that David’s house and David’s kingdom would last for ever. [10] Another son from David’s family would build a kingdom that would never end. We know now that this son would come many years later. He was Jesus, the son of David.[11]


God made another covenant as well. This promise was given to Abraham’s family. But this promise was not for them alone. This was to be a new covenant. God would bring his people back from their wandering. He would then give them a new heart[12]. He would change them so that they would love him with ‘all their soul* and live.’[13]


One of God’s prophets* spoke of the new covenant this way. ‘I will put my Spirit* in you. I will cause you to follow my laws and be careful to do what I tell you.’ [14]


This new covenant did not begin until many years after the other covenants. God brought his old covenant to Israel through Moses. God would bring the new covenant through his son, Jesus. Jesus was the child of Abraham who came to bless all of the nations. Jesus was the one from the family of Israel who would keep all of the laws that God gave to Moses. Jesus was the son that God promised David who would be the king of kings and Lord* of Lords[15]. When he died on the cross*, Jesus’ blood was the sign that this new promise had begun.


Here is how another of God’s prophets spoke of this covenant. ‘The days are coming when God will make a new covenant with his people. When that day comes’, says the Lord, ‘I will put my law into their minds. I will write it in their hearts. No one will need to teach his neighbor* or his brother to know the Lord. All of them will already know me. From the least important to the most important, all of them will know me,’ says the Lord. ‘I will forgive their sins and I will remember their sins no more.’ [16]


The covenants that God made with Abraham, Moses, and David were good. This new covenant would be even better[17].

[1] Genesis 12:1; Genesis 13:14-18; Deuteronomy 30:1-10
[2] Genesis 12:2
[3] Genesis 12:3
[4] Genesis 21:12; Genesis 26:3-4; Genesis 28:14-15
[5] Exodus 19:6
[6] Deuteronomy 28:1-68
[7] Exodus 19:8
[8] 2 Samuel 7:10
[9] 2 Samuel 7:12-13
[10] 2 Samuel 7:13,16
[11] Matthew 21:9; Luke 1:32,69; Acts 13:34
[12] Deuteronomy 29:4
[13] Deuteronomy 30:1-5
[14] Ezekiel 36:27
[15] 1 Timothy 6:15
[16] Jeremiah 31:31-34
[17] Hebrews 7