God also makes promises. Some students of the Bible have found 1,260 specific promises in the Bible. However, some would argue that since everything that God says will come to pass, then everything that God says is a promise! With this broader definition of a promise – that everything God says is a promise – one could say that the Bible has more than 8,000 promises!
GOD SAYS WHAT HE MEANS
God is not like a man (Num 23:19). God makes promises and He has the authority and power to keep them all. When God makes a formal promise to mankind, it is called a covenant.
When we understand that God is a covenant-making and covenant- keeping God, we begin to see the Bible as a unified, logical revelation of God’s purpose, plan and program.
Knowing God as a covenant keeper causes our faith to grow and mature. We will recognize the faithfulness of God toward His Word: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).
As we embrace and stand upon God’s Word, we will see Him perform it! Let us now look more closely at covenants.
WHAT IS A COVENANT?
We will study the Bible as a series of covenants that God has made with man. So let us look at the word covenant more closely.
The word used for covenant in Hebrew is “beriyth”; in the Greek it is “diatheekee.” “Beriyth” literally means to divide or cut a sacrifice in two. When a sacrifice was split, the two parties of the agreement (known as covenant heads) would walk between the parts of the sacrifice. The term “to cut a covenant” comes from this definition.
A covenant is a binding contract or agreement between two people or two groups. It involves promises on the part of each to the other. For example, when an employer hires a worker, a verbal or written contract is made or “cut.”
A biblical covenant implies much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract can be between any two people, and the contract has an end date. A covenant is also between two individuals (called covenant heads), but can extend for generations.
Another difference is that a contract generally involves only one part of a person, such as a talent, possession or skill. But a covenant covers a person’s total being, and even includes family members, clan members and all of their possessions. This last point is very important to understand. A covenant extends to every person that is connected to the covenant head.
In a biblical covenant, one covenant head is generally weaker in power, authority or wealth. The weaker party would usually covenant with a stronger covenant head. For instance, Jonathan (a prince and son of King Saul) was a stronger party who formed a covenant with David (1Sam 18:1-4). At that time, David was just a common man from a small family of shepherds.