Psalms 89:34 My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.
About 34/3500 years ago Moses died and Joshua was chosen by God to lead the Children of Israel into the Promise Land. God commanded them to wage war against the cities of Canaan, destroy their strongholds, plunder their wealth, kill the inhabitants and make no treaty with any of its people.
Following the battle of the fortified city of Jericho and its utter defeat, all of the remaining kings of the land joined their armies together in efforts to protect themselves against these Israelites who’s God marched with them in victory. The Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite agreed together to fight against Joshua and Israel with one accord. They imagined this was their best strategy for survival.
However, one of the groups of people in Canaan, called Gibeonites, who lived in 4 cities nearby Jericho, adopted a different strategy. The people of Gibeon were a bit wiser and understood deeper truths concerning the character of the God of Israel and the overriding power of promises made by Him and those promises made by His children in His sight. Although underhanded, sneaky and without integrity, the Gibeonites banked on the fact that if they could trick Joshua into making a promise to not hurt them, no matter what they did to exact that promise, the promise would stand.
Like many underhanded, self-serving people you may encounter in this world, the Gibeonites banked on the fact that God’s children are better, more giving, more forgiving and more trusting than they were. Good people are often taken advantage of because others know they are good and know they will give and forgive more. Nonetheless, I had still rather be an Israelite than a Gibeonite. The Gibeonites were crafty the Bible says …
No man can take advantage of you if you will give them the advantage first. Just because someone is nice and dependably good and full of grace does not mean they are stupid. Don’t take advantage of other’s … especially those who are filled with God’s grace … He may not like it!
Joshua 9 NKJV
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai,
4 they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended,
5 old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy.
6 And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us."
7 Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?"
8 But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?"
9 So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt,
10 "and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan — to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.
11 "Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ’Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, "We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us."’
12 "This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy.
13 "And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey."
14 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD.
15 ¶ So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.
16 And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them.
17 Then the children of Israel journeyed and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim.
18 But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers.
19 Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them.
20 "This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them."
21 And the rulers said to them, "Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation, as the rulers had promised them."
22 ¶ Then Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, "Why have you deceived us, saying, ’We are very far from you,’ when you dwell near us?
23 "Now therefore, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves — woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God."
24 So they answered Joshua and said, "Because your servants were clearly told that the LORD your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing.
25 "And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us."
26 So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, so that they did not kill them.
27 And that day Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, in the place which He would choose, even to this day.
Wow! What a story … but the story does not end there. Over 400 years later along comes the first King of Israel, King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. In King Saul’s zeal for the Children of Israel and for Judah, he publicly broke the covenant which had been made centuries earlier and Saul slaughtered the Gibeonites. God took notice and although He didn’t do anything immediately … He didn’t forget it either.
Near 40 years later, Saul had been long dead and David had been King over all Israel for decades, there was a famine that lasted for 3 years. This was no ordinary famine. It was evident to King David that God was trying to get Israel’s attention. So, David inquired of the Lord.
2 Samuel 21 NKJV
1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, "It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites."
2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.
3 Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?"
4 And the Gibeonites said to him, "We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us." So he said, "Whatever you say, I will do for you."
5 Then they answered the king, "As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel,
6 "let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD chose." And the king said, "I will give them."
7 But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the LORD’S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
A covenant made before God, here called “The Lord’s Oath”, brings curses one and yields blessings to another of the same family. Covenant is both a powerful and a protected oath which is accepted and respected in heaven.
1 Samuel 18
1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
When Jonathan was killed in battle, fighting beside his father, King Saul, who was also killed, David visited the battlefield and wrote a song called “The Song of the Bow”. I have visited that sight many times on Mount Gilboa – perhaps you can go there with me in November this year. One of the things David said about Jonathan is found in:
2 Samuel 1:26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women.
Speaking here about the death of a covenant friend, David describes how deep he feels, deeper than any emotion which mere erotic or simple brotherly love could produce. Covenant surpasses carnal experiences.
Ruth understood this type of commitment … Ruth made a covenant with her mother-in-law, Naomi … not because she had to but because she wanted to … because it was right and responsible … not for her own personal gain but rather because of her character … covenant can cost!
16 But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."
One of the most well known covenants we recognize today is the covenant of marriage. Jesus spoke to that covenant and said what I think is true about all covenants – especially those of the family sort:
Mark 10:9 "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Are you committed to the covenants God has given you? Adam called Eve, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He was describing covenant …
Someone might say – “Well, God didn’t join us … I made this covenant myself … so it’s not really a covenant I have to keep.” That’s not how God sees it. God did not choose the covenant between Joshua and the Gibeonites however, once made before God, God required it to be kept. Just because Joshua and the Elders didn’t check in with God before they made their vow didn’t release them from the consequences of breaking it.
We cannot say, “Since I missed God and married the wrong person. I didn’t pray about it but did it on my own so it is not really a marriage made in heaven.” Wrong thought … If we make a covenant before God we in effect enjoin God to that covenant and only God can annul it. And … God can annul anything He wants but that’s not for us to decide.
Covenant means, “Your good at my expense.” At some point, expect covenant to cost you. And as well – just because we do not make some spiritual declaration does not mean that we are not in covenant with someone else. We are born into some covenants. As well, when we become parents we are automatically in covenant whether we accept that responsibility or not. Family is a God recognized covenant.
Every person is born into a family covenant and every Believer is born again into a second family covenant. We are to honor our parents without respect as to whether or not we agree with them … this is due to the covenant joining God has decided upon. God decides which family each person is born into and why. He sets the solitary in families …
As well, the condition of our birth decides many other commitments we must recognize as a God decision. Some things are up for change and some aren’t.
Other covenants in life are choice based commitments. The best advice and counsel I can give is to always check in with God and get His guidance before making any commitment or entering into any life-long relationship. However, once made or enacted, trust God for the grace and guidance to fulfill the covenant. God understands … after all He is a covenant God!