Table of Contents
This is a brief response to the article on the DivorceHope.com website: http://www.divorcehope.com/marriagevowscovenantsagreements.htm
1. Covenant is not just a ‘compact’
“The word “covenant” is defined as “a compact” which is an agreement between two or more parties”
There is a huge difference between the way a contract or compact is made and the way a covenant is made. A contract or compact rarely involves the shedding of blood. A covenant often does and a blood covenant always does. That is why the root word for ‘covenant’ is ‘to cut’. A simple promise between two parties was no where near as binding as a covenant made between two parties. If they were the same then there would be no point in cutting yourself to make a covenant.
So, yes, a covenant is a ‘compact’. But it is a very special compact which was well known to be especially binding.
2. A covenant does not cease when one party does not seek reconciliation.
“When a covenant is broken without seeking remedy for reconciliation and restitution or both, the covenant obligations cease and the agreement is terminated.”
The author of the article sites no passage to support this position. He simply argues from his preferred definition that a covenant is a compact and a compact always has conditions which, if violated, end the compact.
However, it is easily seen in the scriptures that covenant obligations do NOT cease when one party breaks the covenant and no longer seeks reconciliation. One clear example of this is with Saul and the Gibeonites.
The Gibeonites made a deceitful covenant with Israel.
Jos 9:15 ESV And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
Four hundred years later Saul killed some of the Gibeonites who Israel had covenanted with. This was a clear breaking of the covenant. Also, neither Saul or Israel sought reconciliation with the Gibeonites. But the Lord still bound them to that covenant.
2Sa 21:1 KJV Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
So this is one example that breaking the covenant in the most serious way does *not* annul the covenant nor remove its obligations.
Arguably the best example is the Old Covenant made between God and Israel. The covenant was grievously and repeatedly violated by Israel yet remained intact until the New Covenant replaced it at the death of Jesus.
3. He confuses the blessings and curses of a covenant with conditions on the covenant
Another example of God’s covenants is the one He made with Israel: “Now therefore, IF you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, THEN you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine”(Exodus 19:5).
If Israel kept the covenant then they received the *blessings* of that covenant. They would be treated as God’s special people.
If Israel failed to the keep the covenant then they received the *curses* of the covenant. They would become the most despised of people.
Deu 29:21 ESV And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.
So the covenant is still active after the person breaks the covenant. If it were not active, the curses of the covenant would not be active. Now those curses can become so severe that the person dies. The death of the person will end the covenant with that person.
This is a central point and to misunderstand it is to misunderstand the nature of a covenant. Once a covenant is made the person lives either under the blessings of the covenant (if the terms are kept) or under the curses of the covenant (if the terms are broken). But the covenant always remains intact. If the covenant was not intact then a new covenant would need to be made after a person violated the terms of the covenant. This is not seen in the scriptures but rather a ‘returning to’ or ‘remembering of’ the covenant is called for.
Deu 4:30-31 ESV When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. (31) For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
God remembers the old covenant that Israel had broken. That old covenant did not disappear because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. It was not annulled because Israel repeatedly and for extended periods broke the covenant. The covenant remains until the covenant party is no longer on this earth (dies or is destroyed).
4. Unconditional covenants do not imply that one party can abuse the other.
The word “unconditional” is a contradiction of the word “covenant.” If a marriage covenant did not have conditions it would be like saying that one partner can abuse the other, or a spouse can have sex or play around with anyone outside of the marriage and always feel welcomed back into a safe, secure and happy relationship.
This is strange logic and shows a misunderstanding of the curses of a covenant. Israel was always welcomed back by God if they repented. If they did not repent then God continued to punish them with the curses of the covenant. The unconditional covenant meant that God never pursued another covenant partner – Israel was always the one He had chosen and to whom He remained faithful. On the other hand, Israel was often unfaithful and pursued other gods. However God always kept covenant with them and never sought someone else.
Hos 3:1 ESV And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”
Jer 3:20 ESV Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD.'”
Lev 26:44 ESV Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God.
Hos 14:1-4 ESV Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. … (4) I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.
This passage returns to the topic of marriage and is so specific and clear that it is amazing that there is any confusion. God has a covenant with Israel. Israel, *just like an unfaithful wife*, violates that covenant. But the covenant does not disappear. It is not annulled. It remains and God calls them back to the very covenant that they have broken.
If a Christian wants to know what he should do when faced with a ‘treacherous spouse’ they need only look to what the Lord has done. They do not need to stay in an abusive relationship. But they do not abandon their treacherous spouse. And they certainly do not seek another spouse. They do what the Lord has done and pray that the covenant breaker returns to covenant that binds until death. That is a safe path to tread.