Today we are continuing our study of The Blood Covenant. As part of His preparations for the coming of the Messiah God introduced covenants to the human race and today we are going to look at how blood covenant was practiced across all the nations of the world. Through this we will learn the elements of a covenant and how they are behind many of our customs. Most of all this will deepen our understanding of the new covenant that God established in the blood of Christ by which we are restored to God and have a forever relationship with God.
God introduced covenants to the human race because it was through covenants that God has chosen to reveal Himself and bind Himself to us forever in love. Because God loved us so much He wanted to make us secure in that love and that we would know that we know that we have the security of being in covenant with Him. The ultimate covenant we call the New Covenant and through that we have eternal life, eternal security in the love of God, and so the covenants throughout the Bible all help us to understand the power of the covenant, the New Covenant.
One thing that you’ve got to understand is the representative man. If my family was to make a covenant with your family we would need a representative, somebody representing my family and then somebody representing your family and then those two people would make covenant. The representative has to be acceptable to the other group and only then, if he first of all is genuinely bound to his group, of the same blood and if he is accepted by the other group, then he can be the representative.
After selection, those two representatives enter into covenant and when those two representatives make covenant their whole family is in them when they make that covenant. This is a very important idea, and so when blood is shed all of the families are gathered into that covenant. And every blessing that the representative receives his whole family also receives in Him.
Now Adam was our original representative. When Adam sinned he just didn’t sin on his own behalf, but all of us were in Adam, when he sinned, when Adam said: ‘God I don’t You, leave me alone.’ When Adam said: ‘No’ to God we were in Adam. He represented us, because we were all in him. We weren’t born yet, but we were in him and we came out of him. And so everything he did had consequences for us. Adam rejected God and His covenant and that seemed to be the end. Because of Adam’s decision it seemed we were all doomed.
How can this be fixed? Adam now was an unfit representative. Adam couldn’t go before God for he was unrighteous. He was sinful. God could not accept him as a representative for any new covenant that would bring salvation. Nor could any human being be found who could represent mankind to God because all men are now sinful, all men are unrighteous and it looked like we were lost. We were doomed. How can this be fixed? Everyone now born in Adam has no hope. There is no covenant between man and God. There is no connection between man and God. Man is lost and without hope unless there can be found a perfectly righteous representative.
He has to be a man, he can’t be an angel because he has to represent us. We’re human beings. We need a representative man. But not a sinful man, a perfectly righteous man that can represent us. Who can stand before God in total righteousness and total perfection and represent the human race before God and make covenant with God. He must be a man of whom God can say ‘I can deal with that man, he is righteous before Me and we will enter into covenant together.’
Can there be found a man who is perfectly righteous before God, who can receive all the blessings of the covenant on our behalf?
The good news is that Jesus, God’s Son became a man in order to represent man before God and bring man back to God. Jesus being perfectly righteous was accepted before God and offered Himself up to God on man’s behalf, as the sacrifice for our sins and in His body the new covenant was cut between man and God. And if we accept Jesus as our representative, then in Him we are reunited to God and every blessing of God is now ours.
From the dawn of history God prepared the human race for this new covenant that would be cut in the blood of Jesus. He did this by introducing the idea and revelation of covenants to mankind right at the beginning, so that every nation of the world had an idea of covenant as the deepest reality, as the strongest kind of relationship and guarantee and binding of two people, or two countries or two families together.
Covenant through the shedding of blood has been known universally in the human race ever since then. And it’s only in modern society that we have really lost the idea of covenant and we need to get back to understand what it means if we are going to fully understand the Word of God, and our new covenant with God.
Clay Trumble in his book called ‘The Blood Covenant’ researched the blood covenant as it was used in all the historical records and customs of societies from all parts of the world and he showed that it was that it was the deepest and the most universal of all customs. It was understood by all societies way back to the origins of time and the origins of man. It goes right back to what God taught Adam and Eve.
Blood Covenant that is covenant established on the basis of the shedding of blood is found in all nations and all cultures as the deepest thing there is. It was considered unbreakable. It was unthinkable to break it. It is the most sacred thing. When somebody broke a blood covenant his own family would give them up to the avenger.
Let me just take you through the phases of it. Of course it would be negotiated and then the two covenant representatives would be chosen one from each family or tribe and these representatives had to be acceptable to the other tribe. And then those two representatives would come together and they would be cut in their flesh, in their hands or in their arms and their blood would flow signifying the pouring out of their lives for each other. In this way the covenant was cut in the bodies of the representatives. But it wasn’t just the two representatives that were in covenant, because their whole tribe was in them when they cut covenant. They cut covenant on behalf of their tribe and so now the whole tribe was in covenant with the other tribe for they were all in union with their representative when he cut covenant and shed his blood. It was as if they all had individually shed their blood, for indeed they had in the person of their representative.
The shedding of blood signified that this covenant was established in the most precious thing, their very own lifeblood. It signified that they were ready to pour out their lives to keep this covenant even unto death if necessary. They would be willing to give up their very own blood for their covenant partner. The shedding of blood also signified that if they broke the covenant then they were deserving of death.
This meaning is brought out in the fact that actually the representative was meant to die to show that this was a covenant unto death. That’s how serious it was! Well usually, of course the covenant representatives were not killed, but instead a substitute animal was chosen which died in their place. It was sacrificed in the place of the covenant representatives, and its blood became the blood of the covenant in the place of the representative’s blood.
Now when it came to the perfect covenant between God and man, the New Covenant, then of course no substitutes could be used. But Jesus Christ had to die as the sacrificial Lamb of God in order to cut covenant for us as our representative before God. His blood had to be shed and His life had to be poured out unto death for He was our representative man. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood was designed to unite God and man in an eternal bond of everlasting love, and in this ultimate covenant between God and man cut in the body of Jesus there was only one representative, not two.
Normally you would expect to see God’s representative meet with man’s representative and cut covenant together. But in this case God and man are being brought together in the God-man Jesus Christ. In this amazing, unique covenant Jesus was the represent for God and the representative for man, because He was the God-man. As fully God He could represent God and as fully man He could represent man and the blood that was shed was both the blood of God and the blood of man. And in that way He brought God and man together in His body through the covenant cut in His flesh as He died for us on the Cross. The eternal New Covenant was therefore cut in the body of Jesus Christ the representative of both God and man when Jesus died on the Cross.
If we accept Him as our representative and accept His sacrifice on our behalf then we come into all the benefits and blessing of this new covenant. We are reunited to God forever and we receive His covenant gift of the Holy Spirit. Now when covenant was being made, the bodies of the representatives were cut and their blood was shed and then their blood was mingled together.
*This would have been done in two ways.
First of all they would make a cut in the hands and the blood would be dripped and often it would caught in a glass of wine and then the other person’s hand would be cut and the blood dripped into a glass of wine. So you see their bloods were mingled together in the cup and since the life is in the blood this symbolised the fact that their lives now through the covenant were mingled together and they were now one.
Moreover by shedding their blood they were signifying that they were ready to pour out their lives for the other. They were willing to lay down their lives to uphold the covenant and to help the other. They were giving their lives to each other and that was shown through the shedding of their blood. They were saying that they would lay their lives down even unto death for their covenant partner.
Now when their blood had been collected and mingled in the cup of wine, they would then drink from that cup. So they would literally drink each others blood, and what they believed is that the life was in the blood, and when you drank from that cup actually your lives were now becoming one. Your blood was becoming one. You were being joined. You became one with that person.
Jesus says to us when we receive His Blood Covenant, we are, as it were, to drink of His blood and eat of His flesh, signifying we are become one with Him. As Jesus said: “I in you, and you in Me.” We’re in covenant now. We’ve become new people now.
The second way in which their blood would be mingled was in the joining of their hands. You see, both representatives were now cut in their hands and blood was flowing and so the two hands were brought together. And so the two wounds were brought into contact and their two bloods were interchanged, so that each man’s life was imparted and received into the other one. They lived in each other now. They were one in blood. They were now blood covenant brothers.
Then they would rub salt and gunpowder into the wound and then it would become a permanent scar, an outward sign and seal in their flesh of the covenant. The permanent scar was the visible sign in the flesh of their permanent covenant.
The Jews were circumcised and that circumcision was the cutting and that became the outward seal that they were now in that covenant. And the Bible says that when you receive Jesus Christ God does a circumcision on you, not in the flesh praise God, but in the Spirit, and the unclean part is cut away. The old man is removed, and you are made a brand new creation. And the Holy Spirit seals you and in the Spirit those of you who are truly born again, you have a covenant- cut on the inside of you and you are circumcised in your heart and your spirit now belongs to God. You are a covenant man; you’re a covenant woman and you bear the marks of that covenant even in your inner being. And you receive the divine nature; you receive His life and His nature and now you are in Him and He is in you.
In some cultures the covenant cut was done on the ring finger causing a ring of blood and this is the origin of our wedding ring which represents our commitment of constant love to our covenant partner.
We can also understand now the significance of Jesus showing His hands and His feet to unbelieving Thomas. He was showing His covenant scars - the nail prints in His hands and His feet where His blood had flowed. He was declaring that He had cut the covenant with God in His body on the Cross, that He had accomplished it, that He had fulfilled all the prophecies of what the Messiah would do in His death,especially in Psalm 22, and suddenly Thomas realised who He was, and what He had done and he worshipped him saying: “my Lord, and my God.”
Normally we think of scars as something unsightly, something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden, but covenant scars were different. They were proudly displayed. Isn’t it interesting that even after Jesus was raised from the dead He still bore these scars in His body having been healed of all His afflictions and having received the glorious resurrection body. Why does He still have these scars? Indeed He will always have these scars, because they are the covenant scars which He will proudly display for all eternity as the sign of the everlasting covenant that He has made for us. As He holds out His hands, He is saying: ‘this is how much I love you that I made a covenant for you with God that will last forever.’And as we see Him with His covenant scars our response should be like that of Thomas we should worship Him and say: ‘my Lord, and my God.’ Jesus said to Thomas: “you have seen and you believe, blessed are those who believe in Me and My covenant even without seeing Me.”
Those who had been joined by covenant were now like family, they were blood covenant brothers. Covenant brothers were also called friends. Proverbs talks about ‘a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ This says that a bond born of a blood covenant can be stronger than a natural family relationship, and that is the origin of saying: ‘blood is thicker than water’. Or the Arabs say: ‘blood is thicker than milk’. What that is saying is that you may come out the same womb, out of the same water, but if you are in a blood covenant relationship that is stronger than natural birth. You may have drunk the same milk from your mother’s breast as your brother or sister, but a blood covenant relationship is stronger than that.
When the covenant cuts were rubbed together by the joining of hands, joining their bloods as one -that’s the origin of the shaking of hands. You’re accepting someone as a friend, that joining of hands is actually signifying that you are a friend, that you are covenant brothers.
Then they would stand in the covenant-blood. There would be a sacrifice as well. The animals would be split in two. There would be blood everywhere and as they would stand in the blood they would lift up their right hands, and that’s theorigin of swearing of an oath with the right hand, the hand that had been cut and marked with the sign of the covenant. So they would lift up their hands and make an oath swearing to God by the blood of the covenant. The right hand is also the symbol of strength and power and as they lifted up their right hand, they were saying:
‘I swear by the covenant made in blood and by all that is in my power and strength I will fulfil that covenant.’ They swear and make promises of CHESED which is loving kindness, faithfulness to the covenant. They swear to uphold the covenant, to be faithful, to be loyal to give covenant love, and what they are saying is that: ‘all I have is yours and all you have is mine because now our lives are made one.’
And then they would pronounce curses upon themselves and each other: ‘curses on us, if we break the covenant’ - often terrible curses. For if you sin against your covenant partner, you are actually sinning against yourself, because now your lives are now one.
Now you are a new person. Hilary became a new person when she married me, because before her old life of just living her own life was totally changed. She had to lay that all down. She died to all of that independence, and now her whole life revolves around me, because now everything you do, you do together.
You become a new person so that is signified by a change of name (Windows-Walker) and when you enter in the covenant your name is changed.
*Jacob got changed to Israel. As Jacob he was a schemer, he was doing everything his own way, but as soon as he accepted the Lord in his life, he became Israel, which means: ‘God is my Prince.’ His name was changed, because no longer was he on his own now, he had a covenant partner and he lived by faith in his covenant partner. The old man is gone; the new one is come.
Then the covenant partners would confirm they were giving themselves to one another by giving gifts. They would giveweapons to each other, which signified that they were going to fight for one another. They gave their armour to one another, which is saying I will defend you. And they would give clothing to one another.
This was all a down payment, a guarantee of their shared wealth, that all I have is yours, it’s at your disposal. If you are in need, I’ll be there to meet that need.
And in the new covenant with God, God gives us His Holy Spirit and all the blessing of God are in the Spirit. And the Bible says that the Spirit is the guarantee, the down payment of our inheritance. God has given us the Spirit, as His gift to us in the covenant, and in the Holy Spirit is the promise of the provision and manifestation of all the covenant blessings for us to possess in our lives.
And then they would make a memorial to the covenant; they would often plant a tree, because trees would last a long time. They would plant the tree and soak it in the blood of the covenant That bloody tree was a standing memorial to the covenant. You know that is what Jesus did for us, He was crucified on a tree and His blood poured down upon that tree.
Jesus also instituted the Lord’s Supper as the memorial to the covenant. He said:
‘as you eat and drink remember Me.’
A memorial is to help us remember. To remember something is to have it at the forefront of your mind. Why is it important to remember a covenant? Because now the covenant is meant to control our whole life? It’s meant to be the centre of our whole life and thinking. We have a covenant partner to trust in and depend on and we have covenant obligations to Him of CHESED love - the heart of the covenant, the covenant faithfulness, the covenant love and that will be tested in the crisis.
When God made a covenant with Abraham He said: “I will bless you.” Do you know what God was actually saying? He was now obligated by the covenant to give everything Abraham needed to be blessed, saved, forgiven and have eternal life. God was now obligated by that covenant to give whatever it takes, even if it takes His very best, and what is His very best? His own Son, because the only thing that could save us from our sin was the blood of His own Son Jesus and so the moment God promised Abraham and said: ‘I will bless you’, God was now committed to sending His Son to die on the cross, because that is the only way it could be done. God was committed by His covenant love to fulfil His promise.
But God wanted to see if He had a covenant partner. Did He have someone He could rely on too? Did He have someone who was willing to give his very best, because in a covenant they are saying: ‘I give everything to you’, and God tested Abraham to see, was he a true covenant partner? Abraham, are you willing to give up your son, your only beloved son Isaac? Are you willing to give him up to Me? Abraham was immediately willing to do that. (He believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead). Abraham proved himself. He was willing to give his best, because he was a covenant man. So God was pleased with Abraham and called him His friend, a true covenant partner, who walked in fellowship with God in the covenant, walking in covenant-faithfulness toward His Covenant partner - God. He proved willing to give up everything, even his beloved son Isaac. Abraham’s willingness to give God his best, released and required God to give up His best in return to supply the need of His covenant Partner (Abraham and all who were in Abraham) - the offering up of His beloved Son, Jesus!
The question I want to ask you is: are you a covenant man? Are you faithful to your covenant with God? When God calls upon you, are you willing to give your best?
Are you willing to give your time?
Are you willing to give your gifts?
Are you available to God?
Are you truly a covenant partner with God?
Yes, He says all I have is yours, every blessing is yours. But He also asks us as He asked Abraham: Are you willing to give your best and offer it up to Me? Are you willing to do what it takes to fulfil my will in your life? That’s the question I believe the Lord is asking you.
Are you like Abraham going to be faithful?
Are you going to be a true covenant partner.
Are you going to be loyal?
The other thing that God gives us in the covenant is the Name of Jesus.
The Name is the right to call on the covenant. He said in John 16:23 in Jesus’ talk about the New Covenant: “in that day”. in the day when the covenant is established, “whatever you ask the Father in My Name He will give it to you.”He is saying everything that I have is at your disposal. I give you My Name, the Name of Jesus, our representative before God in the Covenant, and Jesus says: “now that you are in covenant with God, if you need something, just ask Him for it, because you are joined in blood covenant to Him through Me.’ He says: ‘if you are a true covenant partner, then I am counting on you, but you can count on Me as well, and I give you My Name and if you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it to you.” That’s a covenant promise. The Name of Jesus is the covenant name.
Jesus also said in John 14:13 about the works we would do in His Name: “whatever you ask (demand) in My Name I will do it.”
This is talking about when we come against the powers of evil. When we come against sickness, when we come against opposition, Jesus said we can use His Name and command it to leave us. We can command that it be bound and bow the knee to the Name of Jesus. And Jesus promises to back that up and to enforce it, when we use His Name against the evil one.
You resist satan and he must flee from you.
His Name is our authority to enforce God’s will in the earth. We are God’s representatives on the earth and He has given us authority to reign in life and subdue the enemy and that authority is in the name of Jesus. And when we use that name against evil we are calling upon that authority that we have been given through the covenant and Jesus Christ will back it with the power of His Spirit. The name of Jesus is our authority to call upon the covenant we have with God, to call upon Jesus our covenant partner, to call upon every blessing that is in the blood.
The Bible says: ‘all call on the Name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved (delivered, blessed). For the Lord is rich to all who call upon Him.’ Jesus is all in all to us in the covenant. He is our healer,our wisdom,our strength,our life. And He has given us His Name for us to call upon His Name and as we do saying: “Jesus you’re my healer, you’re my Saviour, you’re my life”, so we lay hold of the life and the blessings that are ours in the covenant in Christ.
All the riches of God are laid up for us in our heavenly bank account in Christ. And He has given us His name, which is His authority, to ouse to make withdrawals from what is ours in Christ. And so we come to the Father and ask Him for what we need in the name of Jesus.
I’m going to finish with a story, of Livingstone the great Missionary to Africa, and Stanley. When it seemed Livingstone got lost, Stanley, a news reporter went out to find him, and he turned out to be just as great an explorer as Livingstone. As he went on his way he found the only way he could survive was by cutting covenants with the different tribal leaders that were there. He ended up making fifty covenants. Sometimes he was cut in his flesh. Sometimes one of his travelling companions was cut.
The story of the first covenant that he made is that he was trying to go through a certain area but he couldn’t make any progress because the tribe was not willing to let him through. And so his assistant said why don’t you cut covenant with the leader? At first Stanley wasn’t open to that idea at all, but things got so desperate that eventually they negotiated a covenant.
The main sticking point was that Stanley had a new goat and his health was frail. He really wanted this goat for its mil but the African Chief could see that that’s the thing that Stanley valued the most, so he said OK as a proof of your covenant love you will give me that goat. Stanley found that hard because he needed that goat. But finally he agreed, they cut covenant like I described, the blood was taken in the glass of wine and they drank that, and their hands were rubbed together and now they were covenant brothers. It was an unheard of thing that anyone would break a blood covenant. It would be certain death. And if anyone would steal from the covenant brothers they would be killed (so all the theft stopped immediately).
So now the whole situation was changed through that covenant and they planted a tree to mark that covenant and then the Chief gave him his most precious possession which was a seven-foot spear. And Stanley thought ‘oh great, I gave up my goat and I just got this spear.’ But what Stanley didn’t realise is that this was a powerful Chief. Everyone knew that this spear belonged to that Chief. And so when Stanley came into any town and they were about to make war on him and stop his progress, he would just hold up the spear of his covenant partner. It represented the power of his partner. And then they suddenly backed away. ‘Well, we can’t attack him because he’s got a powerful covenant brother who’s going to fight for him.’ That was like us holding up the Name of Jesus, you see. He was declaring:
‘I have powerful covenant partner who is committed by oath to fight for me, and if you come against me, you come against him.’ Seeing that spear they would flee.
Likewise when you hold up the name of Jesus, representing the power and authority of your covenant partner Jesus, who will fight for you, the powers of evil will flee from you!
Stanley now had access not just to his own strength, but he had access to all the strength of that covenant brother and his great tribe. Now he wasn’t on his own, he had something far greater on his side. And that’s what it is like for you. You may come against resistance and opposition, but you just have to hold the Name of Jesus and every demon will flee from you because you have a powerful covenant brother.
*Why they make covenant will all its obligations. Stronger together than apart (Ecc 4), strengths and weaknesses.
Finally they would celebrate a covenant meal. They would sit down together and reaffirm their covenant love for one another.
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said: “I stand at the door and I knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door of their heart, I will come into him” -and that’s salvation, when you receive Jesus as your blood covenant with God. But Jesus then says: “I will come in to him and I will dine with him.” In other words we will have a covenant meal together forever and ever. We will have fellowship as friends, as blood covenant partners. That’s the purpose of covenant -to join us together in the strongest fellowship possible and the key symbol and demonstration of that fellowship and friendship is sitting down and eating together.
That is what the Communion meal is all about. At Communion we are eating and drinking of the life of Jesus, we are affirming the covenant, saying: ‘Yes, Lord we are in covenant together.’ Jesus said we are proclaiming His death, His covenant, till He comes. We are confirming our love for Lord, that as He gives everything to us so now we are willing to give everything to Him.
We are saying: ‘we are your covenant partners. You have given everything to me. You have given me your life, your very blood. And now Lord I dedicate myself to be loyal to the covenant that whatever you call on me to do Lord I’m there for You. Whatever it takes Lord I’m willing to do it.’
When you come for Communion you must judge yourself. Get right before God. It’s serious, because it’s about your blood covenant with God. If you take it lightly, you are disrespecting the covenant. Paul says if you take it unworthily, you eat and drink judgement upon yourself, and that is why some people die young.
Will you be like Abraham who was willing to lay everything on the altar because nothing was more important to him than the Lord and his covenant with the Lord? Whatever He asks you to do will not be a cursing. It’ll be a blessing. It will work for your good. You can trust in His goodness.