A biblical covenant shows set characteristics that bind persons relationally. For example, the Jews, after the exile, felt lost and aimless in their relationship with the covenant-keeping God, Yahweh. In reassuring them, Yahweh speaks to invite them into a binding relationship again.
Zechariah 2:10-12 – 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. (ESV)
This passage demonstrates the relational features of a covenant. A covenant depicts dwelling, joining, becoming, and knowing. The relational God of the Bible connects with his people avoiding distance, separation, or unfriendliness.
Because of the relationship reunion, a celebration begins the passage as Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion, “For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD (Zech. 2:10). God dwells with his people! Historically he displayed this tendency in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned; God was there in the middle of their shame, talking with them. After the Exodus, the Jewish people in the wilderness looked up and saw God’s presence as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. God promised to dwell with his people and be their God (Ex. 29:42-46 and I Kings 6:13).
He joins by uniting with his people. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people.” (Zech. 2:11). He indiscriminately joins with his people. Here, this passage shows no exclusive club exists for those chosen people, but the prophet invites all nations to “become my people.” God’s invitation encourages a form of belongingness. We belong to him, and we become beloved to his heart. The joining depicts salvation as the relationship initiates unity with our maker, but the result of this joining is a form of acceptance. We become notable in the heart of God or, as this passage says, “for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” (Zech. 2:8). As a delicate part of the body, the eye needs protecting, and when we belong to him, he protects us.
In any relationship knowing centers on the growth and intimacy between the two persons. “I will live among you, and you will know that LORD Almighty has sent me to you.” (Zech. 2:11). The believers know that the Lord dwells among them since they did not choose him, but God chooses them. The dwelling and abiding of God with his people demonstrate closeness and availability. We know his nearness since He actively works in our lives. The LORD, Yahweh Almighty, displays care and concern for His people.
Covenant relationship displays dwelling, joining, becoming, and knowing. Every covenant evidences these relational characteristics. Remarkably, these link to salvation and covenant marriage—God in salvation covenants with those who believe. First, the Lord Jesus came to dwell with us (John 1:14), and later the dwelling Savior initiated the indwelling Spirit inside us. The New Testament marks the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation for each person who repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. The indwelling called “Baptism of the Spirit” guarantees a dwelling relationship with a future hope ( I Cor. 12:13, Eph 1:13-14). Next, we unite with Christ dying to self and living for him (Gal. 2:20 and Eph 2:10). Finally, in Christ, we become his children belonging and abiding in him (John 1:12 and John 15). As his children, we grow in maturity and knowledge of Him.
Salvation as covenant depicts a becoming and knowing. This covenant binds us to our Savior, who promises never to leave or forsake us. We are his, and we belong to him. Understanding the relational bond forms a continued relationship since the Scriptures affirm that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35-39). In the Zechariah passage, the inheritance mentioned for Judah evidences the unconditional nature of the relationship. Believers as the beloved will behold the future inheritance. For believers, Christ in you vouches as the hope of glory. Eternal life results as an inheritance that will not fade away. I Peter 1:4 promises, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (ESV). The covenant marks permanence, especially since God choose them as channels of blessings, inviting others to join in the celebration.
Then form a relational belonging with God and his people, in which his divine presence blesses them. Even God’s interpersonal relationship within himself (in Trinity) promotes oneness and love, reflecting the meaning of marriage. Likewise, in his relational covenant nature, God depicts marriage as one man and woman vowing to love and dwell with each other. Marriage expects a dwelling together in residence. They join together in marriage, and their covenant marriage forms a unity. God’s presence binds and sanctifies the unity marked by mutual promises, culturally demonstrated by exchanging rings. Biblical covenants’ priorities mirror a commitment declared much like a marriage.
The scriptures describe becoming a husband and wife as becoming one flesh. Becoming one flesh means the married couple continually seeks a more profound vulnerability and intimacy to strengthen their unity. The one-flesh concept portrays a multi-dimensional bonded unity that includes the body, mind, and spirit.
Marriage requires knowing. The first couple, naked and unashamed, grew in understanding each other as they sacrificially pursued each other as the beloved. The relationship marked by permanence grows together and can develop as one sees one’s spouse as the apple of their eye—a relationship to protect and honor.
When you see a covenant in Scripture, notice these characteristics. Did God dwell with Abraham? Did He set up a sense of belonging with David? The relational covenant characteristics evident in the many Old Testament passages depict forming or applying a covenant relationship. Noticing God’s attributes in the covenant will bring us blessings.
For further reading, see Searching Below the Surface.
Also, check out From Oneness to Oneness.