“Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” – Exodus 24:7-8
The Book of the Covenant referred to in Exodus 24:7 was that which we read in Exodus 20, with the giving of the Ten Commandments. Today, we witness the ratification of those Laws through the sprinkling of blood. The term “covenant” is of Latin origin (con venire), meaning a coming together. It presupposes two or more parties who come together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities (such as found in a Marital Covenant). The Covenant between God and man cannot be reciprocal, because God is infinite and perfect, whereas man is not. So when we approach the Biblical texts regarding covenants, we must have in the back of our mind the concept of ‘gift’. God gifts himself to his creation, joining himself to his unequal.
For us Catholics we recognize seven Covenants in the Bible:
– ADAM and Eve (Gen 1-2)
– NOAH and his Family (Gen 6-9)
– ABRAHAM and his Descendents (Gen 12, 15, 17)
– MOSES and the Israelites (Exod 20-34; Deut 5-11)
– DAVID and the Kingdom (2 Sam 7)
– God’s Law will be within people, written on their hearts (Jer 31:34)
– JESUS – At the Last Supper: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:25)
What’s with the blood? It seems rather barbaric from our understanding and culture, yet it was used by God as a teaching for the Israelites who were surrounded by peoples of other religions who worshipped animals. By having them use animals for their sacrifice, it taught the Israelites that the beasts were not gods at all, and by killing them, it brought idolatry to death. The institution of sacrifices sets the stage for what we will later read in Hebrews 7 how Jesus made the eternal sacrifice when he offered himself on the Cross.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his days as Cardinal Ratzinger, placed great emphasis on the covenants, noting that the theological study of the covenants hold the key to unlocking our understanding of the whole Bible. We will come back to the topic of covenant throughout this year.
Let us take to heart today, what God demands of those who follow Him. We should examine what ‘idolatrous’ activity we need to offer as sacrifice to God, so we may follow his covenantal laws with the same fervor of the Israelites who exclaimed, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”
May God bless you!