Back in the day a man’s handshake was his word. That was enough. No papers to draw up, or lawyers to get involved; just two sensible men or women making an agreement and sticking with it. Period. It could be the sale of a vehicle, or a trade, or even where the fence was supposed to go between two properties.
Further back in the day, say, around the centuries that the Old Testament was lived out and then documented, two tribes would come together and make an agreement and live by it, whether it was a good one or not. They called it a covenant. A covenant was a binding agreement made between two men or two tribes, or even between God and man.
This morning I read of an uncomfortable covenant. That is, it was most uncomfortable for the Israelites who were busy conquering the tribes in their newly given Promised Land by their Holy God, Jehovah. The land was not too huge. Word got around quickly, even without cell phones and texts, that the Israelites who had come across the Jordan River not too long ago, were killing the kings and their people and taking over the land one tribe after another. Of course there was great fear. We would be afraid, too, if another people group were coming in to our country and just taking over one state at a time, leaving only a burning heap of rubble.
The folks in Gibeon had heard what was going on. They had heard that this leader Joshua and all his Israelite warriors had conquered the kings of Ai and Jericho. They devised a plan. They “acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended; and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled.” Joshua 9:4-5. They journeyed over to Joshua’s camp at Gilgal and they said to them, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” Joshua 9:6.
Now a covenant was nothing new to the people of that day, both to the tribe of Gibeon and the tribe of Israel. Folks had been making a covenant over the ownership and use of a well. (Genesis 21:22-34). They had made a covenant between two families and their lands (Jacob and Laban). So when the men of Gibeon came to Joshua asking to make a covenant, they knew one main thing. They knew it would be a binding agreement that would last forever. They knew it would not be broken. To break the covenant would greatly dishonor their name. The people of Gibeon knew that the people of Israel would not risk that dishonor. Even though Joshua asked them who they were and where they had come from, he believed them and did not seek out the counsel of his God. “The men of Israel took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.”( Joshua 9:14)
Joshua made peace with the people of Gibeon and made a covenant with them, to let them live and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. They made this covenant without the consent of the Lord, didn’t exactly check out their story and now, after the covenant was made and the oath was sworn, the Israelites learn that the people of Gibeon are their near neighbors. They have been had. They know that when they have made a covenant, even without seeking the counsel of the Lord, it is a binding agreement that has been made before the Lord God Almighty. And so the Israelites cannot touch them. They let them live among the Israelites but they made them their servants; hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation. Though it may not have been exactly what the Gibeons wanted, yet they lived.
These days people make a covenant. It’s a marriage covenant and it is between two people and in the presence of a man of God and it is supposed to be a forever binding agreement no matter what. As you all know, sadly our word, even our “covenant” before a crowd of any size, before a man of the cloth of any persuasion, even before one another is just not meaningful anymore. Even though the Israelites had been deceived, they kept the covenant and let the Gibeons live. Though they made them to be servants they kept the covenant. A covenant was more honoring as it was sworn before their Lord God than whether the Gibeons were honest or not.
Folks, you and I know our home and marriages have fallen prey to the enemy called “feelings” and “happy” and “convenient” for far too long. I know that this little blog is not going to change our society’s way of thinking on marriage, but perhaps it will encourage Believers in the Lord God Almighty to rethink. To repent of the idea that marriage is forever until someone better comes along. Marriage, for good or bad, is to be forever. Until death do you part. You know that our marriages are the truest picture and testimony to the world of God’s seriousness of a covenant. Of His promises. Of His hand in what He deems important and He so deems marriage and the home as just as important or more so than the church. It tells the world that a covenant is forever no matter what. Just as His promises are forever. No matter what. He keeps His end of the bargain. He is forever with you and your spouse. In sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. Forever. I will never leave you or forsake you.
Well, there’s got to be some encouragement here to those whose marriages for whatever reason are no more. And there’s many. So many single again folks. To you the Lord says, repent, rethink what choices have been made and return to Me. Seek me and I will fulfill you and be to you the husband or wife you had but don’t anymore. I’ll be to you the comfort and peace you should have had in that marriage. You see, though God truly does hate divorce, yet, when we return to Him and seek His forgiveness and seek Him as our refuge, because He is a faithful and forgiving Father, He draws us back in and we can experience His comfort and presence in our lives. Turn to Him, my friend.
Could we commit to pray for our families, our marriages, our homes, that we would take seriously what covenant we made before the Lord God almighty no matter whether we feel happy at that moment or not. When we seek Him, in the midst of our marriage He will draw us back to Himself and to one another. Marital breakups are far too easy in this country. It’s become the norm to be unwed, divorced, in another “relationship” than it is to be happily and forever married to the person you made that covenant with in front of all those witnesses! Come on, people, let’s return to the reason for that covenant. A binding agreement before God. No matter what.