This second message in a series called “Promises, Promises” is also about covenant, but with a different twist. We’ll compare covenant, contract and promises and find that each has its place in our lives now. We’ll also find out what David and Jonathan did in regard to covenant and how what they did means a great deal to us.
Promises, Promises: Covenants (Part 2)
1 Samuel 18:1-4: 1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
Here’s how I defined covenant:
A covenant is a relational promise of the most serious nature, made before God or with God, that pledges loyalty, security and resources to another in every present and future circumstance, whether known or unknown.
You find them occurring in three different ways:
I was asked by a brother after last week, could we talk about the difference between a contract, a covenant and a promise.
A contract is an agreement between two parties that defines conditions and the responsibilities of each side. If one or the other doesn’t live up to their end of the contract, the other doesn’t necessarily have to fulfill theirs either. It’s based on initial limited trust and overall mistrust and has a beginning and an end. I think you can do you part and I need you to, and you want or need me to do mine, so you’ll take your part seriously as I will mine. You can’t trust human nature or just nature.
So three years ago we decided to add on to our house. We asked a well reputed and known to us personally contractor to give us a bid for the work. He came up with the plans and gave us a presentation of what he would do and how much it would cost us. He did a great job and we paid him at the right stages of the project. But I haven’t seen this guy since the job was done. He’s not my close friend. The relationship was temporary by design.
Covenants are different. They are permanent relationships. They are ‘til death do us part. And the details of the conditions of the relationship and conditions in general are known and unknown, expected and unexpected.
While trust/mistrust is at the core of contracts, there’s something much deeper at the core of a covenant. It’s love. Love that gives all of oneself to another who gives all of themselves.
Marriage is a covenant. A man and a woman pledge themselves to each other until death separates them. They have everything in common. They usually have joint savings and checking accounts. They share a house, hey, they even share a bed! What is left is a union, a union that stays through personal conflict, financial prosperity or hardship, health or health crises, grief or joy of every sort. It may be difficult and sometimes only the covenant you made is what’s keeping you together, but it remains. One or both can break the covenant, but only with grave consequences. Your life will change forever with a broken covenant.
Promises are different from both of those. Promises are based on principle associated with integrity or pride or necessity. They may or may not involve money, that isn’t the point. I promise that I’ll pick you up at the airport on Sunday at 5pm. I’ll be there. Okay. So when you come in, there’s your friend. Or not. Hey, what happened? Oh yeah, well I was watching the Bills game and I got too involved…
So promises made can lead to disappointment, mistrust or judgment of a person’s character, but there’s not much else that is going to happen unless you counted on them for something big. That requires trust.
So back to the Scriptures…
1 Samuel 18:1-4
Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.
Jonathan was equal to David as a fellow human, but he was way above David in the social order. Things to note about covenant.
It’s basis was love. Jonathan and David just loved each other. It wasn’t homosexual, it wasn’t creepy in some way, it was a deep, godly love that plainly had its roots in God. I remember as a boy hanging out with my childhood best friend. His name was Tom. We did everything together, from sports to Boy Scouts, you name it. I can remember, as a relatively young person, saying to myself, this must be what love feels like. I was conjecturing on to think of one day meeting and marrying the right girl. But the feeling of loving someone, that came from this friendship Tom and I had.
There was an exchange. Jonathan, the greater, gave David some very important things:
The exchange meant that Jonathan was pledging more than objects
My resources, my position and my help are at your disposal, for the rest of my life and beyond. And by accepting these, you agree to the same.
So if you hear otherwise, are tempted to think otherwise, hear me. God is the inventor of marriage and the definer of marriage and family. His Book, the Bible, makes it clear. If you try to do otherwise you’ll be headed for problem and trouble that is very hard to deal with.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;