Covenant Past (9-14)
In the case of Israel, who has been called to covenant relationship with God, there is no longer any need for fright. “Fear not,” the Lord will say; ah, but “fear him.” The Lord came to them that they might fear, which is to trust Him with reverent awe. The Lord had indeed appeared. Now He calls on Israel to believe in Him and to respond to Him with due respect.
a covenant establishes or renews a relationship that does not exist naturally. A covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates that relationship. Normally, parents need not formalize their relationship with biological children. The relationship is established by birth; therefore, no covenant is needed between parents and children or even between siblings.
word (covenancier, “to settle or contract”). The Oxford English Dictionary defines covenant as “a mutual agreement between two or more persons to do or refrain from doing certain acts; a compact, contract, bargain; sometimes, the undertaking, pledge, or promise of one of the parties.” Actually, that’s not quite the way the biblical covenant works. That places the emphasis on the duties between the two persons. Actually, the emphasis in Scripture is always on the relationship.
When my wife and I got married many decades ago now, we didn’t commit ourselves to certain job descriptions. We committed ourselves to each other; the relationship was established more than the duties spelled out.
disparity covenants; these are between unequals. These include political treaties, like that which existed between King Ahaz of Judah and Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria. In 2 Kings 16:7–8 this relationship is described. Ahaz describes it. He sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria saying, “ ‘I am your servant [vassal] and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of [Aram] and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.’ Ahaz also took the silver and gold found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.” This is obviously not a treaty between equals. Tiglath-pileser is the father; Ahaz is the son. These are unequals. And of course this reminds us of Israel’s relationship with the Lord.
Lord is presented as Israel’s father, and in 14:1 Moses will begin with “sons you are to the LORD your God.” This is a covenant relationship of parent and child. The covenant that the Lord made with Israel at Horeb was obviously not a parity agreement;
“the Lord’s covenant with Israel.” We may characterize this covenant as monergistic—that is, it is put into force by one party. The Lord picks the covenant partner; the Lord establishes the terms; the Lord defines the consequences for the vassals depending on how loyal they have been or will be; the Lord establishes the procedure by which it’s ratified; the Lord guarantees its fulfillment. Israel has no say in the terms of this covenant.
Israel has but one of two responses: “Yes, I accept,” or “No, I reject this offer of covenant relationship.”