The best thing about the Christian faith is that it is based on an everlasting, unchangeable covenant. It is not about us being ‘good enough’, checking the right boxes, or trying to ‘be better’. It is about a covenant between ourselves and God.
This idea of covenant is seen throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and some of the most powerful passages about who Jesus are found in the Old Testament. While reading in Ezekiel 16 during my morning quiet time, I was moved by this passage that so clearly lays out what this “New Covenant” would look like.
But first, what is a covenant?
In non-Biblical terms, a covenant is essentially a legal, binding agreement. When you get married, take out a loan, lease a house, or sign a document, you are entering into a type of covenant; an agreement in which both parties make certain promises to one another.
In Biblical terms, a covenant between God and people holds a great significance, and forms the foundation of how God interacts with people. The covenant most often referred to by Jesus as “The Law” is the Mosaic Covenant. Given to Moses at Mount Sinai, this covenant laid out the rules for how God’s chosen people would agree to live. This is where we get The Ten Commandments.
The problem with this covenant is that try as we might, no one could possibly ever live up to it! The law gives a guide of how God would have us to live and what a sinless life would look like, but our end of the deal is simply impossible to uphold. Because of this, in Ezekiel 16, God promises a new, better covenant:
59 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant (side note, they weren’t even trying to fulfill it anymore).
60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (side note: God doesn’t forget His promises, even if we do).
61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you (side note: non-Jews are now going to be allowed in on this new covenant)
62 So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord.
63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the SovereignLord.’”
What we read here is the fullness of the Gospel: Even though we can’t keep our end of the deal, God is faithful to remember His and will give us another, better opportunity. God does not choose to just be done with humanity forever, but remembers the old covenant, and promises to establish a new, better and everlasting one. This new everlasting covenant is established through what Jesus did on the cross, which is also the atonement mentioned in verse 63. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will not break His covenant. He keeps this promise by not only keeping up His end of things, but amending the terms in our favor.
The people of Israel will receive their sisters and brothers (non-Jews who were not a part of the first covenant with Moses) on the basis of this new covenant. This is the picture of the good news of Jesus being preached to every nation, by which everyone on earth may be saved and brought into the promises of the new covenant.
This new, everlasting covenant is much different from the previous one. Where the first covenant turned out to be impossible to keep, the new covenant brought about by Jesus requires only our faith and trust. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant completely so that through faith in Him, we may be brought into this promise of God’s people and have certainty that we are in good standing.
This is the beautiful mercy of the new covenant and the aspect of Christianity that distinguishes it from every other religion: we are saved not by works, but by faith.