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A closer look at covenants By Lynn

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A Closer Look at Covenants
Lynn Ridenhour

A Closer Look at Covenant Keeping is a sequel to The Main Purpose of the Book of Mormon. The two go hand 'n hand. Although, I suppose each could be read separately.

To review, we said that the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is…restoration of the covenants.

"…Most of us think the book is named after the MAN, Mormon. Not so. It got its name after the LAND of Mormon where Alma established the church among his people. Or more specifically, where Alma re-established covenant relationships by baptizing church members. That happened in the land of Mormon. And these saints entered into a covenant with one another and with God (RLDS Mos.9:41, 44, 174-179; Alma 5:27). To quote Ray Treat, "…The land of Mormon to the Nephite believers meant the land where the covenant was restored; therefore, "Mormon" means restoration of the covenant. And spiritually speaking, the Book of Mormon means "Book of the Restoration of the Covenants."

The title page, I believe, should read "Book of the Restoration of the Covenants." Not Book of Mormon. For such is the primary purpose of the book-to restore the covenants to God's people during these last days…" --The Main Purpose of the Book of Mormon

We also said, the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is not to make a Mormon out of you. Its purpose is not to proselyte. The Book of Mormon was never intended to be affiliated with any earthly sect; i.e., the LDS (Mormons), RLDS, or Restoration Branches.

A Review of Two Men's Writings

In this essay we take a look at two men's writings regarding the subject of covenant--Ray Sutton's and Ray Treat's-and then present our own conclusions. These two men-one an evangelical Christian, the other a Restoration Christian--certainly have a handle on the subject.

I want us to look at two things:

1.    The Covenant in General, and
2.    The Covenant in Particular.

The Covenant in General (Ray Sutton's writings)

We begin with the definition.

Where in the Bible do we find the concept of covenant? In Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is our model. All the parts of covenant are there. And it won't do to say-but that's Old Testament.

The new does not do away with the old; it supercedes it. When a thing supersedes another; both are present. The "lesser" is not done away with. Example: the Law was never intended to be kept without faith, and faith is impossible without the Law.

The only difference between the Old and New Covenant is how they are fulfilled. (Christ became our sacrificial Lamb for the fulfillment of our righteousness.) The motivation for the two covenants, however, is the same: faith motivated by works. The substance is the same: grace and law intermingled. In other words, the concept of covenant is the same whether you're dealing with the Old or New testaments. You will find grace in the Old Testament and Law in the New. How the covenant is fulfilled is the issue; the primary difference between the Old and New.

Back to defining the covenant.

According to Ray Sutton, the biblical covenant has five parts. And these five parts are expressed throughout the book of Deuteronomy, an excellent model for today:

1.    True Transcendence (Deut.1:1-5)
2.    Hierarchy (Deut.1:6-4:49)
3.    Ethics (Deut. 5-26)
4.    Sanctions (Deut.27-30)
5.    Continuity (Deut.31-34)

Let's look briefly at its five parts:

1.    True Transcendence

All covenants begin with a statement of Lordship. God is distinct though not distant in three areas: creation, redemption, and revelation. Because God transcends his creation, he is Big and sovereign. Because he is distinct from his creation, he is Close and personal.

It's the marvel of the Incarnation!

Only the Christian God is Big & Close; personal yet transcendent. Distinct but not distant. What a marvelous Lord we serve.

2.    Hierarchy

According to Sutton, God has created three covenantal institutions: 1) Family, 2) State, and 3) Church. He desires a covenant-shaped society. A society based not on "status but contract." (That You May Prosper, p.4)

Each of these institutions has designated human representatives. Hierarchy exists by virtue of human representatives-whether it's the husband representing his family before God or local and federal magistrates representing the will of the people before congress.

3.    Ethics

Sutton also points out-things do not happen mechanically, manipulatively, or magically. Covenant keeping leads to blessing. Covenant breaking results in cursing. There exists a cause & effect relationship with God.

4.    Sanctions

There are rewards and punishments attached to the covenant; in other words, sanctions. Either good or bad.

5.    Continuity

There are blessings by keeping His commandments-up "…to a thousand generations…" (Deut.7:9). The principle of heirship is included in the covenant.

And faithfulness is the key response God is after.

There you have it-the five parts of a biblical covenant. Keep the covenant and have dominion; break the covenant and be dominated. That goes for individuals, churches, and nations.

Moses was right, "…Keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do" (Deut.29:9).

The Loss of Covenant in Modern Society

I want to briefly mention one other matter before we turn our attention to the covenant in particular-what the loss of covenant has done to modern society.

We must keep in mind-these seminal ideas of the covenant shaped American society. They created the strongest nation in the history of man. As these ideas have diminished, so has every sphere: Family, Church, and State.

In today's society, the family by and large has lost its covenantal moorings. God is no longer transcendent. We're not sure who's in charge. Children are divorcing their parents and our courts are upholding their decisions. What an ungodly thing.

Today's family is no longer an institution. With the passing of congressional legislation favoring same-sex marriage, family boundaries are no longer clear.

The whole issue of authority as well as invaded the church. Anyone doubting the state's "Lordship" should consider how many churches are 501 C (3) organizations. In effect, they have gone to the state to ask for permission to exist. State legislation is controlling, or influencing, most churches today. It goes without saying--God, not Uncle Sam, is supposed to be the Head of the Church.

Which raises a basic question--who is sovereign? God or the State? The State these past one hundred years has attempted to become transcendent. That ought not be. The magistrate was set up to represent God and the people. How we as a generation have strayed. Christians are being arrested in our streets for handing out God-fearing literature. Our children are being gunned down in classrooms for believing in Christ.

We are a generation without a covenant, without a mandate, without dominion.

Now let's turn our attention to…

Covenant in Particular (Ray Treat)

By the way, as a matter of record-I believe restoring the revelation of the covenants to God's people is the greatest contribution to the Body of Christ these past one hundred years. The Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon, I believe, is the greatest miracle these past one hundred years. It's my understanding, Mr. Treat and staff worked diligently for fourteen years on the project. My humble prayers and gratitude go out to Mr. Treat and his faithful staff. Book of Mormon lovers all over the world will be eternally grateful for their untiring contribution.

Understanding Our Covenant
(Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol.II, cover page)

The title page to the Book of Mormon reads:

"…written to the Lamanites which are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile…to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel…that they may know the covenants of the Lord…"

The Spirit makes mention of the House of Israel. As said, the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring forth in these endtimes the covenants of the Lord to the Latter-day House of Israel. Many of us Christians believe we're descendents of Joseph of old; that we specifically came from either the tribes of Manasseh or Ephraim. In other words, we're Latter-day Israelites! Many of us believe that our land is Joseph's land, that America was given to Joseph as part of his birthright. That this land is Joseph's inheritance. So the message of the Book of Mormon is especially precious to us. It speaks directly of our inheritance.

Back to understanding the covenant.

The making of a covenant is at the heart of the gospel. God has made it possible for us to have a covenant with him through faith in Jesus Christ who was the sacrificial Lamb slain for us.

"Sacrificial lamb…" "…slain for us…" Two phrases without much meaning to contemporary believers. The terms tend to mean merely "Bible talk."

But the truth is-until we know what a covenant meant to an ancient Hebrew, true understanding of our covenant with the Lord eludes us. Keep in mind-the prophetic call going forth these days for all Christians is-implement your covenant!

How can we obey if such language is reduced to mere "Bible talk?"

Example: The other day I was talking on the phone with a CPA concerning a monthly payment plan I had incurred. We were in the heat of discussion when he suggested I "post date" a certain amount of checks and mail them. I refused, telling him I considered the practice bordering on being unethical. I assured him we would continue with our monthly payments. (We weren't behind.) He wasn't satisfied.

I then said, "…you have my word…"

His response was revealing.

"…Your word doesn't mean anything…" He meant, a person's word these days is no longer binding in today's society.

How different.

In the account of Nephi and Zoram, we see how seriously the ancient Hebrews took their covenants. After Nephi killed Laban in obtaining the brass plates, he made an oath to Zoram that Zoram could go with them into the wilderness (I Nephi 1:136-144).

Zoram accepted and made an oath to live with them. Both Zoram and Nephi had much at risk. Zoram had his life at risk; Nephi and his brothers had their lives and the success of their mission at risk. Yet in verse 144, Nephi states in a matter of fact way, "…that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him…"

Would to God the CPA could have had the same feelings!
In our modern world, we do not understand how in a life or death situation, just a few words could bring about complete trust between two parties. Obviously, oaths meant much more then than they mean to us today. By swearing an oath to each other, Nephi and Zoram had entered into a binding covenant.

Ray Treat says, in the Old Testament a covenant was a sacred and binding agreement between two people. Let's look at the way ancient Hebrews made their covenants.

Steps in a Hebrew Covenant (Recent Book of Mormon Developments)

In his book, The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread, Richard Booker outlines the steps ancient Hebrews typically followed in making a covenant:

…they exchanged robes,
…they exchanged belts,
…cut the covenant,
…raised their right hand,
…mingled their blood,
…exchanged names,
…made a scar,
…stated the covenant terms,
…ate a memorial meal, and
…planted a memorial tree.

Let's make spiritual application to each, keeping in mind-we're really talking about what it means to be a Christian in our day. First, they…

Exchanged Robes

A man's robe was symbolic of all his material possessions. Therefore, by giving his robe, he was pledging everything he had to his covenant brother.

Our Elder Brother pledged all he had to us (Rom.8:17). Now it's our turn. Salvation has to do with ownership. We pledge our possessions, our hearts, our all, to our covenant brother. We now own nothing. That's not a symbolic act. It's a fact. Today, salvation must mean more than muttering a simple prayer "...Jesus, come into my heart..."


Exchanged Belts

Ancient belts were weapons. The message of giving one's belt to another was, "…all the power I have I now give to you. If necessary, I will defend you to the death…"

Our Elder Brother defends us to his death. That's our best defense against all demonic attacks. Keep messing with me, devil, and I will turn you over to my Elder Brother. His belt is all-powerful (Rev.1:18). Those of us who have older siblings understand the spiritual dynamics at play here.

We, in turn, have relinquished all our natural powers unto him, and, if necessary, will defend his name and cause unto death. They…

Cut the Covenant

The Hebrew word for covenant means "…to cut or make an incision…" A very pictorial term. The two covenant makers cut an animal down the middle and stand between the halves, their backs to each other (Gen.15).

They then walk through the sacrifice, make a figure eight and come back to face each other. The dead animal represents our dying to self-life and our giving up of our rights. The figure eight also represents a new beginning with our covenant partner. On the other hand, the ritual also reminds the two participants-if they break their covenant, they will quickly become food for vultures.

If we break our covenants we can expect our souls to become food for vultures-food for every wind of doctrine that comes our way.

They also…

Raised their Right Arm and Mixed Blood

The covenant partners raised their right arms, cut their palms and intermingled their blood, while swearing allegiance to each other. Blood represents life; the intermingling represent two lives becoming one.

As covenant keepers, we're adopted into the family of God (Rom.8:15).

"…For in him we live, and move, and have our being;" says Paul the apostle, "as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring…" -Acts 17:28

Our very Being intermingles with his. And we become completely identified with him. To say it grandiosely, the first fruits of salvation that were glimpsed in the ministry of Jesus can now become a worldwide experience, "God making all things new." The renewal of the human race is underway. The age of mission has begun; the peoples of the world can be gathered. Christ has become a life-giving spirit to all flesh (Theological Crossfire, Pinnock, p.143).


Exchanged Names

Each took the other person's last name and added it to his own. God and Abram exchanged names. God's name in Hebrew is YHWY. So God took an "H" from his name and gave it to Abram, changing his name to Abraham.

Abraham's wife, Sarai, was also given an "H" which changed her name to Sarah. Abraham gave his name to God. That is why he is called the God of Abraham.

Have you and God exchanged names yet? Is he called "your God" (Jn.20:17)?

He is if you've implemented your covenant. The Bible says we have a "…new name written…" (Rev.2:17).


Made a Scar

Covenant partners made sure there would be a scar as a remembrance of the covenant. One common practice to ensure scarring was to rub dirt into the cut.

If anyone tried to harm a person under covenant, he would simply raise his right arm and show the scar. The enemy then knew he would also have to fight the man's covenant partner.

The scars in the body of Christ are "covenant scars."

As believers, we carry the "scars of life" upon our souls. When attacked by Satan, we but have to raise our scars, simply show him whose we are, and Satan knows if he attacks us, he must also take on the Savior.

What a blessed covenant. They…

Gave the Covenant Terms

The participants recited the terms of the covenant in the presence of witnesses.

Take note, Saints. Because we too receive the benefits of the covenant between God and Abraham, the terms of the covenant apply to us.

Abraham was given a Promised Land. As children of Abraham, we're promised the Land of Joseph, this land of Zion. We're promised the great spiritual & economic benefits here in America!

As Latter-day Saints, we're to be the head and not the tail. It is our businesses, our families, and our churches that are to be the beneficiaries of the Abrahamic covenant. We're blessed.

What a great covenant.


Ate a Memorial Meal

The covenant partners then had a meal together to commemorate the benefits of their covenant. Every time as Latter-day Saints we sit down to observe the Lord's Supper, we're remembering the blessings and not the curses.

And what are those blessings? I just mentioned them.

As Latter-day Saints, we're to be the head and not the tail. It is our businesses, our families, and our churches that are the beneficiaries of the Abrahamic covenant. As children of Abraham, we're promised the Land of Joseph, this land of Zion. Our families are promised the great spiritual & economic benefits here in America!

And finally, they…

Planted a Memorial Tree

The participants planted a tree and sprinkled it with the blood of the sacrifice. If there were no witnesses to the covenant, the participants piled up stones and sprinkled blood on them--so the stones became a witness that they had made a covenant.

You know the story...

It's Palm Sunday, and Jesus is making his triumphant entry.

"…And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out…" --Luke 19:37-40

What stones?!

Even God's creation is aware of the King's Covenant.

The stones of the Covenant.
About the Author:

Lynn Ridenhour grew up in the heart of Missouri near the Ozarks. A licensed Baptist minister for over 38 years, Lynn read the Book of Mormon and had a marvelous conversion experience to the restoration gospel as proclaimed by Joseph Smith.

Dr. Ridenhour has a Ph.D in literature with a specialty degree in composition theory from the University of Iowa. He has taught creative writing in both Christian and secular universities. Dr. Ridenhour has also pastored Baptist churches for years, has taught at Jerry Falwell's university, and has been involved in the charismatic renewal since 1972.

Lynn is the founder of WinePress Ministries., and has a heart for evangelism. Paperback copies of Dr. Ridenhour's booklets may be purchased for $3 per copy.

Write: WinePress Ministries
3601 S. Noland Rd., PMB 230
Independence, MO 64055   

Dr. Ridenhour's email address is:

Should you want Dr. Ridenhour to come and speak in your church, or organization, simply email him, giving him the details. Lynn travels extensively for speaking engagements.

Lynn, his lovely wife, Linda, and their teenage daughter, Lori, make their home in Independence, MO.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:43  

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