I hope you’ve been having fun learning about covenants from the last two posts.
The more I understand covenants (biblical and historical partnership agreements), the more I understand and appreciate what Jesus has done for us.
As a Jesus-follower, I’m in the New Covenant, which looks a lot like the Moses/Sinai covenant except a few things have changed:
The location of the Torah, from outside (Exodus 31:18) to inside (Jeremiah 31:33),
The blood with which it was sealed, from animal (Exodus 24:8) to Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20),
And the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, our Resident Rabbi (John 14:16-17; Acts 2:4), to teach, guide, and motivate us (Ezekiel 36:27).
And as I showed previously, one thing that hasn’t changed is the covenant terms, the Torah (Law). Jesus affirmed the terms and came to teach and apply them accurately (Matthew 5:17). He declared them in operation “until all things are accomplished” (Matthew 5:18), that is until God’s redemptive work is complete and the world is perfectly restored (Revelation 1:1, 4-5).
We saw that under covenants, like other kinds of contracts, the terms apply to both parties spelling out what will and won’t be done. We have our side (“Loving Jesus or LUVing Jesus”) and Jesus has His side (“Jesus’ Side of the Covenant Deal”). Thankfully, Jesus will never break the rules. Sadly, we do so all too often.
So, what happens when we break the covenant rules? I decided to do some digging in the legal field and found a few things to help us understand the dynamics.
Under contract law,
“Breach of contract can be defined as a broken contract, stemming from failure to fulfill any term of a contract without a justifiable, lawful excuse.” (Source) For example, an employer or employee can fail to fulfill the terms of their employment relationship. That is a breach of contract, a violation. What does “violate” mean? Glad you asked!
Violate, “To disregard or act in a manner that does not conform to a law or promise.” ("violate." American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 5 Oct. 2021 Source) A contract violation happens when one party fails to live up to its promised obligations.
Let’s say an employer graciously gave a person a job with no strings attached and no experience required. Even so, there are conditions for continuing employment. There are negative rules like no stealing, no sexual harassment, no endangering other workers, and no contributing to a hostile work environment through gossip and slander. There are positive rules like respecting the boss and coworkers and working as required for the benefit of the company.
What happens when the employee breaks the rules and there is no “justifiable, lawful excuse?” The employee has acted in a manner that does not “conform to… a promise,” hence, a violation. Where there’s a violation, something must be done to bring the two parties back into contractual alignment, doing what they agreed upon. A remedy is required.
Remedy, “The means of obtaining redress of a wrong or enforcement of a right.” ("remedy." American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 5 Oct. 2021 Source) A contract violation demands a remedy to enforce what’s right and punish the wrong. Depending on the severity, remedies for our job example would be disciplinary measures, compensation, or firing the employee.
Here’s a crucial point! Just because a contract is in violation, it doesn’t mean the contract is nullified. A violation doesn’t automatically end the contract. The violator just has to make things right, not go through the hiring process all over again.
If we’re that person, we’ll get a review of our violation. We’ll have to admit that we’ve violated the rule and are in violation of our contract. And we’ll have to accept the boss’s remedy for the violation to be reinstated to our job function.
Rehired? No. Reinstated? Yes.
The same thing happens when we break our Heavenly Father’s covenant rules!
A violation happens every time we don’t meet our Father’s rules. As I’ve written before, our Father is our standard for being right and His will is our standard for doing right.
From the creation covenant to Noah’s covenant to the Mosaic/Sinai covenant to the New Covenant, our Father sets the terms of a covenant relationship with Him. God says, “I’m graciously offering you a relationship with Me. If you accept, this is how you will be or not be, this is what you will do or not do. My side of the covenant is how I will be or not be with you and what I will do or not do for you. Deal?”
In other words, He first graciously and freely offers us a relationship with Him. We don’t have to accept, but if we do, then by pledging allegiance to our new King the rules, guidelines, commands, instructions, and laws for “continued employment” in our Father’s Kingdom begin.
So how do we violate our Father’s rules?
While there are around 20 words for sin in Hebrew, three are noteworthy: Chet, pesha, and avon.
Chet (chattah) means “to miss” something or to fail. The idea is like shooting an arrow and it either fails to reach the target or it misses the center. Either way, we miss the bullseye we’re commanded to hit. In this case, the bullseye is God’s character or His will as spelled out in the terms of our covenant with Him. (Source)
Pesha means “to breach” as in failure to fulfill an obligation causing a break in a relationship. It comes from open “defiance, rebellion, casting of God’s authority, lawlessness, and disobedience.” (Source)
Avon means “crooked” or “perversion.” It means we’ve swerved from God’s straight path. Our desired path has “stepped over God’s line,” we’ve swerved from His standard.
There is no “justifiable, lawful excuse” for breaking God’s rules. Intentional or not, failure to meet God’s covenant terms is a violation that must be remedied.
As I’ve pointed out before, every covenant has blessings (rewards) for obedience and curses (measures) for disobedience. We’ve seen the blessings for covenant obedience previously.
What’s the curse for sin, breaking God’s rules? Death (Ezekiel 8:20; Romans 6:23). But if God killed everyone who sinned against Him, no one would be alive for long because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). See? The standard is God’s glory.
So, to solve this potentially lethal threat to all humanity, God included a reinstatement clause in His covenants. A reinstatement clause is common to many covenants and spells out what must be done to remedy the violation. Remember, a remedy is “the means of obtaining redress of a wrong or enforcement of a right.”
Every covenant violation must be addressed. It can’t be left unresolved because of the breach it caused in the relationship. Fixing the relationship breach means fixing the violation.
The remedy for a sin violation is for God to enforce the covenant terms through the disciplinary action of death. Simply put: When we break God’s rules, we’re subject to the death penalty.
Ahhhh, but God has a reinstatement clause that allows a substitute to serve as the remedy.
Father’s perfect Son, Jesus, stepped forward to take the disciplinary measure for sin – death. Through His death, Jesus paid the compensation for our sin violation. We don’t have to fear being “fired” from God’s kingdom for every violation.
Here’s the critical point again! When we find ourselves in violation of our New Covenant terms, it doesn’t mean the New Covenant is nullified! In other words, we don’t have to get saved again! We just have to remedy the violation per our Father’s terms and in His way.
As I wrote earlier, “Yes, we’ll get a review of our infraction. We’ll have to admit that we’ve violated the rule or are still in violation of our contract. And we’ll have to accept the boss’s remedy for the violation to be reinstated to our job function.”
When we break the rules, our Heavenly Father already has a process in place to fix our violation and restore us to full relationship and kingdom function. It goes like this,
“If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us (review). If we confess our sins (admit), he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (remedy)” (1 John 1:8-9).
There it is! There’s the review, the admittance, and the remedy. All brought to you by the One and Only Jesus, who not only graciously offers us the free gift of citizenship in His Father’s Kingdom but provides the rules for our continued “employment.”
He also provides the means to cover our inevitable covenant violations to prevent us from ever being “fired” (in hell) and provides the payment for sin which reinstates us to function as our Father’s children and subjects.
Such a deal! And to think this has been our Father’s plan from the very beginning. He planned to protect us from judgment because He knew our weaknesses before He ever created us.
Breaking God’s rules is a serious issue! That Death Penalty thing, right? But when we break God’s rules, it’s not the end. There’s no having to “get saved” again. All we must do is to invoke our Father’s gracious Reinstatement Clause that allows Jesus to take our punishment and makes things right with our Father, our King.
And forget about punishing yourself for your violations. Double payments are not allowed! Jesus is enough.
Now get on with the job of living for the King.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts