Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Were The Ancient Saints to Expect?

The Noahic covenant was made with the house of Noah and his offspring (Gen. 9:9). The Abrahamic covenant was made with the house Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 17). The Mosaic covenant was made with the house of Israel and his offspring (Deut. 29:10). The Levitical covenant was made with the house of Levi and his offspring (Jer. 33:21). The Davidic covenant was made with the house of David and his offspring (II Chr. 13:5).

Each time God initiated a new stage in the development of his relationship with His people, he entered into covenant both with the heads of household and with their descendants. This is a very clearly established pattern.

Nor did the Old Testament scriptures give any indication that this pattern would change in the age to come. In fact, the prophets who announced beforehand the days of Messiah clearly proclaimed that God would follow this same principle when he established the New Covenant.

"And as for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," says the LORD, "from this time forth and forevermore." (Isaiah 59:21)

I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:39-40).

They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37:25-26)

As he looked ahead, then, the ancient Israelite had every reason to believe that, just as God had always included children in the covenants he made in the past, so would He continue to do in the future.

Just a Cool Picture of Jesse Fixin' to Whomp One

Sunday, June 24, 2007

You Know Your Family Is Way Too Focused on Star Wars, When...

...while having red marker scrubbed off of her almost entirely colored arms, your two year old daughter protests, "No hank you! No hank you! I Darf Maw!"

Friday, June 22, 2007

What Do You Think We'll Find?

In the last post, I highlighted these four points.

1) In the OT, God’s covenants with his people were established with entire households.
2) In the OT, The children of God’s people were entitled, from birth, to the promises of the covenant.
3) In the OT, The children of God’s people were bound, from birth, to the duties of the covenant.
4) In the OT, fathers among God’s people were required to bring their children up in the covenant.

True to good Calvinist form, I want to note a fifth point that I believe might also be helpful in examining the present question:

5) In the Old Testament, outsiders who desired to enter into covenant with God brought their households along with them.

We see this, for example in Exodus, 12:48:

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it.

When a gentile, an outsider, desired to partake of God’s Passover, that meal that symbolized the fulfillment of God's covenant promises, when he wanted to leave his alien status behind and become as a native of the land, he was required to take for himself the sign of God’s covenant, the sign of circumcision. But note that, just as Abraham did not enter into this covenant alone, so too, the proselyte was required to apply this sign to all the males of his household (Presumably, by the way, because ALL these would be partaking of the meal).

So, it would seem, this same principle that is established at the initial formation of God's covenant (that these covenants are household affairs), also applies to the later inclusion of outsiders. As I say, I believe this paradigm could be somewhat illuminating as we begin to consider the New Testament’s teaching on these same issues.

Considering, then, the five points highlighted above, when we put them all together, I don’t see how we can avoid the conclusion that, in the Old Testament, children born to parents in covenant with God were, by virtue of their very birth, themselves in covenant with God.

And here, of course, is the next step: What if we find that these same five things are true in the New Testament? What if the New Covenant is initiated with entire households, what if outsiders are brought in to this covenant with their households, what if children born into these households are treated as heirs of the promises and obligors to the commands of the covenant, what if we find that the same duty is laid upon fathers to bring their children up in the covenant? If all these things should be found true in the New Testament, how can we avoid the conclusion that, in the New Testament, just as in the Old, children born to parents in covenant with God are, by virtue of their very birth, themselves in covenant with God?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Abraham's Covenant Children

I think yo-mama has, in the last comment thread, given me a very good place to pick up:

To shed light on the question, I'd ask another question: to what degree were children of believers in the old covenant to be treated as members and participants in the covenant of God? Then, how has this changed (if at all) in the new testament? The answer to the first is simple--to the highest possible degree. This may be helpful since things were more explicit in these regards in the OT.

Some observations from the Pentateuch to put some meat to her very helpful comment:

When God established his covenant with Abraham in Gen 17, He was also explicitly making this covenant with Abraham's children throughout their generations forever. These children were, therefore, by their very birth, to be considered within the bounds of that covenant, and all the males were automatically to receive circumcision as the sign thereof. We read in Gen 18 that this arrangement carried with it the obligation upon Abraham to "command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice"

From the day that children were born into these covenant households, then, they had claim on the promises of the covenant (that God would give them a land) and were bound by the duties (to keep the LORD's ways). Their fathers had the responsibility to command them in these ways. Again, none of this was dependent upon anything other than their being born into Abraham's family. This same arrangement is established to each of the patriarchs in turn (Gen 26).

It seems to me that in this foundational example, we see the essential elements of what it means to be in covenant with God. When I say that someone is in covenant with God, I mean that they are 1) rightful claimants of the promises given and 2) proper subjects of the duties proscribed. Again, this was presumed to be true of Abraham's descendants as soon as they were born.

These same principles hold true through the rest of the Torah. God's covenant with his people developed and new promises and new duties were revealed, promises and duties connected with the Passover (Ex 12), with the priesthood (Ex 30) and certainly with Israel's stay at Sinai (Ex. 20), all of which were automatically to be passed on from father to son. Moses reiterated these truths as Israel was preparing to enter the promised land (Deut 6).

So, to what degree were children of believers in the Old Covenant to be treated as members and participants in the covenant of God? Yo-mama's answer appears quite consistent with what I've been able to find in the Pentateuch: to the highest possible degree. Each child born into an Israelite household was-from his very birth- presumed to be 1) entitled to inheritance of all the promises and 1) obligated to performance of all the duties of that covenant.

I want to press on through the Psalms and prophets before considering to what extent (if any) this arrangement has been altered with respect to the New Covenant. I'd also like first to consider Rev's question about the status of those leaving the covenant from the perspective of the entire OT. The phrase "cut off from his people" is the only thing that comes to mind so far.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Curtis Duncan Project

We'll be singing out at Taffey's in Eaton Friday night from 8 till around 10:30. We'll also be in Clayton at the BRDhouse cafe on xxxxxx. Come on out.

CORRECTION: We'll be at the BRDhouse on Thursday June 21.