“Why Covenants Matter”
1 Samuel 20
It is hard for us to imagine all that is at stake for Jonathan as David comes to him at the beginning of 1 Samuel 20 to plead for his help. David is asking Jonathan to honor a previous covenant of faithfulness (1 Samuel 18:3). But to honor this covenant, Jonathan must forsake his own claim to the throne and risk the wrath of his own father. Jonathan must put David’s life & well-being above his own.
But then, Jonathan turns around and asks David to make a covenant with him. He asks David to continue to show steadfast love to him and his family, after he ascends to the throne. In other words, he is asking David not to do, what all kings did in that day, which is destroy the family of the previous king. This requires risk for David. And yet, he enters into this covenant with Jonathan and honors it when he is king (2 Samuel 9).
A covenant is a solemn promise between two or more people. But, in fact, it is more than that. In a covenant, you are binding yourself to another person, or a group of people, so as to count their well-being as more important than your own comfort, security, or convenience. The best human picture of this is marriage. Marriage, by definition, is incompatible with the cultural idol of self-determining freedom, because it is a covenant in which you count another person’s interests above your own. Marriage is not a contract between two self-directed individuals. It is a covenant, in which the two become one, and each person promises “My life for yours.”
We also cannot understand our salvation without grasping the concept of covenant. God’s plan of salvation comes to us through a covenant of grace, by which God promises steadfast love to us, at the cost of His own Son. In the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate the new covenant that is ratified by Christ’s own blood. The cross is not only the payment for our sins, but also God’s promise to bind Himself to us in self-giving love eternally!