Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The book of Zechariah is similar to the book of Ezekiel in that it contains a bunch of weird stuff that’s nearly impossible to understand (at least that’s my experience of it). However, while I was reading through it, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something we should never forget about: our covenant with the Lord.
At the time I had been reading towards the end of the book, and ran into this set of verses,
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you (Zechariah 9:11-12).
These lines seem to be dealing with the restoration of Israel on the basis of their blood covenant with God. I didn’t think much of it as I read (as the prophets are filled with stuff like this), but then my Bible’s liner notes pointed me to Exodus 24:8. This is actually a really useful note, because if you’re curious about where this blood covenant thing came from, it happened in the desert when Moses and Israel performed a ritual that confirmed God’s covenant with Abraham. Scripture records, “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8). As you can see, the people were sprinkled with blood as a reminder of God’s covenant with them. It was at about this time at the Holy Spirit yelled, “YOU HAVE A BLOOD COVENANT TOO!” I had forgotten this, well, not forgotten exactly but I had certainly lost my understanding of what happened on the cross.
If you remember back to the very first recorded time communion was celebrated, the Last Supper, Jesus actually establishes the new blood covenant for A.D. believers. We read in Matthew 26:27-28, “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” So through his death on a cross and his bloodshed, Jesus was sealing the new covenant for the forgiveness of our sins. Paul reminds us that Jesus’ sacrifice brought peace between God and man through the blood that was shed on the cross. He writes,
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).
So through the death and blood of the sinless Christ Jesus, we have found reconciliation with God; who we had been separated from through original sin and our subsequent sins. Paul continues,
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:21-23).
It was through this bloodshed on the part of our savior that the sacrificial requirements were met and a mighty promise was made to each and every one of us should we come to God through his Son. –Just as an aside, but a lot of people complain about how an all-loving God could let people who ignore Christ go to hell; but considering that the entire salvation promise hinged on the death of Jesus it wouldn’t make sense any other way. “I don’t believe in Jesus; now let me reap the benefits of his death.”- it just doesn’t work from a logical standpoint.– Anyway, let’s get back to where we were going with this. The Israelites had this promise of restoration from Zechariah’s time (extending into their time in exile) from all the way back in the desert after escaping Egypt due to the sprinkling of blood in memorial to a covenant made even earlier. Now that’s all well and good for the Israelites, but I’m not a descendant of Abraham. And here’s where then Gentile part comes in. According to Peter all of us who believe have been sprinkled with blood too, the blood of Jesus:
Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Those of us who are with Christ have been sprinkled by his blood, which is the new covenant, and gives us the promised forgiveness of sins.
Now it should be established that “blood covenant” is not a word that is thrown around easily by the Bible or by God himself. He takes covenants very seriously. In Psalms 89:34, the Lord states, “I will not violate my covenant, or alter what my lips have uttered.” God promises us that he’ll always uphold his end of the deal. In Leviticus the Lord also tells us that he won’t forget his covenants, even when we’re rebelling against him or have let our sins separate us from him. Scripture records,
Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord (Leviticus 26:44-45).
Now God told this to the Israelites in the desert, but because of his unchanging nature, we’re able to receive this same promise with our covenant. God will not forget what Jesus did on the cross, and therefore all who come to Jesus will be saved. In Ezekiel, the Lord talks to his people about their coming restoration from exile in Babylon. Although he uses some very negative wording, there is an amazing promise in what God says that we should all remember. Check this out,
Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your fathers. There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done. You will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, O house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 20:42-44).
God makes it pretty clear that even when we make mistakes and falter and stumble, he’ll uphold his end of the covenant because he gave us his word. Now for the Israelites, this promise was to give them the land of Canaan (later called “Israel”), but for us the promise that was given to us through Jesus’ blood was the forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven. That means that when we give our lives to Jesus, our final destination is signed and sealed. The Lord won’t back out of his covenant. However, this should be no excuse for sin. Remember, our destination in Christ is heaven and heaven is for those who are like Jesus: pure. If we are unfaithful to the Lord, don’t expect everything to be sunshine and lollipops. God reminds us while speaking of Israel’s hard-heartedness,
You have neither heard nor understood;
From of old your ear has not been open.
Well do I know how treacherous you are;
You were called a rebel from birth.
For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
For the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
So as not to cut you off.
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another (Isaiah 48:8-11).
When you give your life to Christ, you enter into that blood covenant, and God takes those pretty seriously. Therefore, if you get off the path, he’s gonna try to knock you back on. This helps us to realize that our pact with the Lord is not an excuse to sin (for sin does bring about chastisement from the Lord), but it does give us a safety net should we mess up here and there (for God won’t abandon his covenant of salvation with us).
Jesus wasn’t the first person to talk about this new covenant. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet long before Christ was even born on this earth. We read,
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord,
“When I will make a new covenant
With the house of Israel
And the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
When I took them by the hand
To lead them out of Egypt,
Because they broke my covenant,
Though I was a husband to them,”
Declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31-31-32).
And what was this prophesized New Covenant? It was exactly what was brought about by Christ’s death, salvation through forgiveness and the coming of the Holy Spirit:
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
After that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
And write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
And they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach is neighbor,
Or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
Because they will all know me,
From the least of them to the greatest,”
Declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
And will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
This is the covenant the Lord has made with us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have been forgiven of our sins; past, present, and future; and we’ve been given the Holy Spirit, who speaks to us and through us in accordance with the Word of God. And the Lord is faithful. Paul writes to us,
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
We will also live with him;
If we endure,
We will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
He will also disown us;
If we are faithless,
He will remain faithful,
For he cannot disown himself (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
Our God is faithful. If we deny his son, we will not find access to eternal life. However, if those of us in Christ do stumble, make mistakes, or get into some trouble, the Lord will be there to help us out, because he doesn’t back out of his agreements. And so through this great sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we have been made clean in God’s eyes now and forevermore. Hebrews 10:10 tells us, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Never forget, when you come to Christ, your life has been sealed with a blood covenant; a promise of forgiveness, eternal life, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And the Lord will do all that he has promised.
Rock on God!