Most often, the first covenant discussed in the Scriptures is that of Genesis 3:15. In the curse of the serpent (Satan), God promised, “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NLT). This Scripture points us to God’s amazing grace to humankind who, through Adam, had fallen, but through our Savior Jesus would be victoriously redeemed. As wonderful as this covenant promise is, I would like to suggest that there was a covenant even before the fall.
The essence of God’s character is love. Ellen White shares that love is the governing principle in the Kingdom of Heaven (PP 34). God’s act of creating humans in His image (Gen 1:27) established a loving relationality with humans in two covenantal aspects: the marriage relationship and the parent-child relationship. This article focuses on the marriage relationship. Before sin, there was perfect love between God and Adam and Eve. This love, initiated by God in creating humans as the crowning act of His creation, was meant to be a perfect, lasting covenant characterized by mutuality and intimate transparency. “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25).
In subsequent covenants with Abram and Moses, God longed to restore the Edenic covenant. Still, humans again fell short repeatedly, instead choosing idols of their own making or setting themselves up as gods. God was deeply saddened by their inability to receive and appreciate his love and continuing rejection of Him as God is covenantal love. Through the prophets, he called them adulterers and whores to help them see their rejection of Him as their Husband. In the beautiful book of Hosea beginning in verse 2:14, God speaks of the final covenant between him and his people.
“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble (Achor) into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes, says the Lord, you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord” (Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20). If there is any doubt that this is covenant language, Hosea 2:18 declares, “On that day I will make a covenant with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the animals that scurry along the ground so that they will not harm you.”
While we know that the nation of Israel was not faithful to this covenant promise, ultimately rejecting and crucifying Jesus, the Messiah, we know that this promise will eventually be fulfilled. God will be the Husband to a faithful bride and fulfill the desire of his heart to be in covenant love with His bride forever. “Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: ‘Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.’ For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’” (Rev 19:6-9). The bride has prepared herself to appreciate, trust, and receive God’s love. She has demonstrated appreciation for God’s love during her engagement by telling everyone about her Divine Lover and learning to love the way He loves (John 15:17). He has done whatever his Lover asks him to do (John 14:23). As a result, on the wedding day, she is clothed with clean white linen, a fit garment for the bride of the Lamb. The original covenant of Eden has once again been restored!
David Sedlacek, PhD, LMSW, CFLE, is professor of Family Ministry and Discipleship, chair of the Department of Discipleship and Religious Education, and director of the MA in Youth and Young Adult Ministry program at Andrews University.
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