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|Posted on 14 June, 2013 at 22:21||comments (0)|
Excerpts from the book "MASKED" by R.A. Vukovich
Sign of Covenant
The Lord told Abraham, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Everyman child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Genesis 17:10–11). Without the shedding of blood, there could be no covenant. This was the blood rite of divine covenant—not the cutting of the wrist or forearm, but the foreskin—that God required.
Why the foreskin? This was a private, sensitive, and personal area, hidden under a man’s own covering. Circumcision was to be a sign of divine relationship—a covenant with God as a personal commitment. It was a private matter between a man and God. It was close to the fruit of a man’s loins and was a permanent sign and seal of God’s promise to his seed from generation to generation. Although circumcision was hidden under temporary garments, God would provide a permanent covering.
Abraham so trusted the Lord that he was ready to commit himself to the Lord in the rite of blood covenant. Abraham expressed his acceptance of the covenant with a silent gesture of submission and agreement by falling down upon his face (Genesis 17:3a).
Abraham was circumcised in his flesh as a sign of covenant. There is no mention of God’s blood being cut with Abraham in covenant. One born of the seed of Abraham would shed His blood. He would be born of a woman and conceived by the Spirit of God. He would be the scapegoat and the Lamb of God, the Son of Man, and the Son of God. He alone would be God’s substitute—and ours.
Because of Covenant
The Abrahamic covenant guaranteed Israel protection from their enemies, pestilence, and diseases. In the wilderness, there were no sick or feeble people among the Israelites. There were no young men or women who died unless they broke the covenant. In battle, as blood covenant people, no soldiers were slain (Psalms 105:37).
As long as the Israelites kept the covenant, there were no armies that could conquer or defeat them. One could order the sun and moon to stand still in battle, and it would obey (Joshua 10:12-13). Another could rend a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5-6). A lad could kill a giant with a slingshot (1 Samuel 17:4, 40-50). There were blood covenant warriors who could individually slay three hundred men in a single day (2 Samuel 23:8-12, 18, 20-22). Under covenant, one could chase a thousand in war, and two could put ten thousand to flight.
God preserved the Israelites as a nation because they were His covenant people. They were God’s peculiar people. They were the apple of His eye and the treasure of His heart. He gave them land they did not sow and houses they did not build. The rain of heaven irrigated their fertile valleys and hillsides (Deuteronomy 11:11). Jerusalem became the richest city the world had known. The temple was one of the wonders of the world.
However, the people forsook their God and disobeyed his covenant. They did not destroy the nations, as the Lord commanded them. They mingled among the heathen and learned their ways. They served heathens’ idols, which were a snare unto them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils (Psalm 106:34-37).
The heavens became brass, the earth iron; their rain was turned to dust. Diseases afflicted them. The richest city the world had ever known was a heap of ruins. The beautiful temple was destroyed and laid in dust and ashes. He gave them to the hands of the heathen, and they who hated them ruled over them. They had broken their covenant. Then they remembered their God and cried unto Him for deliverance.
“Many times did He deliver them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Psalm 106:43). However, when He heard their cry; He regarded their affliction, and He remembered for them His covenant (Psalm 106:44-45).
“And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:28).
The day would come that the Lord would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
The Old and New
The Bible is divided into two testaments, or covenants. The first (old) covenant was between Jehovah and Abraham. It is the Abrahamic Covenant, and the law was given to Moses as a part of the covenant. It is known as the Mosaic Law (Exodus 20). This covenant law consists of sacrifices, ceremonies, offerings, and the priesthood (Hebrews 9:21-24, 10:1-9). Soon after the people received the law, it was broken. So God provided a temporary covering for sin—just like he did in the Garden of Eden. This covering was called the Atonement. The sacrifices of bulls and goats as an atonement for sin would cover—but could not deliver or cleanse one of—sin. The sacrifices of animals could never make people perfect under the old covenant. However, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God—His blood of the new covenant—would cleanse people’s hearts and consciences. It would deliver one from sin.
The old covenant could not give eternal life, but the new covenant could. The old covenant could bring the people into the inner court. It could bring the high priest into the Holy of Holies—the very presence of God—but it could not bring the people into the presence of God. The new covenant would not only bring us into the presence of God, but also our bodies, would become the temple of the Lord—the indwelling of His Spirit.
The old covenant was sealed by the blood of Abraham through circumcision of the foreskin. The new covenant would be sealed by the blood of Jesus and evident by circumcision of the heart. What the law could not do, Jesus came to do under the new covenant. He did not eliminate the old covenant; He fulfilled it and established a new and better covenant that included you and me.
|Posted on 8 June, 2013 at 10:10||comments (2)|
Excerpts from the book "MASKED" by R.A. Vukovich
A covenant is a binding and solemn agreement between two parties which is unbreakable. Remember when the Israelites led by Joshua proceeded to conquer the land of Canaan? When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what the Israelites had done to Jericho and Ai, they devised a plan to deceive the Israelites into a binding contract. The Gibeonites lied and deceived the Israelites into believing they were foreigners from a distant land beyond Canaan. They wore old torn clothes, shoes and brought old bottles of wine and stale bread. They went to Joshua at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We come from a far country, now therefore, make ye a league (covenant) with us” (Joshua 9: 1-27). The Gibeonites were a heathen people that did not know God, but they knew covenant.
The Gibeonites knew that a covenant was a binding, solemn agreement. They would rather enter into a covenant with their enemy than fight them. Covenant would give them the protection and survival they needed. In turn, they had agreed to be Israelite’s servants.
Scriptures says in Joshua 9:14, “The men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” Joshua made peace with Gibeonites and made a covenant with them to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to Gibeonites (Joshua 9:15). It took the Israelites three days before they realized that the Gibeonites were there neighbors and that they dwelt among them. Joshua 9:19 says that they could not harm the Gibeonites because the Israelites made a league with them and had sworn unto Gibeonites by the Lord God of Israel. It sounds like a binding, solemn agreement. You would think the covenant was invalid because the Gibeonites had lied 124 Masked and deceived them into making it. The Israelites should have inquired of God first, but because they didn’t, they were obligated to keep the covenant promise that they swore before God and men.
Word soon got out to other tribes in Canaan that the Gibeonites had come into covenant with their enemy, the Israelites. Soon five kings and their armies gathered to come up against Gibeon. The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua to come up quickly and save their servants from the attack of the Amorites (Joshua 10:5-6). They reminded Joshua of the covenant promise when they stated to Joshua not to abandon their servants (Gibeonites). What was Joshua’s response? Joshua responded to the Gibeonites’ urgent request because of covenant. Despite the Gibeonites’ ungodly and deceptive ways, the Israelites were bound to a solemn and binding agreement.
Everything God does is based on covenant. Why covenant? It was the only way to redeem humanity and to restore that which was lost in the garden. Covenant restores our authority and dominion in the earth, our relationship with God, and so much more. It’s awesome to think that God would cut covenant with mankind while still sinners, alienated from God. It could only be unconditional love. His most precious creation—people—made in His likeness and image could again be clothed in His glory and bask in His presence.
Since God is sovereign, He would not take back the authority and dominion which was intended for man who unknowingly gave it to Satan through disobedience. Since mankind lost the authority and dominion, they would have 125 R.A. Vukovich to regain it back—but how? The only way was through divine covenant. In order for God to cut covenant with humanity, He had to find someone who understood covenant—and he found it in a man called Abraham.
Friend of God
Covenant is a bond of friendship. This bond was closer than the bond between siblings. To refer to someone in primitive culture or from a biblical perspective as “friend” was to infer covenant.
The writer of Proverbs 18:24 states, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” The Apostle James writes, “The scriptures was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23).” In Isaiah 41:8, God refers to Abraham in Isaiah “Abraham, my friend.” In 2 Chronicles 20:7, when a great multitude came up against Jehoshaphat and Israel to battle, Jehoshaphat cried unto God. Jehoshaphat knew the benefit of covenant when calling upon God for help. He refers to the covenant, saying, “Abraham thy friend for ever?” What was God’s response? “Thus saith the Lord unto you, be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). God fought Israel and Jehoshaphat’s battle because of covenant.
In the case of Abraham, the term “friend” is unique, because it refers to his relationship with God. Abraham was the only person mentioned in all the Old Testament as a friend of God.
As we continue to look at divine covenant, we will see striking similarities to the covenant rites of men found at the beginning pages of this chapter and various verses in the Bible. Man’s covenant rites include blood cutting, binding contracts, and bonds of life and death. Man’s covenants could redeem property, influence, or land—as we have seen with Mephiboseth and Stanley—but it could never redeem souls. I personally believe covenant originated with God, not man. It is man, not God, who chose certain portions of covenant which would be beneficial to him and formed a similar covenant pact. We have seen some of those examples. This does not minimize the rite of covenant, nor human understanding of covenant.
The first recorded writing on covenant is found in Genesis 6:18 in the story of Noah. God said to Noah, “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and the sons wives with thee.” Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations and Noah walked with God.” This is the obvious reason God spared Noah and his family. However, I cannot help but to wonder if because of covenant, there was another reason—and the underlying reason was because Noah was a descendant of Seth, Adam’s son (Luke 3:36- 38).
How far back does covenant really go? Could it be that covenant had its origin in the Garden of Eden between God and man (Adam)? Look at what God said to the serpent, Adam, and Eve after the fall of man. First He said to the serpent in Genesis 3:14 “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all 127R.A. Vukovich cattle.” Then God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 verse sixteen, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” And then God turned His attention toward Adam in Genesis 3:17, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” I always thought this was a little harsh. God could have said, “You blew it big time, Adam and Eve. Because of your disobedience, you must leave this paradise and never return. You will die and know the sorrow of separation, and so shall the seeds of thy loin. Everything that was handed to you can no longer be. You will have to work the land and provide for yourself and family.” You would think that would be painful enough. God not only told them the consequence of their sin, but He also pronounced curses. Why curses? The only reasonable answer is that there had to be a covenant that had been broken. It is no wonder primitive cultures understood the gravity of breaking covenant.
Although Abraham had an understanding of covenant, we see that the rite of divine covenant was not performed at one time, but in progressive intervals. The first account of God’s covenant with Abraham is found in Genesis 15:7– 21. A second account appears in Genesis 17, and the third account in Genesis 22. I believe these separate but continual rites of covenant had to do with Abraham’s faith and spiritual maturity. As Abraham’s faith increased and his relationship with God deepened, he was able to relinquish and commit more to the covenant.
To be continued...
|Posted on 30 May, 2013 at 19:24||comments (2)|
Excerpts from the book "MASKED" by R.A. Vukovich
If Only He Knew
One story I have read countless times is the story of a young man who had been crippled at the age of five. Although the story may not have occurred exactly this way, I think you will get the picture. This man had spent his childhood hiding out in a remote village—hiding out in fear of the one man who would want him dead, a man whom he was told his grandfather did not trust. The man had been found and summoned before this tyrant. There was nowhere he could hide. He was cornered like a dog, filled with fear and perhaps anger. He was carried past the crowds of on lookers, some starring at his crippled body with pity and others with contempt. You could hear the chants getting louder: “No cripples in the palace.”
He trembled in fear, trying to steady his crippled body, as he wondered what threat was he to anyone. His countenance had aged with worry, his eyes were filled with sorrow, and his heart hardened toward God. Yes, he was bitter; God had not answered his prayers, and life had not been fair. His crippled legs were a constant reminder of his life—painful and dysfunctional.
As he lay trembling before this man, he caught a glimpse of his face. He could be mistaken, but he thought he saw a smile upon his face—not a smile of triumph, but one of compassion. He dared not take another look. Soon the man towered over him and called him by his name: “Mephiboseth.” The man then said, “Fear not, for I will surely show you kindness, for your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather. I will also give you servants to till the land, but you, Mephiboseth, shall eat bread at my table continually.” Why? Because of a covenant made long ago between a young man named David and his friend, Mephiboseth’s father, Jonathan.
It Takes Two
Years earlier, Jonathan and David stood on the battlefield. A giant named Goliath had been slain by a mere boy. David knew the Lord of Covenant would deliver Israel. David stood smiling in triumph at Jonathan. 1 Samuel 18:1 says, “That the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Can you imagine that God loves you just as much? We read that Jonathan and David made a covenant. 1 Samuel 18:4 says, “Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” Could Jonathan and David have said, as they exchanged garments, “I am putting on you—and you me. We are one”?
When they handed each other their belts, could they have said, “When you are weak, my strength will be there for you.”
As they took each other’s weapons, bows, and slingshots and exchanged them, perhaps they said, “Your enemies are now mine, and mine yours.” Although it doesn’t say what David did, it takes two to cut covenant. David had to be a willing participant.
A few years later, David and Jonathan stood in a field, facing one another. Jonathan reminded David of their covenant in 1 Samuel 20:14–15: “Thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not; But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the Lord hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth.”
David not only was fulfilling his part of the covenant he made with Jonathan regarding Jonathan’s seed, but he also went above and beyond by allowing Mephiboseth to eat at the king’s table as one of his sons. However, this is no less than what our heavenly Father has done for our seed and for us from generation to generation because of covenant.
If only Mephiboseth had known about a covenant—a covenant sealed with his father’s blood with him in mind of enduring and unfailing love that transcended even death— it would have saved him from unnecessary heartache and sorrow. If only he had known about this covenant sooner, he would have been living as one of the king’s sons instead of living in fear and isolation.
To be continued...
|Posted on 26 May, 2013 at 14:17||comments (0)|
One of these threads or characteristics is a bond—a bond of life and death, administered with sovereignty. “When God enters into a covenantal relationship with men, He sovereignly institutes a life and death bond.”7 When people enter into a covenant with one another, this bond of life and death is still instituted. We see this in various cultural covenants. “The result of a covenant commitment is the
establishment of a relationship. A covenant commits people to one another.”8
One of the obvious covenants is in the institution of marriage. God institutes marriage between a man and women. Two lives merge into one. Everything a person has belongs to his or her spouse, and vice versa. In a traditional marriage, the bride takes the groom’s last name. Why? The bride and groom no longer have two separate lives, but one life that is joined (bonded) together. Marriage is to be a bond until death. The wedding ring is viewed as a token of an endless covenant between its giver and receiver. It is looked upon in all ages and races and some cultures as the symbol of an union of the lives brought together.
Bond in Blood
The second characteristic required in a divine covenant is a bond in blood. Without the shedding or cutting of blood, there could be no covenant.9 The phase translated “to make a covenant” in the Old Testament really reads, “to cut covenant.” By initiating covenant, God never enters into a casual relationship with a person. Instead, the implications of His bonds extend to the ultimate issues of life and death. Henry Trumbull stated, “A covenant of blood, a covenant made by the intermingling of blood, has been recognized as the closest, the holiest, and the most indissoluble, compact conceivable. Such a covenant clearly involves an absolute surrender of one’s separate self, and an irrevocable merging of one’s individual nature into the dual, or the multiplied, personality included in the compact. Man’s highest and noblest outreaching of soul have, therefore, been for such a union with the divine nature, as is typified in this human covenant of blood.”10
Another characteristic seen in a divine covenant is a covenant that is sovereignly administered. There is no bartering, bargaining, or changing the rules to fit our purpose or lifestyle as in human covenants. There is no divorce, no annulment, no contractual agreement—it’s God’s way or no way. This is not an equal partnership. We do not bring into the covenant equal possessions that will benefit the other. There is nothing we bring into a divine covenant that will benefit God, yet everything God brings into covenant benefits us.11
Mr. Henry Trumbull, an evangelist, scholar, and author, wrote in 1871 that he was surprised to find nothing on covenant among his peers or in modern society. He based most of his accounts on Dr. David Livingstone and Sir Henry Morton Stanley’s encounters with various tribes in Africa. Let us take a look at some proof of the existence of these rites of blood covenant and the common characteristics that may date back to or before Abraham.
One illustration that might help us to grasp the significance of covenant is when Stanley sought Livingstone. He encountered a powerfully fierce tribe. Stanley was in no condition to fight them. Finally, his interpreter suggested that he make a covenant with them. Stanley asked what that meant and was told that it meant drinking each other’s blood. This rite repulsed Stanley. The condition continued to worsen; finally, the young man asked Stanley again why he did not cut the covenant with the tribal chief. Stanley asked what the result of such a covenant was. The interpreter answered, “Everything the chieftain has will be yours if you need it.” This appealed to Stanley, and after several days of negotiation, he and the chieftain arrived at the covenant. First the chieftain questioned Stanley as to his motives and his ability to keep covenant. Once the chief was satisfied with Stanley’s answers, the next step was to exchange gifts. The chief wanted Stanley’s white goat. The milk from the goat was the only real nourishment Stanley received and needed due to his poor health. It was very hard for Stanley to give up, but it was the only thing the chief would take. So Stanley finally gave in to the chief’s request and relinquished his goat. The chief then gave Stanley his seven-foot copper spear. Stanley thought he had gotten the worse of the deal, but he found that wherever he went in Africa with that spear, everybody bowed down and submitted to him. The chief brought in one of his princes, and Stanley brought one of his men from England to stand in as a substitute. Then a priest came forward with a cup of wine. The priest then made an incision in the wrist of the Englishman and let the blood drip into the cup of wine. He then made a similar incision in the wrist of the prince and let his blood also drip into the cup of wine. Then the bloods were mixed together. The priest then handed the cup to the Englishman to drink from, and then handed it to the prince, who drank the rest of it.
After the two men had drunk each other’s blood, a priest stepped out and pronounced the worst curse Stanley had ever heard—curses that were to come upon him if he broke covenant. Next, Stanley’s interpreter took his part and pronounced curses upon the chief, his family, and his tribe if they broke covenant with Stanley.
Next, the prince and Englishman rubbed their wrists together so that their blood mingled. They were now blood brothers. Then gunpowder was rubbed into the wound so that when it healed, there would be a scar to remind them of their covenant. Although the two men were substitutes, they had bound Stanley and the chief, Stanley’s men and the chief’s warriors into an indissoluble covenant by blood.
The last step in this covenant was the planting of trees. This was to be a memorial of an everlasting covenant. After the planting of the trees, the chief shouted, “Come, buy and sell with Stanley, for he is our blood brother.”
A few hours earlier, Stanley’s men had to stand guard over their trinkets and bales of cotton cloth so they would not be stolen. Now Stanley could leave his items unattended, and nothing would be disturbed. Why? It was because of the blood covenant cut between Stanley and the chief.12
Stanley entered into the covenant of blood brotherhood repeatedly with African representatives; in some instances, by allowing one of his personal escorts to bleed for him, and at other times, by the opening of his own veins.
Blood Is the Life
The rite of blood-friendship is that the blood is the life of a living being—not just that the blood is essential to life, but that it is life. The belief is that the blood can retain its power, whether it passes by the lips or the vein.
“According to this view the blending of the blood of two organisms is equivalent to the blending of the lives, of the personalities, of the natures, thus bringing together one life in the two bodies, a common life between the two friends.”13
To be continued...
|Posted on 19 May, 2013 at 13:11||comments (0)|
Excerpts from the book "MASKED" by R.A. Vukovich
The Blood Covenant
Two men stood opposite one another, focusing on what they must do. They hardly noticed the bright red bloodstains on the ground from the animals that had been divided in half as a sacrifice for this occasion. Witnesses stood in anticipation as a covenant was being cut. In a figure-eight pattern, both men walked through the blood of the flesh lying opposite one another. Their feet were covered in the blood of the slain animals, leaving bloody footprints where they walked. This is called the walk of death.
“I am dying to my rights and independent living.”
They pointed first to heaven and swore by an oath, “May the gods do so to me—” and then point to the slain animals, “if I break this covenant.” Each pronounces the curses and the blessings.
Previously, the two men took off their garments and handed them to one another. They then clothed themselves in the other’s garment.
“You are putting on me, and I you— we are one.”
They then handed each other their belts. “When you are weak, my strength will be there for you.”
Each then took his weapons, his bow, and his spear and exchanged it for the others’—“We now have the same enemies.” Now they were ready to cut covenant.
Each made a cut on his forearm, and they joined forearms, letting their blood mingle. It was then stated, “We once were two, but are now one.”
They wiped the blood from their blades on covenant papers. The two brothers declared, “We are brothers in a covenant before God; who deceives the other, him will God deceive.” The blood-marked covenant papers were folded carefully. Later they would be sewed up in a small leather case to be worn around the neck, near the heart, as a token of indissoluble relation
In turn, each recited what he owned and what he owed. The men would share all their resources from that day forward. “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.”
They then reached down and scooped up small handfuls of dirt mingled with small stones and rubbed this abrasive into their freshly cut wounds. “When I look at the scar, I will remember my covenant partner.”
They exchanged new names. “I have a new identity because of the covenant.”
They sat down to partake of a covenant meal. One broke bread and placed it in his covenant brother’s mouth. Then the other did the same. “You are eating me, and I you.”
Then they exchanged wine, each drinking from the other’s container—“I am drinking your blood, and you mine.”
Gifts were exchanged. A tree was planted as a memorial of the covenant between the covenant brothers. “Now I call you friend.”
This was a covenant cut in blood. It was a covenant that could not be broken or voided—a covenant pledged out of love and sealed unto death. As you read and visualize what took place—regardless of how primitive it may appear— there must be something within you that screams, “This seems vaguely familiar.” It’s as if you have partaken in a similar form of covenant without fully understanding the purpose, bond, and power of the covenant.
“It seems that among modern students of myth and folklore, primitive ideas and customs, and of man’s origin and history, has brought into their true prominence, if indeed he has even noticed them in passing, the universally dominating primitive convictions; that the blood is the life; that the heart, as the blood-fountain, is the very soul of every human, or divine-human, secures an inter-union of natures; and that a union of the human nature with the divine is the highest ultimate attainment reached out after by the most primitive, as well as by the most enlightened, mind of humanity.”
Many primitive cultures from around the world from antiquity to the present time have an understanding of cutting covenant; however, most Christians do not. Yet everything God does is based on covenant. As we explore the tradition of covenant, may each principle and truth lead us to a greater comprehension and appreciation of the new covenant in Christ’s blood that we have. May we leave this chapter with a sense of awe and a sense of how valued and precious in God’s sight we really are.
As we look at several covenant rites between people from various cultures, we will see similarities and notice that there are common threads which run through each of these cultural covenant rites—threads that are a part of our divine covenant lives; threads that cannot be exempt or ignored if there is to be a covenant cut. These threads are characteristics of divine covenant.
To be continued...