Jonathan Bernis - God's Forever Promises
Jonathan Bernis: Shalom, and welcome to Jewish Voice. And thank you for joining us today. I'm Jonathan Bernis and I'm joined by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. And today we're gonna be looking at a topic you may never have heard teaching about. You may think of the Bible as two books, the old and New Testament, or the Old and New Covenant, but in fact, there are covenants in scripture. Plural. Covenants, agreements that God has made with man, and they're actually built one on top of the other. So, we're gonna be looking at the various covenants of God throughout history. I think you'll find this highly informative, and it's gonna help you understand how this book, from Genesis all the way through revelation, is one unfolding story of God's redemption, and his call to us to love Him and to serve Him. Ezra, I think we oversimplify the Bible in many ways. We oversimplify it, and sometimes we make it too complicated. Both are true.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, and I think sometimes, Jonathan, we look at one part detached from the rest and say, here's what I'm supposed to be picking up. And that's not untrue. The Lord can speak to us through a single passage of scripture. But as you've said, the whole story, God's covenant faithfulness to Israel, and to all those who would call upon his name, that's the big idea. And that's what we're gonna unpack today.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I think the first point that we need to talk about is that God works with man through something called covenant. In Hebrew, beriyth. This is the way that God has connected from the very beginning with us, and there's been a progression over the historical biblical timeline.
Ezra Benjamin: Now Jonathan, maybe our audience is thinking, okay, covenant. I'm not sure I can explain in my own words exactly what that means. Can we start with the difference between covenant and contract? We live in a very contractual society, right? Either party might break this agreement. If so, here's how that's done and here's the consequences, and we move on. But a covenant is a very different thing.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, what makes a covenant so different, first of all, every covenant, which loosely is an agreement, but every covenant is with blood. There's an action to covenant. The word brit, or bris, is to cut. So it's actually God cutting a covenant. And what makes it eternal, Ezra, and every covenant is eternal, is that God is making the covenant with himself. He's swearing, he's binding with shed blood, and he's the one that is the guarantor of the covenant.
Ezra Benjamin: So important. Because in a contract, right, either party can break the agreement, and it's possible. But in a covenant with God, he's not gonna break his end of it.
Jonathan Bernis: That's right.
Ezra Benjamin: We might break our end.
Jonathan Bernis: He always holds up his end. He's the cosigner on a loan so you know it's good. It is good. Every covenant that God made with man is good, it's solid, it has meaning for today. And so, we're gonna unpack this a bit, because again, one of the oversimplifications that most Christians have concerning the Bible is there's two books. And one has some relevance for historical purposes, but it's pretty much dead, it's pretty much done away with. Of course, I'm talking about the old covenant, the Old Testament. And it's law, we've passed that. And so, in many cases, the Old Testament is very...
Ezra Benjamin: It's neglected.
Jonathan Bernis: Neglected. And the pages, in many cases, are still stuck together. And then you see with the New Testament that it's well-read. And I think that's a big mistake, because this is the revelation of God from beginning to end.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, and speaking of the beginning of it, Jonathan, talk to us about kind of what's the bottom of the pyramid? What's the first covenant that we see in scriptures?
Jonathan Bernis: Okay, so we'll actually put this up so you can see it on the screen. But it's like a pyramid. I drew this like a pyramid because one is built upon the foundation of the other. And the first one, and some see more. There are more, but these are the foundational ones, I believe. So, we're not gonna get into some of the other ones. We're not gonna talk about the Davidic covenant, and some of the others that Bible teachers would also highlight. But the bottom of the pyramid, for me, is the Adamic covenant. And that's simply that God created the world, and on the sixth day, he creates man. And he names them Adam, and he then provides a helpmate, actually performs surgery and removes from his own rib a helpmate, which becomes the woman, eve.
Ezra Benjamin: A helper suitable for Adam.
Jonathan Bernis: A helper suitable. And here's the covenant, okay? And I'm gonna put it up on the screen so you can follow along. The Adamic covenant goes all the way back to Genesis 1. I'll go back to verse 24. So let's put it up on the screen. "Then God said, 'let the land bring forth living creatures according to their species, livestock, crawling creatures, wild animals according to their species. And it happened'. So, God made the wild animals according to their species, the livestock according to their species, and everything that crawls on the ground, each according to its species, and God saw that it was good. And then God said," verse 26, "Let us make man in our image". So man is separated from all the other creation of God, made in his image. And then it says, "In our likeness. And let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the flying creatures and the sky, over the livestock, over the whole earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the land. God created humankind," mankind, now humankind, "In his image, in the image of God he created him. Male and female, he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply". We're gonna come back to that thought, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land and conquer it, rule over the fish in the sea, the flying creatures of the sky, and over every animal that crawls on the land". Now later, that's sealed with skin to cover them, when they realize that they're naked. But that's jumping ahead of ourselves. This is the first covenant, the first agreement that God makes that cuts a covenant with man. And there's very specific elements of that covenant.
Ezra Benjamin: So, what I'm hearing in the scripture you're reading, Jonathan, is this idea of delegated dominion.
Jonathan Bernis: Exactly right.
Ezra Benjamin: Man created in God's image is actually given authority to rule over the earth, and then to actually speak, in essence, "What you call the animals, Adam, so they are. I'm giving you power in your words to call things into identity".
Jonathan Bernis: And when we're told that man is created in the image of God, which is repeated, it's a divider from all of the other animals, birds, serpents that are created. God says, "You're the one that's created in my image". Part of that is articulate speech. And then he has Adam and Eve name the animals. I call this the principal of creation and delegation. God creates the world, but he gives dominion over that creation to humankind. I'll be politically correct. Humankind. And he says, "Now, you have the authority, and in effect, the ownership over this creation," which is why they had that, if you will, they were given the land deed. They were given the lease, and they were told, "Now this is yours to rule over, to have dominion over. You're responsible to name the animals. You have the gift of articulate speech. You have the delegated authority in this covenant, the Adamic covenant, and my expectation for you is be fruitful and multiply". And Ezra, I just wanna point out that that idea repeats itself throughout the scriptures. What's Abraham told? "Be fruitful and multiply. Your descendants will be like the stars of heaven, the sands of the seashore". What did he tell Isaac? The same thing. Jacob, the disciples, "Go out and make disciples. Be fruitful and multiply". This is a biblical principle for delegated authority and covenant, that you will be fruitful and multiply. And that applies to all of us. Our calling is to be fruitful and multiply whatever our destiny is, whether it's in the workplace, or in vocational ministry, or the service industry. Whatever we're called to do, we're to be fruitful and multiply.
Ezra Benjamin: And in our family lives as well. God makes us promises, but it's not only for us. He's thinking of our descendants when he promises us something, just like we see in the covenants.
Jonathan Bernis: So, this is part of the responsibility of covenant. This is part of the nature of covenant. And God has always been in covenant, and he's expressed it at different times through different individuals. But the foundation is the Adamic covenant. "You have authority, humankind. You're in charge of the animals. You're in charge of this creation. What you do with it matters".
Ezra Benjamin: That's right. There's stewardship is here in the first chapter of Genesis. And also, Jonathan, I'm just struck. As you're saying this, you know, God said, "Name everything". And Adam could've looked at a beautiful swan and said, "I call you worthless lump of flesh," and so it would've been. And so, the power in our words, given in the image of God to speak life or to speak death.
Jonathan Bernis: Listen to this. On earth as it is in heaven. And we've been given that same authority to decree, to speak forth life. What's in the power of the tongue? Life and death. Why? Because it's a covenantal relationship in the image of God, with the power of the tongue to speak forth in articulate speech, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And what you bind on earth is bound in heaven. It goes all the way back to the Adamic covenant. "I've created everything, and now I turn it over to you to take dominion of". It's so powerful. I'm feeling the anointing of God as I talk about this, because this is so important. You can't just slice off the new covenant, or the mosaic covenant, or any of the others, without seeing at the very base of the triangle, of the pyramid, the Adamic covenant. God decreed it, and it hasn't changed. It hasn't changed. You have divine responsibility. You have divine authority. So, make sure that you're speaking life, because your tongue possesses the power of life and death. You're in a covenant relationship with God, going all the way back to Adam. We need to take a short break as we tell you about an incredible opportunity to support Jewish Voice outreaches. Your giving today will be providing medical supplies and clean water to Jewish people and their neighbors that are struggling in difficult conditions, some of the worst conditions in the world. And places like Africa and Israel's going through a terribly difficult time now as well, and you can help. So please consider what you can do today. We want to share the Gospel with Jewish people. That's the greatest thing that you can provide a Jewish person, and you can help us to do that. We've also got some great resources available for you today that we wanna get into your hands. Don't go away. Ezra and I will be right back.
Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back. We're talking about the covenants of God. And this is so important. You may have never heard this before, but it will really change the way you read scripture. Before we get back into this conversation with Ezra, I wanna take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who are supporting Jewish Voice. Honestly, we could not do this work without you. Your gifts are making a real difference in the lives of so many who would suffer illness and thirst if it weren't for your generosity. I'm talking about Jewish people, and many are coming to faith. They're embracing Jesus as their Messiah through your generosity. So, thank you again for your support, and especially for joining Jewish Voice as a monthly shalom partner. Your ongoing support of this ministry is so valued. So, thank you. Ezra, we're so grateful for our partners.
Ezra Benjamin: We are. As you said, Jonathan, we really couldn't be out there traveling around the world reaching Jewish people without that ongoing support.
Jonathan Bernis: And we're talking about thousands of people that are getting medical care.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, especially these days, with COVID, with the unrest, not just in our country but worldwide. What better time than now to be out there sharing hope and helping Jewish communities in Jesus's name?
Jonathan Bernis: And partners have stuck with us. You've stuck with us through this whole COVID crisis and were able to give to other ministries in need as well.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, what a blessing. Because of your support to be in a position to give.
Jonathan Bernis: We're so grateful. Anyway, the covenants. This is such a huge topic. We're trying to cover it in such a short time.
Ezra Benjamin: Right. And I wish we had hours, but we don't. We have only a few minutes, Jonathan. So, right back into it. We're here at the base of the pyramid, the Adamic covenant. And you read some scriptures from Genesis 1. Let me try to summarize. So, delegated authority made in the image of God to rule over the earth, to have dominion over the rest of creation. And I'm thinking, again, of the power of our words to speak life or to speak death over the things we're ruling over. Be fruitful and multiply. What else? I mean, there's so much there, Jonathan. Those are the two that stuck with me.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, I call it the covenant of creation and delegation. God creates everything, and then he says to humankind, to Adam and Eve, "You have the land grant". I mean, literally, I can see them handed the title deed. "You run this place under my dominion, in relationship with me, and the decisions that you make are binding. You have that kind of authority". Now, that's a setup for everything else we know, because that's how we lost dominion. Humankind lost dominion over the earth because of that delegated authority. But that's the Adamic covenant, God creating man for this fellowship and this fruitful relationship, where we're called to multiply. And that Carries throughout the scriptures. When we're called by God, and this is true of every one of us, we've been called to be fruitful and multiply.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right. That's right. And we're not throwing that away. We're still called to rule over, to have dominion over creation, and still called to be fruitful and multiply. If you've been taught that we throw away each covenant when another one comes along, you've been taught wrong. And that's why what we're talking about today is so important.
Jonathan Bernis: It is. Look at the marriage covenant. Marriage is a covenant. It's an agreement. It can be broken because it's between two individuals, sadly. It's not supposed to be. But what's the command in marriage? Be fruitful and multiply. And have some fun, too.
Ezra Benjamin: There we go. So, fast forwarding a few chapters in Genesis, it's almost a hard word even to pronounce, the Noahic covenant. Unpack that for us, jon.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, it's a sad period, actually, because man, who's given dominion under this Adamic covenant, messes up really badly. In Genesis 3, they disobey God. The one command, "Don't eat," don't do this. And then the temptation, "Did God really say"? We all know the story. It's part of the Gospel, actually. They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil prematurely, against God's command. And what they were doing is actually turning over their authority to the serpent. And that gives dominion to the serpent over the creation on earth. And we're still going through God's plan to redeem the world. We're not there yet. The world has not yet been redeemed. We've been redeemed through the blood of the lamb individually, but the world is still unredeemed.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right. Still filled with groans, the scriptures tell us, waiting for the redemption of the son.
Jonathan Bernis: And how'd that happen? It happened because of God's commitment to Adam in cutting covenant with Adam and Eve. They surrender that through their disobedience, and then what happens? Mankind, humankind, gets more and more evil with every generation. It's so, so sad, because the first generation, you have Cain and Abel. And Cain becomes a murderer. I believe, looking at the Hebrew, that they thought that Cain would be the promised redeemer of Genesis 3:15, the crushing of the head. But Cain becomes a murderer. In the first generation, what do you have? You have the effects of sin and rebellion coming into, I think, the DNA of humankind. And the Bible tells us in the next several chapters that the heart and the inclination of man gets more and more and more evil, until you hit Genesis 6. And now the thoughts and the actions of man are evil all the time.
Ezra Benjamin: Only evil all the time. And God is actually grieved that he created man. It's the saddest verse in the Bible.
Jonathan Bernis: God regrets having made man.
Ezra Benjamin: He regrets it
Jonathan Bernis: That just breaks my heart every time I hear it. At that point, we had the beginning of the building of the ark, because God has determined, "I'm gonna wipe out mankind. Save the one remnant, Noah and his family".
Ezra Benjamin: So, even in a story of judgment and destruction, because of the grief in the heart of God, therein lies the covenant. "I'm preserving one and his family, whose heart is after my heart".
Jonathan Bernis: "I'm preserving one". And the covenant that he then cuts with Noah and his family is when the floods finally recede, and he says, "I'll never do that, this will never happen again". And you see the sign of the covenant in the form of a rainbow, which has sadly been distorted today. But the rainbow is actually the sign of the Noahic covenant.
Ezra Benjamin: As you're sharing this, Jonathan, I really feel impressed. You know, even in times of destruction and judgment, and maybe right now, we feel like, you know, what's happening in our nation and what's happening around the world, is this somehow the hand of judgment? Is this destruction? Look for the redemption of the Lord, the promise-keeping, covenant-making God.
Jonathan Bernis: Always.
Ezra Benjamin: That's what stands out to me. "The world's gonna be destroyed by a flood. Save one man and his family, and a portion of everything I've created that I'm gonna hold and make a new covenant with".
Jonathan Bernis: You know what, Ezra? When we have a downpour, well, I really appreciate downpour in Arizona, but there's places like saint Petersburg, Russia, when it was raining constantly. But every time that rainbow came out, I just felt a sense of joy. Because I connected to the Noahic covenant. I connected with God's declaration that whenever you see the rainbow, it's a reminder that although the world had to be destroyed and started over with Noah, God said, "Never again. I'll never do this again. I'm still going to shine my face upon you and give you favor". There is redemption. He created a way out of it for Noah and his offspring, which we're a part of. And that's a constant reminder that God is watching, that God is forgiving, that God doesn't give up. I just love that about the Noahic covenant, about the rainbow.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, it's beautiful. You know, as you said Jonathan, the rainbow has been adopted by a number of agendas to mean whatever society wants it to mean, but what I think of every time I see that is God has made promises, and he's going to fill them, because he's faithful.
Jonathan Bernis: Listen. God is faithful. We have some resources we wanted to get into your hands this week. Here's how.
Jonathan Bernis: God is a covenant-keeping God. He is faithful. All of these covenants are still in effect. The Noahic, the Adamic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, mosaic, new covenant, and he is faithful. He's faithful in your life. He's faithful in the life of your family. He will come through for you, no matter what you're going through. Ezra, if you'll just join with me in prayer, and you that are at home. Lord, thank you that you are a covenant-keeping God. And just as you made a covenant with Adam and Eve, you will complete that covenant. Just as you made a covenant through Noah to preserve the earth and the people of the earth. You are committed to fulfilling that. And all of the other covenants are embodied in the person of Jesus, who said, "I have come that you might have life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except through me". Thank you for meeting every need, because you are faithful, and you are a covenant-keeping God. In the name of Yeshua, in Jesus's name, amen. And amen. Hey, if you'd like more information about our ministry, you can log onto our website, jewishvoice.tv. You'll find helpful resources on the website. You'll be able to see the impact that your support is having on Jewish communities around the world. Send us your prayer requests. And you can do it right on the website. We love hearing from you. I also wanna thank you for your support of Jewish Voice as we reach out to Jewish people around the world. And as we close our program, I wanna remind you, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The Bible says, "May they prosper who love thee". So if you wanna prosper, pray for the Jewish people, especially during this difficult time. A special thanks to Ezra for joining me again today. And until next time, this is Jonathan Bernis and Ezra Benjamin saying shalom and God bless you.