The technical name for them is stereograms or auto stereograms. You’ve seen them, those colorful pictures and graphic designs that, when viewed correctly, display a 3D picture hidden within them. If one just “relaxes” on the surface picture and stops straining to see the hidden one, the latter will emerge. In “relaxing” into our passage in this week’s lesson and the theme of Decoding the Covenants, the following picture emerges.
The “everlasting covenant” (Isa. 24:5) originated in an unparalleled culture of love—the inseparable bonds of love within the Godhead. Jesus summarized the entire Law and the Prophets, and simultaneously revealed the deepest essence of “the everlasting covenant,” in this simple dictum: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12, NIV).
Could it really be as simple as that? That’s kindergarten language. Perhaps so, but theologians have for many decades recognized Matthew 7:12 as the seminal principle around which Jesus structured His Sermon on the Mount. The Matthew 7:12 principle merely grounded human relationships in the covenant love of the eternal God. From its earliest commencement, all creation was enfolded into and infused with this culture of covenantal love. From the beginning, God fiercely loved His creation. The commitment was reciprocal. An attack on one would be met by all. Eventually it would take the Covenant Maker Himself to a cross.
From the beginning, the purpose of “the everlasting covenant” was to protect and enrich relationships. In His relationship with humankind, God used various models to communicate this. Sometimes He used illustrations from nature, such as the close relationship between a vine and its branches (John 15:1–5). In our judgment-laden passage for this lesson, He speaks of watching over His people as a caretaker does his vineyard: “I, the LORD, keep it, I water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I keep it night and day” (Isa. 27:3, NKJV).
The divinely chosen models of His covenant(s) with humanity most often involve personal relationships. The master/servant relationship (closer to the employer/employee relationship in most modern societies) serves as a model. For example, the apostles often and fondly referred to themselves as God’s servants (see 2 Pet. 1:1, for example).
But Jesus preferred more intimate relationship models for comparisons to His covenant commitment to fallen humanity—husband/wife and parent/child models, for example. He likened His covenant with Israel to a marriage covenant: “I will betroth you to Me forever . . . in lovingkindness and mercy . . . in faithfulness” (Hos. 2:19, 20, NKJV). “I was a husband to them” (Jer. 31:32, NIV). Ideally God could have used the marriage relationship as the closest example of His covenant with us; husbands and wives generally have a choice in the matter of who they pair up with, whereas children do not get to choose their parents.
But Christ chose the parent/child relationship, the strongest bonds on earth, as His model of choice to represent His bonds of love to us. A refrain from the Song of Moses asked, “Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?” (Deut. 32:6, NKJV). Yahweh/Jesus emotively asked His doubting nation, “Can a woman forget her nursing child . . . ? Surely they may forget you, yet I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15, NKJV)! Jesus asked us to pray, “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9) and used a parent/child illustration to introduce the Golden Rule as the essence of the “everlasting covenant” culture of heaven and of God’s love for us (Matt. 7:9–12)! Ellen White reveals that “Christ’s favorite theme was the paternal character and abundant love of God” (Testimonies, 6:55).
As we further explore the covenants together, be on the lookout for new evidences of God’s covenantal love for you.