Covenants emphasize the sure fulfillment of what is promised. Each of God's agreements or arrangements which the Bible has styled a 'covenant', contains an implied or plainly stated promise or promises. This thought is in the Apostle Paul's reference to "the covenants of promise."--Eph. 2:12
The first Bible promise is that contained in the warning to Adam regarding the tree of which he must not eat. Adam could have continued without death, remained deathless forever, as long as he was obedient in that simple test. (Gen. 1:27,28, 2:16,17) But "Adam...transgressed the covenant..."--Hosea 6:7 margin
The promise in the covenant spoken to Noah is very clear: "neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." (Gen. 9:8-17) From this, man knew there would never again be such a flood.
Sacrifice and blood of atonement was later commanded in the Law Covenant. God's fulfillment of the several promises in that covenant (Exod. 19:5,6, 23:22-31) required Israel's obedient observance of the various sacrifices and offerings as directed in its Law.
Another important covenant of God is the one made with David. That faithful servant, as well as his son Solomon, viewed God's promises to him narrated in II Sam. 7:11-29 as an "everlasting covenant." (II Sam. 23:5, II Chron. 7:16-18) Peter and Paul believed and taught that God's covenant promises to David were fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ Jesus as king to reign upon the throne of David.--Acts 2:30, 13:32-36, Luke 1:32
The promises of the "new" were incomparable to those of the former. "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. I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:33,34) None of those wonderful provisions are seen in any other covenant; no one was accustomed to a covenant of such quality, a covenant containing such promises. Regarding the ministry of the New Covenant, it was written over 1900 years ago of the greater than Moses that "now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."--Heb. 8:6 NAS
The Hebrews' writer quoted once more from Jeremiah's prophecy, affirming that the offering for sin had been completed upon which the New Covenant blessings are based. The Holy Spirit witnessed that truth to him, and he would that its witness also be received by us. His thought is expressed in Heb. 10:14-18. "For by one offering He has perfected for all time the ones being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them, And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more'. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."--NAS
The New Covenant is gloriously unique (II Cor. 3:6-18) among all of God's covenants. It is the only one that promised reconciliation, and the only one that reconciles. It is the only one that puts God's law in minds and writes it in hearts. It is the only one through which iniquity is forgiven. It is the only one that takes away sins. It is the only one in which Christians have received a ministry. This is all true for the fact that, although two covenants were sealed with blood, the New Covenant is the only covenant which has been sealed with blood of redemptive quality. It is the only covenant with which the blood of Christ is identified. "This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." "This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you." (Matt. 26:28, Luke 22:20) Brethren, behold the blood of the covenant and the promises of that covenant of blessing!
Having denied the present function of the New Covenant, all such are as a result left in the most disadvantageous position of being without a covenant having the solemn promise that God will reconcile sinners to Himself. Some think, however, that the covenant mentioned in Psalm 50:5 is satisfactory to their needs. That passage with its context is therefore fully considered.
Psalm 50 details the circumstances which led to its writing, and identifies those for whom its immediate counsel was intended. Three of its first four verses declare that its burden is judgment. "The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Our God comes, He does not keep silence, before Him is a devouring fire, round about Him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people."--Psa. 50:1,3,4 RSV
The earth summoned in the first verse is not the literal, inanimate earth. It is a symbolic earth. Jeremiah counseled such an earth during his ministry. "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD." (Jer. 22:29) The prophet there pleaded with Israel because as a nation they were God's people. It is that entity which is addressed in Psalm 50, an organized society under the instruction of God's law and prophets. All Israel was to receive warning and instruction regarding their religious worship. All the people of that 'earth' were to hear the divine complaints. He "summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting."
The Psalmist implored God at another time to "shine forth" to rescue "the vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that Thou madest strong for Thyself." (Psa. 80:15) Israel had been judged, found disobedient, and in need of forgiveness and blessing. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou who leadest Joseph like a flock; Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth [yah-phag] before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh! Stir up Thy might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let Thy face shine, that we may be saved! Restore us, O God of hosts; let Thy face shine, that we may be saved! Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! let Thy face shine, that we may be saved!"-- Psa. 80:1-3,7,19 RSV
Israel's need of God's blessing is particularly seen in Psalm 50 by its enumeration of their poor response to His goodness. The nation is charged with disregard for God's statutes, just what they were guilty of in prior and subsequent centuries. That is why God judged His people throughout their history. The execution of God's judgments brought upon them difficulties, distresses, and captivity. All of this was designed to cause them to examine their hearts, confess their falsehoods, and change their practices.
"God hath shined forth," verse two, represents an expression of His instruction and judgment, designed to lead to their blessing. This verse also declares that the action of Psalm 50 proceeds from Zion. "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth [yah- phag]." (RSV) There was no Zion until David. Zion refers to the agency from which emanates God's rule, government and blessing. Jehovah "dwelleth in Zion." (Psa. 9:11) No wonder, then, the earnest prayer in Psa. 14:7, RSV, NEB: "Oh that deliverance for Israel would come out of Zion!" Perhaps the assurance in Psalm 50:2, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth" was in connection with that prayer.
God had much more in mind for Israel than ritualistic observance of the ceremonial law which commanded individual offerings and national, repetitious, or yearly offerings. As a matter of fact, at no time did the LORD imply that all He required of Israel was external compliance with the carnal requirements of animal sacrifice. The ten commandments were intensely moral. (Exod. 20) Details of the sacrificial law directed identification of and repentance for sin. (Lev. 4) Kindness to fellows and to beasts was instructed. (Exod. 22) Death was the punishment for disobedience. (Lev. 10:1,2,7) The LORD's law should be in their mouth. (Exod. 13:9) Appointed feasts were holy rests, during which the law was to be read and heard. (Deut. 31:11,12, Exod. 23:14- 17, 34:21-34, Joshua 8:32-34, II Kings 22:10,11, Neh. 8:1-6) The LORD promised that He would be found by all who sincerely sought Him. (Deut. 4:29) The law must be in their hearts, must not depart from them, and must be taught to their sons' sons. (Deut. 4:9) They were instructed to circumcize the foreskin of their hearts. (Deut. 10:16) The spiritual comfort and encouragement so abundant throughout the Psalms was provided to assist God's people Israel in the proper application of the divine instruction, that they might truly be "a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people,...and...a kingdom of priests and an holy nation." (Exod. 19:5,6) God frequently urged Israel to attain to the station offered them. The message "out of Zion, the perfection of beauty," was a further admonishment to that end.
"Gather ye to Me My saints, Making covenant with Me over a sacrifice."--Young's Literal Translation
"Gather yourselves unto Me--ye My men of lovingkindness, Who have solemnised My covenant over sacrifice."--Joseph Rotherham
"Gather to Me My saints, those cutting My covenant by sacrifice."-- Green Interlinear
"Gather! to Me consecrated-ones-of-Me ones-making-of covenant-of-Me by sacrifice."--Zondervan Interlinear, Kohlenberger
"Assemble ye His saints to Him, those that have engaged in a covenant with Him upon sacrifices."--Septuagint
The above translations indicate that those commanded to gather together were already in covenant with God through the Law-instructed sacrifices. Verse 4 reveals the purpose of the gathering, "that He may judge His people"; and verse 6 affirms that their judge is God Himself. "My people" are then told to hear what their God will speak, assured that "I will testify against thee." Verse 8 opens the promised indictment.
It is seen from contextual study that those 'saints' whom God summoned to hear His judgment were the entire nation in covenant with God through the appointed animal sacrifices. Such sacrifices began with those of Exodus 24, and included the other offerings bound upon them by their Law. The entire nation was "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." (I Cor. 10:2-4 NAS) The LORD assured Israel of His love for them (Deut. 7:7,8,13; 33:3), so much as to "give men for thee, and people for thy life" (Isa. 43:3,4), and He entered into covenant with them.--Ezek. 16:8
A message similar to Psalm 50 was given to Israel hundreds of years later when God reminded His people of their special relationship. "Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."--Amos 3:1,2
Those addressed as 'saints' in Psalm 50:5 were God's professed people. They had entered into covenant relationship with Him, bound in the most solemn manner to be His. They did this in connection with the sacrifices which accompanied their worship. They brought their sacrifices and bloody offerings as a pledge that they meant to be His. Over those solemn sacrifices they bound themselves to be the LORD's. The purpose of the judgment was to reveal to them their true condition and the righteousness of God's just complaints.
There was a gracious purpose in God's promised testimony "against thee," Psa. 50:7--the same purpose as that recorded in Neh. 9:29: "Thou testifiedst against them, that Thou mightest bring them again unto Thy law."
Micah 6:6-8 affirms what pleased the LORD. "Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" The ones who earnestly desired His favor acted upon those instructions in their continued faithfulness in that covenant.
The covenant assured by the prophets, in which God promised to forgive iniquity, and remember sin no more, is the covenant in which every believer must be involved before he is in a position to make individual vows of allegiance and submission. The Apostle Paul's counsel and exhortation to the brethren at Rome teaches that full devotion to God is an essential Christian objective. Believers are encouraged to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, including every earthly, temporal ambition and expectation. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom. 12:1,2) An individual's complete dedication to the service of God in full heart devotion is most important in order to receive God's present spiritual blessings and an inheritance with Him in glory.
To effect reformation in Israel, the LORD also used Jeremiah to call attention to the evil of their ways. "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." (Hosea 6:4-10) God put other questions to His people through Jeremiah, to cause examination of both their privileges and their trespasses. Some of them are seen in Jer. 2:5,31; 3:4,5; 9:9,12, 23:23-29. The reading of those questions will impress the wisdom of God in placing before Israel the important interrogations of Psalm 50.
Severe charges are recorded in Psalm 50:17-22 against those whose response in their covenant had been reprehensible. "Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest My words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." But, in the Psalm's closing verse, words of encouragement are addressed to those who really endeavored to keep that covenant. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation [conduct] aright will I shew the salvation of God."