Covenant — now there’s a word you don’t hear much any longer, at least outside of church. The Encyclopedia of Law and Economics states “A useful starting point is to think of marriage as a contract between two parties.” So, I guess that means I’m married to my cell phone provider. Nice try, but there’s a big difference between a contract and a covenant.
A contract is about pledging property or provisions. In a contract, the terms are drawn up as “This is mine, and this is yours.” But a covenant is about people, and it entails people pledging not their property but their lives to one another. It’s more than “This is mine, and this is yours.” A covenant is “You are mine, and I am yours.” Therefore, a covenant will work only if the people involved will pledge two things much harder to part with and therefore far more valuable than property. Love and trust are the two pillars upon which a covenant rests.
We see this portrayed perfectly in the covenant between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18:1-4.
“The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul… Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And 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 girdle.”
I like that the Hebrew word usually translated “bind” is rendered in v.1 as “knit.” Hastily-made ties are easy to break. Shoelaces come undone with a quick pull, and one insult or disappointment is often enough to undo a shallow or loosely-connected friendship. But knitting fuses two things into one, making them virtually impossible to separate — a vivid picture of the covenant connection between these two godly men!
Jonathan’s robe was the symbol of his position as crown prince. Each person under the anointing of a covenant will naturally regard the other above his own prominence or position. Jonathan’s garments were the exquisite apparel of royalty. The blessing of a covenant will empower each person to put the other ahead of his own comfort, convenience, or luxury. Think of the Lord’s love for us. It’s not, “I love you because…” It’s, “I love you in spite of…” Not, “I will love you if…” but “I will love you even if…” True unconditional love is never self-seeking or self-serving; it is the first pillar upholding the covenant connection.
First Samuel 13:22 tells us there was a time when Saul and Jonathan had the only weapons in all of Israel. Think of how much Jonathan had to trust David in order to give him his weapons. Imagine having your heart so tightly knit with someone that you’re comfortable handing over your only means of defense and attack. “I don’t ever want to hurt you, and I know you never want to hurt me.” Can you say that to your spouse or closest friend? Genuine trust like that is rare today; it is the second pillar upholding the covenant connection.
Most importantly, this account is a magnificent picture of the Lord Jesus taking off His robe of glory and knitting us to Himself so we could be clothed in His righteousness. As Jonathan did with David, let us give everything to the Son of David to experience the blessing of the greatest covenant connection of all.
Originally published for The Carpenter’s House