Covenants of Feeling? or of Promise?
They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up
as hemlock in the furrows of the field. –Hosea 10:4
Promises are what make the world work. When men cannot be trusted to keep their word any
more, there will not be enough courts, lawyers, or policemen to keep order for even the courts,
lawyers, and policemen will not be trustworthy.
In Hosea's time the men of Israel broke their word and took false oaths. The result was like nox-
ious weeds growing up in the field. ``Judgment'' was perverted, and the decisions of the courts
poisoned the land. Hemlock is the poisonous plant by which Socrates was executed.
What Are Words For?
Words did not mean anything to that generation because they were operating on another plane of
morality. God had made his requirements fully known in plain words. He had said it clearly by
Jeremiah: ``And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that
obeyeth not the words of this covenant.'' (Jeremiah 11:3)
Promises, Promises, Promises.
But Israel refused, as Jeremiah also said, "Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked
every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of
this covenant, which I commanded them to do.'' (Jeremiah 11:8)
It is not that Israel did not make promises, for they did constantly. The wicked make promises
constantly, but they do not feel bound by them. In fact, ``feel'' is the operative word nowadays.
The covenant of promise has been replaced by a covenant of feeling.
Nowadays, ``relationships'' are established by feeling instead of promise. People think they can
``relate'' to people on the basis of feeling, rather than the integrity of a promise. Marriages are
contracted and ruined on the ground of feeling. No matter what the promise is, a partner thinks
he is justified to break the marriage vow if the feelings have changed. Some are more honest,
perhaps, and take the vow ``as long as we both shall love,'' but only a fool would enter such a
People move from church to church; preachers disregard ordination vows; Lawyers are paid
huge amounts of money to subvert the plain meaning of words and overthrow the law. Some of
the most visible sports figures, both players and owners, flagrantly disregard contracts; political
figures cynically break campaign promises; Supreme Court justices brazenly subvert the plain
language of the Constitution even though they have promised in plain words to uphold its provi-
sions as the supreme covenant of our nation. Their decisions (judgment) become poisonous
weeds growing in the furrows of the nation.
The Hope of Covenant
Does God forget his covenant? Jeremiah again: ``And I will give the men that have transgressed
my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before
me.... I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek
their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven....'' (Jeremiah
In the midst of this darkness, however, there is hope, but it is the hope of covenant, not cove-
nant-breaking. "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God: for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
Take you with words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us
graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.'' (Hosea 14:1, 2)
The New Covenant
Isaiah had promised that the Lord would make a new covenant with the people, a covenant cen-
tered in Christ, ``This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My spirit that is upon thee, and
my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth
of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, form henceforth and for ever.''
(Isaiah 59:21) This was confirmed in Hebrews 10:16: ``This is the covenant that I will make
with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds
will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.'' (Hebrews 10:16)
Those who believe in Christ are covenant-keepers, not covenant breakers. Words mean some
thing to them, for they have the promises of God in their heart. They know that they are respon-
sible for every idle word, and do not enter into promises lightly. When true Christianity is known
in a land, men keep their word; preachers honor the creeds they have sworn in ordination to up
hold, people keep their marriage vows, politicians live by the law, and the courts render justice,
not stinking weeds. ``Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath
chosen for his own inheritance.'' Psalm 33:12
This is the heart of Christianity: to confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus and to believe in the
heart in his resurrection.. ``And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word
of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.'' Revelation 12:11
Keeping The Word
The faithful kept their word even unto death, and against such the devil has no power, for his
kingdom is one of lies and faithlessness. See Psalm 15, especially verse 4.
Pastor C. W. Powell
6050 Del Paz Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80918