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Ancient Testaments: Israel — a covenant people

A gospel covenant looks to the future, something like a prophecy. In covenant-making, the person I am describes the person I will be, come what may.

But unlike a prophecy, this covenant is based on seizing — not just seeing — the future.

Something transcendent in the human heart draws us into covenants. At times, we actually want to be accountable, to put our honor on the line, to make our love and devotion official.

Making the covenant is the first filter. But keeping it is the second. Covenant keeping is not only a soul-sifter, but a soul-builder.

When a being of perfect integrity makes a promise, you can count on it. Consider it done. If you wish, carve it in stone.

It is so with God himself. He is the ultimate trustworthy being. By inviting us into the covenants, he beckons us to start becoming as he is — forever dependable. To be trusted in eternity, we must first be trusted in time.

We are repeatedly tried, to help us become repeatedly true. Then will come trusts, adventures, privileges and joys we cannot now imagine.

And what is true of individuals can also apply to a group. A covenant couple, for example, can be held accountable. They can have blessings multiplied upon them — or withdrawn from them — depending on faithfulness.

In fact, at the foot of Mount Sinai a whole nation — Israel — entered a covenant together, as if they were one person. The Lord then officially and permanently became their God. He became the God of Israel.

What is more, their covenant would apply to people who were not even present at that time — the people of Israel for generations to come.

A parallel is found in the world of business. By the signatures of a small group of representatives, a corporate contract becomes binding upon the entire company. In fact, it is enforceable for years and even centuries ahead, long after the original signers have moved on to other employment or to another world.

In Leviticus 26, we can read the terms and conditions — the "laws and statutes" — in the grand arrangement that would sift and build not only individuals, but couples, kindreds and peoples. In due time, the arrangement would be available to all people. Non-Israelites could enter the covenant and become bona fide Israelites, and thus inherit all that the God of Israel himself possesses.

The terms and conditions are both thrilling and sobering to read, for he who makes the promises also warns.

For example: "If ye walk in my statutes, … I will give you rain in due season. … I will give peace in the land. … None shall make you afraid. … I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.

But also: "But if ye … break my covenant, … I will even appoint over you terror, … and … sorrow of heart. … I will break the pride of your power, … and your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase."

And if Israel should fall away, what then? "I will not cast them away. … I will … remember the covenant of their ancestors, … that I might be their God. …

"These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai" (See Leviticus 26:1-46).

Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites.