What God thinks of covenants made under false pretences.

I have from time to time pointed out that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. I have some idea what this means, and some idea how seriously God takes covenants, but I recently came face to face with scriptures that show God is far more serious about covenants than I realised. Allow me to share a couple of scriptures to make this point:

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”‘ Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.” [Joshua 9:1-21 ESV]

“Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, ‘There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.‘” [2 Samuel 21:1 ESV]

Hiding behind a mask © Luciano Mortula | Dreamstime.com

In the first passage, the Gibeonites lie and deceive in order to have a covenant made. When those they lied to discover the truth they are upset, but they are unwilling to go back on their covenant. A few hundred years later king Saul kills a group of Gibeonites, and years after that God says a famine has come on David’s kingdom because Saul broke the covenant. In short, even though the covenant was made as a result of deception, God expected it to be honoured.

What does that say about our marriages? Certainly “she’s not who I thought she was” or even “she lied to me before we were married” are not acceptable reasons (in God’s eyes) for breaking a covenant! Even when the one who breaks it does so because of premeditated sin in arranging the covenant, God judges the one who breaks the covenant!

Think about that if divorce ever crossed your mind.

By the way, credit where credit is due – this post was inspired by the sermon I heard last Sunday. It’s great to have a pastor who hears from God and shares what he hears. Bless you Jeromy!

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:


New Blog this week: Marriage Matters is the blog of Jason W. Touchatt who leads marriage ministry at his church. Good articles, and some awesome pictures!

A Grown Up Marriage

It’s Just Sex…: A well reasoned post on why “It’s just sex” is a dangerous idea.


The Subtle Difference Between Orders and Listening: Don’t micro-manage your bride!

Intimacy in Marriage

“Oh God” and Other Things We Say During Sex: This is an excellent post on the sounds of sex.

Marriage Life

MT Project: My Spouse Deserves More Than My Leftovers: This post is right on. Do you see yourself in this post?
It’s Time to Clean!: What junk is hiding in your relationship?

Marriage Gems

The Biggest Marriage Myth of All and How it Could Ruin Your Relationship: Getting out is NOT the best solution!
What Do You Expect from Your Marriage and Mate?: All about choices and growing up – good stuff!

Marriage Matters

7 Practical Points for Communicating with Your Spouse : Good points here, check it out.

One Flesh Marriage

Kate and Brad take on the always fun topic of masturbation in marriage with four posts: Take Matters into Your Own Hands, Masturbation: What’s a Wife to Do?, Masturbation: A Little More Detail! and, Masturbation: One Husband’s Story

Simple Marriage

K.I.S.S. – The art of non-sexual touch: Read this one for your bride!
24 Keys to Remaining Friends With Your Spouse: If your not friends, does any of the rest of it matter?

Stupendous Marriage

The Stupendous Marriage Show 003: Dumped on Twitter and Studying Your Spouse: I’m still enjoying The Stupendous Marriage Show podcast (doesn’t hurt that this episode mentions my bride and me. ;-) ]

3 Comments on “What God thinks of covenants made under false pretences.

  1. While I appreciate ALL of the posts and insights of marital awareness and honesty that you present as they exist between two married and consecrated people (and God), I cannot agree with the “limited” interpretation of covenant that you have presented in this message. I am more inclined to believe that our soul-searching and response come through maturity and conditioning as we go through life’s experiences.

    Based on the marriage covenant ideal, the whole concept of nakedness of Genesis 2 MAY NOT BE understood when we are “children” at the altar. We may not have been wise and fully informed about the “things of the heart” at the time of marriage. Often, we MAKE DECISIONS of DECEPTION, but that DOES NOT MAKE US AGREE TO ‘SUFFER’ for them for the rest of our lives!!!!!

    True, God calls for our truth. And, initially the conditions of the covenant may be driven by the mind. But, because our understanding is not always clear, we make mistakes in several “agreements” in life, sometimes not “knowing” the value of the heart’s involvement, especially in relationships where our “mirror” of purpose and desire is given to us in holy matrimony. Human decisions DO NOT make something holy. Only God does through the one who is compliant. And covenant, agreement, and obedience are just that very aspect of relationship; whether it is between mankind or in the most direct and intimate of all relationships, between the Creator and the created.

    God was serious about covenants. That is why He amplified their value He realized that the promses that are not “tested” by the heart will not hold in the human context. It is apparent that the liaison that bonded us “grew”, taking on new shape and context as God fulfilled Himself (at the cross) before those whom He created in His image. As we understand the concept of covenant throughout bibilical history, we see how “the testament” and “the promise” evolved from the MIND to the HEART—just how we train our children. THE ADULT has to make that transfer in obedience. And, the criteria for honor and obedience require the heart to be informed and aware of what the TOTAL NAKEDNESS given before the fall was to entail; body, mind, AND spirit.

    When the clarity and understanding of marriage is fully revealed, it is at that point that the individual must be sure that the mind and spirit (the heart) are in agreement. To “obey” just with the mind is to “dishonor” God as well as the spouse that is unaware of one’s true feelings. WHO ARE WE FOOLING!? To continue in a relationship that is NOT translated into the spirit is “a business”, “a penance” that is to earn merit, or a guilt that Satan is happy to put in our minds so that we are SEPARATED, not only from our spouses, but from our God.

    No. Let me freely and prayerfully disagree with the idiom that is based in Greek philosophy rather than from the grace and privilege of the will, to “re-examine” the process of decision-making that MAY NOT HAVE UNDERSTOOD the conplete covenant of mind AND SPIRIT. And, there is a significant difference.

    The eternal covenant is “in concrete” on God’s side, yes. But, the covenant conditions are mutable because of sinful, but growing man. So, it is based on how you “know” God. The free will is the GREATEST demonstration of reciprical love and promise. Otherwise, human nature will invite all sorts of “muances” of sadness, incompletion and even promiscuity into their relationships JUST TO KEEP the ‘external perception of societal compiance’ satisfied. How awful. In fact, when “things are wrong”, that is exactly where all of this goes when this theology is emphasized.

    We must be and remain married from within! …just like salvation….—-the everlasting covenant—by God’s grace!

    Thanks for listening.

    • Susan,

      I’m afraid this doesn’t square with what scripture tells us. You are right, covenant conditions are mutable, which means the conditions change. However, the covenant itself isn’t. For the marriage covenant, there is only one possible out clause, and that’s the unfaithfulness of the spouse. But one must also understand that it’s not only the unfaithful spouse, but the hardness of the heart that God allows that out. (Matthew 19:8)

      The problem isn’t with the covenant, or the conditions under which the covenant was made. The problem is the hardness of the hearts of those who believe that divorce is the best solution to the problem.

      One can see in scripture, with all the wooing God does for us, the unfaithful spouse in the spiritual sense, that God seeks reconciliation.

      But just as humans choose to divorce one another, humans also choose to spiritually divorce themselves from God.

      The choice to divorce or not to divorce is not about societal expectations. It’s about honoring a covenant made before God.

      Just as God accepts us, just as we are, we vow on the altar to accept our spouse, just as she is. The love relationship between us and God is in no way reciprocal. There is no way I, or any human can possibly love God close to how much He loves us.

      So perhaps we are called to do the same. We are called to love the unfaithful wife, even if she doesn’t love her husband. We are called to love the drunken husband, even if he loves the bottle more than his wife, we are called to love the addled spouse, even if she can’t remember her husband’s name.

      Are we called to be happy, or are we called to be holy? I have yet to find a scripture passage that says seek to be happy. There are many regarding holiness, but I’ve yet to find one that says if you are faced with the choice, God wants you to choose happy over holy.

      Certainly not the world’s definition of happy.

  2. @Susan – I understand what you are saying, and I would like to agree with you – but my significant amount of study of what covenant meant to the Jews of old, and to God, does not allow me to agree.

    A huge part of the problem is that we no longer understand what covenant means. We enter lightly and foolishly into marraige because we don’t understand how seriously God takes it. But our ignorance of the truth does not mean it’s not true, nor does it mean we are free from God’s requirements, or the penalty of breaking a covenant.

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