31 October 2021
I've been asked to outline a Ritual of Covenant. Keep in mind that a ritual means nothing by itself. Rituals must sprout from your convictions; they must be driven by faith.
What happened at Mount Sinai was a Ritual of Covenant. It was long and convoluted, but the essence remains the same. It enacted what we call a suzerain-vassal treaty, something quite common in that part of the world, and already familiar to the Hebrew people. It was part of the legacy of Ancient Near Eastern common cultural lore. In particular, Jehovah used the protocols typical of nomad sheikhs.
In our Western trained minds, we would see two things combined: law and family. We don't have a tradition of reverence for family heads, though we might understand the fear part of traditional Western patriarchy. And we have no concept of law as someone's moral character. However, for the Hebrew people it was entirely natural that the father and lord was the same person. The Ritual of Covenant was an adoption protocol -- the lord adopts the tribe into his family household. It's warm and personal, yet he is still the lord.
So it is with Jehovah. He was a real person offering to adopt Israel as His own family, but they must obey Him as Lord. The entire thing is depicted with God acting as a shepherd sheikh. That's the proper image; that's how God chose to reveal Himself, and it hasn't changed. It was the whole basis for the Covenant of Moses; it remains the same for the Covenant of Christ.
So, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was keeping with His core commitment to restore the Covenant. Not as the Jewish leadership with their corrupt legalism, something that arose from pagan influences. Jesus was restoring the personal kinship with the Father. Thus, His Model Prayer (AKA the "Our Father") is a simplified ritual of covenant renewal. By reciting this prayer in a formal setting, it is the same as a Ritual of Covenant.
Most of you who have spent time in churches are likely to have memorized the KJV:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed by Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
It remains the same teaching for what Jesus called the "Kingdom of Heaven." He was referring to the Messianic Kingdom He came to initiate as the fulfillment of all that the Covenant of Moses was meant to do. He displaced Moses by the New Covenant in His blood, and the Model Prayer remains appropriate. There is a very large amount of continuity between the Old and New Covenants.
Not every moment of prayer needs this kind of formality, but Jesus indicated that this was the kind of prayer you might use daily to formally renew His Covenant. Say it out loud. Change the wording; use a different translation. Look up Bible studies of what each phrase means for us today. Maybe try singing any one of the several song versions out there. Examine how each line is proper protocol for addressing your feudal Master and Father. Stand your life firmly in the Covenant for which it stands.
This document is public domain; spread the message.