RS/MP Lesson 15: “The Lord’s Covenant People” (Gospel Principles Manual)

A brief word about changes to this lesson with the newer edition of the manual, then on to more important matters.

There is a number of subtle changes in this lesson, but most of them can be summarized under the heading of “getting rid of exclusivist language.” I think that is a good move. Whereas the older version of the lesson tended to associate the Abrahamic covenant with members of the Church only, the manual is now a bit more careful to point out the strict universality of the covenant; and whereas the older version of the lesson tended to talk about how blessed we are to be God’ covenant people, it now points to the enormous task our covenants prescribe. In this, I see the newer version of the manual recognizing a crucial theme of especially Isaiah. Isaiah found himself with the constant work of helping the covenant people to realize what being the covenant people meant, and that was largely a question of opening the covenant onto its crucial universalism, shattering the tendency towards exclusivism of a kind of privilegism.

Anyway, that one “exegetical” point aside, I’d like to move on to deal with the actual content of the lesson.

The Nature of Covenants

The first paragraph of the lesson says a few rather interesting things about covenants. The second sentence suggests that one of the purposes of covenants is to clarify the nature of the work, perhaps to turn the anxiety of having a kind of vague obligation to an omnipotent God into the courage necessary to undertake a very specific work: “When His people make covenants (or promises) with Him, they know what He expects of them and what blessings they may expect from Him. They can better carry out His work on earth” (p. 81). I think that is a rather nice point, though I think we should be careful to recognize that it is only true to some extent, and that we perhaps have a tendency only to pay careful attention to covenants that are explicit in terms of duty. We should perhaps pay close attention to covenants—like, for example, the law of consecration—that do not prescribe specified actions, but that are nonetheless more crucial than others that are “clearer” in terms of prescribed content.

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