Providence Today: Covenantal Beginnings

Dr. Peter Lillback:
This is Providence Today and we’re standing in front of this historic statue of Religious Liberty that is a symbol of the Jewish people’s gratitude to America for the religious freedom that they found in this land. Remember Philadelphia, named by William Penn, was a place where brothers would love each other in spite of their deep religious differences. There would be a common commitment and it’s easy to walk right by here and miss a few things.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
Notice they called themselves the Israelites of America. At that time, there was no Israel. Israel was a dream. Today, there is a land of Israel. They were remembering their Jewish tradition and then you see that this religious liberty celebration is by the order of the B’nai B’rith. Those are two Hebrew words that mean sons of the covenant. There’s a B’nai B’rith organization to this day, but what we might forget is that the word B’rith, covenant, is not only a deeply biblical word, but is actually something that shapes what they did just a block away from here at Independence Hall as they were wrestling with the constitution. It’s easy to forget that the word B’rith, meaning covenant, has a Latin equivalent, which is the word foedus.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
Now you might say, I don’t know anything about Latin, but follow me seriously for just a minute. When you put the word foedus into the plural, meaning covenants in Latin, it’s foedera and if you put an L on the end of that, you get the word federal. Have you ever heard the word federal? Federal government. I hate to say it, but on April 15th, you help support it every year. Federal income taxes.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
The word federal means covenantal. Covenantal means there is a written agreement of a promise mutually supported by two or more parties. That’s what God had done. He’d established a covenant with his people.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
Our founders not only knew the Bible, but the political scientists of the University of Texas have proven empirically that one third of all the quotations of all of our founders writings comes directly from the Bible, more than any other source. They were biblically literate and so when they created their government, they created a federal government, a covenantal government reflecting the spirit of the covenant of the Old Testament. God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Jesus established the Lord supper, he said this is the new covenant in my blood.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
Covenantal thinking is not only religious, but it is also part of our political science, our very American story. This covenant then is what keeps us together. We promise to respect those who lead us as they follow the constitution. The constitution is our covenantal bond.

Dr. Peter Lillback:
Well, if you’re enjoying some of the things we’re learning here in Philadelphia about faith and freedom, we hope you’ll download our free app. It’s called the Faith and Freedom Tour app that you can get easily, free downloadable gift, or you can go online Providenceforum.org and you can learn more. Thanks a lot for being with Providence Today.

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