From Covenant to Repentance “The change…shows that there is something dubious…”


After the cross of Christ, there is no longer any need for a covenant

Prime Minister James Marape addressing the National Repentance Day gathering at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby last year.

ON AUG 22, 2019 at the Gospel Movement Day Meeting, the conveners of the meeting asked the attendees to spend some time to pray for the upcoming National Repentance Day.
As I bowed in prayer, the scripture from Ps 127 came to my mind, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour [build] in vain” (v. 1). As I ponder on what it has to do with the National Repentance Day, a question came to my mind, did it start with God?
The National Repentance Day as it is now known initially started as a covenant day. It all began in 2007 at the All Pacific Prayer Assembly (APPA) hosted in Port Moresby. During the assembly, the organisers of the event produced a covenant for the PNG Government to sign on behalf of its people and God of Israel.
What was this covenant all about? In signing the so-called covenant, was PNG positioned for blessing or curse? Many may have seen it as a blessing and one can only imagine the jubilation of many of the Papua New Guineans attending the assembly and for masses following through media outlets.
The covenant-signing event raised the hopes and expectations of many Christians to new heights. Did they understand the significance of such rite? If so, why has Covenant Day metamorphosed into National Repentance Day? The change of Covenant Day to National Repentance Day shows that there is something dubious about the covenant.
Up till now, there is divided opinion about the so-called covenant among the PNG Christian community at large. There are many questions about the so-called covenant. Questions such as; what is a covenant? Who initiated it? What are the covenant particulars?
In my view, the so-called covenant which the then Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Michael Somare signed was an idea that originated from without and imported to PNG during the APPA.
Whether the prime minister sought biblical counsel from the PNG Council of Churches, the Evangelical Alliance and other theological institutional academics to ascertain its biblical soundness and originality before signing the so-called covenant is unclear.
The signing of the so-called covenant came at a time when PNG was hard hit economically. With the Somare government in charge, the country began to see some signs of economic turnaround. Prior to that, many Pentecostal churches and some splinter groups from the mainline churches were already being indoctrinated by the versions of prosperity gospel teachings.
These versions of teachings promised spiritual, physical and material prosperity to the adherents, thus giving hope and confidence to a good portion of PNG Christian populace. During this period, a lot of money schemes popped up catching many Christians and general populace wanting because of prosperity teachings indoctrination, leading many astray to these schemes.
Many in the hope of becoming monetarily rich overnight invested into these schemes only to be bankrupted by these schemes. For many churches and some key church leaders, it was the beginning of a downward spiritual life. As a result, many prominent church leaders lost God’s anointing in their lives and ministries, and they lost God’s voice and direction.
This made them become vulnerable and open to deception, thus many did not discern the spiritual risk in accepting any wind of teaching and the implications these teachings will have on the church generally. It was in this critical moment that PNG hosted the APPA and convinced the Government to sign the so-called covenant with the God of Israel.
The APPA was an opportunity to repent from the love of money and material prosperity and seek God afresh to restore our love for him and the zeal for the lost world.
Instead, the occasion was used to peddle a different agenda. It was an opportunity to invite the PNG Government to come on board and align itself with the versions of prosperity gospel teachings so that the nation could experience an abundance of material and monetary blessings.
For this to happen, a fraction of the PNG religious community along with the organisers and leaders of the APPA figured out that a covenant signing with the God of Israel or the nation of Israel was the way forward. Was this really a spiritual direction from God for the country or a political setup to get PNG to establish a diplomatic mission with the current state of Israel?
In one of the recent UN meetings, when PNG did not vote to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there was an outburst of condemnation from a section of Christian community against the Government. I wonder if those who were disappointed with the Government’s position know the Church’s mandate clearly as stipulated in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18) and expanded in Acts 1:8. The Church should not let the dispensationalist view define its mission to be the ambassador of Christ to everyone (2 Cor 5:18-21).
Christians in PNG should recognise that they have an ambassadorial role to the Philistines in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere as much as to the Jews. Support the current state of Israel in their quest to make Jerusalem will hamper our witness to the Philistines and Arab population in general.
Through the so-called covenant signing by the PNG Government was brought on board the flagship of the prosperity gospel through alliance with the current state of Israel. In the minds of the organisers and leaders of the APPA, they were convinced that if PNG Government signs the covenant, it will join them with the God of Israel and the God of Israel will make PNG rich again. So they got the Prime Minister to sign the so-called covenant, declaring that the God of Israel is also the God of Papua New Guinea.
It makes one wonder if the God of Israel is not the God of every people, language, tribe and nation (Rev 7:9-10). Why do some PNG tribes call him Anutu or Datagaliwabe or Saii Urin? Is he not the creator of the entire universe? Does PNG need another new covenant with God of Israel besides the new covenant that Prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:33-34) spoke about which has already been realised through the body and blood of Christ?
To help us understand what covenant is, first we need to define covenant. The Hebrew word for covenant is berit and in Greek diatheke. In the OT, the idiom of establishing a covenant is “cut a covenant” implying the covenant was made by cutting of an animal (see Gen 15: 7-11).
The covenant is about relationship, promise and expectation between two covenanting parties. We read from scripture that biblical covenants between God and human beings were initiated by God, with God declaring “I will establish my covenant” (Gen 6:18; Exo 6:4-5). This statement reveals that God initiated covenants were one-sided and unconditional where God promised to keep the covenant (Lev 26:44-45; Duet 4:31).
God knew that human beings could not keep covenant faithfully if they initiated it. Therefore, God initiated the covenants so that when human beings fail, he will take the full responsibility of the covenant stipulations to make the covenant work. Thus, the essence of God’s covenant is captured in the promise that “I will be your God and you shall be my people” (Gen 17:7; Exo 6:7; Jer 24:7; Ezek 11:20; Zech 8:8; 2 Cor 6:16-18; Rev 21:2-3).
There are many covenants in the OT. Some of these covenants were with individuals like Phinehas (Num 25:13) but I want to focus on the six covenants God made that concern the salvation of humankind and the rest of the creation. These covenants climaxed in the new covenant that God established through the death of Christ. There will not be any new covenant after the Christocentric covenant (Heb 8:7-13; 9:11-15).
There are six covenants God made between human beings and the entire creation that reveals God’s plan of salvation of humankind and the created world. God’s redemptive plan is finally fulfilled through the death of Christ.
The six covenants that God made with human beings and creation that reveals God’s plan of salvation due to the fall are:

  • Adamic Covenant;
  • Noahic Covenant;
  • Abrahamic Covenant;
  • Mosaic/Sinatic Covenant;
  • Aaronic Covenant and;
  • Davidic Covenant.

In my next article I will discuss these covenants and the New Covenant.
In the meantime, every theocentric covenant was initiated by God as seen above – “I will establish my covenant.” The so-called covenant between PNG and God of Israel is anthropocentric. It is not God’s doing (Ps 127:1).
It’s a covenant that started with human beings who are trying to force God to be a partner to it which contradicts the spirit and the significance of the covenants and the New Covenant that God made with his creation through Christ.
After the cross of Christ, there is no longer any need for a covenant. Therefore, why do PNG need another covenant? The covenant the Government was led to sign and gazette needs reconsideration to set the benchmark for any further documents enacted and signed between the Church and the National Government.

  • Dr George Mombi PhD is a lecturer at the CLTC Port Moresby campus.

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