Covenant is a rite that is as old as the age of man. Covenant was established by God. It is essentially the joining together of families or peoples by a common bond. Covenant is forever and is not to be breached.
The first mention of Covenant in the Bible is at Genesis Chapter Six:17-21
17. “ I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.
18. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you.
19. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
20. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.
21. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."
And after the events of the flood, in Chapter 9 we read:
9. "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you
10. and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth.
11. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."
12. And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:
13. I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,
15. I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
16. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."
17. So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."
The next mention of Covenant in the Bible is with Abram in Genesis Chapter 15:
18. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--
19. the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,
20. Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,
21. Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."
It is not until ten years pass that God concludes the Covenant with Abram, as we read in Chapter 17:
1. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty ; walk before me and be blameless.
2. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."
3. Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
4. "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.
5. No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
7. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
8. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."
9. Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.
10. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
11. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
12. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring.
13. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.
14. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
15. God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
16. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
17. Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?"
18. And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"
19. Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
20. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
21. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."
Several important things take place here that are important to Covenant. Paramount is a promise to keep the Covenant that is offered. There are new names given. Abram is no longer. Sarai is no longer. They are now Abraham and Sarah. God has given them a portion of His Name.
There is letting of blood. And there is a sign of the covenant. This is an outward sign that once in Covenant, you are different. This of course is circumcision. Others could now see that Abraham and his male followers were those who worshiped the One God. There is also a giving of possessions. God gave Abraham the land in which he and his people were dwelling. And there is a promise that the Covenant would not only bless Abraham, but be an everlasting Covenant for his descendants.
Today in our society we have perhaps a couple of Covenant rites, the primary one would be marriage. Because of the love of a man and a woman and their promise to join together as one, their families are also united. There is a changing and sharing of names. We celebrate the letting of blood in Holy Communion by remembering the Blood of Jesus being shed for our sin. As a sign we exchange rings. In other societies sometimes clothing was exchanged as when David and Jonathan entered into Covenant.
Perhaps is we were to know more about the meaning of covenant, the seriousness of covenant, we would not take marriage, baptism and even contractual obligations lightly.