As a missionary, one of my favorite things to teach, whether in a crusade, in village ministry, or in a small group setting, is what I call the covenant of exchange. The subject is easy to demonstrate in a way that even children can grasp. Many non-Western cultures can quickly identify with this practice, especially when tribal rituals include symbolic rituals.
If anyone understood this concept, David did. The covenant of exchange was a practice in which two persons sealed a binding covenant by exchanging attire. This covenant represented a basic principle: “I will become what you are, and you will become what I am, our souls are knit together as one.” Reading 1 Samuel 18, we can learn much about this unique practice.
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul … Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” (1 Samuel 18:1-4)
Because Jonathan was the royal son the offspring of the first King of Israel, he was dressed in the finest royal robes. The riches of the kingdom were at his disposal and his wishes were others’ commands. But he desired one thing – for David to have everything he had. Jonathan was so intent that he was willing to change places with him and to be all that David was.
David, on the other hand, was only a shepherd boy. He came from a meager home and was a servant to King Saul. He wore a simple cloak, which likely smelled of sweat and sheep.
Can you imagine how David must have felt when Jonathan began to remove his worn and rugged cloak and to place his own on David’s back? This passage attests to the love Jonathan had for David. This covenant was based on Jonathan’s love, not on David’s. David’s love for Jonathan is never mentioned in this passage.
I get so excited every time I consider the elements of the greatest covenant of exchange ever made!
Christ’s Covenant of Exchange
1 John 4:10 ~ “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Now, go back and change the names in the paragraph describing Jonathan’s exchange with David:
Because Jesus Christ was the royal son the offspring of the first King of kings and the Lord of lords, he was dressed in the robe of righteousness. The riches of the Kingdom of God were at his disposal and his Word held the power of creation. But He desired one thing – for us to have everything He had. Christ was so intent that He was willing to change places with us and to be all that we were. We, on the other hand, are only sinful flesh and blood, stained with guilt and shame. We came from a meager home and were servants to sin. We wore a simple cloak, which was stained with blood guiltiness and the filth of this world.
Now look at Revelation 19:13 ~ “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.”
Here we have the complete picture: You and I stand cleansed and pure and whole before Him wearing the robe of righteousness that Jesus took off His own back and placed on us while He wears the blood-stained vesture as a memorial to the sin and shame He took upon Himself but also as a memorial to the VICTORY He won over death, hell, and the grave.
Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Most High God, sought us out, loved us, and entered into a covenant of exchange with us. He bore our bloodstains and we stand dressed in the clean and unspotted garment known as the Robe of Righteousness. We could never earn such an undeserved exchange, but His love for us compelled Him to embrace us and covenant with us in the Greatest Exchange.
Praise Him today, saints … He proudly wears that vesture dipped in blood because He loves you. Wear your Robe of Righteousness with humility and honor and never bring disgrace to the Garment of His Righteousness. It came to Him at great cost – it was given to us freely. Hallelujah!
Father, how can I say thanks for all You have done for me? Your love, so undeserved, so pure, so awesome! Father, thank You for Your Son, for His love and for the covenant He entered into with us as we exchanged garments. I don’t deserve such a gift, and I don’t deserve such love! But I praise You that You saw fit to seek me out, to lavish Your love upon me, and to grant me the privilege to wear the Robe that represents the righteousness of the saints (Rev. 19:8)! Help me honor You in all I do, everywhere I go, and in all I say. Be glorified, Lord, in me, through me, and even in spite of me. In Jesus’ name, by His blood, and for His glory … Amen and Amen!
“And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” (1 Samuel 18:5)
© Jan Ross
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