We will need to define the word “covenant” in order to answer this excellent question. In W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary, he gives the following two definitions: 1) a PROMISE or undertaking on the part of God; and 2) an AGREEMENT, a mutual undertaking, between God and Israel. As we shall see, when God gives a PROMISE (#1), it is always UNCONDITIONAL, which means He will “keep this covenant” no matter what (in spite of the behavior of those with whom He makes the covenant). When God enters into an AGREEMENT (#2), it is CONDITIONAL, which means He will “keep the covenant” if those with whom He makes the covenant are obedient to the “terms of the covenant.”

There are TWO MAIN COVENANTS in the Bible; the OLD COVENANT of Law which He made with the nation of Israel, and the NEW COVENANT of Grace which He will make with the nation of Israel in a future day. We normally use the word “testament” in place of “covenant” and thus our Bibles are known as the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”  The Old Covenant officially began when God gave Israel, through Moses, the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17). In these Ten Commandments God was setting forth the CONDITIONS that Israel had to keep in order for God to keep His part of the AGREEMENT. There were other “commandments” added to these, but they were all related to these Ten Commandments which were given to govern every area of Israel’s religious and civil life. In short, they told Israel how to live BEFORE GOD and BEFORE MAN. If Israel was obedient to them, God would BLESS THEM; if Israel was disobedient to them, God would CURSE THEM. I would encourage you to read Leviticus 26:1-13 to see some of the BLESSINGS they would experience if they were obedient. God assured them that He would “keep this covenant” in verse 9, “For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and CONFIRM MY COVENANT WITH YOU.” In verses 14-39 God outlines the CURSES they would experience if they were disobedient. Verse 25 speaks of God’s punishment for their “breaking the covenant”: “And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the VENGEANCE OF THE COVENANT.”

Thank God there is a NEW COVENANT! As we saw, the Old Covenant of Law was conditioned upon Israel’s obedience. If they “kept the Law” God would “bless them”; if they “broke the Law” God would “curse them.” In the New Covenant there are no laws demanding obedience and cursing them for disobedience; instead, God will bless them with forgiveness and a new heart based upon the work Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. This UNCONDITIONAL COVENANT is beautifully expressed in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, the days are coming, say the LORD, when I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I had with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, My COVENANT WHICH THEY BROKE, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…. for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” So, God will “keep this covenant” no matter what, for there are “no strings attached.” It is based solely on “God’s unconditional PROMISE” and God never breaks His promises! The apostle Paul spoke about this covenant to Israel and how God will make good His promise in Romans 11:26 & 28, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins…For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Before we close, it should be mentioned that even though the New Covenant will be made with Israel, believers today are “under the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant.” Our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s death for us and the shedding of His blood. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (of which we partake) He took bread and said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Then He took the cup and said, “This cup is the NEW COVENANT in My blood, which is shed for you” (verse 20). Every blessing we (believers who make up the church of God) have is based on Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins and His redeeming blood (see 1st Corinthians 15:1-4; 1st Peter 1:18-19; 3:18) and His death and the shedding of His blood is what the New Covenant is based on. Hebrews 13:20 speaks to this, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT.” I would encourage you to read and study 2nd Corinthians 3:1-10 and Hebrews 8:1-10:18 where the apostle Paul contrasts these TWO COVENANTS. You will see that God is indeed a “Covenant-keeping God.” You will also see clearly that the Old Covenant of Law could only condemn us while the New Covenant of Grace blesses us with forgiveness and countless blessings through the finished work of Jesus Christ. I would also encourage you to read about other “unconditional covenants” that God made with Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3 & 15:1-7, 18) and David (see 2nd Samuel 7:8-16). These PROMISES are also based on God’s GRACE alone and “God’s ‘keeps His promises.’”  (485.5)  (DO)