The underlying reasons for what took place on September 11, 2001, and the war currently underway with militant Islam, emerged thousands of years ago from a promise God made regarding a small sliver of Mediterranean land. Before the planes hit the towers people didn’t know who the attackers were or what they were mad about, but it all goes back to the promise of this land.
We know from previous articles that a covenant is a legally recognized and binding agreement between a party of two or more people.
We have learned that the one who ratifies the covenant maintains the responsibility for upholding it.
The Abrahamic Covenant
Today, we’re going to look at the ratification of the second covenant God makes with man, the Abrahamic Covenant. I want to first guide you through Genesis 12–17 and then we’ll finish with a tie-in to the New Testament.
What we do today is vitally important to the life and ministry of Jesus. In this covenant we find the reason for His birth, His death, His resurrection, and His second coming. Let’s begin…
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
When we looked at this passage previously we took note of all the future tenses used. God has not yet brought this to pass but just as with the Noahic Covenant, He informs the receiving party of His intentions to act.
God promises three things in this passage:
- A specific land
- A people, seed, and lineage
- A worldwide blessing
We will come across the blessing of the land over and over again in Scripture. God reiterates the importance of the land in verse 7.
God does not reveal at this time how all of this will come about. On this side of the cross, we have the privilege of knowing that this will all be accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ, but this is all still well down the road for the original recipients.
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
Again, God uses the future tense verbs to indicate an event to come at a later time but this time He applies the word forever to the covenant promise. This is a big, big deal. If you mark your Bibles, you’ll want to circle this one and we’ll come back to it in just a bit.
If you missed last week’s article, I invite you to go back and read it because Genesis 15 is the point of Abraham’s salvation. Here is a man who had gone on a religious journey but was not saved. He talked to God but was not saved. God promised him blessings but he was not saved. This doesn’t mean he was a bad guy; it just means he wasn’t saved until Genesis 15.6.
And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”
He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?”
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
The Hebrew word for covenant is based on the word, cut, so in a sense, they cut covenants. The reason they cut them was typically because Chaldean covenants involved the cutting of an animal. People would not enter into these covenants lightly because the process was a solemn one.
Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
God does not say to Abraham, Abraham I’m making a covenant with you and you’re going to sleep through the whole thing. Remember, whoever makes the covenant has the responsibility for bringing about what it says. Technically speaking, God and Abraham didn’t make the covenant. Abraham sleeps through the whole thing. God does everything. Abraham is asleep because God wants him to be, not because Abraham chose to be.
I hope you’ll notice that covenants never just happen. They are always an agreement that must be actively entered into.
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.
For the second time in Biblical history God has entered into a covenant relationship with someone. He does not have to–He chooses to. This is going to play a very important role in where we go from here.
No longer are we dealing with the future tense. God said he has given them the land. It’s a done deal. The terms of the finished covenant are everlasting, established forever with Abraham and his descendants and specifically ratified by God alone, leaving the responsibilities of maintaining it solely in His possession.
God lists all the people who are currently inhabiting the land (Genesis 15.19-21) and tells Abraham that one day his people are going to come back and take it from them. This will ultimately occur at the time of Joshua.
I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.
The covenant will be everlasting. The word used here for everlasting is the same word used for everlasting when referring to the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9.16. Would anyone argue that the Noahic covenant is no longer in effect or that it has somehow fizzled out?
Bridging the Abrahamic Covenant with the New Testament
In Matthew 1.1 the author refers to Jesus as the son of Abraham. Now, to us this doesn’t mean a whole lot, but to a Jew this is indispensable. Matthew validates Jesus as one of the promised descendants of Abraham, showing that Jesus could physically trace His lineage back to Abraham making Him a verified Jew! God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic Covenant is brought front and center in the first verse of the New Testament.
Christmas plays typically begin the story with Luke 2 but without Luke 1 there cannot be a Luke 2. Luke 1 brings forth promises God made centuries before (especially remembering the Abrahamic Covenant, and later in the same passage, the Davidic Covenant). The birth of Jesus in Luke 2, is one more step toward God keeping His promises, but not the total fulfillment for there is much more later to come. People who start with Luke 2, yet leave out Luke 1, overlook promises God gave many centuries before. Nothing in Luke 2 just happens; everything is a response by God to what He had promised before.
If we didn’t have Luke 1, look what we would miss at the end of Mary’s Magnificat:
He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1.54.-55)
Mary ends her Magnificat statement by pointing back to the eternal nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. Not only does she reference the everlasting covenant, but she also ties it to Jesus. God has not forgotten His covenant, nor has He forgotten His people. The single, predetermined plan of God remains on schedule and will not be shaken.
Beloved, this is just the beginning. The Abrahamic Covenant will show up over and over again as we explore the Story of Jesus in Scripture. I hope you will join me most Mondays for this critical journey.
Dr. Greg Harris
Church: Teaching Pastor at Lake Hills Community Church
Education: B.A. Campbell University
M.A. NC Central University
M.Div Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.M Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.D Dallas Theological Seminary
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Author: The Cup and the Glory, The Darkness and the Glory, and The Stone and the Glory