Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Abrahamic Covenant

I wish to explore the terms and conditions of the Abrahamic Covenant.  We will be focusing on Genesis 12 through Genesis 17.  Now, there are parts of the history (i.e. Abraham going to Egypt, Lot going to the plain of Jordan, etc.) that we will be skipping because they are not necessarily tied to the Covenant.  I'm not avoiding context since these passages of scripture do not contain God expressing a term of the Covenant.  I will also be referring to Abraham as Abraham (with full understanding his name was change from Abram to Abraham during this time.)

Genesis 12 begins with the Lord telling Abraham that he needs to leave home and go to a land that God has prepared for him.   Then, in verse 2, God tells Abraham that He will make of Abraham a great nation and He will make his name great and that he will be blessing.  Since the context of the verse is dealing with Abraham's becoming a great nation, I conclude that his greatness and blessing will be of global significance.  And, indeed verse 3 says just that.  Through Abraham, all families of the earth would be blessed.  Abraham packs up his wife and his brother, Lot, and they travel to Canaan.  Upon arriving in Canaan, God told Abraham that this land was to be his and his seed's forever.

Let's summarize the Covenant thus far

1.  God promises that Abraham and his seed would be a source of blessing to the world
2.  God promises Abraham and his seed would be a great nation
3.  God promises Abraham a land for his seed forever.

Now, Abraham is a little concerned because up to this point, Abraham had no children.  So, we see God promising seed to Abraham in Genesis 15.  God adds a further promise that Abraham's seed will be numbered as the stars of heaven.  Now, this is where it gets very interesting.  God is about to make this Covenant "legal."  He instructs Abraham to cut animals in half and make an aisle.  In those days, when two people wished to make a contract about something, they would cut animals in half and walk down the aisle while interlocking arms.  It was a blood contract and the implication was that if you didn't keep your end of the deal, you would end up just like the slain animals.  So, God walks down the aisle with Abraham, right?  Wrong.  The grace of God comes in and causes a great sleep to come upon Abraham and God Himself walked down the aisle.  God conditioned this covenant upon Himself.  Therefore, to Abraham, it is now an unconditional covenant.

Abraham has a child with Hagar, his maidservant.  The son's name is Ishmael.  God isn't pleased because he promised the blessing to pass through Abraham's natural seed.  The natural seed would be from Abraham and his wife, Sara.  Abraham, in a moment of unbelief, takes things into his own hands.  But, remember, this covenant is unconditional.  God again displays grace and gives Abraham and Sara a child, Isaac - by which the covenant blessing would pass. 

We get to Genesis 17:7 and God tells Abraham that not only is this covenant for Abraham, but it will be an everlasting covenant to his seed.  The sign of this covenant was circumcision.  (Remember, the Jew requires a sign I Corinthians 1:22).

So, the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional and everlasting and says that the seed of Abraham would be the source of blessing to the world; a great nation; and possessors of their land, forever.

This covenant is the "grand daddy" of all covenants in the Bible.  All proceeding covenants must flow through this one.  If this covenant is unconditional and everlasting, then no new covenant made between God and Israel can nullify the covenant made with Abraham but only amplify it.  (Galatians 3:17)

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