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God’s Covenant with Abraham March 11, 2007

Posted by Kevin in Abraham, Abram, Covenant, Genesis 12.
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This was the topic in our Sunday School Class (er, I mean, Bible Study) this morning. We studied Genesis chapter 12. The Abrahamic Covenant may offer more questions than answers. I know it certainly does for me. Here are some of the questions that I have:

  • Does it promise Israel permanent existence as a nation?
  • Does it promise Israel permanent ownership of the promised land?
  • Is the covenant conditional or unconditional in nature?
  • If it is conditional, then the fulfillment of its promises is dependent upon the obedience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel.
  • If the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional, then is the fulfillment of its promises dependent upon the faithfulness of God to His word, or upon man’s obedience?

Do you need a refresher on the basics of the covenant between God and Abram (Abraham)? If so, turn in your Bible to Genesis 12 and again in chapter 15.

There are three main features to the Abrahamic Covenant.

  1. God promises Abram land (lots of it!). The promise of land is found in Genesis 12:1. God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him. This promise is reiterated in Genesis 13:14–18 where it is confirmed by a shoe covenant; its dimensions are given in Genesis 15:18–21 along with the dead animals and the stroll through the carcasses.
  2. God promises descendants (lots of them!). God promised Abram that He (God) would make a great nation out of him. Abram, who was 75 years old and childless at the time (Sarai is barren at this point), was promised many descendants. This promise is further explained in Genesis 17:6 where God promised that nations and kings would descend from the him. This promise leads to the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7:12–16 and would lead to King David’s throne and ultimately with King Jesus.
  3. God promises blessings (again, lots of them) and redemption (final, full and free!). God promised to bless Abram and all the families of the earth through him. This promise is further defined in the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31–34 as well as Hebrews 8:6–13, and has to do with “Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption.” Jeremiah 31:34 anticipates the forgiveness of sin and points us ultimately toward the cross and Easter.

I cannot escape the “unconditional” nature of this covenant. In fact, Abram is sound asleep during the covenant ceremony. God, and God alone, in the form of fire and smoke walked among the animal carcasses. This is a divine indicator that there was really nothing Abram could have done any way. At least not at this part of the process.

Now, does that mean that Abram did not have a real and active part in living out the covenant? Absolutely, Abram had a part. His part was to walk with God and follow where He led. His part was to keep his eyes on God as God led him out of Ur of the Chaldees and into a land that Abram knew absolutely nothing about.

His part is just like our part. We are to walk with God on the same sort of “faith walk” that Abram went on. We are to walk with God daily. And daily we are to commit to upholding our part of the covenant. But, we like Abram, do not have the power and ability to do even our part on our own. Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a holy life, a covenant life.

There is much more to be said about the twelfth chapter of Genesis. I particularly like the last few verses where we see pharaohs and plagues and deliverance out of Egypt. What an incredible foreshadowing of events that would take place some 430 years later. But, I will save that for another blog post.

What are your thoughts about this chapter and story of Abram’s life?

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