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Covenants

Understanding Prophecy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:44
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Understanding prophecy.
Intro:
Bible Prophecy!
People fascinated by it. Even some who do not believe wonder what the Bible says will happen. It is not uncommon to read news articles that refer to things, and call them “apocalyptic,” a term from the bible.
People are curious. They want to know.
Why should we study prophecy?
As we shared the first week, one reason to study prophecy is to see just how true and trustworthy the Word of God really is! It is unique! It is the only religious book that has foretold things hundreds of years in advance, which have happened just as described in the Bible.
We need to know this, and share it with others who want to know why we believe. One reason is because God has proven that what He says in the Bible is true through prophecy.
We also study prophecy to find encouragement and hope. That is something that I hope you will find today as we continue our study.
We began our series on Understanding Prophecy by laying some foundations.
Foundations:
What is prophecy
How to interpret prophecy
Covenants
Prophecy is God revealing things to us. Sometimes He revealed things from the past to help people understand and worship. Sometimes He revealed things in the present. And, sometimes, about 28% of the Bible when it was recorded, was God revealing what would happen in the future.
Most often, that is what people are talking about when they talk about Bible Prophecy.
Last week, we took time to look at how to interpret prophecy. How do we understand what God was getting at when He revealed things to come in the future.
We looked at examples of God revealing what would happen in the future that have been fulfilled, and saw that every time God said something would happen in the future, it was fulfilled literally like He said.
Some would say that those thing in the past are one matter, but apocalyptic literature like Revelation and Daniel need to be interpreted differently.
Interestingly enough, a lot of what God revealed about the future to Daniel has already been fulfilled, and all that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally as God said. So, why would we read those parts of Daniel that have not yet been fulfilled a different way? Why would we expect God to fulfill the other things He revealed any way other than literally like He has done so far?
We also saw that the word for apocalypse simply means “revealed”, and in Revelation where it is used, it is called revelation, and it is called prophecy. Why, because prophecy is what God reveals! We don’t have to read certain books or passages in a different way. We can and should interpret them in a normal way, like we do the rest of scripture.
Today, we want to talk about Covenants.
Covenants are actually a huge topic. Today, I hope to simply summarize some of the important issues around biblical covenants which will help us understand prophecy.
And, believe it or not, this does relate to mother’s day. How? Let me tell you… when we get there.
Puzzle illustration. I read this from someone else, and thought this is a good illustration.
Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle? Where do you start? What do you put together first?
Many people, myself included, put together the outside of the puzzle. It helps to establish the framework for the whole puzzle. Everything has to fit within the frame.
Covenants are much like the outside of the puzzle. God used covenants to help us see what He is doing, and where we are going. Everything that is going to happen, fits within the framework of the Covenants.

What is a covenant?

Covenants were agreements between two parties that bound them together. Covenants were serious business, unlike how contracts are treated today. If someone were to not fulfill their part of a covenant, their reputation, even their life was on the line.
Nations would enter into covenants. Individuals would enter into covenants. God would enter into covenants with men.
In some covenants, one party was swearing to do certain things.
In other covenants, both parties had to meet certain obligations.
In most covenants, there were blessings for following through, or curses for not following through.

What were the Biblical Covenants?

In the Bible, we find many different covenants. For example there was a covenant between Abraham and Abimelech. David an Jonathan made a covenant.
However, when speaking of biblical covenants, typically people are focusing on covenants between God and people.
What were those covenants?

Edenic Covenant

This is found in Genesis 1:28-30, 2:15-17.
This was when God blessed Adam and Eve, and gave them their responsibilities. They were to multiply and fill the earth. They were to rule over the earth. They were to rule over the animals. They were to eat freely, but not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they ate of it, they would surely die.

Adamic Covenant

This is found in Genesis 3:16-21, but finds grace in Genesis 3:15 with the promise of the one born of a woman who would destroy the power of, and damage done by, the serpent.

Noahic Covenant

Genesis 9:1-17. God blesses Noah and tells his family to multiply and fill the earth. He gave them a new diet, and He gave them corporal punishment. He then promised to never again destroy the whole world with a flood, and gave the sign of the rainbow.

Abrahamic Covenant

which we will spend our time on today.

Mosaic Covenant

The covenant given to Israel at Mount Sinai, and reiterated in Deuteronomy.

Palestinian/Land Covenant

which we will explain on another occasion

Davidic Covenant

We will also talk about on another day.

New Covenant

Which we will also talk about on another occasion.
Today, our focus is the Abrahamic Covenant, because this one has a lot of significance for things yet to come.

Abrahamic Covenant

This was a covenant between God and Abraham. God revealed Himself to Abram when he was in Ur, and again later in Haran.
Let’s look at what God told Abram.
Genesis 12:1–3 NIV
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Notice here that Abram was given some instructions. He had to leave His country, people and father’s household and go to another land that God promised to show him.
Then God gave blessings:
I will make you into a great nation
I will bless you
I will make your name great
You will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.
Through you all peoples on earth will be blessed.
Many times we separate these into 3 types of blessings, or 3 aspects of blessing.
Personal
National
Universal
Personally, God is going to bless Abram, and give Him a great reputation. He is going to take care of him.
Nationally, God is going to make his descendants into a nation.
Universally, everyone in the world will be blessed through Abram.
Did these things take place? If you read the account of Abram;s, later called Abraham’s, life, you will see that God did indeed bless him personally.
Did God bless Him nationally? Not in his lifetime.
Did God bless the world through him? Not in his lifetime, but yes, through Jesus!
Did God literally do these things, or only figuratively? He literally did these things.
Notice how God put this covenant. The wording of covenants is very important. How is this all going to happen? What is the basis upon which this will take place? Depending upon Abram’s performance? no. God simply says, “I will.” Over and over He says, “I will.”
This is a covenant that is dependent upon the Lord keeping to what He said. Which is good, because as you follow the life of Abram, you see he was not perfect! Yet God was still faithful.
Now, scripture points out later, that covenants cannot be set aside or added to once they are established. They can be replaced if they are broken. However it can not be set aside for any other reason.
Though it could not be added to, it could be clarified, and spelled out more clearly later.
That happens a lot with the Abrahamic Covenant. This covenant is the main covenant of Scripture.
Genesis 12:7 NIV
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
Once Abram was in the land God showed Him, God spoke to Abram about those national blessings. The nation coming from Abram would live in this land.
Genesis 13:14–17 NIV
The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
Notice that word forever? It is kind of significant. Remember, God said this. Does God lie? No.
Later, God gives more detail about how this nation will come to be. We find that in Genesis 15.
Genesis 15 NIV
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Genesis 17:3–8 NIV
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Genesis 22:16–18 NIV
and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Hebrews 6:13–18 NIV
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.
God does not change. His purposes do not change. He does not lie.
Wow! What a comfort! What a hope! He will do what He says. He will never change or lie!

Passed to Isaac

Genesis 26:2–5 NIV
The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”
Genesis 26:24 NIV
That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
Why was God blessing Isaac? Because of Abraham. That is a real key to this covenant, and how it relates to today, and to the future.

Passed to Jacob / Israel

Genesis 28:13–15 NIV
There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Who is this dependent upon? The Lord. Again, God uses the wording, “I will.” this is not dependent upon Jacob’s behavior, which is a good thing. At this point, even after this vision, Jacob is not following or walking with the Lord.

Key: Because of God’s oath to Abraham

Genesis 50:24 NIV
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Exodus 2:24 NIV
God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
Deuteronomy 9:5–6 NIV
It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
2 Kings 13:23 NIV
But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.
Micah 7:18–20 NIV
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.
Luke 1:67–73 NIV
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
Acts 3:25–26 NIV
And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Now, what does this have to do with Mother’s Day?
Isaiah 49:15–16 NIV
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 66:13 NIV
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Abrahamic Covenant - Proof that God loves with an everlasting love, and always does what He says, despite our failings.

Homework:
Review: What is prophecy? Read the life of Joseph. Genesis 37, 39-50. It is lengthy. What did God reveal? Make a list. How was what God revealed fulfilled?
Review: Interpretation. Some people say that those things which are yet to be fulfilled, should be interpreted figuratively, or with a spiritual meaning instead of taking them literally. Today, many refer to “apocalyptic literature” needing to be interpreted differently than other scripture. Read Daniel 2. In the vision of the idol, God gave the meaning. God ‘revealed’ the meaning. Much of what God revealed has already happened. Most people recognize the head of Gold was Babylonian Empire. The Silver was Persian Empire. The Bronze was the Greek Empire. The Iron was the Roman empire, which did split into two empires, the eastern and western. Later, the Roman empire split further. All of these empires came and went, one after the other, just as God said. They were literal empires on earth. The last empire comes and destroys the others. It becomes an everlasting kingdom. If the other kingdoms were literal kingdoms on earth, why would we change this for the last kingdom? Think about this.
Read the passages in which God describes the Abrahamic Covenant. Genesis 12:2-4, 7; 13:14-17; 15:12-21 ; 17:3-8. Who is the one doing the actions of the covenant? Why is God doing this? Because Abraham follows perfectly? In Genesis 15, why did God go through the animals, and Abraham did not?
Read the following passages. Why did God continue to work with Israel, even after all of their rebellion against Him, time and time again? Gen 50:24; Exo 2:24; Deu 9:5-6; 2 Kng 13:23; Mic 7:18-20; Luk 1:67-73; Act 3:25-26.
Read Hebrews 6:13-18. This was written to Jewish Christians, though some were thinking of going back to Judaism. Why was it important that God swore on oath to Abraham?
Read Isaiah 49:15-16. How does this verse, and God’s working with Israel encourage you?
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