COVENANT- a contract or agreement between two parties. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word berith is always thus translated. Berith is derived from a root which means “to cut,” and hence a covenant is a “cutting,” with reference to the cutting or dividing of animals into two parts, and the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant (Gen. 15; Jer. 34:18, 19).
The Abrahamic Covenant is the oldest of the four major covenants. It is the source of the three covenants that follow. (Mosaic, Davidic, New)
God first appeared to Abram (later called Abraham) while he was still living in the city of Ur, located along the shores of the Euphrates River, in modern-day Iraq.
God told Abram to leave the security of his own country, the familiarity of his own brethren, and the heritage of his father's home and make his way to a strange and distant land that God would show him Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.
In connection with the divine command, God gave to Abraham five promises:
1- He promised that He would make of him a great nation (though at that time he had no heir).
2- He promised that He would bless Abram (He became a wealthy man).
3- He promised Abram that He would make his name great. Today, Abraham has a great name among:
#. Muslims who view him as one of their prophets;
- Jews who call Abraham “the father” of their nation;
- Christians who trace their spiritual heritage to him.
4- He promised Abram that he would be a blessing. Having been blessed by God, that blessing has flowed to others through the Lord Jesus Christ whose humanity is traced to Abraham.
Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." AND
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
5- He promised Abram that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him
Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." That principle can be traced through history to men and nations in relation to their treatment of the Jewish people.
Once Abram reached the “promised land,” God appeared to him the second time. The Bible records that event with a minimum of words:
Genesis 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
It was at the very center of biblical Judea and Samaria (today's West Bank) where God appeared to the father of the Jewish nation and promised that land to his seed as an everlasting inheritance.
A third time God appeared to Abram and reiterated the promise of a land and seed.
Genesis 13:14-17 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are -- northward, southward, eastward, and westward; "for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. "Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you."
A fourth time the Lord appeared unto Abram. The patriarch had only recently, in a daring raid, successfully rescued his nephew Lot who had been taken captive by four powerful kings from the East
Genesis 14:12 They also took Lot, Abram's brother's son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
Returning from that victory, he pledged his allegiance to God and refused the spoils of the battle
Genesis 14:23 "that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich'.
With the passing of time, Abram began to question his actions. Had he acted hastily in acknowledging God as his Master? And should he have taken some of the spoils of war?
Genesis 15:15 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." But Abram said, "Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
Abram's response to the Lord's promise is probably the most important testimony of faith found anywhere in the Scriptures. The Word of God simply states in:
Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, [the Lord's promise of a seed from his own body that would eventually become as numerous as the stars of heaven] and He [God] accounted it to him [Abram's faith] for righteousness.
The word believed in the expression “and he believed in the Lord” comes from the Hebrew root from which we get the word “amen.” It could be said that Abram “amened” or “affirmed” the Lord's promise of a seed that would come from his own loins and through which the world would experience blessing.
Not only did God promise Abram a seed, but He also restated His promise of the land.
Genesis 15:7 Then He said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it."
Abram understood that his God was his Lord and he was but a servant.
He asked in Genesis 15:8 "Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?"
Abram was saying “Give me some affirmation, a covenant, as a formal guarantee of Your promise.
In response, God commanded Abram to kill some animals and cut each into two pieces.
Genesis 15:9-10 So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon." Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
He then caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram
Genesis 15:12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
A deep sleep fell upon Abram, not a common sleep through weariness or carelessness, but a divine sleep, like that which the Lord God caused to fall upon Adam.
With this sleep, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. How sudden a change! But just before we had him soothing himself in the comforts of God's covenant, and in communion with him; and here a horror of great darkness falls upon him. Note: The children of light do not always walk in the light, but sometimes clouds and darkness are surround them. This great darkness, which brought horror with it, was designed:
#. To strike an awe upon the spirit of Abram, and to possess him with a holy reverence, that the familiarity to which God was pleased to admit him might not breed contempt. Note: Holy fear prepares the soul for holy joy; the spirit of bondage makes way for the spirit of adoption. God wounds first, and then heals; humbles first, and they lifts up.
- To be a specimen of the methods of God's dealings with his seed. They must first be in the horror and darkness of Egyptian slavery, and then enter with joy into the good land; and therefore he must have the foretaste of their sufferings, before he had the foresight of their happiness.
- To be an indication of the nature of the covenant which God was about to make with Abram.
While Abram slept, the presence of God passed between the severed pieces of animals
Genesis 15:17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
God's action was highly irregular. Normally, in the consummating of a covenant, an animal was slain, its parts severed, and the covenant parties together passed between the slain animals; the idea being, Let what was done to this animal be done to me if I do not fulfill my part of the covenant. In this instance, God alone passed between the slain animals.
Genesis 15:18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.
The covenant, cut in blood, was the official confirmation of God's promises to Abram of a nation, Israel; of a seed that would come through that nation, Christ.
(Galatians 3:14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.); and of blessing that would flow to people from every tongue, tribe, nation, who would believe in God's Word and the provision for sin through Christ's work on Calvary.
That Abram fell into a deep, supernaturally imposed sleep and God alone passed through the slain and cut animals indicates the unilateral (singular), rather that bilateral (dual), character of the Abrahamic Covenant.
God alone had passed between the slain and severed sacrifice. The point to understand is that neither Abram nor his descendants had to do anything to keep the covenant in effect and binding upon God. It was a unilateral and therefore unconditional covenant.
It is important to note that faith in the covenant was the requirement for participation. Lineal descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not bring blessing. The worshipper had to exhibit faith in the provision of God's covenant.
Abraham demonstrated his immovable faith in God's promise by willingly offering up Isaac as a sacrifice, believing that God would keep His word that “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”. That God would even raise Isaac from the dead, if He took his life.
Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
So pleased was God in His servant's willing obedience (evidence of his faith) that God took an oath. Oaths in the ancient world were always made in someone or something outside of and greater than oneself. If an oath was taken in someone or something less significant than oneself, the oath would have no value. But since there is nothing and no one greater than God, when God took this oath, He took it in Himself. God said:
Genesis 22:16-18 and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son -- "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
In Genesis 12, God sovereignly gave promises to Abraham. Later He formalized His promises to Abraham with a covenant (Genesis 15). And then, as a direct result of Abraham's faith, God guaranteed His promise with His oath. He said to Abraham. “By myself have I sworn (Genesis 22:16).
The hope set before us is the return of Christ to consummate the blessing promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. Every spiritual blessing which men have know for the last four thousand years, every joy and confidence which the true Church possesses, is totally dependent upon the covenant which God made with the father of the Jewish people.
Everything of spiritual benefit is dependent upon the provision of the unconditional character of the Abrahamic Covenant.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,[through the loins of Abraham] that whoever believes in Him [exhibits faith as father Abraham did] should not perish but have everlasting life [be the recipient of divine blessing as promised].
John 3:16 is often said to be the Gospel in a nutshell. It is so simple that a child can comprehend it and so complex that the wisest people of history cannot understand its depths. It is all based on the provision of the unconditional covenant which God made with the father of the Jewish people.
* That is why, defying logic, the Jews are still around.
- That is why they are frequently at the center of world-shaking events.
- That is why their ultimate destiny of greatness is assured.