When looking at the word covenant, it would do us well to understand what it means. In its simplicity, the word covenant means agreement between two parties containing their promises to each other. A covenant is binding to all parties and as such, is really a stronger word than "promise". A promise made to do something is not "legally" binding.
There are many covenants in the Bible, but there are actually very few between God and man. Like most theological issues, there are many differing opinions as to how many actual covenants there are in the Bible. Many hold that the first covenant was the one made in the Garden of Eden between God and Adam and Eve. This covenant can be found in Genesis 2:15-17. This covenant had with it the strict prohibition of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed the direct command of God and ate, the "Edenic Covenant" was terminated. God can and does author covenants and He can terminate them when man breaks his promise. God cannot Himself break a covenant for if He did, He would be breaking His own Word.
The next covenant, which again is not universally agreed upon as being a true covenant, is the one God made with Adam after his sin. If this is actually a covenant, it is really the covenant with humankind for it sets forth the terms and conditions to be in place until Jesus came. This covenant can be found in Genesis 3:14-21.
The first time covenant is actually used is in Genesis 6:18 when God promised Noah that he and his family would be protected and spared from the upcoming destruction in the flood. God certainly kept His promise didn't He? After the flood, comes the "Noahic Covenant". In many respects this covenant is very similar to the original covenant God made with Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 only without any references to eating fruit.
The basic provisions of the covenant God made with Noah are:
A rainbow was never intended to provide a path to a pot of gold, but rather as God's eternal evidence that He will never again flood this earth as He did in Noah's time. There may be, and are still floods, but never again will there be a universal flood over the entire earth.
Due to the consequences of the great flood, the first two provisions of the covenant God made with Noah are indeed identical to that which was given to Adam and Eve. But, the permission to eat the flesh of animals is new to the Noahic Covenant, as is the prohibition of shedding another man's blood. This provision, as far as I know, has never been overturned. Thus, just as God gave Moses the commandment of "Thou shall not kill (murder)" so the firm command of God remains today against deliberately killing another human.
Of course the greatest of the Old Testament covenants is the Abrahamic Covenant as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3:
"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.
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
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."
Just as with the covenant God made with Noah, there are no conditions mentioned in this first occasion where the Abrahamic Covenant is brought up. Thus, this covenant represents pure grace. It is unconditional and is based upon God's declaration that HE WILL:
The fullness of this covenant is found in later chapters where God goes into greater detail. To get the total scope of this incredible covenant, please look at the following scriptures some time: Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:1-7; Genesis 15:18-21; and Genesis 17:1-8. The covenant God made with Abraham displays God's purpose and plan through all the ages. This covenant reflects God's will for His people, both personally as well as collectively.
Isn't it significant that the Messiah, who according to the flesh was Abraham's son, ends up providing salvation for the entire world? Isn't it significant that Israel laid claim to the promise made to Abraham to a great nation, even when they disobeyed God at every opportunity? Isn't it interesting that very people trying to destroy the Messiah claimed that Abraham was their father in John 8?
At the root of the Abrahamic Covenant is the blessing of God through His grace. But, just as God demanded faith from Abraham, so anyone who claims that Abraham is their father must manifest the same undiluted and pure faith that marked Abraham apart from all others. The blessing promised in the covenant came by pure grace, but that which appropriated it was pure faith.
Abraham was subject to countless trials and tests of his faith. He was not perfect (think Hagar) but he still manifested more faith than any person since Noah. Whether in living as a nomad, believing in the promise of a son, the willingness to sacrifice his son if need be or the carrying out of circumcision; Abraham was truly the father of faith. He also was more blessed in more ways than perhaps any man who ever lived.
I leave you with God's testimony to the faith of Abraham as found in Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19:
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, no knowing where he was going.
By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.
For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude-innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore."
"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 sain, ‘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."
There is, in all the Bible no greater man of faith than Abraham. It is no secret why God chose to make the amazing covenant He did with him. May we all learn from our "father in faith" to trust God more and the world less. May we, as he did, so believe in our God that nothing stands in the way of our obedience to His Word. As we will see next time, Abraham is the perfect way to understand what Jesus Christ did and offers in the New Covenant. Until then, may the blessings of Abraham be yours.
Years ago, I was teaching a class using a series called "That The World May Know Him" written by Ray Vander Laan. I remember my reaction when he explained what was going on in Genesis 15 in regards to Abraham being commanded to bring a heifer, goat, ram, dove and young pigeon to God. He split the mammals in half and kept the birds whole. They would have been laid opposite of each other on inclines facing one another so that the blood ran down and a "blood path" was made in between them.
I won't say anything more as you may be planning to address this in your next blog but suffice it to say that it is a beautiful picture of God's love and grace towards us.
I also couldn't help but think of how God calls each one of us to leave the land we were "born into" and follow Him so that we may receive our inheritance in the land He has promised us...where we will dwell with Him forever. We too, must walk by faith with our eyes on the promise as Abraham did and not by sight!
Abraham's faith reminds me of the following hymn:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my Great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Truly may He be our Vision throughout our life's journey with faith sustaining us.
Amen and Amen dear sisters in Christ!!!
There is so much to learn from and live by when looking at Abraham. He has to be one of the most important person's in the Bible as far as understanding faith.