For the about the past year I have been preaching through the Gospel of John in the Sunday Morning Service of the local church I serve. One the things I am discovering as I do so is the enormity of God’s grace displayed in the Incarnation. Further, I am in awe of how God has and is fulfilling His promise to Abraham not only in the Incarnation but in its continuing effects today. In order to understand the Abrahamic Covenant and why I see it as this important I want to take you on a tour through the first book of the Bible, Genesis.
In the book of Genesis, God reveals the history of the creation of the universe and introduces His plan for blessing all of mankind through the family of Abraham. Of course there are other aspects of the history of Israel and of mankind that are revealed as well, for instance the Fall, the consequences of the Fall resulting in the Flood, and the fullness of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The narrative of the Fall of Man into Sin comes very quickly in the book of Genesis, immediately following the Creation account in chapters One and Two. However, in addition to the curses that come with sin (pain in childbirth for the woman, toil and sweat in labor for food for the man, physical death and spiritual separation from Yahweh for all mankind, crawling on the belly for the serpent, and a general curse upon the ground) there is a “promise” of enmity between the serpent/Satan and man, along with a Conqueror that will come from the seed of man.
Sin itself being the source of the cursing of mankind with physical death and spiritual separation from Yahweh had more than a simple onetime effect. Indeed, the ongoing narrative of chapter Six reveals that Yahweh purposed to “blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land” (Genesis 6:7). At the same time that Yahweh determined to judge the earth He also demonstrated His mercy by looking upon Noah and choosing to save not only Noah but also his immediate family from destruction in the Flood. Yahweh’s sovereign election of Noah and his family is a foreshadowing of things to come not only in Genesis but throughout the Old Testament and indeed the entirety of Scripture, as Yahweh/God will also choose Abraham, Israel as a nation, and eventually individual believing Gentiles for salvation.
After Yahweh had accomplished the destruction of the earth by Flood, Noah offers sacrifices upon an altar (the first mention/occurrence in Scripture). In response, Yahweh determines to never destroy the earth again by flood (Genesis 8:21) and blesses Noah and his sons with a similar blessing that He had blessed Adam with in Genesis 9:1-2. Furthermore, Yahweh makes a covenant with Noah, his descendants, and every living thing, to let them know of His intention to never again destroy the earth by flood; in order that they may have a “proof” of the covenant, Yahweh gives a sign in the sky so that He shall remember the covenant that He has made (Genesis 9:15).
In the same way that Yahweh chose to save mankind from total destruction in the family of Noah, He also chose for Himself a people in the family of Abraham. In Genesis 12:1-3 Yahweh calls Abram (Abraham) out of Ur and tells him all the things He will do for him; i.e. make him a great nation, make his name great, bless and curse those that do the same to him, and best of all for the entirety of mankind, bless the nations. This, however, is not the actual covenant that Yahweh makes with Abraham.
In fulfillment of the promise to make Abraham a great nation, Yahweh promises him a son (Genesis 15:4) and then made a covenant with Abraham to not only do the things promised, but to also give his descendants a land in which to dwell. Abraham, being a man of many years believed, but did not seem to understand so he followed the council of his wife to conceive an heir by her maid Hagar. The son bore by Hagar however, was not the son of promise spoken of by the Lord. After the birth of Ishmael (Genesis 16:16) the Lord once again came to Abraham, giving him this name that most know him by (being named Abram before this in the narrative) and re-states the covenant which had been made as well as giving the sign of the covenant (circumcision of the males of Abraham’s family, descendants, and possession) which will be carried in the flesh of the men of Israel (Genesis 17:2-14). In obedience to the command of the Lord, Abraham circumcised all the males of his household from eight-days old and older.
In demonstration of His sovereignty, Yahweh opens the womb of Sarah, Abraham’s wife after the age of child-bearing and she conceived the son promised, Isaac. Abraham is tested by Yahweh concerning Isaac, when He commands that Abraham offer Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord. Abraham passes the test, and Isaac is spared by the Lord. Isaac, like his father, was visited by the Lord, Who affirmed His covenant with Abraham by promising to bless Isaac and his descendants (Genesis 26:24). Isaac had twin sons, Esau (technically the older) and Jacob. However, it is Jacob who would become the heir of Isaac, once again a second son becomes the heir of the father’s household. Through the sons of Jacob, Yahweh sovereignly places Joseph in position in Egypt to bring the family/tribe of Israel/Jacob (Abraham) to Egypt to sojourn during the time of the famine in the land of Canaan. The transplanting of the family to Egypt was in fulfillment of the words of the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, and Jacob’s obedience to the word of the Lord which came to him in a dream in Genesis 46:3-4.
God has revealed not only His work of creating the universe in the first book of Torah, but also how He sovereignly choses for Himself people individually, corporately in the future, and fulfills His word by causing all that He speaks to come to pass. Understanding this covenant God made with Abraham should create confidence in any reader of the New Testament upon learning of the sending of the Son into the world not for judgment first, but for the salvation of a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation – this salvation is the blessing of the nations through the Seed of Abraham.