God’s Covenant with Abraham :: By Sean Gooding

Genesis 15

Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at God’s promises to the nation of Israel. It is clear that God is not done with Israel. Jesus, as we have pointed out, is a Jew, born in the line of Judah and through Mary, the rightful heir to David’s throne. In 1 Kings 9:5, we see this promise to David,

“Then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'”

There are many other verses like this, but God often makes a promise to David that He, God, will establish David’s throne forever and that he, David, will always have a man to sit on the throne of Israel.

In Psalm 89: 30-37, we find these verses,

“If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, If they violate My statutes And do not keep My commandments, Then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My loving-kindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness, I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.

God promises not to break the promises nor lie to David concerning his descendants; God promises David that his throne will endure forever and that it will be established forever. These are promises that are rooted in the passage that we are going to explore today. God made promises to Abraham; these are passed on to Isaac and Jacob. This particular promise that we will explore is conformed to us in the Hebrews 6,

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (NKJV).

This is all a bit of setup to give us some context for the lesson in Genesis 15. This is a strange chapter if you are not familiar with the history of the time and the idea here. This all sounds like a gruesome ritual, and yet it is important. God used some of the customs of man at the time to set up a covenant with Abraham. So, let’s explore this ritual and see what God did here.

God comforts Abram and assures him that He is on his side. In Genesis 15:7, He makes a promise that He, God, will give Abram the land as an inheritance. Abram asks ‘How will I know?” A legit question. God then sets about to use a common ritual that Abram would have been familiar with to establish this promise. In Genesis 15: 9-10, here is the instruction,

“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.”

This was a common occurrence in Abram’s time. Two kings or chiefs from warring nations in particular, or at least two nations, would make a covenant of peace. They would take an animal or animals and cut them in half, allowing the blood to pool in between them. Then, the two parties would walk through the blood and, by so doing, establish whatever covenant they had made. This covenant was in force until one of the parties died. This is where the ritual takes a bit of a turn. God allows Abram to fall asleep, 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.”

This leaves just God to perform the ritual, and He swears this promise in verses 18-19,

“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 Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.'”

God did the ‘swearing’; Abram had nothing to do with it. God swore by Himself, and since He will never die, the promise is still in effect today. The land belongs to the descendants of Abram; it is an eternal promise that God must keep because, as God said to David, He, God, cannot lie, and for David to have a man on the throne of Israel forever, there must actually be an Israel.

I have had many discussions over the years, and not too long ago, about this very matter of literal Israel being back in the Promised Land and being the focus of God’s redemption plan. There are so many who think that God is done with Israel and invariably want to do away with the Old Testament. They hardly read the prophets and cannot seem to grasp the importance of God keeping His promises to Abram and David. If He can lie to them, He can lie to us. But God cannot lie; the nation of Israel, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob can be as secure now in the promises that God made as we can be in the promise of eternal life. David can be secure in the promise God made to him about the throne of Israel as we can be about the security of our salvation. God simply cannot break promises.

I leave you with a rhetorical question from Numbers 23:19; you should be able to answer this yourself and find your security and the security of Israel,

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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