Week 5 – Abraham’s Covenant

Scripture: Genesis 11:16 – 15:6

The global flood was God’s judgment on sin. However, the earth’s watery immersion didn’t wash the evil from the human heart. People continued to rebel against their Creator both individually and corporately. Ham sinned by dishonoring his father, Noah, after seeing him passed out drunk naked by delightfully sharing his discovery with his brothers. Instead of dishonoring their father with their brother, Shem and Japheth honored their father by covering up his nakedness while not viewing his exposed body (Genesis 9:20-29). As we see with Ham, people continued to be rebellious sinners through their actions. Once we arrive at Genesis 11, we see the historical account of the Tower of Babel, which shows a unified humanity defiant to its Creator.

After the flood, God tells Noah and his sons to multiply, filling all the earth (Genesis 9:1, 7). Yet, Genesis 11:4 shows how as one people (11:6), the human race comes together to build a city with a tall tower (perhaps a safeguard against another global flood?) so that they would not be scattered over the whole earth (Genesis 11:4, 6). Their unified goal was undoubtedly an act of global defiance to their Creator God, who had given the post-deluge mandate to multiply and fill the earth. Once again, early on in the pages of Scripture, we see God have to judge humanity’s sin. His judgment at the Tower of Babel isn’t expulsion from a garden or a worldwide flood, but the introduction to various languages instead of one common language (Genesis 11:7-9) leading to the halting of the tower and the dispersion of people over the face of the earth (See the Table of Nations in Genesis 10).

The themes of God’s holiness and judgment are not the only themes or truths that resurface in these chapters of Genesis. At the end of chapter eleven, we see God introduce the next chapter of His redeeming story through the descendants of Noah’s son Shem when Moses introduces us to one of Terah’s sons, Abram. Before wrapping up chapter eleven, Moses informs us that Abram married Sarai and that she could not conceive. We also learn that Terah left the city of Ur, close to modern-day Kuwait, and traveled to Haran (located in the southeastern part of Turkey). Terah and his family made this move around 2100 B.C.

As we turn our gaze to Abram, better known as Abraham, we see a monumental building block for our understanding of the one biblical narrative. If this were a ten-week series instead of a 52-week study, I would still have included God’s covenant with Abraham in our survey at number two. The Abrahamic Covenant continues God’s redemptive work promised in Genesis 3:15 and helps us understand some end-time events. At this point in the biblical storyline, it shows us the extent of God’s redeeming love and the exact man’s descendants whom God will use to make it all possible. Let’s go to the Scriptures.

Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

In these verses, we see God make two promises to Abraham. God promises that Abraham will become a great nation. At this point, God doesn’t tell Abraham specifically that this great nation will come from the descendants of his son. However, Abraham may have understood this as a given, considering his faith demonstrated in chapter fifteen. This promised nation also comes with God’s designated location, though God chooses not to disclose what geographical area He has in mind for the future country to Abraham here. Secondly, God promises Abraham that he will be a blessing to all the families on earth.

These promises that God makes to Abraham are conditional. For Abraham to receive these promises from God, he must meet the conditions related to the promises. There are two promises, and there are only two things Abraham must do to receive what God has promised. First, he must believe that what God said is true. Abraham must trust that God will do what He has said He would do. God calls Abraham to have faith in Him.

Secondly, Abraham must act on his faith. He must take his family and move from his country, relatives, and father’s house. Abraham must leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. On our first wedding anniversary, Stephanie and I decided to take off to the mountains on a Friday evening after work. We were heading to Boone, NC, without prior reservations or planning. We traveled the construction-plagued path our GPS had selected for us in pouring down rain and with worn-out windshield wipers. We arrived in Boone on a gloomy and rainy night, thinking we had an easy task before us, only to discover that we were sadly mistaken. There was a Nascar Race in Bristol that weekend and hotels were booked solid; there was no room at the inn! We were both tired, ill, and hungry as we stopped to fuel Steph’s red Chevy Blazer for the trip back home. As we approached Winston-Salem, we decided to salvage an overnight experience for our anniversary. We chose to stay in Winston-Salem and spend Saturday around that area. I can laugh at it now though I couldn’t laugh that night after walking into the first hotel and discovering that Joyce Myers was in town for a convention resulting in no vacancy statuses across the city. Stunned and with a disappointed, hungry bride, I drove us home, making our first wedding anniversary one neither of us will forget.

After that less-than-fairytale anniversary experience in 2008, we have not taken a trip that either one or both of us have thought through and planned out. I am just talking about vacationing here; every time I get up in my attic, I feel a little sick when I think about actually moving homes one day since my attic resembles a world of Minecraft-looking bricks made of totes that are full of items. But even if my family and I did move, one day, we would know where we would be moving to, where at least one of us would be working, how we would afford the move and the logistics of our relocation. Yet here, God is calling Abraham to follow Him, for him and his wife to gather all their belongings, animals, and servants and leave the familiar to go to a place God would show him. Abraham must trust God for direction, provision, and protection if he leaves Haran. Genesis 12:4 says that Abraham did believe God and acted on his faith in His promises by departing as the Lord instructed.

Genesis 15 revisits God’s initial promises to Abraham in Genesis 12. God reaffirms His covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 15:1-5.

Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”

In these verses of conversation between Abraham and the Lord, we see a man of faith confused about how God will accomplish these promises made to him earlier. We see Abraham’s faith demonstrated in his addressing God as Sovereign Lord. Abraham knew and believed that God was supreme and all-powerful. If He could create order from chaos out of nothing, surely He could provide a son to leave a physical and covenantal inheritance to as well. God reassures him that Abram will have a son and his son will be his heir, but from that son, Abraham’s descendants would multiply till they were as numerous as the stars in the sky. What was Abraham’s response? Faith or unbelief? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess.

Genesis 15:6

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

In Romans, Paul provides commentary surrounding this exercise of Abraham’s faith in the Lord.

Romans 4:20-22

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

The Old and New Testaments confirm that God counted him as righteous when Abram responded in faith. At the bare minimum, the word “righteous” describes appropriate conduct in a relationship. God had called Abraham into a covenant relationship with Himself in which God required Abraham to trust Him to do what He said He would do. When Abraham demonstrated his faith through obedience, God said, “Yes, Abraham, you’ve got it!” Abraham was made right with God because of His faith, and from being made right with God, he enjoyed the promises of God.

God expected Abraham to have faith. What does He expect of us?

The very same thing. He expects us to have faith.

God desires us to have faith in Him as we live out a covenantal relationship with Him (Matthew 26:26-30). The writer of Hebrews tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We cannot be restored to a right relationship with Him without faith in Christ. We can not pleasingly live for Him without faith because without faith in His promises, there is no catalyst for obedience, and disobedience is sinfully displeasing to our Heavenly Father. We must believe in Him and His Word to experience God’s presence, power, and peace in our lives. The promise made to everyone and for everyone who trusts in Jesus will be rescued from God’s judgment on their sin because Christ died and suffered on their behalf to pay the penalty of their sin debt against God. God has always rescued people and counted them as righteous because of their faith in Him. People before the cross looked ahead in faith, and everyone who has lived after the cross looks back in faith to the work of Jesus’ finished on the cross. Paul illustrates this truth in Romans by referring to God’s work in Abraham’s life.

Romans 4:23-25

And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Have you trusted God’s promise of eternal life for all who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ? If not, why not take that step of faith today? I pray that if you haven’t, you’ll receive Jesus today! If you’re ready, click the image below and have your life forever changed!

The prophet Habakkuk found himself living at a time when the Babylonians had their way with the kingdoms of the ancient Near East as they conquered the Assyrian empire. Many believe Habakkuk wrote the book that bears his name right before Jerusalem’s final siege and destruction in 586 B.C. If this is the case, the prophet had seen much devastation and cruelty caused by the Babylonian war machine. He also probably experienced much difficulty and loss due to the invasions. As Habbakuk looked at his life and world, he had trouble understanding what God was doing. He particularly struggled with why God would allow the “much more wicked” Babylonians to destroy a “more righteous people” than they. As Habakkuk interacts with God in his book, the man of God finishes his writing with a declaration of faith!

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

These verses are a challenging declaration of faith the prophet records for us. May we, like Habakkuk, remain faithfully steadfast in the promises and Word of our God even if we are depleted or become void of physical provisions. May we trust in Him even if we don’t understand what He is doing in our lives or the world. When we cement our faith in God, we can joyfully please Him no matter the circumstances near or far because He will strengthen us to do His work as we look forward to the day we will receive everything promised to us by the God of our salvation.

How do we know if we are living by faith in God? James tells us that if our faith is void of good deeds, our faith is dead – it is not genuine. True faith in God leads to obedience to God’s commands which results in the good deeds that prove our faith in God as real (James 2:17-24). Faith in God’s Word enabled Noah to build the ark, Abraham to offer Isaac, Joseph to remain hopeful despite all the hardships, and Paul to persevere in ministry as he considered his present sufferings as nothing compared to his promised future glory.

Examples of people with a life of faith in God are not exclusive to Scripture. Through an online class, I heard about a missionary whose faith in God’s promise of future glory kept her like Paul to continue in ministry despite an insurmountable diagnosis. After discovering she had cancer in 21 of 22 lymph nodes, Gretchen Hill returned to Turkey and shared the gospel with Muslims. Her faith in God was a catalyst for her sacrificial decision. Instead of becoming bitter and leaving the mission field or simply living out her days as comfortably as possible in the States with her family, she proceeded with the missions work God had given her. No doubt, she genuinely believed there was more to life than our time on earth. 

Gretchen’s and men’s and women’s examples in the Bible should be cause for self-reflection and encouragement. Yet, more often than not, we, as followers of Jesus, demonstrate our faith in Him through the ordinary. 

In Straight Talk to Men, James Dobson discusses something called “the straight life.” For a man in a family, he says, this is “pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, 50 weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the children. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you’d rather indulge in a new whatever; it is taking your son bike riding … when you want so badly to watch the baseball game; it is cleaning out the garage on your day off after working 60 hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms … it is giving a portion of your income to God’s work when you already wonder how ends will meet. The straight life for the ordinary, garden-variety husband and father is everything I have listed and more … much more.”

I believe “the life of faith” could be a synonym for “the straight life,” as described above. A life of faith is living in obedience to God’s commands demonstrating that we believe what He says about our covenantal relationship, all we have experienced and do experience and will experience. I pray that the Spirit of our Lord will help us experience the surety, peace, strength, and joy that comes from us solidifying our faith in God and His Word, like Abraham.

Receive each new resource as soon as it is published in your inbox!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: