Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Call and Covenant with Abraham (Gen.12, 15).

In our last story, we saw how all mankind was found to be ‘corrupt (6:5)’ and the earth was ‘full of violence (6:13)’ so God determined to destroy all life on the earth by means of a flood. But Noah found ‘favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8)’ and God told Noah to build and an Ark to preserve Noah’s family and two of every kind of animal. God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants and with all the earth in order to preserve mankind and the earth for redemption. In addition, God promised a stable environment for God’s redeemed images to do God’s will on the earth. God blessed Noah and his sons telling them to multiply and fill the earth. As men moved eastward they sought to build a city reaching the heavens to ‘make a name for themselves’ and not be scattered over the whole earth. They worked together in opposition to God’s will but God came down and confused their language. They stopped building their city and they were scattered throughout the earth. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Gen. 6:10) and the Lord is said to be the God of Shem (Gen. 9:26) and from Shem’s line came Abram (Gen. 11:10-26).

The Lord tells Abram in a vision not to fear for He is Abram’s shield, and great reward. But Abram wanted to know what the Lord would give him since he remained childless. But a son from Abram’s own body would be his heir so the Lord showed Abram the night sky and promised him as many descendants as the stars in the sky. When God first called Abram, He promised to bless him and to bless all the peoples of the earth through him (12:1-3). Now, despite being elderly and childless, Abram believes God’s promise of multiple descendants so God accepts Abram as being righteous.  Originally God had called Adam to multiply God’s images throughout the earth. Then after the flood this responsibility was restated to Noah. Now God promises Abraham innumerable descendants in order to fill the earth with redeemed images of God and fulfill God’s kingdom expanding purpose.

The Lord reminded Abram how He had brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give him the ‘Land of Canaan’. But Abram wanted further assurance so the Lord had Abram get a heifer, a goat, a ram, with a dove and a pigeon. Abram already knew to cut the animals in two and arrange the halves opposite each other. Then at sunset a ‘dreadful darkness’ came over Abram and the Lord said that Abram’s descendants would be enslaved in another country for 400 years. The Lord would punish that nation enslaving them and Abram’s descendants would return to the land with great possessions. Abram would die at an old age, but for now the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete. Then a smoking fire-pot with a blazing torch passed between the pieces and the Lord made a covenant with Abram. The Lord promised to give Abram’s descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River

God had promised to make Abram into a ‘great nation’ and to give Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan (12:7). But Abram wanted assurance that the promise would come true. Abram sought the Lord’s confirmation (Gen 15:8) and the Lord answers by telling Abram to get some animals. Then Abram followed a common practice in his day of dividing animals and placing the bloody pieces opposite one another. Then a ‘dreadful darkness’ came over Abram and a smoking firepot with a blazing torch passed between the pieces (Gen 15:10-11). What did the ceremony and the visible manifestation of God mean? The cutting of the animals and passing between the pieces resulted in the ‘cutting’ or ‘making’ of a covenant. The animal carcasses symbolize the ‘curse’ to come upon the covenant breaker. When the parties involved ‘pass between the pieces’ they bind themselves together by a solemn oath. Ironically, God passes through the pieces and calls down a curse upon himself if He violates the covenant. The covenant relationship was initiated and established by God in order to expel Abraham’s doubts.

The word of God regarding the covenant came to Abram, not as a suggestion (Gen 12:1), but as a ‘sovereignly administered’ bond. Adam was to exercise his God given dominion by creating a world wholly consecrated to God. In the same way, Abram was to exercise dominion over Canaan, fill it with redeemed images and create a God glorifying culture there. But Abram had no land so in order to build Abram’s faith and expel his doubts God gave Abram the covenant. But what would it mean for the eternal and immortal God alone to pass through the animal pieces and take upon Himself the curse of the covenant? God was saying if the covenant isn’t fulfilled He would cease being God. But if any of Abraham’s children are to experience the blessing of the covenant than God must take the curse of the covenant upon Himself. While much more can be said, surely this is what the incarnation and the death of the ‘Son of God’ is all about (Gal. 3:6-8, 13-14).    

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