2 - The Covenant with
God Calls and Blesses Abraham
After the flood, Noah and his family began to
repopulate the world. Just as in the days of Noah, sin began to
increase and once again man forgot about the God who created him and
began to seek after other gods. God chose one man, Abraham, to be the
father of his people. It is through this man and his descendents that
God chooses to reveal his plans for the redemption of mankind.
Abraham lived in the land of his fathers when
God gave him the following instruction; "Leave your country, your
people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."
(Genesis 12:1) Over the span of many years, God gave Abraham many
blessings and promises.
"I will make you into a great nation and I will
bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I
will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ...To your
offspring I will give this land (Canaan)". (Genesis 12:2,3,7)
"Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north
and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you
and your offspring, forever. I will make your offspring like the dust
of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your
offspring could be counted". (Genesis 13:14-17)
After many years of Abraham's wanderings through
the land of Canaan, God makes his covenant with him (Genesis
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD
appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be
blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will
greatly increase your numbers."
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him "As for me,
this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I
have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful;
I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. I will
establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and
your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God
and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan,
where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to
you and your descendents after you; and I will be their God."
Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep
my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to
come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the
covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the
covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male
among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those
born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner - those
who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought
with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is
to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been
circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has
broken my covenant."
Six Parts of the Covenant
Let us look at this covenant, breaking it down
into its six parts.
God said, "I will establish my covenant as an
everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you
for the generations to come". The covenant is not only with Abraham,
but also with all of his descendants.
God said; "I will make you very fruitful", "I
will make nations of you", "kings will come from you", "I will be your
God and the God of your descendants", "I will give [Canaan] as an
everlasting possession" and "I will be their God".
The only requirement put on Abraham and his
descendents for the covenant was that; "Every male among you shall be
God said; "I will establish my covenant as an
everlasting (olam) covenant between me and you and your descendants
after you for the generations to come".
The sign of circumcision is a lifelong reminder
to the circumcised that they have taken part in the covenant. It is
also a sign of obedience to God. Anyone who chooses not to partake of
the sign is showing disobedience to God and His covenant and therefore
will be cut off from the people and from the covenant with God.
The dedication is the act of circumcision
performed on all the males in Abraham's household immediately following
the giving of the covenant. Again we have the shedding of the blood as
a part of the dedication of the covenant.
Looking back at Genesis 17:2 we read that God
will confirm his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God went to
each of Abraham's descendents and confirmed his covenant with them
beginning with Abraham's son Isaac.
That night the LORD appeared to [Isaac] and said,
"I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with
you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants
for the sake of my servant Abraham." (Genesis 26:24)
Again God confirms his covenant with Isaac's son
There above [the stairway] stood the LORD, and he
said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of
Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are
living. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you
will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the
south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your
offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I
will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have
done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:13-14)
Jacob, also called "Israel", had twelve sons.
They became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Due to a great
famine throughout the land of Canaan (Genesis 46:26), Jacob and his
sons moved to Egypt. The descendants of Jacob continued to live in
Egypt where they became "fruitful and multiplied greatly and became
exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them" (Exodus
1:7). The king (Pharaoh) of Egypt became fearful of Israel's size and
enslaved them. After 400 years of slavery and bondage in Egypt, God
chose Moses to be the deliverer of Israel. Through Moses, God confirms
his covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
"Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the
LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I
will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an
outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as
my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the
LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the
Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand
to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a
possession. I am the LORD." (Ex 6:6-8)
Through a series of ten plagues that God brought
upon Egypt, the Pharaoh released the Israelites from the bondage. God
then led them to Mount Sinai.
Nations Join Israel
While the nation of Israel was still enslaved in
the land of Egypt, God sent 10 plagues on Egypt to cause them to
[The LORD said to Moses] "Give an order now to
bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of
shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has
not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die."
Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to
bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored
the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.
This is the sixth of the ten plagues that God
brought on Egypt before Israel's deliverance. Here we see that there
were some Egyptians who feared and believed God and brought their
animals in to protect them. Once Israel is delivered out of Egypt we
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth.
There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and
children. Many other people went up with them. (Exodus 12:37,38)
In this passage we see that "Israelites" and
"other people" journeyed out of Egypt. These "other people" are people
belonging to nations other than Israel who have joined Israel and may
very well include some of those officials of Pharaoh mentioned in
Exodus chapter 9. These "other people" were also at Mount Sinai for the
giving of the covenant for God instructed all people to come to the
foot of the mountain and we also read that all people (including the
"other people") said that they would obey God.
Covenant Given At Mount Sinai
For the next year, Israel camps near Mount
Sinai. It is here that God reveals his complete covenant with the
descendants of Abraham. Exodus 19:1 to 24:8 give all the details of the
covenant. Each of the six parts of a covenant can be found within these
Is the covenant given to Israel at Mount Sinai a
renewal of the covenant originally given to Abraham or is it a new and
different covenant? God's word shows that the covenant God gives Israel
at Mount Sinai are a renewal of the covenant for two reasons. First God
told Abraham that the covenant he was making with him is also for his
descendants and he will confirm his covenant with them (Genesis 17:2)
which, as we have seen he did with Isaac, Jacob and the nation of
Israel in Egypt. The second reason is from a statement by King
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he
commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with
Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a
decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant". (1 Chronicles
The LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to
you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you
and will always put their trust in you,"... On the morning of the third
day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the
mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.
Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they
stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke,
because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it
like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and
the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. (Exodus
The two parties, God and Israel, have come
together for the giving of the covenant. God has descended on Mount
Sinai and Israel has come to the foot of the mountain to meet with
"Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although
the earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy
nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of
the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him
to speak. The people all responded together "We will do everything the
LORD has said." Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
In this passage, both parties declare their
promises to each other. God promises Israel that they will be his
treasured possession and that he will be their God and they will be his
people. We can also add to these original promises given to Abraham
that they will be the inheritors of the Promised Land. Israel also
declared their promise to God that they will obey all that he asks of
At the conclusion of the giving of the covenant,
both parties affirm their promises to each other.
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will
be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.
And none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a
full life span. I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into
confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn
their backs and run. (Exodus 23:25-27)
[Israel] responded, "We will do everything the LORD
has said, we will obey." (Exodus 24:7)
God is bound to his promises only on the
condition that Israel keeps their promises to obey him. Just as our
earthly fathers lay down the rules of the home and the punishments for
disobedience of those rules, God, our heavenly father also lays down
the rules, or commands, and punishments for disobedience of those
commands to His children.
What has God required Israel to obey? Exodus
20:1 to 23:19 outlines the commands God gave to Israel. These commands
can be broken down into eight different sections; they are.
- The Ten Commandments
- Hebrew servants
- Personal injury
- Property protection
- Social Responsibility
- Justice and mercy
- The Sabbath
- The Three annual festivals
The eight sets of commands identified above, lay
the foundation for all the other commands, which God will give Israel
over the next 40 years. Those who lived a life obedient to the commands
of God would be blessed, while those who lived a disobedient life would
be cursed. In the next chapter, we will discuss these commands and how
they affect Israel's relationship with God.
My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting
covenant. (Genesis 17:13)
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as
an everlasting covenant. (1 Chronicles 16:17)
God can never break his promises within the
covenant. If the covenant were only dependent upon God, then this
covenant would last for an eternity. But, as we have seen the condition
of the covenant requires that Israel obey His commands. The duration of
Israel's covenant relationship with God is dependent upon their
obedience to him. As we will see later, Israel has a tough time keeping
their promise, but God is very patient and full of grace. Leviticus
26:3-45 shows us just how patient God can be. I have condensed this
rather large passage down to just a few sentences so we can see the
patience of God.
If you keep My commandments then I will walk
among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. But if you do
not obey Me I also will set My face against you. If you do not obey Me,
then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. But if they
confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers then I will
remember My covenant.
Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had
said. ... Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the
people. (Exodus 24:4,7)
After God presented the covenant to Israel, he
commanded Moses to write it all down. This would be the "contract" of
the covenant. It was to be a reminder to each party of the promises
that they made to each other. This book which Moses wrote was called
the "Book of the Covenant". Israel kept this book as the sign of the
There are many other signs of the covenant, but
we cannot go into all of these here. But, let us look at one as it will
be examined closer throughout this book. The Passover Feast was to be a
celebration held each year on its anniversary of God's redemption of
Circumcision remains as a sign of the covenant
that was given to Abraham. It is interesting that from the giving of
the Torah at Mount Sinai to the its conclusion in Deuteronomy, there
are only three references to circumcision. Two of these are commanding
Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deut 10:16; Deut 30:6). The third is
only used as a time reference for the cleanliness of a woman after
childbirth (Lev 12.3). The significance of this will be discussed
Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had
said. (Exodus 24:4-8)
He got up early the next morning and built an
altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars
representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite
men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as
fellowship offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put
it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took
the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We
will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the
people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has
made with you in accordance with all these words."
At the conclusion of the giving of the covenant the
parties again come together for the dedication of the covenant with God
on the mountain and the people gathered at the foot of it. Moses
constructed an altar where offerings of animals were made. The blood
from these offerings were sprinkled on the altar and Moses reads the
"Book of the covenant" then sprinkles the blood on the people. Again we
see the shedding of blood sealing the covenant.
- God chooses Abraham and his descendants to give
his eternal covenant for the redemption of man.
- This covenant was confirmed to his son Isaac,
Isaac's son Jacob (Israel) and the nation of Israel.
- God delivers Israel from bondage and brings them
to Mount Sinai to teach them his covenant.
- The six parts of the covenant given to
- The parties; God and Israel
- Promises; God will care for Israel and Israel
will obey God.
- Conditions; Israel must obey God.
- Duration; Everlasting.
- Sign; The Torah, Passover and others.
- Dedication; A blood sacrifice.