But because there was a covenant . . .
I have been spending time lately in Genesis looking at the life of Abraham, the father of faith, and this week I have been in chapters 15 through 19, which focus on the LORD’s covenant with Abraham. This post will be more like a series of observations than my usual study which presents my observations and then applies them.
THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM IS “MADE” BASED ON HIS FAITH
The covenant with Abraham begins in an unusual way. After Abraham expresses his faith; that is, after he “believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6), the LORD has Abraham prepare a number of sacrificial animals and then causes him to fall into a deep sleep (15:12). While Abraham slept, the LORD “made” a covenant with him (15:18-21).
Why does the LORD make His covenant with Abraham while Abraham is asleep? The point of this seems to be to emphasize that this covenant between the LORD and Abraham is completely dependent on the LORD’s will and activity. Because Abraham has believed God (faith in 15:6), he is going to be the recipient of the benefits of this covenant, even though he is completely passive in making the covenant. Because of his faith, Abraham has full possession of this covenant with the LORD. By faith, he is now in covenant with the living God.
THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM IS “ESTABLISHED“
Moving forward to Genesis 17, now the LORD “establishes” His covenant with Abraham. While the covenant was “made” (cut) when Abraham was asleep (15:18), in Genesis 17 the LORD appears to him while he is wide awake to “establish” His covenant. In Genesis 17, the word “covenant” appears eleven times. When Genesis 17 has ended, there is no doubt that the covenant has been established. It is public.
It needs to be stressed here that all the benefits of this covenant accrue to the passive participant. Abraham gets all the blessings. He receives all the promises. The sole requirement for Abraham is that he must keep the covenant by circumcising all his male descendants. That’s it. He will be a father of a multitude of nations (17:4, 5), and all he is obligated to do is to make sure that his “seed” are identified by circumcision.
All of this is really an introduction to my main observations.
THE LORD COMES DOWN TO ABRAHAM
In Genesis 18, Abraham has a face-to-face conversation with the LORD that lasts throughout the chapter. Let’s be clear on what occurs here. An ordinary flesh and blood human being has a time of peaceful fellowship with the LORD of the universe. Now ordinarily, when the LORD comes down, He comes in fire and smoke and whirlwind. When He came down on Mount Sinai, the entire top of the mountain was engulfed in flames and black smoke. When the LORD comes down, there is terror and judgment, like when He came down on the first Passover and killed all the firstborn of the Egyptians. But because Abraham has a covenant with the LORD, they enjoy a meal together and have pleasant fellowship. Because of the covenant, there is peace and friendship between the holy God and the ordinary saint.
I need to put a bookmark here, but next time we will look at this covenant relationship in greater depth and see how the covenant between the LORD and Abraham determines many of the amazing events in Genesis 19 and the destruction of Sodom.