Because of the covenant (Genesis 18 and 19) – Part 1

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.

SDG

The unprompted extravagance of God (Genesis 12:2-3)

“And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3

In these two verses in Genesis 12, the LORD pours out a landslide of seven unconditional promises of blessing on this man, this Abram the son of Terah from Ur of the Chaldeans. Take a moment with me and consider the unprompted extravagance of the LORD.

WHAT ABRAM DESERVED OR MERITED?

We begin by considering Abram and see why he received such an outpouring of blessings from the LORD. As we read of Abram ancestors in Genesis 11:10-31, we search in vain for any indication of anyone in his family tree having a knowledge of the LORD. Where are his forefathers who called on the name of the LORD? They are absent. Instead, we read through nine generations without a single mention of the LORD. Indeed, Terah, Abram’s father, was a pagan who worshiped the moon god. As we study Abram’s lineage, there is no evidence of any acquaintance with the LORD or with any exercise of faith. It is hard to imagine that Abram had any concept of the LORD before He called him.

THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF THE LORD’S CALL

Then at the time appointed by the LORD, He calls Abram to go forth from his country to an unseen, unknown land that the LORD will show him. There had been no relationship between Abram and the LORD and then suddenly the LORD bursts upon Abram’s consciousness, calls him to trust Him with his entire future, and pours out astonishing, unconditional promises on him. And all of this is completely unprompted and unrequested. There is nothing that motivated or prompted the LORD to choose Abram other than His own divine will. Abram was unaware of the LORD’s existence and could have died that way. Abram could have continued his father’s legacy of bowing down to the moon god and never have known the joy of walking with the living God. Abram could happily have continued in his ignorance, but the LORD chose to speak to this man. Why Abram? We do not know, but the LORD chose him to be the father of a multitude and to walk with Him.

ALL THE GRACIOUS PROMISES

And then, as if that were not amazing enough, the LORD immediately makes seven astonishing promises to Abram. This is the unprompted extravagance of the LORD, to call Abram to Himself and then to make these glorious promises of blessing, and all of this as an act of His grace, just because He chose to do this.

“And I will make you a great nation.” At the time of this promise, Abram had no children and a barren wife, yet the LORD gives him an unconditional promise that he will become a great and populous nation.

“And I will bless you.” Abram gets the LORD’s unconditional promise that He will bless him. This probably refers to material blessings of flocks and herds.

“And I will make your name great.” Abram will be known far and wide as a great man. He will be famous and respected. Another unconditional promise.

“And so you shall be a blessing.” Not only will Abram be blessed, but he will also be a blessing to others. He will be blessed to be a blessing. Another unconditional promise.

“And I will bless those who bless you.” Those who are allies with Abram and those who help and bless Abram will be blessed by the LORD. Another unconditional promise.

“And the one who curses you I will curse.” Likewise, those who oppose or threaten Abram, or who seek to curse him will themselves be cursed, for the LORD will protect him. Another unconditional promise.

“And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” This is, of course, the grandest extravagance of all, as the LORD gives Abram the veiled promise that he will be the forefather of the Messiah. Another unconditional promise.

EXTRAVAGANT GRACE TO ALL WHO CALL ON THE LORD

            God’s extravagance to Abram was clearly displayed as the Lord of the universe called a pagan shepherd from a far country to be a father of a multitude and to become a friend of God. But we also understand that this is not a unique situation, nor is it even an uncommon one. The Lord who sought out and found Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to a life of faith walking with the living God is also the same Lord who seeks out and finds all His elect wherever they are and calls them to faith in the Lord Jesus.

            My own story is a display of the Lord’s unprompted extravagance, since before I became a Christian, I was far from Him, had little knowledge of Him, and had less interest in knowing Him. I was content in my ignorance, happily careening toward judgment. Then one day on a cliff in California, in an act of unprompted grace, the Lord awakened me to my own mortality and called me to Himself and called me to change. In a short time, He had led me to a good church and made sure that I had a Bible. He brought me to repentance of my many sins and to faith in the crucified and risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He brought me from death to life and promised to never leave me or forsake me. In His Word, he gave me many precious and magnificent promises (2 Peter 1:4) that are all “yes” and “Amen” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

            And, although there are as many variations as there are salvation testimonies, this display of His unprompted extravagance is what the Lord does all the time. This is who He is. He is a God who gives and loves extravagantly, and His blessings on His people are unprompted by anything in us and are only the expression of His mercy and glory and generosity and grace.

            Abram and you and I have this in common: we have been the recipient of God’s unprompted extravagance and His promises of blessing.

SDG                 rmb                 1/3/2021