GOD'S THREE COVENANTS WITH MANKIND
Genesis 12:1-3 says, Now the Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great man; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The first eleven chapters of Genesis contain a general account of the beginning of things, but beginning with Genesis 12 the real story of the Bible begins. The unfolding of God's plan to save the human race has its beginning in Genesis 12. The first three verses of this chapter is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. These verses speak of God's three covenants which. He has made with the inhabitants of earth, and they contain the plot of the entire Bible. It consists of three promises God made to the human race, and forever after they were revealed to Abraham, they are referred to throughout the Bible simply as, “the promises.”
God's first covenant was made with Abraham. It is rightly called the Abrahamic covenant. God's second covenant was made with the Jewish nation exclusively, and it is rightly called the Old covenant. God's third covenant was made with all nations, all races including Jews and Gentiles. It is rightly called the New covenant(Jeremiah 31:31). All three of these covenants are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 12:1-3. In this study I will present the leading features of the Abrahamic covenant.
Before I analyze that covenant, let me present a brief sketch of Abraham's life. Before God made the covenant with him, his name was Abram which means “exalted father.” After the covenant was made with him, God changed his name to Abraham which means “father of a multitude.” He was the son of Terah, a Hebrew who lived in the city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia , which was a part of the country now known as Iraq. Civilization had fallen into the atrocious sins practiced before the flood which resulted in removal of the entire human race from the earth, with the exception of the eight members of Noah's family. One of these sins doubtless was idolatry, and Terah had fallen into this sin.. Thus the religious background of Abraham was not good. Scripture is silent on the early life of Abraham, except to say that he married his half-sister Sarah. In approximately 1900 B.C., God appeared to Abraham when he lived in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. At this time God made with him the Abrahamic covenant which is first recorded in Genesis 12:1-3, in Genesis 15:12-18, and again in Genesis 17:9-14. Later in this study I will analyze this
covenant for you. Abraham was commanded to leave his home and kindred and go to a strange land which God would show him. This land was unknown to him at the time, but nevertheless he obeyed and left his own country and kindred, not knowing where he was going. The Bible says he did this by faith. To leave a comfortable home and friends to follow the call of another, at anytime and under any circumstances, shows an amazing degree of trust and confidence in the one who calls us. But this he did promptly. Taking his father and Lot his nephew he arrived in Haran where he remained five years. He finally arrived in the land of Canaan which was to be his home for the rest of his life. He had traveled a thousand miles from his home city of Ur. At this time he was 75 years of age. Soon afterward God promised him he would have a son, but there was a problem. Sarah was sterile and could not have children.
Thus, this was a wonderful promise God made to Abraham. However, ten years went by with no son, and Sarah decided to take things into her own hands. She gave her servant girl Hagar to Abraham in marriage, and such wives were called concubines. Hagar bore a son named Ishmael. who is the father of all Arabs, and the Mohammedan religion claims a relationship with God through Ishmael, the son of Abraham.. Unfortunately for that religion, God made no covenant with Ishmael and authorized no religion to be established in the line of Ishmael. True religion was restricted to Abraham and his descendants. The Messiah did not come through the line of Ishmael but Isaac. When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, God sent a message to Abraham by an angel that in a year he was to have a son by Sarah. Sarah laughed in unbelief at this message that a 90- year old woman would have a baby. In spite of the deadness of Sarah's womb and the greatness of her age, yet Abraham staggered not in unbelief, but was strong in faith. God kept His promise, and a miraculous birth brought Isaac into the world. God made the marvelous promise to Abraham that through this son Isaac his offspring would be as numerous as stars of heaven.
However, God tried his faith again when he was a very old man, when Isaac was 25 years of age. God commanded him to take Isaac to Jerusalem and offer him up as a human sacrifice to Jehovah. Never was a human being more tested. Nevertheless he obeyed immediately, and as he was about to plunge the knife into Isaac's heart, God commanded him to stop and said that. He knew now that he feared God. Then God swore by Himself that because of his obedience, He would bless him with
incredible blessings and multiply his descendants into countless thousands and millions like the stars of heaven. He lived in Canaan 100 years and died at the age of 175.
The true greatness of Abraham can be seen only when we have analyze the Abrahamic covenant. One feature of this covenant was the law of circumcision bound upon all relatives and servants. Of special interest are certain promises God made to him in this covenant. We read of them in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will less you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This covenant contains the three major promises of the Bible. One promise had to do with Abraham himself. One related to the Jewish people; and one related to all the nations of the world. These promises are never increased or decreased and remain the same throughout the Bible. God gave His entire plan to save the human race to Abraham and laid out in the Abrahamic covenant the entire course of human history. God tells us the end from the beginning in Genesis 12:1-3. It contains the plot of the entire Bible. The rest of the Bible is merely an explanation of Genesis 12:1-3. The Bible is no more and no less that a historical account of the unfolding and fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. These three verses contain perhaps the greatest single prophecy in the Bible, for it is the father of all other prophecies; and all other prophecies depend upon this one. Let us now briefly study these three promises.
The first one is related to Abraham himself. For one thing he was to have a great name. In other words he was to be a famous man on earth. He ranks among the three greatest men who have ever lived. I agree with those who think Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ to be the three greatest men ever to live on earth. The fame of all three men was religious fame, not worldly fame. Jews, Arabs, Mohammedans, and Christians all look to him and honor him as their progenitor. In addition, God promised to bless him in a special way. He was the favorite of heaven, and God promised to bless him physically and spiritually as He did no other. The curse of God was upon anyone who mistreated or injured him. On he other hand, God blessing was on anyone who respected him and showed him kindness. Moreover, he was so signally and preeminently blessed that he was a source of blessing to others. All the true blessedness which the world has now and shall have hereafter is owing to the influence of Abraham and his posterity. Through them we have a Bible, a Savior, and a gospel.
The second promise in this covenant is related to the Jewish nation. God said, “I will make of you a great nation. It was this promise that made the Jews a chosen people and produced the Jewish religion that was
to last for 1500 years. Had it not been for this promise there would have been no old covenant. God fulfilled the “great nation” promise through Jacob, Abraham's grandson. Jacob's name was changed to Israel, and his twelve sons became known as the 12 tribes of Israel. The nation bears that name to this day. The nation numbered about two million when God made the old covenant with them on Mount Sinai. The 38 books from Exodus to Malachi record the fulfillment of the second promise of the Abrahamic covenant.
The third promise in this covenant related to Christ, His church, the Jewish nation, and all nations of the world. The promise is, “In you shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This same promise is repeated in Genesis 22:18, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” The apostle Paul, an inspired apostle, interpreted that statement for us. In Galatians 3:16 he said, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to your seed, who is Christ.” The third promise of the Abrahamic covenant was that God would offer eternal life to all nations of the world through the seed of Abraham, and Paul revealed that the word seed referred to but one descendant of Abraham-- Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit used a singular word in that promise to signify that one person was referred to. To doubt this interpretation is to doubt the inspired knowledge of the apostles of Christ. Thus eternal life was to be offered to mankind, not by the Jewish nation through the law of Moses, but it was to be offered through Jesus the Jewish Messiah in the new covenant predicted in Jeremiah 31: 31-33. If Jewish people had understood this great prophecy, they would not have, as a nation, rejected Jesus as their Messiah. With the approval and sanction of Jehovah, the Christian religion has correctly interpreted the Abrahamic covenant. Paul's interpretation proves the verbal inspiration of the Bible. Every word is inspired of God. We should learn from this third promise that every single word of the Bible is important. The word of God clearly reveals that the offer of eternal life to mankind was exclusively through the seed of Abraham. It was made only to Abraham and his seed. How then can any gentiles receive eternal life when they are not the descendants of Abraham?. Paul explains how gentiles become descendants of Abraham in Galatians 3:28,29, “There is neither Jew nore Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is either male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The word of God has revealed that all gentiles who Christians by obedience to Christ, thereby become spiritual descendants of Abraham and become a part of his family. In doing this they become heirs of eternal life promised to his descendants. In this way Abraham was to bless all nations of the earth. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding.