Elon, North Carolina
We said last time that Genesis 12 begins a brand new section in the Book of Genesis. God begins to do something new in this chapter. The program of God changed dramatically. God went from working with the race of a whole to working through one specific nation living on a specific land in the Middle East. That nation had to be created, so God picked one man to start the nation. It was an unlikely source. This man was named Abram. His name changes in Genesis 17 to Abraham. I will just call him Abraham.
Abraham lived four thousand years ago and came from a completely pagan background. His family was not only a bunch of idol worshipers. They worshiped the Moon god. They were also polytheists. They worshiped many gods. God appeared to Abraham and spoke to him. He gave him a command. The command was to leave his hometown and travel to a new land he had never seen before hundreds of miles away. His mission was to start a brand new nation.
God makes a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. It not called a covenant in this chapter but they are called a covenant in Genesis 15 & 17. The Abrahamic Covenant is the second covenant in the Bible. It is a little different from the covenant that God made with Noah. The first covenant that God made was with Noah.
The covenant that God made with Noah was very general in scope. Everyone on the planet was included in that covenant, every person and every animal. God promised never again to send a flood on the earth that would wipe out all life. The covenant that God made with Abraham was very specific in scope. God made some promises in this covenant but these promises were not for everybody. They were given specifically to Abraham and to some of his descendants (his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob and his children).
The Abrahamic Covenant is without question one of the most important covenants in the whole Bible. It is foundation to biblical eschatology. If you do not understand this covenant, you cannot understand biblical prophecy. The great tragedy today is that many Christians do not understand this covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is not the same thing as the New Covenant. It is not the same thing as the Old Covenant.
There is a lot of false teaching today in churches about this covenant. Some prominent Christians have misunderstood this covenant. In fact, many in the charismatic movement have some crazy ideas about this covenant. We will look at some of these errors. In the next two weeks, I am going to share with you some advanced material on the Abrahamic Covenant.
Nine Promises of the Abrahamic Covenant
God makes some special promises to Abraham in this covenant. He makes eight promises in this chapter alone.
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:1-3).
What are the eight promises mentioned in this passage? Some of these promises are elaborated in the chapters to come.
1) A Land (to your offspring I will GIVE this land)
God not only said that He would He lead him to the land, He would give it to him, In fact, He did not just give it to Abraham, He gave it to his descendants (13:15, 17; 15:7, 17; 17:8).
2) Reputation (I will make your name great)
When many people die, they are completely forgotten. God promised to make this man famous. People would still be talking about him two thousand years later.
3) Offspring (to your OFFSPRING I will give this land)
God promised Abraham that he would have a son. Abraham was childless and he promised him an offspring (12:7). He promised him many of them. In fact, he would have so many that he would not be able to count them all (13:16; 15:5; 22:17).
4) A Nation (I will make you a great NATION)
That great nation is NOT the USA. It is Israel. In fact, God promised more than one nation to come out of Abraham. He said that he would be “the father of a multitude of nations” (17:4). Through his other kids, he fathered other nations as well. Abraham had eight kids: One from Hagar, one from Sarah and six from his second wife Keturah. The Arab nations came from Abraham, in addition to the Jewish nation. The Arab nations are descendants of Abraham through his first-born son Ishmael. Ishmael had twelve sons (25:13-16).
5) Blessing (I will BLESS you)
How did he bless him? He blessed him by revealing himself to Abraham. He appeared to Abraham and spoke directly to him. He blessed him by making the only one on the planet to be the recipient of this special covenant. He blessed him financially. He promised him children, a nation and a land that goes with it. He promised that people would think highly of Abraham. He promised that the Messiah would come through him.
6) Extended Blessing (I will bless THOSE who bless you)
I am not only going to bless you, I am going to bless your friends. God blessed Abraham and promised that when others blessed him that He in turn would bless them back.
7) Protection (I will curse whoever curses you).
This promise has been fulfilled throughout history. Many of Israel’s ancient enemies no longer exist anymore (Philistines, Canaanites, Amorites). There is a rise of anti-semitism in many parts of the world today. All anti-Semites are under God’s curse.
8) Ministry (You will be a blessing).
That is a promise. That is interesting. When God blesses us, he wants us to be a blessing and encouragement to others and perhaps providing for the needs of others financially or in some other way.
9) Influence (ALL OF THE EARTH will be blessed through you).
Your ministry will reach to all of the world. All of the world will be blessed through you. Abraham himself could not be a channel of blessing to the whole world but someone who came from Abraham was. Jesus was a blessing to the whole planet because He provided salvation for every tribe, tongue and nation in the world. That is a prophecy of the coming Messiah.
An Overview of These Promises
There are several different ways to outline this covenant. The scope of the covenant is threefold: personal promises, national promises and universal promises.
Some of these promises were PERSONAL. God promised to make Abraham’s name great. He promised that Abraham would have many descendants. He promised that Abraham would be a blessing to others. He also promised to curse those who cursed Abraham.
Some of these promises were NATIONAL. Abraham was promise a great nation. He was promised a territory for this nation as an everlasting possession.
Some of these promises were UNIVERSAL. God promised that in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. Jesus said, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).
People will come from the US and Russia, from India and China to eat with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All the families of the earth would be blessed. Not just Jews but all of the earth would be blessed through Abraham. That is where most of us come in. Gentile salvation is part of the Abrahamic Covenant.
What are the four themes of this covenant? God promised Abraham four basic things in this covenant: a seed, a land, blessing and a redeemer. Let’s look at these three things. First, He promised Abraham a SEED. Those were the PHYSICAL blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised to multiply Abraham greatly (17:2). He would have physical descendants or offspring.
Second, He promised Abraham LAND (real estate). He even gave Abraham the geographic location and boundaries of the land. He said that it is “from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.” (15:18). These were the MATERIAL blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Third, He promised Abraham BLESSING. He promised to bless Abraham himself and to bless others through Abraham. If you notice, the words “bless,” “blessing” or “blessed” are found five times in these two verses. This blessing was FINANCIAL. Abraham was blessed financially. He was not only wealthy, he was very wealthy. He was “very rich in livestock, silver and gold” (13:2). He was like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett today.
Fourth, He promised a Redeemer to come from Abraham. This blessing was SPIRITUAL. The Messiah was a descendant of Abraham. Jesus was “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). The Messianic line went through Abraham. Salvation came to the world through Abraham, although Abraham probably did not understand all of these things.
Word of Faith View of This Covenant
Some in the charismatic movement have taken the Abrahamic Covenant one step further. They teach that the Abrahamic Covenant that this covenant GUARANTEES financial wealth for Christians. These would be your Word of Faith preachers like Kenneth Copland, Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes and many others. This is standard Word of Faith or prosperity preaching. They not only teach that it is God’s will for Christians to be wealthy but they base this teaching on the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Bible describes Christians as the seed of Abraham. He is our spiritual father. The blessing of Abraham belongs to us. Abraham’s blessings are mine. They preach sermons on how to activate and release these Abrahamic blessings into our life. They claim to know the secret of enjoying the Abrahamic blessings and how to amass Abrahamic wealth. One of their proof texts for this idea is Galatians 3:13-14.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (ESV)
Is this correct? If not, what is wrong with this approach? It takes the verse completely out of context. Paul does NOT say, “The blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we may get extremely wealthy.” He says, “The blessing given to Abraham comes to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, SO THAT BY FAITH WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT.” Paul talks about the spiritual blessings that Gentiles can receive through Abraham. That is mentioned more than once in this chapter of Galatians.
“So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. SCRIPTURE FORESAW THAT GOD WOULD JUSTIFY THE GENTILES BY FAITH, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will BE BLESSED through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (3:6-9 NIV). How are they blessed? They are justified by faith, just as Abraham was. Paul did not use the Abrahamic Covenant to prove that all Christians can be millionaires.
Another error of the prosperity preachers is that they also assume that when God says “I will bless you,” He means “I will make you rich”. God does bless believers today but that blessing takes many different forms. It may involve financial wealth or it may involve other things. The prosperity preachers are very selective. They want to claim that promise but not the promise to have a son or to get a land or to have a nation come through you.
Myths about the Abrahamic Covenant
1) This covenant is not to be taken literally
This view says that the Abrahamic Covenant applies today but it is figurative. This is the allegorical approach to the covenant. It is not taken literally. It is taken allegorically. It is not talking about a physical seed but a spiritual seed (not literal children but spiritual children). It is not talking about an earthly land but a spiritual or heavenly land.
What is wrong with that approach? There are several things. The first problem is that it would mean that God deceived Abraham. God says one thing but means something else. He says that the land He is giving him is somewhere on earth from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates but it is really located, not on earth but in heaven.
The second problem is that much of it was literally fulfilled. God promised that Abraham would have a son, even though his wife was old and infertile and he did have a son. He promised to make Abraham’s name great and to this day he is respected by five different religions. He promised that He would bless Abraham and He did bless Abraham. Abraham was very wealthy. He promised that a great nation would come into being through Abraham and that happened.
He promised that kings would come through Abraham and that happened. He predicted that other nations would come through Abraham as well and that was literally fulfilled. We need to take the Bible literally. When it says that Abraham’s descendants will inherit the Land of Canaan, it means Abraham’s descendants. The word “descendants” means literal descendants. When it says that Abraham would have a son, it means that he will have a literal son.
2) This covenant is completely fulfilled in the church
This view says that the Abrahamic Covenant applies today but is fulfilled in the church. This view teaches that the church replaces Israel in the program of God. All of the covenants, promises and blessings that God gave to Israel have been transferred to the church. The church is the new Israel. It is called Replacement Theology. It is a very common viewpoint among many Christians.
We do not have to try to steal a little strip of land in the Middle East from the Jews. We do not have to be jealousy of what God promised them. Christians are described in the NT as “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). The Bible teaches that we will rule and reign with him on the earth (Revelation 20:4). We will inherit everything. Paul said that “all things are ours” (I Corinthians 3:21-22).
The real question is this: Is God is finished with Israel? Let me put it a little differently. Is there a future for ethnic Israel in the plan of God? Romans 11 answers that question. The Apostle Paul asked a very important question. “Did God reject his people?”
People who believe in replacement theology would say that he has rejected them and is finished with them. They rejected their Messiah. Paul does not say that. Paul’s answer is “by no means” (NIV) or “of course not” (NLT) or “absolutely not” (HCSB). “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin” (11:1 NIV)
The very question is interesting for two reasons. First, Paul still calls the Jews “His People.” Israel has rejected their Messiah. They are in unbelief but they are still God’s people. He does not say that they used to be His people. Second, Paul says that God has not rejected them. He has not given up on them. He is not through with them. If you believe in replacement theology, you would say that God is through with the nation.
In case you didn’t quite get it, Paul asked the question a second time in Romans 11:11. He says, “Did the nation of Israel “stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” His answer again is “by no means” (NIV) or “of course not” (NLT) or “absolutely not” (HCSB). Paul makes clear in this chapter that some of the natural branches have been cut off (11:17, 19) and Israel is currently set aside but this is only temporary. Paul also makes clear that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26). He does not say that they are being saved now but they will be in the future. That means there is a future for ethnic Israel. Of course, in order for Israel to get saved, it has to first accept Jesus as their Messiah.
The OT describes when this will take place. Zechariah records a prophecy of the conversion of the nation which has not yet been fulfilled.
“On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives. “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” (12:9-13:1 NIV)
Next week, we will continue to study this incredible covenant and look at some modern-day implications of the Abrahamic Covenant for the Nation of Israel.