This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The Nature of Covenant
We’re going to begin this session with a quick review of some of what we’ve covered in previous sessions. You’re free to look at your outline if you want to but I’m not going to give you much time. Let’s see if collectively we can enumerate the ten aspects of the exchange that took place at the cross. Who’d like to state number one? Punished that we might be forgiven. Number two, wounded that we might be healed. Number three, sin that we might be made righteousness. Number four, died our death that we might share his life. Number five is he bore our curse that we might have the blessing. Number six, endured our poverty that we might share his abundance. Number seven, he bore our shame that we might share his glory. Number eight, he was rejected that we might be accepted. Number nine, cut off, that’s right. And number ten, our old man was executed in him that the new man might live in us.
Then another quick run through. We saw that when witchcraft gets into the church it obscures the vision of the cross. And there follows two results in the life of the church in its doctrine, in its way of doing things which are: legalism and carnality.
Then we saw that through the cross there are five deliverances provided for us that are mentions in Galatians. I tell you, I’m dependent on you for some of these answers! Number one, from this present evil age. Number two, from the law. Number three, from self. Number four, from the flesh. And number five, from the world. That’s pretty good.
Now we’re going to continue with the theme that you’ll find on Page 6 of your outline. I’m a little reluctant to give the page numbers because if these things are ever put together, the page numbers will change and people will look at the video looking frantically for something on Page 6 which is now on Page 4! But what can we do?
We’re going to deal now with the theme of the covenant made through the cross. Now when we come to the theme of covenant we come to one of the most important themes of the Bible. But one which is not really very much understood in the contemporary church, especially in a church that depends on a translated version of the scriptures. So I’m going to take a few moments to acquaint you with the basic concepts both from Hebrew and from Greek and show you the different ways that they’re translated. One of the confusing things is that in various different parts of the Bible the same word in the original language is translated by a different word in English, or probably French, or German, or most European languages.
So we’ll look at the words for covenant. Incidentally, I’ve seen the blue there and it reminds me of something. Years back when I was still a corporal in the British Army I concluded my military service guess where? On the Mount of Olives. If you’ve ever been to Jerusalem and visited the Mount of Olives you’ll know that there’s a hospital there which is in a building which was originally the ?Augusta Victorious Hospice?. In World War II that was Number 16 British General Hospital. I ended my career there doing all sorts of things. Let’s not go into what I did but I was a kind of useful guy hanging around that could be asked to do things that other people couldn’t do. Theoretically, I wasn’t supposed to be qualified for any of those tasks. I ended up in charge of the hospital office and I was only a corporal which was absolutely contrary to all military procedure.
Anyhow, it was there that I decided to teach myself Hebrew. The way that I did it was to get the English Bible, the King James, and a Hebrew Bible because I had to learn the alphabet and just a little basic grammar. Then I started reading the Hebrew and finding out what it meant from the English. And for some reason, and I’m sure it must have been the Holy Spirit, I was already in the habit of underlining passages in the Bible in different colors. If you’re going to do it, it’s one of the best ways of systematically seeking out themes in the Bible. Choose a theme, choose a color and everywhere that themes occurs, underline in that color. It’s a very effective mental discipline for making you pick out what you’re looking for.
I had three color pencils: blue, green and red. I never can explain why I did this but I decided to go through the Hebrew Bible as I was reading, looking at the word covenant and underlining it in blue, looking at the word sacrifice and underlining it in green, and taking shedding of blood and underlining it in red. I didn’t have any logical reason but I quickly made a very important discovery. Everywhere I needed the blue for covenant I needed the green for sacrifice. And everywhere I needed the green for sacrifice I was bound to need the red for shedding of blood. And so I saw right on at that point in my spiritual walk where I was only about four years old in the Lord that covenant always requires a sacrifice and sacrifice always requires shedding of blood which means a life laid down. Now this is one of the themes we’ve been looking at.
Let me take a little while to just explain the words. I won’t write them up in the original languages. But the Hebrew word for covenant is b’rith. How many of you have heard of a Jewish organization called B’naiB’rith? That means “sons of covenant.” That’s the word. Now the Greek word is diatheke. The root meaning of b’rithis not quite sure but I think you can say that it suggests commitment. Diathekemeans “the terms of an agreement” like if you were going to rent a property, the conditions of which you could use it would be set out in the terms of an agreement. I’ll just use the word terms. That is rather typical of the difference in Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew is essentially a language of action, Greek is an analytical, philosophical language. But they complement one another. One is not complete without the other.
B’rithrepresents a commitment. Some people think it means “to bind,” that two people are bound together. I don’t know that that can be proved linguistically. There’s no doubt what diathekemeans.
Now, the interesting things is that there are two different ways that they’re translated. One is covenant, the other is testament. Now that’s not two different words. That is one and the same word both in Hebrew and in Greek translated according to the context. So when you talk about the Old Testament and the New Testament, what you’re talking about is the old covenant and the new covenant. If you then understand that our entire Bible comes to us in the form of two testaments or two covenants, it gives you some basis for judging how tremendously important the concept of covenant is in understanding the Bible. In fact, I think there’s a very definite—there’s a limit to how much you can understand the Bible. Especially practically until you understand what a covenant is.
Now, understanding a covenant is something that God doesn’t just drop on the unworthy. You have to fulfill some character requirements to understand God’s covenant. And before we go any further I want to just lay that down, in Psalm 25. Some of these scriptures are not in your outline so you may want to write them down. We’ll read from verse 8 through verse 14. This all centers around what kind of a person you have to be to learn from God.
“Good and upright is the Lord: therefore he teaches sinners in the way. [The humble he guides in justice, the humble he teaches his way.] All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”
You see there that God’s provisions are really intended for those who keep his covenant. Then it says:
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great. Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall he teach in the way he chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity; and his descendants shall inherit the earth. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him; and he will show him his covenant.”
More literally, the word “secret” is “secret counsel.” I think one of the translations says “the Lord is intimate with those who fear him.” He shares his secrets with those who fear him.
Notice the two character requirements. Humility, the fear of the Lord. And then it says the secret counsel of the Lord is with those who fear him, and his covenant to make them to know it. That’s the literal translation.
So you understand that the covenant and the secret of the Lord go together because in Hebrew poetry there are usually two lines to a verse. They don’t say something different, they say different aspects of the same thing. So when it says the secret counsel of the Lord is with those who fear him, and his covenant to make them to know it, what we are being told is that in the secret counsel of the Lord is the truth about his covenant. And he doesn’t reveal it except to those who meet his character requirements; those who fear him.
I think the previous verse, verse 13, “he himself,” the Hebrew incidentally says “soul” shall dwell in prosperity; and his descendants [or his seed] shall inherit the earth. I think that’s connected with the covenant. All these provisions of God are contained in his covenant. If you’re in covenant relationship with him they’re available to you. But he only reveals his covenant to those who fear him.
I’m very well aware of this because I’ve tried to preach on covenant many times and sometimes I’ve been successful and sometimes I’ve been totally unsuccessful. And I’ve made essentially the same provisions, preparations and prayer in my outlines. Do you know what I’ve come to the conclusion? The Holy Spirit just won’t reveal it to some people. I may want to but he doesn’t. So that’s going to be interesting, isn’t it. We’ll see what will come out of that this morning.
You see, I’ve learned as a teacher that the Holy Spirit is very—he sets his requirements and he doesn’t change them. This is just by the way, but I can have exactly the same outline, make the same preparations, do the same amount of prayer and come to one place and I can hardly struggle through my outline. Another place I find myself saying things I didn’t even know that I knew. The difference isn’t in me, the difference is in people. The Holy Spirit is jealous, he won’t release God’s secrets to those who don’t fear him. So you and I need to decide do we fear the Lord? I want to say I do, to the best of my ability I fear the Lord.
If you want a theme to follow up with either a blue pencil, a red pencil or a yellow pencil, try the fear of the Lord. If you have a concordance all you’ve got to do is look in the concordance. Otherwise, you’ve got to be industrious and read through your Bible. I’ll tell you where you’ll find the most passages about the fear of the Lord—in the book of Proverbs. And I do not know any aspect of character or conduct that has greater blessings attached to it in the Bible than the fear of the Lord. One proverb which comes to mind: “The fear of the Lord tendeth to life; he that has it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil.” What more could you want? The fear of the Lord tendeth to life; he that has it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil. If you don’t want to cultivate the fear of the Lord on that basis, you’re foolish.
I preached on the fear of the Lord once under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and a lady came up to me at the end and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me but all the time you’ve been preaching I’ve been weeping.” Well, I think she needed the fear of the Lord. But a lot of Christians, contemporary, Charismatic and Pentecostals, if you talk to them about the fear of the Lord they think you’re putting something severe and unpleasant on them.
Let’s go on with out theme now which is the covenant. We’ll look now at the first of the scriptures in your outline, Psalm 50:5. We could read the first five verses. Psalm 50, the first five verses.
“The mighty one, God the Lord, has spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.”
Now you have to know in Hebrew poetry and prophecy that the tenses are pretty hard to determine. So you find some of your translations will say “God has shone forth.” It’s difficult to explain it but there are some tenses you can translate either past or future which is especially designed for prophecy. So you’re never really quite know. I mean, it’s just marvelous how God had the right language designed for the right revelation. Hebrew is perfect for the Old Testament. Greek is perfect for the New Testament. Greek is a highly analytical language, a philosophical language. And to express all the subtleties, for instance, of the doctrine of justification by faith, Greek is the ideal language.
Let’s go on, verse 3:
“Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around him.”
As I understand it, this is the coming of the Lord in glory. And the main aspect of it that’s dealt with here is he’s coming to judge his people and the earth. Then it says in verse 4:
“He shall call to the heavens from above, [that’s interesting, he’s above the heavens] and to the earth, that he may judge his people.”
Now in my version the next verse is in quotes, it’s what he says:
“Gather my saints together to me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice...”
Now the word “saints” I think some of you will have “holy ones.” It’s a very interesting word. The Hebrew word is hassid. How many of you have heard of hassid? How many of you have heard of Hassidic Judaism? The hassidim, if you go to Jerusalem, they’re the ones that walk around with these big, round, black hats; long black tunics; they have beards; they’re sideburns are curled. They’re dressed in the attire of an 18th Century Polish nobleman. It’s an interesting thing. Moving from Poland to Jerusalem hasn’t changed their attire one little bit. Poland is rather cold and Jerusalem is rather hot. But they still walk around in these long, hot, black clothes. And they are called hassid.
Now the word hassidis related to a basic Hebrew word which is ?hefed?. ?Hefed? is one of the most difficult words to translate. You’ll find it translated mercy, love, lovingkindness, faithfulness. I believe, personally, that it is always related to the concept of covenant. That is to say, God’s ?hefed? is his total faithfulness to keep his covenant commitment to his people. And the hassidis one who trusts in God’s ?hefed?. And here God defines his hassidim. Now his definition is not the same as that of ultra Orthodox Judaism.
“Gather my saints [my ?hassidim?] together to me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
So what is the qualification for being a hassid, a holy one, a saint? It’s having made a covenant with God by sacrifice. See, the hassidimhas no sacrifice. The only place they could offer a sacrifice is occupied by a Moslem mosque, it’s a very interesting situation.
But if we want to be holy ones it depends on our having a covenant relationship with God based on the sacrifice. Where it says “those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” you’ll find in the margin it says instead of “made,” “cut.” Those who cut my covenant [is what it actually says] on the basis of a sacrifice. So you see again, no sacrifice, no covenant. Every covenant has to be based on a sacrifice. A hassid, a saint, a holy one is one who has entered into a covenant relationship with the Lord on the basis of a sacrifice.
Now we’re going to take a passage from the life of Abraham as an example of what’s involved in making a covenant with the Lord on the basis of sacrifice. The passage we’re going to actually examine in some detail is found in Genesis 15 but in order to understand what’s described in Genesis 15 I want you to turn for a moment to Jeremiah 34:16. Now that won’t make any sense to you unless I give you a little explanation. At this point God was very angry with the Jewish people, the Kingdom of Judah. One of the things they had done was make slaves out of their fellow Jews which was forbidden in the law of Moses. God dealt with them through the prophets, primarily through Jeremiah, and they repented and said “we won’t do it.” And they made a covenant with God and one another that they would no longer take Hebrew slaves. They released their Hebrew slaves and God’s wrath was alleviated. Then they took the Hebrew slaves back. They broke the covenant. And incidentally, that’s one of the most serious things that you can do by Biblical standards is break a covenant. So God says, “I’m going to judge you.” But what we’re reading that for is to notice the way they made the covenant. Jeremiah 34:18:
“And I will give the men who transgressed my covenant [or broken my covenant], who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before me, when they cut the calf in two, and passed between the parts.”
Now let’s leave the particular details of the covenant on one side. You’ll notice how they made a covenant. There had to be a sacrifice. The sacrifice was the calf, they sacrificed the calf, killed it and then cut it in two. They put two halves of the calf opposite one another and walked between them. And that was symbolic of entering into a covenant through a sacrifice. The calf, the two pieces of the calf was a visible token of the covenant. But it’s a vivid picture, to enter into a covenant you have to pass through a sacrifice.
This was apparently a well understood procedure amongst the Semitic people of the Middle East. We’ll go back now to Genesis 15 which, to me, is one of the most fascinating incidents in the Bible because it describes how God, the Lord made a covenant with is friend Abraham. And the amazing intimacy between God and Abraham is something that just impresses me. In fact, I’ll tell you when I read about the patriarchs I kind of wish that we could have the same kind of close, personal friendship with the Lord. You know, the Lord could drop in on Abraham for lunch without even warning him. Enoch used to take walks with the Lord. What a wonderful relationship. I believe that we should have something even better in our relationship with God because we have a better covenant. They were just prototypes of what God wanted.
Anyhow, we’re going to look now in some detail in Genesis 15 and I want you to trust me that out of it will come a lot more than you think when you first read it. We’ll start at verse 5. The Lord is giving his marvelous promises to Abraham. You know, one of the ways that God deals with us is by his promises. His promises test us. I mean, it’s wonderful to get a promise from God but it’s going to test you in walking it out. God has given me some amazing promises. The first time he ever spoke to me he gave me a staggering promise. But it hasn’t made life easy for me. It has continually challenged me and it is still challenging me today. See, the greater the promise, the greater the challenge.
Another thing you’ll notice in God’s dealings with Abraham is that he several times repeated the promise. Abraham had to keep hearing it. It was so incredible that his faith needed to be strengthened. So we’re here in Genesis 15:5:
“The Lord brought Abraham outside and said, Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.”
That’s very interesting in the light of modern astronomy. I was just reading an article in Time about new galaxies, each of which probably have about twenty billion stars. Abraham had no idea what he was told to count when he started. He just saw a few hundred stars. That’s again like God. There’s a lot more to his promises than appears when you first see them. Then he said:
“So shall your descendants be [your seed].”
Now bear in mind he didn’t have any children at the time. But, this is one of the crucial verses of the Bible, this is the basis of justification by faith used by Paul in Romans.
“He [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and he [the Lord] accounted it to Abraham for righteousness.”
What was accounted to him for righteousness? His what? Faith. He’s the father of all who believe. Verse 7:
“Then the Lord said to him, I am the Lord that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit. [This land being the land of Israel, or the land of Canaan.] And he said, Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
Now how did God answer that question? It’s very important. He made a covenant. The ultimate assurance and commitment of God to anything is his covenant. When God has given you his covenant there is nothing more he can give you by which to commit himself to do what he’s promised. We need to understand that because it affects our lives very closely. God has given us a covenant and it’s his ultimate commitment.
Now we read how they entered this covenant and you see it’s the same principle that’s described in Jeremiah 34. At this time he was still Abram. You know what Abram means, don’t you? Abram, Ab in Hebrew is father; Ram is I or exalted. So it means exalted father. That was his name already. It was a kind of irony about it, wasn’t it? He didn’t have any children. His name was changed to Abraham which in Hebrew is just putting in one letter which means “father of a multitude.” It’s interesting. Of the three patriarchs, two of them had their names changed by God. Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel. The only one who didn’t have his name changed was the one who was named by God in the first place and that was Isaac.
Verse 7 thinks about this—as you can tell, I’ve lived in this chapter. That letter there, the hay, the soft, is the breath letter. So the breath of God coming into Abraham changed him from exalted father to a father of a multitude. I personally believe that was fulfilled at Pentecost. Up to Pentecost the Jewish people had remained basically a single nation. When the Holy Spirit came then they blossomed out and covered the face of the earth. And Abram became Abraham, the father of a multitude.
All right, we’re back in Genesis 15:9:
“And he said, Bring me a three year old heifer, a three year old female goat, a three year old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. [Those were the sacrificial animals.] Then he brought these to him [to the Lord], and cut them in two...”
This translation says “down the middle.” I’m not sure that’s the way it happened. I wouldn’t know.
“...and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.”
So presumably the pigeon was on one side, the turtledove on the other. So there was a kind of pathway marked out. Half of each sacrificial animal on the right, half on the left. But when it came to the birds there was one bird on the right, one bird on the left. Verse 11:
“When the vultures came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”
Now, to me, the vultures represent Satan’s attempt, his agents, his demons to frustrate the purpose of the covenant. And I think I shared with you in probably the first session we had about when I was in hospital desperately seeking the Lord for healing, God revealed to me that healing had been provided through the covenant in Jesus. But believe me, there were endless vultures that came down and tried to take away from the sacrifice. Doubt, fear, depression, unbelief, and a whole lot. So one of our functions in spiritual life is to keep the sacrifice intact by driving away demons.
“Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.”
Now we understand from what follows that Abraham is the father of Israel who has given a spiritual preview of what his descendants were to endure in Egypt. It’s sort of interesting. In the spirit he had to go through what his descendants were going to live out later.
I want to say that Abraham was God’s friend. He’s the pattern believer although he made his mistakes. But great darkness came upon him. I want to suggest to you that you shouldn’t anticipate that the Christian life will all be just brightness and sunlight. I don’t think God can trust immature believers with this kind of experience. But Abraham was committed to have a preview of what his descendants were going to go through in Egypt.
I’m always concerned that real committed Christians won’t get a false picture of what their lives should be like because there’s a certain kind of teaching today that says you’ll prosper, you’ll be successful, you’ll get everything you want. That’s only half the truth. There’s another side to it. It’s bad enough to go through darkness although in the will of God it’s good. But to go through darkness and think you shouldn’t be in darkness, that’s really torment. Suppose somebody told Abraham, some preacher came along and said, “Abraham, you’re never going to have children. And you’re anything now, God’s chosen you, he’s going to do everything for you, you’ll have no more problems.” Then this darkness comes upon him. Abraham is either going to think God has failed me or that preacher was wrong. I hope he came to the second conclusion.
“Then the Lord said to Abram, Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them [be their slaves]; and they will afflict them 400 years; and also the nation whom they serve, I will judge [that’s Egypt and God judged Egypt through the ten plagues]: and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
That’s part of the promise. That’s one of the most dramatic transformations in human history. One day a nation of slaves, the next day laden with abundance. Because God promised it.
Keep your finger in there for a moment and turn to Psalm 105:37.
“He [the Lord] also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among their tribe.”
That’s the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 15. They’d been deprived, underprivileged slaves 24 hours earlier but when God said it, it had to happen. There was not one feeble person among them. What changed them from the poor emaciated, sickly slave to a nation that could march out in ranks? The covenant. But it was implemented in a certain way, what did they do? They killed the Passover lamb, they sprinkled his blood on the door, and they fed upon his flesh. As they fed upon his flesh their own fleshly weaknesses disappeared. It’s wonderful. By the time they had to march out there was not one sick person among them. And all that is just a type of what we have in Jesus.
Going back to Genesis 15:15:
“And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”
I think he was 175 when he died, wasn’t he? That’s a pretty good old age.
“But in the fourth generation they shall return here: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
That’s another interesting little glance at God’s dealings. They were going to dispossess the Amorites because they were extremely wicked. But God was going to allow that wickedness to come to its climax before he brought judgment upon them through the Israelites. Going on:
“And it came to pass, when the sun went down, and it was dark, that behold there was a smoking oven, and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram [the Lord cut a covenant with Abram], saying, To your descendants I have given this land...”
What’s that land? The land of Canaan. The most controversial strip of real estate in the world today. Isn’t it extraordinary the controversy always centers around the things that God is dealing with?
“...from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.”
We won’t go into the rest of the details of the land.
Now, Abraham had already passed through this horror and great darkness that came upon him. Now it became literally dark and there was a smoking oven [or furnace] belching out smoke and in this darkness there was only one light. It was a flaming torch. Now this is my understanding. The flaming torch represented the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Keep your finger in Genesis 15, we haven’t finished that. Turn to Revelation 4:5. This is John’s vision of the throne in heaven and it says:
“From the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
Some versions will say the sevenfold Spirit of God. But there were seven lamps. So the Holy Spirit is represented visibly amongst other things as a lamp of fire. And I believe that was what Abraham saw in the midst of this darkness. He saw God in the person of the Holy Spirit in the form of a blazing torch passing between the pieces of the sacrifice. What did that mean? The Lord was entering into a covenant with Abraham.
Now I’m inclined to believe that Abraham also passed between the pieces because in Jeremiah 34 we find that the people that offer the sacrifice pass between the pieces. If that’s right, and you’re free to make your own determination, on that night which was about 4,000 years ago the Lord himself and his friend Abraham walked together between the pieces of the sacrifice and entered into a covenant with one another. To me that is extremely vivid.
Now if you want to keep your finger in Genesis 15 one more time and turn to Isaiah 48:10, the Lord is speaking to Israel prophetically, Abraham’s descendants, and he says:
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
So what does the furnace represent? Affliction. And in the midst of darkness and affliction, it was then that God and Abraham entered into a covenant. So the darkest hour, in a sense, is the brightest.
And when the presence of God in that lamp of fire came, it only illuminated just one kind of thing which was the pieces of the sacrifice. I want to suggest to you—and we’re going to go on with the nature of the covenant that we have with God—but I want to suggest to you there will be times in your life when everything around you will be dark and when you’ll be in the furnace of affliction. Notice that’s where God tests you. That’s where God chooses you. And in that furnace the only thing that the presence of God will illuminate will be the sacrifice. But the sacrifice is the guarantee of the covenant. And God is not committed at certain times to give you any other assurance but his covenant. But when you have the covenant, that settles it. It is the ultimate assurance that God is with you, chosen you and he will fulfill all that he’s committed himself to do.
We need to understand the sanctity of a covenant. God says in Psalm 89: “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my mouth.” Once he’s made a covenant he’s going to do what he said he will do. I want to impress upon you the sacredness of a covenant because it concerns you and me as well.
Now, as the Lord and Abraham passed through those pieces and entered into a covenant, what was the real significance of the sacrifice? The sacrifice speaks of a life laid down. So, as the Lord and Abraham passed through the sacrifice, if you can accept this kind of language, each of them could turn around and point to the sacrifice and say “That’s where my life was laid down. That sacrifice represents me. And I’ve passed through the laying down of my life into a relationship with you by which I live for you. My resources are your resources. Anything that I have that you need I’m committed to supply.” That’s challenging to say that to the Lord. But on the other hand, if at the same time the Lord says it to you, you’re going to be the better of the bargain.
Now, to me it’s very, very interesting that both Abraham and the Lord had to walk out that commitment. Later in Abraham’s life in Genesis 22 the Lord said to him, “You have a son. Isaac, the one you love, your only son. I want him as a burnt offering.” And he said, “Remember, we’re in covenant. What you have, what I need, is mine.” What a wonderful person Abraham was. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t hesitate, he knew the meaning of a covenant. And he set out for Mount Moriah and demonstrated up to the very last moment that he was prepared to offer the most precious thing he had to the person with whom he was in covenant.
That’s wonderful but that’s not the end of the story. About 2,000 years later God had to fulfill his side of the covenant. And for the sake of Abraham and his seed he offered the most precious thing that he had. And the name was Jesus. But there was no reprieve for Jesus. He went all the way to the cross and he poured out the last drop of his blood on the cross. But that was the outworking of the relationship that had been established 2,000 years earlier on that dark night in the land of Canaan.
To me this is staggering. I believe if you really can see history with God’s eyes, what you’ll see is the outworking of God’s covenant. What’s going on in the land of Israel now at this very period in history is to be explained by covenants that God made 4,000 years ago. Most of the Jewish people have forgotten it. Most of the historians of the world are not concerned with it. But one person hasn’t forgotten. That’s God. He’s going to keep his covenant. That’s what it means to be in a covenant relationship. There has to be a sacrifice.
Now, a bull, or a calf, or a sheep is just an emblem of something, an emblem of a life laid down. But the real sacrifice is my life. I lay it down. I’ve got no right to walk between those pieces of the sacrifice unless I’m saying, “From now on my life is at your disposal. Anything I have that you need, all you have to do is ask.” See, contemporary Christianity doesn’t know much about that kind of commitment. They do in some parts of the world. But when we’re talking about a covenant we’re talking about the ultimate. There is nothing beyond the covenant.
Now, the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15 was a temporary covenant. I think we’ll look at it in the next session but let me just point out to you that there’s no provision for Abraham himself in that covenant at all. It was only for his descendants and it was not a permanent covenant. There was no guarantee it would be everlasting. Personally, I believe that commitment was fulfilled when Israel entered the land under Joshua. And if that had been the only covenant that God had made, history would be different today.
When we return after the break we’re going to look at the second covenant God made in Genesis 17. If you have a little spare time or you want to, you could read about the first half of Genesis 17 before we go there.