Chapter currently under revision – with study group
The thought of calling this chapter ‘The Conclusion’ had such an air of finality. Since God saves the best wine for last, I decided to call it “Peering Into the Future”. As we ponder what may be in his heart and mind regarding the Abrahamic covenant, we discover that we are only at the beginning of his eternal purposes.
Since we began this study we have used the term covenant to group three separate encounters in God’s dealings with Abraham:
- The blessing given by Melchizedek
- The promise given by God
- The actual covenant which God cut
Grouping them together has been effective in communicating the overall message of this book, but for a deeper understanding of the ways of God there is great value in understanding these events individually. Failure to grasp the specifics may lead to theological errors such as replacement theology (a belief that the church has taken the place of Israel). Please familiarize yourself with the passages below before continuing:
The blessing was God’s way of initially getting Abram’s attention, meeting his needs and letting him know that Jehovah God would be with him.
With the promise, God spoke to Abram about his reward. God promised to protect him and spoke to him about his legacy (that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars). With the promise, Abram believed the Lord and he was declared righteous because of that belief.
Now let’s focus on the passage of scripture where the covenant was established. You will find this in Genesis beginning in chapter 15 verse 8. After the blessing and the promise were given the covenant was cut by dividing the animals and God passed through the middle of the sacrifice. A close reading of the passage shows a smoking fire pot and a blazing torch passing through the animal sections while Abraham was in a deep sleep. Seasoned students of the Word will recognize the fire imagery as the Shekhinah of God or the manifest glory of the Lord. It was during this ceremony that the land was transferred to Abram and his descendants for all time.
As mentioned before, we can think of the covenant being comprised of “promise, blessing and covenant” or refer to all three simply as “the covenant”, which is how God speaks of them in chapter 17 of Genesis. It may seem perplexing to consider the blessing, promise, and covenant as separate events in earlier chapters and then have them combined in chapter 17 as the Abrahamic covenant. Which is it, separate events or a complete whole? Well, I believe the answer to both questions is yes; they are both separate and unified. How can this be? This is another of those theological paradoxes where both aspects are true.
What seems to be occurring is that in Genesis 12:1–7 we have a glimpse of God’s ultimate intention. However, his method of fulfilling it is in stages: blessing, promise, and covenant. He then brings all three together in chapter 17, giving Abram a new name (identity) and allowing him to participate (circumcision) in the ultimate fulfillment.
Here is the section from chapter 12:1-3
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
In this short passage, we see in seed form the blessing, promise, and covenant. Then in subsequent chapters 14-15, he provides much greater detail to both promise and covenant, but the question remains, why? Since God knows the beginning from the end, chapter 12 displays God’s ultimate intention. This is a picture of the fulfillment of the ages when the blessing, promise, and covenant are one and indistinguishable from each other. But since we are not yet at the end, God is working these out in dispensations of time and relating differently to Jews and Gentiles even as Paul states in Romans 11.
In a general sense, Israel is in a state of unbelief regarding faith in her Messiah – this is the Promise – righteousness by faith.
The Gentile church is in a general state of unbelief regarding the covenant promises to the chosen people and the land – this is the covenant.
Maybe the graphic below will assist?
God’s purpose is for all things to come together in Christ Jesus (God’s Messiah). For this to occur there will be an awakening of the nation of Israel to faith in her Messiah. There will also be an awakening and outpouring of power on the Gentile church to come into our full calling and embrace our Jewish brethren. This will culminate in one new man as Ephesians states (Jew and Gentile) together as the bride of Christ awaiting his glorious return. In Romans 11, Paul calls this life from the dead. As you have time, review the following scriptures to see this one new man:
As you read Paul’s letters, when he discusses Israel or Abraham, ask yourself this question – is he referring to the promise, the covenant or both? Understanding this important point will aid your comprehension of his writing.
The blessing was bestowed on Abram by Melchizedek (a type of Christ in the Old Testament). Looking more closely unto Melchizedek, we see his name means “king of righteousness” and “king of peace”1. If we consider his names meaning, we begin to see the synergy of his dual roles (priest and king). Melchizedek clearly was a king and a king must have a kingdom and land over which to rule. We know from the Genesis account that the land was given to Abram at the cutting of the covenant.
Melchizedek, the name of the Priest/King who bestows righteousness and brings forth peace is a perfect Old Testament image of the messiah. His “unexpected” appearing to Abram was actually a commissioning of the patriarch into the same roles of priest and king or ruler. When reading the balance of scripture consider the dual calling which you have inherited from the great father of your faith. As a priest we see Abraham intercede for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; as king he exercised this role by faith living in the the land of his inheritance, but not fully possessing it Heb. 11:9.
If you can accept this – Abraham’s life and his descendants are a prophetic picture of Jesus the Messiah and the body of Christ as his offspring.
The scriptures contain many such references where kingdom and righteousness are linked – this is the ministry of Melchizedek. But it doesn’t stop there, he also bestowed a blessing on Abram (father of our faith) thereby inviting Abram and his descendants into this righteous kingdom. As God’s children, we are citizens of this kingdom and will experience righteousness, peace, and joy. This is the culmination of the ages when the covenant and promise come together resulting in incredible blessing for Jew and Gentile under the headship of Melchizedek (Jesus).
Spoken another way, the work of Christ on the cross is the connecting point between the promise and the covenant. Recall that Abram believed the promise which made him righteous, and it was the cutting of the animal halves which God passed through that established the covenant. So how do the promise and the covenant connect us to the cross of Christ?
Abram (representing the human race) cut in half and divided the animal portions even as the Roman soldiers (complicit with the Jewish people) cut and horribly abused the body of Messiah. His innocent and holy body was put to death in our place by both Jew and Gentile (Acts 2:23), thus satisfying the debt we owed. This is the covenant of Abram which God fulfilled at the cross. But it is not effective or valid for us until the promise is received and believed. We know that Christ died for all but the promise must be heard and received before the covenant is established for each individual. In other words, our belief in the promised Messiah and the cutting of the covenant at Calvary is the gateway opening the door to Melchizedek’s blessing!
God is painting a picture which is born out throughout the balance of scripture of his ultimate intention when he restores all things under the lordship of Christ Jesus. Jew and Gentile believers will form one body or one new man and possess the land originally given to Abram. This is the fulfillment of both the covenant and promise given to Abram. As we leave this book consider what it means to walk in the fullness of the promise and the fullness of the covenant. As you do, expect and ask God to bless your life for the glory of Jesus (Melchizedek) so that you too may be a blessing.
Meditation and discussion
As a gentile believer, you already have the promise of God and his righteousness, but what does it mean for you to possess the covenant (land)?
Are you walking in the fullness of both of these with the full blessing of Melchizedek?