The covenant that God made with Abraham is one of eternal significance. The promise that God makes with Abraham can be seen throughout the Biblical text. Many other Biblical authors cite the covenant that God made with Abraham as essential in God’s plan of redeeming the human race from its sin problem. From the beginning of time, mankind has been plagued by the problem of sin. God’s solution comes forth through the covenant he makes with Abraham which ultimately leads to Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
The covenant that was made by God with Abraham can be seen in Genesis 12:1-3, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you? (Holy Bible).
There are many aspects to the covenant that is being made with Abraham. The first part is that God tells Abraham that he will be the father of an entire nation. This was ironic for Abraham because at the time, he and his wife Sarah had no children and were past the point in their lives when it was likely to have kids. Abraham is told that he will have a great name and will be a blessing. The last portion of God’s declaration to Abraham is that all people on earth will be blessed through him. This is said to be the solution that God has in mind for mankind’s problem. Two Biblical scholars say this in regards to this passage, “Beginning with Abram’s call in Genesis 12:1-3, the Bible now introduces the solution to the world’s sinful dilemma (Arnold and Beyer 90).
From the moment of promise in Genesis 12, the ancient Hebrews have a hope of redemption by their God. This did not happen, though, until God made the Hebrews into a mighty nation. The beginning of the founding of the nation of Israel can be seen throughout their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Here, God assures Moses that he has not forgotten his covenant:
From the point that God calls Moses to deliver his people out of Egypt and into their land, God’s covenant with Abraham is being fulfilled. God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. As the Hebrews begin this journey out of Egypt and into the desert God’s plan of redemption is moving forward.
As the Israelite nation wanders in the wilderness for forty years God is disciplining them and teaching them how to be a nation that follows Him. As Joshua takes the leadership from Moses, the Israelite nation is ready to take the land that God promised them. From the point that the Israelites step foot on the west side of the Jordan river, many of them could have been thinking of Genesis 24:7 where Abraham said, “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there? (Holy Bible). Abraham believed God when He promised him that his offspring would have the land he was in. Now, his nation is beginning to take ownership of the land that God has for them.
God has been intentional with His people thus far and that intentionality does not subside. Joshua and the Israelites are successful in taking most of the land of Canaan. The great nation that was promised to Abraham has been given its land and can now begin to build itself into a regional powerhouse for the Lord. It is an understatement to say, “The promises to Abraham became assurance for future generations? (Holman 14). God’s people knew what was told to Abraham and they were witnessing the fruits of that promise with their very eyes.
As Israel moves into a Monarchy, its third king remembers what was told to Abraham when he pens, “May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed? (Holy Bible Psalm 72:17). Solomon is echoing the covenant that God made with Abraham. He understands that this covenant is the foundation for the nation of Israel’s existence. If it were not for the promise that God made to Abraham, Solomon would not be king because there would not be a nation to reign over. This text can go further into pointing to where the blessing of all nations would come through. Ultimately, the Messiah would come through the royal line of David and it is through that same royal line that Solomon speaks of this occurring.
As we have seen thus far, Israel has become a great nation which fulfills part of God’s promise to Abraham. However, we have not seen how exactly God will bless all the people of the earth through Abraham. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament the foreshadowing of this occurring is clearly seen. Isaiah says that “The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance’? (Holy Bible, 19.25). Isaiah declares that God will bless two nations that are responsible for oppressing His people. This would have been a tremendous surprise to the people of Israel when Isaiah declared this. Assyria was the nation that destroyed the northern kingdom and took them into captivity. The nation of Egypt enslaved God’s people before they were a separate nation. For God to say that Egyptians are His people and Assyrians are His handiwork can only be seen through the lens of Genesis 12:3.
Moving forward we will get a clear picture of how, “Through him God had revealed His plan for human salvation? (Holman 14). Jesus was clear that the blessing of Abraham would be for all people. In Matthew 8:11 Jesus says, “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? (Holy Bible). Jesus is expressing the promise to Abraham that all people will be blessed through him. All people will be blessed ultimately through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Jesus’ expression of people coming from the east and the west shows that the Gospel is for all people regardless of their nationality.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection the covenant that God made with Abraham is expressed further in the rest of the New Testament. In the book of Acts Luke records Peter’s words to the Jews when he says, “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed’? (Holy Bible 3.25). John Stott says that “this was a foundation promise of the Old Testament? and in regards to what the blessing is, he says, “It is not forgiveness only, but righteousness? (94). Not only does the blessing of all people include forgiveness of sins, but it includes a level of justification before God that makes every believer right with Him.
The apostle Paul continues the connection between God’s covenant with Abraham and Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. He concentrates mostly on the fact that through Christ, Gentiles are welcomed into the blessing of Abraham. He clearly lays this theology out when he says, “The 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’ (Holy Bible, Galatians.3.8). This verse is of great significance because, “According to Paul, the story of Abraham demonstrated that from the beginning God’s people were characterized by faith and reckoned as righteous? which means that “God’s purpose all along has been to bless the nations through Abraham? (Capes, Reeves, Richards 115-116).
Even after God promised Abraham that through him all people would be blessed, there was a major disconnect between the Israelite people and the people outside of their nation. Much of this was because God was protecting them from the pagan gods that were worshipped by the Gentiles. However, everything, as we have seen, changed with Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul breaks this reality down for the Christians in Ephesus, much of whom came to Christ as Gentiles:
Paul is, again, highlighting the promise made to Abraham that all people would be blessed through him. It is through Abraham that Gentiles are blessed. God’s plan of redemption started with Abraham and ended with Jesus Christ on the cross.
As has been seen, the covenant that God made with Abraham is clearly seen throughout the whole Bible. It is partly fulfilled through the Old Testament and completely fulfilled through the New Testament. God built a great nation in the Old Testament and ultimately blessed all people through the New Testament. God’s promise to Abraham did not turn up void. It was a guarantee as soon as it came from God’s mouth.
Sources: Arnold, Bill T. and Bryan E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2008. Print.Capes, David B., Rodney Reeves and E. Randolph Richards. Rediscovering Paul. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007 . Print.Holman Bible Publishers. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Print.Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. Print.Stott, John R.W. The Message of Acts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990. Print.