God’s covenant with Abraham
Now I will highlight all eight points of the promise to Abram, which is explained in Genesis 12:1-3. This is what God said to Abram, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you; and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. Now, look at each of these eight promises in detail.
1. I will show you a land (12:1d)
2. I will make you a great nation (12:2a)
3. I will bless you (12:2b)
4. I will make your name great (12:2c)
5. You shall be a blessing (12:2d)
6. I will bless those who bless you (12:3a)
7. I will curse him who curse you (12:3b)
8. In your ‘seed‘ all the families of the earth shall be blessed (12:3c)
These promises literally fulfilled.
God made this promise to Abram about 2100 years before the time of Christ (BC). The promise God made to Abraham consists of national blessings (a nation will come out of Abram in future that is the nation Israel), personal blessings for Abram and thirdly universal blessings through the seed of Abram(remember the word ‘seed‘ used is in singular voice and not in plural voice), , which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Today, it’s so amazing and wonderful to look back and see all these promises made by God to Abram were literally fulfilled. The fulfillment of God’s promise was hinged on Abram’s obedience in leaving his country and a native place called the Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram obeyed God’s calling and left his native place and began his journey to the land which God would show him. This was solely a journey of faith believing God’s word. Bible says in Hebrews 12:8, ” By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going”. He didn’t know where he was going. But he placed his faith in the God who called him and obeyed. This was an amazing, sacrificial step of faith. It was not an easy step to leave his family and surroundings on that day. There were no cell phones to call the family, no emails and U haul type vehicle to carry his belongings. He didn’t even know where God is taking him. God only said, ” I will show you a land”. God is the one who initiated the work in Abraham. Also, God is the one who gave the efficacious grace to move from his household and city. This is how God always works. He initiates the call and He provides efficacious grace to accomplish what He called for when you and I respond to God’s call.
First, I will show you a land (12:1d). When he left his place by obeying God’s voice, God led him and showed him the land of promise – the land of Canaan.
Second, God made Abraham into a great nation – the nation of Israel came out of Abraham and his descendants.
Third, God blessed Abraham. God blessed Abraham and he became very rich and prosperous. God blessed him spiritually and materially.
Fourth, God made Abraham’s name great – Jews, Christians, and Muslims call Abraham as their father. His name became great as God promised.
Fifth, Abraham became a blessing to many people. As promised, he really became a blessing. Abraham’s name became so great in the world that all major religious groups consider Abraham as a blessed father.
Sixth and Seventh promises – I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you. This is the sum and substance of history. The kings and kingdoms who tried to destroy the nation Israel (the nation Israel that came from Abraham based on God’s promise of “I will make you a great nation”) were removed by God from the world’s leadership roles. The examples of these kings and kingdoms that were removed from the leadership role in the word scene include Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman Empires.
Eighth, In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed is fulfilled in the birth and messianic ministry of Lord Jesus Christ who was born in the genealogy of Abraham, according to the promise God made to Abraham. Gospel of Matthew links Christ’s birth to the genealogy of Abraham (Matthew chapter 1). This eighth promise God made to Abraham said in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This is fulfilled at the time of the birth and ministry of Christ. Because Jesus was the Messiah, the savior of the people of the world that God promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Bible says in Galatians 3:8, ” And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you”
What is this means to you and me today? Look at all the points of God’s promise to Abraham. When we look back through the past history, we can see all these promises God made to Abraham were literally fulfilled. Not a single promise (out of these eight promises)was left unfulfilled. This proves the truthfulness and reliability of the living God and of the Bible – the Word of God.
Let me discuss a little bit more about the promise of the seed to Abraham. The seed can be translated offspring as well, as you see in some Bible translations. God promised the seed back in Genesis 3:15. God said to the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to sin and disobey God’s command this statement, “And I (God) will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (woman’s seed) shall bruise you (Satan) on the head, and you (Satan) shall bruise him (woman’s seed) on the heel”. Adam and Eve lost the very close fellowship with the Lord due to their sin of disobedience and Satan in the form of a serpent tempted the first parents to sin and disobey God. Therefore, right in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, when man fell due to sin, God gave this promise, about a seed who will come out the woman, who will be the savior of the world. This seed or savior who is going to come out the woman down on the road in history will bruise Satan’s head, while Satan will bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. This is the first promise of the seed of God for the salvation of all human beings right in the dawn of the history in the garden of Eden. The first parent may have thought this promised seed is Abel. But the Bible gives the insight that the seed line would further go down through Adam’s son called Seth (Genesis 4:26) and then the line would go through a man called Noah (Genesis 6:6) and now down to Abram (Genesis 12:3d) and the God’s promise to Abram says “in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed”.
The original promise that God made to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 is repeated again by God in chapter 13:14-17. The land and the descendants promise again reiterated here in this passage. God said to Abram, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give to you and to your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its breadth and length; for I will give it to you”.
God formalized an unconditional covenant with Abram.
Genesis 15:4-6, God appeared to Abram and promised in these words, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” And Abram asked, “O Lord God, how may I know that I shall possess it?” Abram needed assurance from the Lord. Therefore, God assured Abram by an unconditional covenant that He would give the promised land to him. God formalized the covenant by a then existed Canaanite culture of the ritual of entering into a covenant between two parties. You can read God’s formalization of the Abrahamic covenant in Chapter 15: 9-21. God asked Abram to bring “a three-year-old refer, and a three-year-old female goat, and a three-year-old ram, and a turtle dove and a young pigeon. Then Abram cut them in two and laid each half opposite the other, but he did not the cut birds”. Notice that this was not a sacrifice because no fire burning the pieces occurred and birds that were not cut came down upon the carcasses and Abram drove them away. This was a then existed form of formalizing a very serious covenant. Then it says in verse 12 that when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and terror and great darkness fell upon him. Now Abram is in deep sleep. Then verse 17 says, “And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates; the Kenite, and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite”. This was the ritual by which men entered into a covenant in those days. The parties entering into the covenant would cut the animals in two, and then both parties of the covenant would apparently pass between the parts, signifying that the covenant was conditional and that the covenant was binding only if both parties kept their commitments. Did you notice the peculiarity in this ritual? Only God passed between the animal halves declaring the oath of the covenant, because Abram was in deep sleep, signifying that this was an unconditional covenant, dependent only on God’s faithfulness. Abram is not obligated to do anything to the fulfillment of this covenant.
Many Nations and kings will come out of Abraham
In Genesis 17:4-6, God told reiterated the promise to Abram, “And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations, no longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.” The promise is enlarged and God promised a multitude of nations would come out of Abraham. Therefore his name is changed by God from Abram to Abraham.
The Abrahamic covenant is narrowed down to his son Isaac.
In Genesis, 17:15 God said to Abraham about Sarai, “You shall not call her name Sarah, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall come from her. Abraham was one hundred years old at this time and Sarah was ninety years. Abraham asked God will a child be born to a man of one hundred years old and will Sarah at ninety years bear a child? He said to God he just want to see Ishmael live before God. When he said this to God, the Lord affirmed and said: “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him”.
In fulfillment of this promise of God to Abraham, a multitude of nations and rulers came out of Abraham and Sarah and they are in existence today. However, this is an important point to remember what God said to Abraham. The Lord’s everlasting and unconditional covenant, about the promised land and the promised seed through whom all earth shall be blessed, is established through the son called Isaac.
In Genesis 17:20, God continued this promise for his first son Ishmael. God said, “As for Ishmael, I have heard; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly, he shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.” God blessed Abraham’s son Ishmael as well with abundant blessings. Ishmael was thirteen years old at this time (17:25) However, the passages clearly states, God’s everlasting and unconditional covenant He made with Abraham as far as the promised land and promised seed are concerned, goes through the line of Isaac.
We see in Genesis 22:1-18, God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on the land of Moriah, on one of the mountains. It doesn’t say exactly which mountain Abraham tried to offer Isaac as an offering. Both Abraham and the lad walked together to the mountain and Abraham fully and completely obeyed God to offer his son, to whom he loved. But at the last moment, after Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, bound, laid Isaac on the altar and stretched his hands against the lad with a knife to slay him, the Lord said, Abraham, Abraham, do not stretch your hand against and do nothing to him. God didn’t allow him to sacrifice His son, Isaac, for He knew that Abraham feared God since he has not withheld his son, his only son, from God. Abraham saw a ram behind him, caught up in the thicket by his horns and offered the ram as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”. There it says the place is after called “in the mount of the Lord, it will be provided”.
Let’s think for a moment these statements, “The Lord will provide” and “in the mount of the Lord, It will be provided”. What is this promise all about. We know later when Solomon built the temple, it was built in the same area (2 Chronicles 3:1) and this is the same area now called “temple mount”. Is this the place Christ was crucified? Bible says in Luke 23:33, “and when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. The other Gospel writers in Bible calls the name of the location “Golgotha” (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17). In Aramaic, this place is called “place of the skull”. This was a place of a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. Hebrew 13:12 says like this, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate”. It appears with no doubt, this offering of Isaac in one of the mountains in the land Of Moriah, was a shadow of the fulfillment of the seed promise to Abraham, by whom all of the families and nations of the earth shall be blessed. This promised seed in the line of Abraham was Jesus Christ (refer the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1)
If we read Genesis 22: 15-18, after the above incident, the angel of the Lord called Abraham from heaven and reiterated the promise to him, “By Myself, I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and not withheld your son….. Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore; …. and in your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
The Abrahamic covenant is reiterated to Isaac.
Later, the same everlasting and unconditional covenant (of promised land and seed), God made with Abraham was reiterated to his son Isaac in Genesis 26:3-4, “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and will give your descendants all these lands, and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Abrahamic covenant is narrowed down to Isaac’s son Jacob (Israel)
Later the same everlasting and unconditional covenant of the promised land and seed is reiterated to Jacob, Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson. You can read this in Genesis:13, “And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Therefore, we can see the Abrahamic covenant that the LORD made was transferred to his son Isaac and then transferred to Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel in Genesis 35:10, “God said to him, Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name. Thus He calls him Israel.” Now at this time, when called changed Jacob’s name to Israel, God reiterated the same everlasting and unconditional Abrahamic covenant to him again. It says in Genesis, 35:11-12, “Be fruitful and multiply, a nation ……. and kings will come forth from you. And the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.”
God says in the Bible in Genesis 19:5(d), “all of the earth is Mine.” Bible says again in Psalms 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains The world, and those who dwell in it.” It’s ultimately the God of the Bible makes the final decision about the ownership of all lands. The right to the promised land has already been decided by the One who has the authority to make the final decision. Eternal and unconditional Abrahamic Covenant made by the Lord with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, granted this right to Israel. The land is called holy land because this is “a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always in it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12). The Lord told this to the people of Israel through Moses the servant of the Lord.
The Bible also tells us that His choice of Israel is not because of any goodness or merits in them. They were not numerous than other people in the world. In fact, they were the least numbered people. (Deuteronomy 7:7). When they were going to the promised land from Egypt, God reminded them through Moses (Deuteronomy 9:5-6) that It is not because of your righteousness or uprightness of their heart that they are going to possess this good land. He also said about Israel in verse 6, “you are a stubborn people.” Moses told them again in verse 24, “You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day I knew you.” He says what is the only reason they are going to possess the land in verses 27-29. The reason is this – the Lord remembers his unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vs 27-28) and He is one hundred percent faithful to His promise.
The Covenant God made with Abraham is literally called ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ in the Bible. Read few references below:
15 Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
16 The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
17 He also confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
As the portion of your inheritance.”
19 When they were only a few in number,
Very few, and strangers in it,
20 And they wandered about from nation to nation,
And from one kingdom to another people”. 1 Chronicles 16:15-20
The peculiar nature of the nation Israel and the everlasting Abrahamic covenant is read below in Psalm 105:6-15.
“O seed of Abraham, His servant,
O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
7 He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
8 He has remembered His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
9 The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
10 Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the [c]portion of your inheritance,”
12 When they were only a few men in number,
Very few, and strangers in it.
13 And they wandered about from nation to nation,
From one kingdom to another people.
14 He permitted no man to oppress them,
And He reproved kings for their sakes:
15 “Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
Genesis 17:7, 13 and 19 also inform us the eternal provisions of the Abrahamic covenant.
Partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The fulfillment of the covenant made to Abraham depends on three matters and they are (1) did the nation came up in the history? (2) Did Israel continue as a nation? and (3) did they possess the land? It’s agreed by almost all that the nation was formed as promised to Abraham and that nation called Israel became a great nation in this world and they possess the land. This is true even as of today right in front of our eyes. Also, I have alluded above that the personal blessings on Abraham, i.e, God gave him a great name and the universal blessings that said “in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” have been fulfilled through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. In addition, all those who are friends of Israel was blessed and those who have cursed or persecuted Israel have been cursed or destroyed. This is the sum and substance of the history of the world.
Therefore, we see the majority of the promises given to Abraham by God are already fulfilled. By these fulfillments, Bible proves that it’s one hundred percent trustworthy. You can bank on Bible and what it promises.
However, there are few things still to be completely fulfilled and we will discuss this now. God’s promises are always fulfilled literally. If you refer ‘prophecies fulfilled in Christ Jesus’ under the page of ‘topics’ in this site, you would discover that God always meant literal fulfillment when He made a promise. If God said Christ will be born in Bethlehem, it meant exactly Bethlehem. Luke 2:4 says, “Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” Joseph and Mary were living in Galilee and God made Caesar Augustus to make a decree for a new census so that Joseph and Mary had to travel 130 KM to reach there in Bethlehem to fulfill God’s promise literally so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Such is the nature of all His promises- literal fulfillment. The LORD made the solemn oath to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-20 and this is how it reads- On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your [t]descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim.
The promise of the land is again repeated in Genesis 17:8 like this, “I will give to you and to your [h]descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” You see it says ‘the whole land of Canaan for an everlasting possession’. As I established previously in this article, of course, the majority of God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) were already literally fulfilled. This includes making a nation out of Abraham, the greatness of his name, the special blessing of Abraham, promise to the nations that blesses Israel and curses to the nations that curse them, fulfillment of the ‘seed’ concept in Jesus Christ through whom all families of the earth were now blessed through the Gospel. However, one thing Israel never enjoyed so far was the description of the boundary of the land God gave in Genesis 15:18-20. Israel possessed the land but never possessed the whole land God promised them so far.
Palestinian Covenant -Temporal and future fulfillments
Make note- continual temporal enjoyment of the possession of the promised land was based on Israel’s obedience to the LORD. However, God said the land and the boundaries described 15:18-20 is an everlasting possession for them. There is a temporal and future fulfillment as was true with other major prophecies. Palestinian covenant given to Israel stipulated temporal stipulations of the everlasting covenant regarding the land. So an understanding of the Palestinian Covenant is important to grasp the temporal conditions and why Israel had to go to exiles by dispersion from the land. Read Deuteronomy Chapter 30:1-10. The prophetic features in Palestinian Covenant include possible dispersion due to disobedience (Deut 30:1), future repentance while in exile or captivity (30:2), the Lord’s return when He gather them from all the people where the Lord their God has scattered them (this is talking about the future regathering of Israel from all over the world with never happened in the history (30:3), By the way, this world wide restoration started to happen in 1948 but not all Jews so far returned to the nation. The restoration (30:4-5), national conversion with a new heart to obey God fully(3:6), judgment of Israel’s foes (30:7), national prosperity (30:9). In a temporal sense, according to Palestinian Covenant, the blessings are conditioned upon obedience (30:8, 10), but final fulfillment is guaranteed by the new covenant.
This is why I said the majority of the Abrahamic covenant are literally fulfilled as of now but will be fully and completely fulfilled at the second coming of the Lord when the nation returns to the Lord in repentance and obedience. They will be granted a new heart to fully obey God.
Future Final Regathering of Israel.
Isaiah 11:12 gives this promise of the future full regathering of the children of Israel from the four quarters of the earth. “And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.”
Isaiah 43:5-7, ““Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. 6 “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar.”
Several prophecies in the Bible talks about future full regathering of Israel. They would return to the land to possess it as God literally promised as an everlasting possession, not because they deserved it but because they are the recipients of God’s grace and unconditional covenant.
Jeremiah says in 16:14-15, ““Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”
So the final regathering of all Israel, per several of Bible passages, clearly states that this future gathering will be from all countries and it will be final and complete.
The previous dispersions were more locally based. The first exile to Egypt and then the exile happened to Assyria and Babylon. The next dispersion happened in AD 70 was more of a worldwide in scope. The future regathering of Israel will also be worldwide in scope.
Jeremiah also says, ” Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.”
Final regathering of Israel will be at the time of the future reign of Christ after the time of Jacob’s distress.
The verse informs us the final regathering of all Israel from all corners of the earth will be in connection with the millennial rule of Christ. Christ is the seed fulfillment of the Adamic, Abrahamic and David Covenant promised in Genesis 3:15, 17:6, 49:10 (narrowed to down to Judah) and 2nd Samuel 7:8 (seed, king, and the future kingdom is narrowed down to David’s family).
This final gathering from all over the world will occur after the tribulation period per Jeremiah.
“For thus says the Lord,
‘[b]I have heard a sound of terror,
Of dread, and there is no peace.
6 ‘Ask now, and see
If a male can give birth.
Why do I see every man
With his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth?
And why have all faces turned pale?
7 ‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.
8 ‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off [c]their neck and will tear off [d]their bonds; and strangers will no longer make [e]them their slaves. 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
10 ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord,
‘And do not be dismayed, O Israel;
For behold, I will save you from afar
And your [f]offspring from the land of their captivity.
And Jacob will return and will be quiet and at ease,
And no one will make him afraid.
11 ‘For I am with you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to save you;
For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you,
Only I will not destroy you completely.
But I will chasten you justly
And will by no means leave you unpunished.’
The chronological outline of the verses cited above shows the future progression of events leading up to the final gathering of all Israel – tribulation time is from verse 5-7 (period of Jacob’s distress). Then they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them (vs 9). Of course the reference here is Christ as the king. The verse 10 says He will gather all Israel and they will be quiet and at ease and no one will make him afraid. (‘Jacob’ means ‘Israel’) .