The first Biblical reference to a covenant is the one God made with Noah. Actually, it involved more than Noah, for God said that it ” is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh “(Genesis 9: 15a).
When Noah, his wife, his sons, and the sons’ wives left the ark after the flood waters receded, God promised them that, ” the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9: 15b). As a sign of this promise, God put a covenant rainbow in the heavens. Every time God looks at a rainbow, He remembers this everlasting covenant. “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Genesis 9:16.)
The waters of the flood were the means God used to remove all unbelievers from the earth. Therefore, the eight people who left the ark were believers.
The lines of two of Noah’s sons Shem and Ham are carried throughout history. Shem’s line followed after the God of their father. As a result, the Messiah came from the line of Shem.
On the other hand, Ham turned against the things of the Lord almost immediately after disembarking. Can you imagine being one of only eight people on the earth whose lives were spared by God and then turning your back on this same God?
Ham’s descendants under Nimrod, built the Tower of Babel and began the kingdom of Babylon. Contrary to common belief, they were not trying to reach God. Rather, they intended to, “…build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven ” (Genesis11:4b).
According to archeological finds, the twelve signs of the zodiac were around the top of the tower. This was man’s first attempt at astrology. The mystery religions of Babylon are still with us today - the crescent moon, the stars.
You know the next part of the story, God came down and confused the languages and the people were scattered.
This religion began to spread around the world and people were perverted. It even began to influence the line of Shem, so God had to do something to preserve this godly line.
One of Shem’s descendants was Terah who lived in Ur of the Chaldees in the land of Canaan. Canaan was a son of Ham. As a matter of fact, all the different tribes which occupied the land of Canaan when the children of Israel went in descended from Canaan.
Terah had a son named Abram. Abram took a wife named Sarai. Many of their relatives including Abram’s nephew Lot also lived in Ur of the Chaldees.
One day God appeared to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees. At this time, Abram was not a righteous man. He did not know the Lord. He worshiped the moon god and the sun god. He was into astrology and witchcraft; and yet, God approached him. God never forces anything. If he was going to bring that line back to a godly line, He couldn’t force it, it had to be of Abram’s will.
God approached Abram in a manner similar to the way David approached Mephibosheth. He showed him all the things that He would give him.
This covenant is covered in Genesis 12-15, but it is in chapter 15 that we find the real drawing up of the covenant.
In Genesis 15:1 we read, “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I AM thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” God immediately offered Abram his garment (“I am thy shield.”). The garment represents all of His assets, everything that God was. Abram knew exactly what God was talking about. He knew covenant rights. He knew that when someone came to him and offered his shield and offered his coat, he actually was saying, “I want to enter into covenant relationship with you.”
Abram also knew that it was necessary to find out what the other person possesses. You don’t want to enter into a covenant with someone who has everything to gain when you have everything to lose. “And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2). In other words he was saying, “Lord, if I’m going to go into covenant with you, that also includes my children. And I don’t have any! Are you going to bless my steward Eliezer? Lord, what good is it going to do for me to go into covenant? My wife is barren. I’m too old. We can’t have children and now you’re asking me to enter into a covenant?
“And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, 10, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.” (Genesis 15:3, 4.) Not only was God willing to enter into a covenant with Abram, but He would give him children who could be included in the covenant rights. “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” (Genesis 15:5.)
God took Abram’s imagination and stretched it as big as the heavens and said, “You wanted children? We’re going to have faith children that are going to number as the stars of heaven.”
When God offers you something, God does exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think.
God wanted the righteous line of Shem continued. He had made a promise to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, “I’ll raise up the seed of the woman and he will crush the serpent’s head.” Now it looked like the line was in danger. That’s why He had to come down and approach Abram and said, “Abram, I want to be your shield and your exceeding great reward.”
Notice that God didn’t drop a belt out of heaven? God didn’t drop a coat out of heaven. God said, “I am your coat. I am your belt. You don’t need defenses in you hand, I am your defense. You don’t need Me to give you righteousness, I am your righteousness.” Not only that, He said, “I will be your seed. The seed that will come forth will be Me.” The seed is the Lord Jesus Christ in whom all the nations of the world are going to be blessed.
God is everything the nine points of the covenant have to offer. He is the bread. He is the wine. He is the defenses. He is the coat. He is the animal that was slain. He is everything. He says, “You look to the heavens and you will be blessed. So shall thy seed be.”
Abram must have thought, “I can’t lose anything by going into covenant. God promised that if He breaks it, it’s on his neck, not mine.” “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6.)
The same thing holds true for us today; don’t try to figure it out, just believe Him. It’s up to you to believe. It’s up to Him to bring it to pass.
The Hebrew word for Lord used in verses one, six, and seven is called Jehovah in English. However, the Hebrew has no pronunciation for it. Actually, the Hebrew for Jehovah has no vowels and looks like this: JHVH. Also, the “J’s” can be translated another way, and that is where we get the word Yahweh or YHWH. I am mentioning this because it becomes important in the covenant ritual of exchanging names which we will discuss later.
In verse seven when Jehovah says to Abram, “…I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it,” Abram is in Canaan.
“And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”, (Genesis 15:8.) In essence Abram was saying, “Find God, You said you’ll be my shield. You said you’ll be my reward. You said you’ll be my seed. You said all the nine points of the covenant. But Lord, I have one problem. I can’t see You. What am I going to tell my friends? You had better give me something in the physical, in the natural, to show me that this thing is true.” In verse nine we read God’s answer. “And he said unto him, Take me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. ”
Verse ten tells us that Abram did what God asked. He knew about covenants, so He knew exactly what God meant. “And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece [facing the other] one against another: but the birds divided he not.”
All of these animals brought for sacrifice represent the Lord Jesus Christ. They fall into the following two categories: animals that walk on the earth and animals that fly. The three that walk the earth represent Jesus’ humanity. The two birds that fly represent His deity. He is a unique individual such as never existed before. He is both God and man united in one person forever. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, unique from God in that He is a man, but unique from man in that He is God.
Notice in verse ten that the birds were not split. This tells us that deity cannot be divided. Therefore, when Jesus was crucified, only His humanity could be crucified. His deity did not die, nor was it split. When Jesus talked about his work on the cross, he always said that the Son of Man would be crucified. “The Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The Son of Man will be raised from the dead.” Even when the angel appeared at the tomb he said, “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.” Jesus was His earthly title.
Verse eleven tells us what happened the moment Abram entered into covenant by faith and began to layout these slain animals as emblems of the Lord Jesus Christ. The birds came to steal the pieces of the sacrifice. Likewise, satan comes to steal the Word immediately. We know that these animals represent Jesus Christ in crucifixion, but they also represent the bread, which was broken for us. “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “(Mt. 4:4)
Abram’s reaction to the fowls is interesting. Notice that he didn’t say, “God, get rid of the birds. I just entered into covenant with you. You get rid of these birds.” He knew it was up to him to get rid of birds. Once you get into covenant relationship with the Lord, He gives you the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word says, “YOU resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” So Abram was the one responsible for seeing that satan left the pieces of the sacrifice alone.
Read on in Genesis 15:12,13, “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, 10 an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know ofa surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.” Immediately God starts telling Abram about his seed. Why? Because God is responsible for Abram’s seed since He has entered into a covenant with him.
“And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces,” (Genesis 15: 17).
Remember, just before dark, Abram went into a deep sleep (vs. 12). It took so much time for the Lord to tell Abram about his seed, that the sun set totally. Abram is still asleep. He is sleeping when verse seventeen occurs.
In a covenant relationship the covenant is only as strong as it’s weakest individual. Therefore, God could not enter into covenant with Abram because Abram was subject to the weaknesses of man. In fact, Abram failed God so many times from that point on it wasn’t even funny. For example, Isaac’s birth was delayed some twenty-five years because Abram did not obey God’s command to leave Ur of the Chaldees and all his relatives.
Abram did leave, but he took his father with him! When his father finally died nine years later, and Abram could go on, he then took his nephew Lot with him even though in the very beginning God had said, “Go out by yourself, just you and Sarai.” So he went out taking Lot with him, and you know the story of Lot and how that slowed him down. That brought up Sodom and Gomorrah. Then after that came Ishmael. It was one mistake after another. If God had depended upon Abram to keep the promise, we would have all been sunk. Eventually, Abram did get his act together and stood on the covenant.
The point is, God did not enter into covenant with Abram, yet two passed between the pieces of the animals. The two that entered into covenant were the furnace and the lamp. The furnace is God the Father. He is a consuming fire, burning up all sin that comes into His presence. The lamp was the Lord Jesus Christ, the lamp of our path, the light of our way.
Because this covenant was between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Hebrew says that we have I entered into a covenant with God which by two immutable or unchangeable things cannot be broken. God the Father is unchangeable, the Lord Jesus Christ is unchangeable and Abram got to enter by faith into an unbreakable covenant drawn up between these two immutable personalities.
Mephibosheth partook of a covenant that was drawn up of between two individuals who swore it would not be broken, but we have an even greater consolation because we have come unto the Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father, and to the blood of the everlasting covenant.
Did you remember that while God and Jesus were drawing up this covenant Abram was sleeping. Why? So he couldn’t “help.” When Jesus went to the cross, he didn’t need man’s help. Nevertheless, when He arose from the dead He offered mankind the full plan. Likewise, when Abram awoke, God offered him the plan or covenant. “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed I have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. ” (Genesis 15: 18-21)
Did this covenant fulfill all the parts of the covenant? Yes it did. For example a tree was planted. When Jesus went to the cross, the tree was planted. All through the Old Testament, the different leaders of the nations remembered the covenant. Moses carried a rod which is a type of the cross. With this rod he cut down a tree and it hit the bitter waters of Marah and they became sweet.
The covenant meal was eaten. In the previous chapter, the covenant meal was presented to Abram by Melchizedek. He brought him bread and wine.
All the different types of the covenant were fulfilled. However, one of the most phenomenal parts was the exchange of names. “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee,” (Genesis 17:5). “And God said Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be,” (Genesis 17:15). We have already covered the unpronounceable Hebrew words for God JHVH and YHWH. Notice that God incorporated the letter “H” into Abram and Sarai’s names. “H” is the predominate letter in Jehovah and Yahweh. And God said, “When you come into covenant relationship with me, Abram, no longer will your name be Abram, but it will be Abraham.” God put HIS name in the middle of Abram’s. He said, “Sarai, will be Sarah.” And God made His name part of her name also. To complete the exchange of names, God took on Abraham’s name. From that point on He is no longer called God, or the Lord, rather He is called the God of Abraham. After the next generation accepts the covenant He is the God of Abraham and Isaac. Then He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He later on becomes the God of the whole nation of Israel. And today, He is the God of the Church.
When Jesus arose from on high and gave the great commission, He said, “Go ye into all nations and in MY NAME… “, because of this we have the name of Jesus Christ right in our name. In essence, Jesus was saying “Use my name like you do your own.” Abram had the right of attorney with God the Father and with the Lord Jesus Christ when he entered into that covenant. We too have entered into that covenant through faith in His blood.
Genesis 15:18a, “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, …”
The seed mentioned in this verse represented the seed that was now in Abram. Although he had seed within himself, we know that at that particular time Abram could not have children. However, God supernaturally gave him a child at a later time.
Notice too that the word “seed” is singular. If you will remember, in Genesis 15:5, the Lord told Abram that his seed would be as numerous as the stars. In other words, out of his loins this singular seed was going to produce a race of people, which would cover the earth. That faith seed was going to include every kindred, tribe, nationality, and tongue.
The questions is, how does this Old Testament covenant apply to us? In previous lessons we covered the fact that we have a “better” covenant established upon “better” promises. But, how could any covenant be better than one drawn up between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?
The answer lies in what the covenant does for us. Our better covenant was also drawn up between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; however, Galatians 3:6, tells us that, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. ” (Cross referenced Genesis 15:6.)
While Abraham was merely accounted righteous, “… that we might be (have been) made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21b). Isn’t it much better to actually berighteous than to be merely accounted righteous? Under the new covenant we can look back to the work on the cross and we truly become the righteousness of God in Christ!
Nonetheless, this righteousness was deposited into Abraham’s account. God saved people in the same manner as He saved Abraham, on credit, for four thousand years. Every time somebody believed in Him, God looked at the devils and said, “Put it on my tab.” Abraham believed in God, so God looked at the devil and said, “Put Abraham on my tab.” And aren’t you glad that one day Jesus went to the cross and picked up the tab for the past, present and future? Furthermore, He paid it off in full!
Galatians 3:7 tells, us, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”
The Greek word “huios” which is translated here as children, is more exactly translated as sons. On the other hand, another Greek word, “teknon” is sometimes translated as “sons,” but a more accurate translation is “children.” The point is, Abraham had two children, Isaac and Ishmael, who are types of Abraham’s “huios,” or faith children, sons (Isaac) and his “teknon,” or physical offspring the Jews (Ishmael).
The physical Jews believed that since they were the offspring of Abraham, they were the ones to whom the promises were made. However, Romans 9:6 and 7 tell us differently, “Notas though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
In other words, all of Abraham’s children are not sons and they are not all Israel. Therefore, a physical Jew is not necessarily one of God’s chosen people. Thus, the issue here is not natural birth, genes or nationality. Rather, it is spiritual birth, whether or not one has accepted Jesus Christ as his saviour.
Even in the church not all are truly of the church. There are many people who profess to be Christians, but in fact, are not Christians. They may look like Christians and they make act like Christians by doing good deeds and by going to church, yet they are nothing but “whitewashed tombstones.” These are the ones to whom Jesus will say, . . . depart from me,ye that work iniquity, ” (Matthew 7: 23b).
We mentioned that Ishmael was a type of this person rejected by God. Let us examine why Ishmael was rejected and Abraham’s other offspring, Isaac, was accepted.
Most people think that the reason Ishmael was rejected is because he was born to a handmaiden out of wedlock. However, God did not reject Ishmael because of his physical birth or accept Isaac because he was born of Abraham’s wife. Isaac was the one “born of the promise,” but it was not as a result of his physical birth.
In order to understand the reasons for God’s choice we need to look at other similar instances. Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau, born of his wife Rebecca. Both were legitimate sons, yet one was accepted and one was rejected. Jacob had two wives and two handmaidens. Through them he had twelve sons and all twelve sons were accepted regardless of their birth. In fact, they became the twelve tribes of Israel. From these examples, we learn that God does not look at natural birth; instead, the deciding factor is faith.
The reason Isaac was accepted and Ishmael was rejected is because Isaac accepted the covenant of God and walked in faith.
In the case of Jacob and Esau, God in His foreknowledge that He had before the foundation of the world, spoke to Rebecca before those children were born. He said, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” In the natural, Esau was the better of the two boys, but Jacob was the one who walked by faith. Furthermore, God changed his name from Jacob, which was, “a chiseler” to Israel, “a prince with God.” So we see that not all Israel is Israel, some are “huios” and others are “teknon” because of faith.
Another point to consider is that before Abraham was a Jew, he was a Gentile. What made him a Jew? Did he suddenly change one day? No! God didn’t change anything physical about Abraham at all. The Jewish race began supernaturally by faith. It was not spawned by a seed of a man producing another man. It was born supernaturally from a Gentile race that already existed. God called Abraham out of worshipping the moon god. God called him out of astrology and witchcraft and confronted him in Ur of the Chaldees with the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the manifested member of the Godhead is always Christ. Whenever God appeared to Abram back there in the Old Testament, it was Christ that appeared to him and told him all the provisions of the covenant.
The moment Abraham believed, God entered into a covenant with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, drew up an immutable covenant that cannot change, and then Abraham got to walk in all the benefits of the covenant. Twenty-four years later Abraham was circumcised (Genesis 17). Circumcision was only an outward evidence of the faith that existed in his heart. Circumcision didn’t make him a Jew, nor did it make him righteous. Circumcision was simply an outward sign of the seal of the covenant.
Why did God pick that member of the body for circumcision? It represented his seed to come. And it was always as a remembrance of the covenant that the Jews circumcised their children on the eighth day. Then whenever a child said “Father, why am I different? Why have I been circumcised and no other nationality has?” The father could answer, “Son, it’s because God drew up a covenant with us one day.” “Well, Dad, does this circumcision mean that I am righteous?” “No, son, it’s only a sign of the covenant. Son, you must believe in your heart just as I did and just as Abraham did one day. He believed in God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
But, what happened is the physical Jew began to make the whole thing revolve around circumcision. “You’re spiritual because you’re circumcised.” We have parallels today. “You’re spiritual because you’re baptized. You’re spiritual because you sign our roll, join our church, buy a pew, walk our aisle, do it our way.” However, all those things are merely outward evidence of the faith that already exists in your heart. The day that you entered into the covenant that was drawn up between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, you entered it by faith.
Remember, according to Galatians 3:7 “if you believe in God, you are a son of Abraham” But I’m not a Jew! Neither was Abraham! He put faith in God. It was accounted to him for righteousness, even though he was a Gentile at the time. But, by faith he walked into the privilege of God and that is the way we do it today. Let’s not forget that two offspring came out of Abraham. One was a natural seed, and one was a supernatural seed. One was a physical race, and one was a supernatural race. The supernatural race encompassed all nationalities.
The Jews overlooked the promise that was given to Abraham in Galatians 3:8, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. “All nationalities and all generations will be saved because of faith! That is the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12.
Another fact to note in verse eight is that Abraham actually had the gospel preached to him. The gospel has never changed, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
Keeping in mind that Abraham had two seeds, one which spawned a natural race, his “teknon” (children) and one which spawned a spiritual race, his “huios” (sons), let’s look at the exchange between Jesus and the Jews found in John chapter 8. In this chapter, the Jews had been telling Jesus that they were blessed because they were the natural offspring, the seed of Abraham. Jesus’ reply, loosely paraphrased, was, “you are confused. If that’s the kind of seed God wanted, He could raise these rocks into that kind of seed. I could turn rocks into natural Jews. That’s not difficult for Me. But that’s not what I’m looking for.” He tried to explain to them that Abraham had faith. That’s what made him a Jew. That’s what made him enter into that spiritual, supernatural race. He told them that this is available to all nationalities. “In thee shall all nations be blessed.”
In John 8:51-58 this exchange continues:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makes thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou are not yet fifty years old, and has thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. ”
Jesus Christ appeared to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. Notice the word order in verse 57. Abraham rejoiced to see, then he saw. The rejoicing of faith comes before the seeing of the eye. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, then he saw it.
If you have been thinking, “I’ll shout when the manifestation comes,” shout now; then, it will come.
In verse 57, the Jews were looking at the fact that Jesus was a man. But, He was saying, “I’m more than a man. I am ‘the seed’ of Abraham. I am the one that was there with Abraham on that day. I sat down with Abraham. I drew up a covenant with my Father God of whom I speak, I know Him. We drew up an immutable covenant that no man can break. Then I came and gave that covenant to Abraham himself. I appeared to him and talked to him.”
When the Jews said, “You’re not even fifty years old, ” Jesus replied, “That’s right, you’ve missed the whole point. I am. I existed long before I took this body some thirty years ago. I am God. Everlasting God, from everlasting to everlasting. I am the almighty God. I appeared to Abraham back then.”
Verse 59 goes on to say that they tried to stone Him. Why? He used that unspeakable name. Remember the name we took up a few weeks ago that no one could utter? It was too holy to utter. Jesus walked in and used that name and said, “I am.” And that name was blasphemous for any man to utter on this earth. Therefore, the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but He knew who He was.
Finally, let us look briefly at the covenant God drew up with Abraham’s other seed, the earthly seed. The covenant for the faith seed was the covenant of Abraham which you enter into by faith. But the covenant that God drew up for the natural seed is the Law. The Law was never designed for believers; rather, it was designed to expose their problem and turn them on to faith with the Abrahamic covenant. The law was a temporary covenant. The law was added until the seed should come to whom the promise was made. That seed is the Lord Jesus Christ, so, the law was added only until Jesus came. Once Jesus came and ratified the covenant for all mankind the law was done away with once and for all. In other words, once a man entered into the Abrahamic covenant, he was free from the law.
This was true even in the Old Testament. An example of this is David. He walked in faith after God’s own heart. In fact, at times, he desecrated the law. At the shewbread, he opened up the curtains and said, “Everybody come in and look at the ark!” “We can’t do that!” “Sure you can!” This can be done because we have transcended one law and gone to another higher law. The Mosaic law was a temporary covenant, but the Abrahamic covenant was an eternal covenant. The temporary covenant can never override the eternal covenant, but the eternal covenant can override the temporary one. Furthermore, once you used the temporary covenant and found out that you were a sinner, then the temporary covenant pointed you to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law was our schoolmaster to instruct us to Christ. Then once we came to Christ, we were no longer under the schoolmaster.