Understanding God’s Covenants With Man – Part 2, Early Covenants

 

 

Man Has Always Lived Under A Covenant With God

 

Here’s just a little review of last week’s lesson;

God made a covenant with Adam, in the garden.  And the covenant also applied to Eve.  And that covenant would have lasted throughout Adam and Eve’s entire physical life, if they hadn’t broken the covenant.  But they did break the covenant, and thus God removed them from the garden, and the covenant ended.

Now a new covenant had to be made, because they were in sin.  And we see the results of that new covenant in  Genesis 4, verses 3 & 4,  when Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to the Lord.   And we would have to assume that the whole family was involved in that covenant, and that it was to last, for as long as they were alive, because they would always be subject to sin.

The bible doesn’t tell us about any other covenant, that God made with any other person, up until the time of Noah.  But I have to question whether God didn’t give all men the command to offer sacrifices to atone for their sin.  We do know, that if God had given anyone else, even one command, that sooner or later they would have disobeyed that command, then they would’ve been guilty of sin.  So I wonder if God hadn’t made a covenant with everyone?

The only other alternative would have been for God to allow all the other offspring of Adam and Eve, to go through life with absolutely no guidance at all, and no laws.  Then no one would be guilty of any sin, because as we know, “sin is not imputed where there is no law.”  Romans 5:13

So then if God had not made a covenant with anyone else, besides Adam And Eve, and Cain and Abel, then those four would have been the only ones guilty of any sin.  That doesn’t sound fair does it?  Adam and Eve were given a law, which resulted in their disobedience, and consequently they lost their spiritual life.  And Cain and Abel were also guilty of sin, evidenced by the fact that God required them to offer sacrifices, but no one else had any law, and therefore, no one else had any guilt.

If that were the case, then why was God so upset with mankind for being so sinful?  Why was He so upset, that he destroyed mankind in a flood, if sin isn’t imputed where there is no law?   Genesis 5, verse 5  says;  “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” 

That doesn’t make sense, does it?  If there was no law, and if there was no covenant.  As  matter of fact, it is contrary to what God has told us in the bible.  No law, no guilt.  That’s pretty simple.  But yet God destroyed all of mankind, except for Noah and his family, because of their wickedness.  There had to have been guilt, and so there had to have been a law.  There had to have been a covenant of some sort, or they wouldn’t have been guilty of wickedness and evil.

 

What about Enoch?  Did God make a specific covenant with Enoch?  Or did Enoch simply live under the same covenant that Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel lived under?  Genesis 5, verses 22 & 24  both say that Enoch “walked with God”.  So then it would have been necessary for God to have commanded Enoch, how to walk with Him.  It would seem to me that it would be an inevitable conclusion, that God had a covenant with Enoch.   Otherwise Enoch couldn’t have walked with God, if he hadn’t had rules to walk by.

If Enoch lived under a covenant with God, how long would that covenant have lasted?  When would it have ended?  Wouldn’t it have ended after it had been fulfilled?  When God took Enoch, which really equates with the death of Enoch, wouldn’t any covenant that they had, have been fulfilled at that time?

If someone remains faithful to God throughout their life, and unto death, they would have fulfilled their covenant with God, and their personal covenant would end.

Do you think it’s at all odd, that when a covenant has been fulfilled, that it comes to an end?   I don’t.  I think it’s just a mater of common sense.  Once a covenant has been fulfilled, what would be the sense of that covenant existing any longer?

 

Someone read this verse this morning;  Romans 7, verse 2;  “For the married woman is bound by law, to her husband, while he is living.  But if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband.”  There’s the covenant between a man and his wife.  Don’t you think it’s only logical that the same would hold true for a man’s covenant with God?  When the man dies, the covenant is loosed.  It has been fulfilled, and therefore it no longer exists.

That seems so simple to understand, that a covenant could be fulfilled, and thus come to an end.  But for some reason, a lot of people think it’s so strange, when you suggest to them that the old covenant law of Moses could have been fulfilled, and then come to an end.  They think it’s impossible for that covenant o end.  People don’t use common sense do they?   If there came a time when the old covenant law of Moses was fulfilled, then of course it would end.  it couldn’t be any other way.

 

God definitely made a covenant with Noah, didn’t He?  (Gen 6:18-20)  And that covenant applied to everyone who was willing to enter the ark.  And that covenant lasted until the flood was over, and everyone had existed the ark.  The covenant had been fulfilled;   God had saved the lives of all who had entered the ark, and so the covenant ended.  Purely common sense, right?

Then God made another covenant, this time with every living creature upon the earth.  That God would never again destroy the earth with a flood.  (Gen 9:9-17)  And that covenant will last as long as life itself exists upon the earth.  And when life ceases to exist, the covenant will have been fulfilled, and it will end.

 

The next covenant that we read about in the bible, was made between God, and the man Abram. And this covenant fits into the category of being a promise and a pledge. But it also fits into the category of an agreement and an alliance.

You remember in  Genesis chapter 12,  and  verses 2 & 3,  how God said to Abram;  “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so YOU 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.”  On that day, God made a promise to Abram, but nothing was said about that promise being a covenant.

Then in the next chapter,  Genesis 13,  and obviously after a somewhat long period of time, God reiterates His promise to Abram.  Here’s why I said that a long period of time must have passed.  God first made His promise to Abram, when Abram was in Haran, about 400 miles north of the land of Canaan.  So Abram traveled that 400 miles, and then he went from one place to another in Canaan, and then a famine strikes. And Abram goes from Canaan, down to Egypt and lives there for a while.  Then Pharaoh sends Abram on his way, and he goes back to the land of Canaan, and that’s where he and Lot have to separate, because of how large their herds have become.  So a pretty good length of time must have passed, for all this to have taken place.

But here’s the next time that God reiterates His promise to Abram.  It’s in  Genesis 13, verses 14 thru 17; “And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him; 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 it to you and to your seed forever.  And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your seed can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through it’s length and breadth, for I will give it to you.”

Now we jump to  chapter 15 , and God makes the promise to Abram again.  It says, beginning in  verse 1; “After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying;  Do not fear, Abram. I am a shield to you.  Your reward shall be very great. And Abram said; O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?  And Abram said;  Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.  Then behold the word of the Lord came to him saying;  This man will not be your heir, but one who shall come forth from your own inward parts, he shall be your heir.”

“And He took him outside and said;  Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.  And He said to Abram;  So shall your descendants be.  Then he believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.  And God said to him;  I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.  And he said;  O Lord God, how shall I know that I shall possess it?  So he said to him;  “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

So Abram does what the Lord has said, and he brings the animals, and he sacrifices them, and he cuts them each in two, and he lays each half opposite the other half, and he chases all the birds of prey away from the offerings, and he waits for the Lord to respond.

And here’s what happens, beginning in  verse 12;  “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.  And God said to Abram;  Know for certain, that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward, they will come out with many possessions.”

“And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace;  You shall be buried at a good old age.  (There’s not much more anyone could ask for than that is there?  Than to be go to your fathers in peace?  Live your life obeying God, like Abram did, and then return to Him in peace)  Then in the fourth generation, they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”  

Now, let’s see if you follow these last verses the same as I follow them.  God said that Abram’s descendants would be enslaved for four hundred years, but that God would judge the nation enslaving them, and they would come out of their slavery with many possessions.  Then God said that as for Abram himself, Abram wouldn’t be a part of that slavery, but rather, Abram would live a life of peace, and die at a good old age, and be buried along with his fathers.  That’s all pretty clear right?

That concludes in  verse 15.  But then in  verse 16,  God seems to go back again to the descendants of Abram, when He says;  “Then in the fourth generation, they shall return here..”  “Here” being the land of Canaan, the promised land.   So God has said that Abram’s descendants would be enslaved four hundred years, and then they would come out of slavery with many possessions, and then they would return to Canaan after four generations.

What do you think “four generations” refers to?  Some think it refers back to the four hundred years of slavery, and so they say; Oh boy, here’s another one of those bible contradictions.   But I don’t see how the four generations can refer to those four hundred years.  Here’s the sequence of events;

First there’s the four hundred years, and then there’s the release with many possessions, and then there’s the four generations, and then there’s the return to the land of Canaan.  Slavery, the release from slavery,  the four generations, and the return to Canaan.   Now, what took place between the release of Israel from Egypt, and their return to the land of Canaan?

Wasn’t it forty years of wandering in the wilderness that took place.  So then, wouldn’t the “four generations” have to be a figurative expression, referring to those literal forty years?   The Hebrew word for “generations” doesn’t always refer to what we typically think of as a generation.  The word “generation” can just as well, simply refer to “a period of time”.   As a matter of fact, one of the definitions of the word is..  “a generation of time, characterized by a certain quality or condition”.  The “condition” in this instance, would be the condition of wandering in the wilderness.  So then “four generations” would simply refer to four, ten year periods of time, characterized by the same condition of wandering in the wilderness.

 

Now, after God had prophesied to Abram about his descendants, here’s what happened, beginning with  verse 17;  “And it came about, when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, a smoking oven and a flaming torch, which passed between these pieces.”  Do you remember the sacrifices that Abram had cut in two, how he had laid them out with the pieces opposite each other?  Well, the Lord “passed between these pieces”.  And what did that “passing between the pieces” signify?  It signified God’s acceptance of the sacrifice that Abram was making.

Verse 18  says;  “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 Girgazite, and the Jebusite.”

All the land which was now possessed by all these people mentioned, would be given to the descendants of Abram, all the way from Egypt to the Euphrates river in the north.  That was the covenant, that God made with Abram.  But what was mentioned in that verse, wasn’t really the whole covenant was it?  That was the physical part of the covenant.  But what about the spiritual part of the covenant?   Remember the promise that God made with Abram in  Genesis 12, verse 3?  “..And in you, all the families (or nations) of the earth shall be blessed.”  

Only the direct physical descendants of Abram would be blessed with the physical land of Canaan.  What about all the rest of the families of the earth?  What would they be blessed with?   Galatians 3:29  says;  “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”    In other words, all the families of the earth are blessed spiritually in Christ.  Not with the physical promised land, but with the spiritual promised land.

That’s the covenant that God made with Abram.  It was a physical covenant, and it was a spiritual covenant.  The physical side was fulfilled when God took Israel into the land of Canaan.  Does that part of the covenant still exist?  It’s been fulfilled, right?  So then that part of the covenant no longer stands, right?  Because God fulfilled it, and so it’s over and done with.   Easy to understand, right?

What about the spiritual part of the covenant?  Does it still remain in force?  Even Abraham himself hasn’t received the eternal inheritance.   Hebrews 11:13  says;  “All these died without receiving the promises..”  And Abraham was one of those spoken of in that verse.   So then that part of the covenant has not been fulfilled, and so it still remains in tack.

Galatians 3:17  tells us;  “..The law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.”  And if the old covenant law didn’t invalidate that previous covenant, why would we think that the new covenant law would invalidate it?  It wouldn’t, and so it still stands.  And it will stand in force, until all who belong to Christ, who are the seed of Abraham, shall receive the eternal inheritance.

 

Next week, Lord willing, we’ll study how this same covenant promise that was made with Abraham, was also made with Isaac and with Jacob.  And then we’ll look at the covenant that God made with all of the sons of Jacob, also known as the sons of Israel.

 

 

 

 

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