God’s Covenants With Man
Last week we focused on God’s covenant with Abram, which was a two-fold promise. First there was the physical promise which was specified in Genesis 15:18; “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..”
Then there was the spiritual promise that was made back in Genesis 12:3, which said; “And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And we know that was a spiritual promise because of what we’re told in Galatians 3:29; “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.”
Now listen to how God talks about this covenant with Abram, in Genesis chapter 17. Remember, Abram was seventy-five years old when God first made His promises to Abram. So Genesis 17 says; “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him; I am God Almighty..” literally, “El shad-dah’-ee”; God the almighty one. “..I am God almighty, walk before Me and be blameless, and I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face, and God talked to him saying; As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you. And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram (which means, “exalted father) but your name shall be Abraham (which means, “Father of a multitude”). 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. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your seed after you, throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Now let’s stop for a minute. I want to say something about what the scriptures call, “the everlasting covenant”. A lot of people think that the word “everlasting” means eternal. They think that it means that it can absolutely never end. And so that’s one of the reasons that so many people think that the Jews will some day be restored to their original land of Canaan.
So it’s important that we understand what the word “everlasting” means. Now that’s the same word that was used in Genesis 9:16, when God said that the rainbow was the sign of an “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature..” So let’s see what the word means. The word can mean.. “of long duration, of antiquity, or of futurity.” So it can refer to a long duration of time in the past, present or future.
In reference to God’s promise to never again destroy all life with a flood, it obviously refers to the duration of time while life remains on the earth. In Proverbs 23:10, it’s translated like this; “Do not move the ancient boundary.” So there it refers to antiquity.
In Psalm 90, verse 2, It says; “Even from everlasting to everlasting.” So there it refers to both the past and the future. From antiquity to futurity.
Now here’s an interesting usage of the word. The prophet Jeremiah was lamenting the day of his birth, mush like Job did when he was suffering. And it says in Jeremiah 20:17; “Because He did not kill me from the womb, so that my mother would have been my grave, and her womb, always pregnant.” Now obviously, the word “always” doesn’t mean that her pregnancy would never end. But rather, it refers to that specific duration of time while she was pregnant.
You can easily see that the word that’s so often translated “everlasting” can mean several different things. And it’s simply naïve and uninformed, to think that just because we read of an everlasting covenant, that it means that the covenant can never end.
Now let’s go back to Genesis 17, verses 9 & 10; “God said further to Abraham; Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you, throughout their generations. And this is the covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your seed after you; Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”
And then God goes on to explain in more detail, this sign of the covenant. And what do you think Abraham said in reply? Well, Abraham might have said; Oh No, wait just a minute here. You never said anything before about any circumcision. You already made a covenant with me. I know that you’re God almighty, but you can’t just go and change the terms of the covenant that you already made with me.
No, that’s not what Abraham said. But he could have. That’s what a lot of people say today. They say that God can’t take an old covenant and just change it, or do way with it completely and replace it. Your word says that you made an everlasting covenant. That means that You can never change it.
But we’ve seen that that’s not what everlasting means. And now we’re seeing, that God indeed can, add to a covenant, or disclose more about a covenant, as He sees fit. As a matter of fact, I’m quite confident, that God wasn’t changing His covenant with Abraham at all, by disclosing the requirement of circumcision. But rather, I believe that God was simply revealing in more detail, the terms of the covenant.
I’m not really aware of the requirement, that constrains God, in His revelations to Abraham. It’s not like Abraham had a choice in the conditions anyhow. Just like we don’t have any choice in the conditions that God has prescribed for us to follow, in His new covenant law in Christ. As a matter of fact, if God hadn’t clearly stated in His word, that His will has already been fully revealed, like it says in 1 Peter 1:3; “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence”, If it weren’t for statements like that; And if it weren’t for statements like 2 John verse 9, which says; “Anyone who goes too far, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God..”
And you know that there’s other verses that speak to that fact. If it weren’t for those kind of statements, then God could just as well add something to His covenant in Christ also, and we’d be obligated to follow it. If God hadn’t given us His word, that there’s nothing more to reveal, than it would be totally up to God, whether or not to add something, or to change something.
Genesis 17, verse 9 had said; “You shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you, throughout their generations.” What would have happened if Abraham had broken God’s covenant? Well, God would have had the option of ending the covenant wouldn’t He? And what happened when Abraham’s descendants did in fact break the covenant? God ended the covenant didn’t he?
God knew that they’d break it, that’s why he had the new covenant in Christ already planned. It’s just like the fact that God knew that Adam and Eve would break their covenant with God. That’s why the plan was made from eternity. Ephesians 3:11 says; “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which he carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Genesis 17, verse 15 & 16, God continues to reveal more details about His covenant with Abraham. Here’s what He said; “..As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (which means, “princess”) shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her and she shall be nations; Kings of peoples shall be from her.”
Now verses 17 thru 22; “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed , and said in his heart; Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? And Abraham said to God; “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee.” (In other words, may You bring this blessing through Ishmael, who was already thirteen years old at the time) But God said; No, but Sarah your wife shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.” (which means, “he laughs”)
“And I will establish My covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; Behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princess, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year. And when he finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.”
Do you see how God hadn’t really changed His covenant with Abraham, but he had simply continued to reveal more about it as time went by. You know, that gradual revealing of all the terms of the covenant, wasn’t unique to just that covenant either. Think about the revelation of the ordinances that God gave to the nation of Israel, after they came out of Egypt. And remember that a covenant is another name for an ordinance, or a law, or an agreement, or an alliance.
Do you remember what the very first law was, that God gave to Israel? God actually gave this law to Israel before, they left Egypt. It’s given in Exodus chapter 12, and it was the law of the Passover lamb, or you might say, it was the law of the feast of unleavened bread. God said in Exodus 12, verse 14; “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord. Throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”
That word “permanent”, same word that we’ve been talking about, that’s also translated as “everlasting”. So the feast of unleavened bread, which is the Passover, was given to Israel before they ever left Egypt, and it was to be a permanent, and everlasting ordinance for the people to follow. It was to be “everlasting” until that time came, when it was no longer needed.
That was the very first law that God had ever given to Israel, and He gave it to them before they let Egypt. Now, what’s the second law that God ever gave to Israel? It’s first mentioned in Exodus 13, verses 1 & 2, and it was stated immediately after Israel left Egypt. Here it is; “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying; Sanctify to Me every first born, the first opening of every womb, among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast, it belongs to Me.” And then it says in verses 11 & 12; “Now it shall come about, when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall set apart all that opens the womb to God. And every fist born of every beast that you have, the males shall God’s.”
Do you see how God is revealing parts of His covenant with Israel as they go along? The next part of the covenant that God revealed to Israel is the law of the sabbath. And we need to go to Exodus 16 to read about that. Israel is in the wilderness now, and they have no food to eat, and so God provides for them, manna from heaven.
Here’s what Moses told the people about the manna, in verses 16 thru 21; “This is what the Lord has commanded; Gather of it every man as much as he should eat. You shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent. And the sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much, and some little. When they measured it with an omer, the one who had gathered much, had no excess, and he who had gathered little, had no lack. Every man gathered as much as he should eat.”
“And Moses said to them; Let no man leave any of it until morning. But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms, and became foul, and Moses was very angry with them. And they gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat, but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.”
Now here comes the part about the sabbath, beginning with verse 22; Now it came about on the sixth day, they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them; This is what the Lord spoke; Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake, and boil what you will boil, and all that is let over, put aside to be kept until tomorrow. “
“So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and t did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it. And Moses said; Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord. Today you will not find it in the field. six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day sabbath, there will be none.”
“Then the Lord said to Moses; How long will you refuse to keep My laws? See, for the Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore He gives you bread for two days, on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.”
God was revealing Hi covenant with Israel, one law at a time, you might say. Why He did that we don’t know. But we can see that that’s the way it was. And we’re out of time. So we’ll continue next week, Lord willing. But there’s a lot of things about God’s covenants, that most people don’t understand. Like the fact that God hasn’t always revealed everything concerning a particular covenant, all at once. such was the case with god’s covenant with Abraham, and such is the case with the laws that God gave to Moses for Israel.
So next week, we’ll get into the old covenant law of Moses in more detail, and we’ll notice some things that a lot of people overlook.