Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Solus Christus: The Covenant of Promise

This week we began to look at God’s covenants and how they point us to Jesus during this Advent season. We first talked about the Old Testament covenants in general and how they all fall under the “umbrella” of the covenant of grace. We next looked at the covenant of commencement God made in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Then we looked at how God’s covenant with Noah fits into the context of the covenant of grace. Today for our Advent meditation we’re going to look at the Abrahamic Covenant or, as it is sometimes called, the “covenant of promise.” This covenant was given in separate portions and recorded for us in Ge. 12:1-9; 15:8-22; 17:1-14:
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Now, there is so much in this covenant that I could spend dozens of posts talking about it. I don’t intend to go that far, but I do want to point some things out about the continuity of this covenant with the previous covenants and how it points us to Jesus. In His work of redemption in history, God covenants with Abraham to set aside a people for Himself through which the Messiah—Jesus—would come. In this covenant (like His covenant with Adam and Eve but with more detail) God gives His covenantal refrain and promises Abraham “to be God to [him] and to [his] offspring after [him].” (Ge. 17:7) This level of detail shows the settled character of God’s covenant of promise and guarantees an intimate relationship with Abraham and his offspring (i.e. greater fellowship). This covenant with Abraham must be in the context of the covenant of grace, for such an intimate relationship with a holy God presupposes the removal of sin and imputation of righteousness, which Abraham received through faith (Ge. 15:6; cf. Ro. 4:3) and had sealed in his circumcision (Ro. 4:11). God also promises that Abraham and his seed (alluding to Ge. 3:15) would be a channel of universal blessing (Ge. 12:2-3; 22:18). It’s through this promise that Paul says the Scriptures “preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham,” and it is this very promise that Peter says Jesus fulfilled (Ac. 3:25-26; cf. Ga. 3:16). Remember how we said that all the covenants are under the umbrella of the covenant of grace? Here, in the covenant of promise, God’s plan of salvation through the covenant of grace is further explained: the seed promised in Ge. 3:15 would come through Abraham’s offspring (Jesus), would be a blessing to all nations (salvation for Jews and Gentiles), and would make fellowship with God possible (“I will be your God...”). This pledge of a Redeemer would be realized through God’s other promises to Abraham given in the covenant of promise: land (Ge. 17:8) and numerous offspring (Ge. 15:5). The people and the land would provide the necessary environment (under the security of the covenant of preservation) from which the Messiah could come (what we celebrate at Christmas). They would also foreshadow the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant in a spiritual ancestry (cf. Ro. 4:16-17; Ga. 3:7, 16) and a heavenly land (cf. He. 11:10), which Jesus would accomplish in His work of redemption. Thus, God’s covenant with Abraham gives more information about the covenant of grace, and it does not replace the previous covenants but rather builds upon them.

God’s covenant with Abraham, like the promise of the seed in Ge. 3:15, is not some other way of salvation that has come and gone. It pointed them to Jesus and prepared God’s people for the advent of their Messiah. Now we—God’s people—celebrate that advent and look forward to the future, second advent of Christ (i.e. His second coming) when He will take His spiritual people into the new heavens and new earth—the ultimate fulfillment of the land God promised to Abraham.

On this day of Advent remember that God’s plan of salvation hasn’t changed but has always and ever been through faith in Jesus alone. Remember that we have fellowship with God in Christ, which is something we never could have achieved on our own. But, also remember that there is even greater fellowship to come: being in the very presence of God in the new heavens and new earth for all eternity. Jesus’ first advent guaranteed that for us, and His second advent will usher it in. Praise God today for sending Jesus to guarantee that we would be His people and He would be our God, and ask Him to “haste the day when [our] faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend” to bring us into the new heavens and new earth. Perhaps today could be the day.

By His Grace,

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