Thursday, March 14, 2019

Covenant with Abraham

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:10).

The Abrahamic Covenant is revealed at several points in the story of Abraham. God’s initial proclamation of covenant promise to Abram is found in Genesis 12:1–3. God reiterated that promise after Abram’s exodus from Egypt in Genesis 13:14–17. After Abram’s defeat of Kedorlaomer, God appeared to Him and actually cut the covenant with him in a vision (Genesis 15). Later God told Abram to use the rite of circumcision as a permanent memorial to the covenant, and as a way of reiterating it generation after generation; He also changed Abram’s name to Abraham on this occasion (Genesis 17). God reiterated the covenant one last time to Abraham in Genesis 22:15–18, after Abraham had offered Isaac to God.

The two key passages are Genesis 15 and 17. In both of these, we see that covenants are “cut” and involved death. The amazing story found in Genesis 15 shows that God’s promise to Abraham is so secure that only if God Himself can be killed and torn in half will it be broken. God’s glory passed between the halved carcasses of sacrificial animals, and by doing this God said, “May I be ripped in half like these animals if I break this covenant with Abraham.”

What if Abraham broke the covenant? Then Abraham would deserve to be torn in half. He would deserve to be sacrificed, undergoing the curse of the covenant. God made this clear in Genesis 17 with the rite of circumcision. Circumcision cuts a man in half symbolically, separating him from his foreskin. Circumcision has two sides. On the one hand, circumcision promises that man will only suffer a little because someone else will take the punishment he deserves. On the other hand, circumcision forewarns that if a man breaks the covenant, he will suffer the total punishment of the curse.

The blessing of circumcision is implied in the fact that it is the foreskin and not a finger or a toe that is cut off. This points to procreation and generation, to the Seed, the Son who is to come. It is He who will be “fully circumcised” in death for our sins. That is why, as a last sign of the nature of the covenant, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and thus foreshadow the cross of Christ.

Moral, civil, and ceremonial law results from God’s cutting of covenants with man. As you continue to read through the Scriptures, recognize that today’s readings in Deuteronomy are laws enacted by God in His covenant with Moses and Israel. Consider which are still operative in the New Covenant, and why.