God’s Covenant with the People

“I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” —Genesis 17:7

GOD unfolded his purposes to Abraham more clearly than to any of his previous servants. First there came the call to leave his own people and his father’s house. This was while Abraham still lived in Ur of the Chaldees. (Gen. 12:1-3) On this occasion God promised Abraham that he would make of him a great nation and that through him he would bless all nations. He also promised to give the land to his seed.—Gen. 12:7

This epitome of God’s purpose was a statement of what he intended to do. Abraham responded to the call, and then God repeated his promise, revealing further that the blessing mentioned in the promise to the patriarch would come through his “seed.” (Gen. 17:7) When Abraham demonstrated his obedience by offering Isaac as a sacrifice, God confirmed the covenant with his oath.—Gen. 22:16-18

After Abraham entered into the land which God promised to show him and was fully separated from his own people, including Lot, God said to him, “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.” (Gen. 13:15) The patriarch’s original name was “Abram,” but it was changed to Abraham to denote that he was to be the “father of many nations.”—Gen. 17:5

When Abraham’s name was changed, God enjoined upon him the rite of circumcision and explained that it was to be “a token” of the covenant which he made with Abraham and with his seed. (Gen. 17:10,11) Abraham, who was then ninety-nine years old, and his son Ishmael, who was thirteen, as well as all the other male members of his household, were circumcised. Surely it would not be easy, under these circumstances, to forget this memorable day and the promises which God then made.

In Romans 4:13-17 Paul explains the manner in which God’s promise to Abraham concerning the “many nations” is fulfilled. Abraham’s seed is reckoned upon the basis of faith; thus all who exercise the faith of Abraham are, from God’s standpoint, his children, or seed. The manner in which it applies during this Gospel Age is stated by Paul in Galatians 3:28, where he writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, … bond nor free, … male nor female.” All lose their identity in Christ, “for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” In this relationship they are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—Gal. 3:27,29

While Christ and the church will constitute the spiritual seed of Abraham through which all nations will be blessed, the restored world of mankind will also be considered his seed, not by the law of heredity, but by faith in God and obedience to him. Abraham is the father of the faithful. The faith of Abraham was much more than a blind faith in the existence of a Supreme Being. God spoke to him, stated his purpose, asked cooperation, and Abraham “obeyed.”—Heb. 11:8-12; 17-19

His, then, was a faith not only in God but in the purposes of God—a faith that prompted obedience to the will of God. No one can ever enjoy God’s favor and be blessed with eternal life who does not manifest this kind of faith. It was because our first parents failed to exercise such faith that they transgressed God’s law. Through the lessons learned from the permission of evil, plus the instructions received when God turns to the people a “pure language” (Zeph. 3:9), all will have sufficient knowledge upon which to exercise a faith that will be pleasing to God—the faith of Abraham.

As already noted, circumcision was a token of the covenant God made with Abraham. The apostle speaks of “circumcision of the heart.” (Rom. 2:29) It is a symbol of separateness from sin and of full devotion to God. This is another condition prerequisite to becoming the children of Abraham, both in this age and in the age to come. God does not keep a covenant relationship with those who are only halfheartedly on his side.

While circumcision was merely a sign, or token, of the covenant, it was very important from the standpoint of the lesson which it taught. God considered it so important that he commanded the death penalty upon members of Abraham’s household who failed to be circumcised.

This may well illustrate the fact that those who are not wholly devoted to God when it is the time of their visitation, will die the second death. God will not perpetuate the life of any who are not in full harmony with him and who do not love to do his will. When, at the close of the Millennial Age, the restored world of mankind shall have been brought into full covenant relationship with God, we may be sure that that which was pictured by circumcision will have been attained in the lives of all. It certainly must be true of the “seed” class of this age, who enter into a covenant with God by sacrifice.—Ps. 50:5

Dawn Bible Students Association
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