Second Sunday, March 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (ESV)

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.

15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Perhaps you recall the story of the rainbow. We discussed it in the February 22 devotion. The key component of that story wasn’t the rainbow but God’s covenant with Noah. It was a promise never again to execute justice through a flood.

Today, we encounter the word “covenant” again. This time, it is a covenant with Abraham. A picture is beginning to emerge.

In Old Testament times, covenants were well understood. They involved an agreement between two parties. Covenants included terms to be met and penalties for non-compliance. Generally, each party made a solemn oath to obey the terms. Frequently, these were blood oaths that included curses for non-compliance. Generally, there was a ceremony of ratification.

The covenants between God and Moses and Abraham did not follow this pattern precisely. However, these were, in a sense, training wheels for other Old Testament covenants that would follow.

More importantly, the Old Testament covenants set the stage for the ultimate covenant. In Jeremiah 31:31, God said, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…”

We live in the days of the New Covenant. It can be summarized in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

The New Covenant is this: believers will have eternal life, not because of their deeds but because of Jesus. His blood purchased our salvation. As Jesus said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

The picture that emerges, therefore, is that all history was preparation for Jesus.

Thank you, Father, for the New Covenant. Amen.


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