January 13 – Abrahamic Covenant
This week we’ll look at the second covenant in the Old Testament, the Abrahamic covenant. God made this covenant promise with Abraham, who at the time was named Abram, from Genesis 12, in which God calls Abram into an initial covenantal promise, to Genesis 17, in which God seals his covenant with Abram in the ritual of circumcision. If you keep reading through Genesis you’ll see God visit Abraham over and over, clarifying his promises and assuring Abraham the he will keep them. Here in chapter 12 Abraham didn’t know exactly how God would fulfill his covenant to turn Abraham’s small family into a great nation and subsequently bless all families of the earth through him. He had no clue that 600 years later God would rescue thousands of his descendants out of Egypt to form the nation of Israel, or that 2000 years later his distant great-grandson would hang on a cross to become the blessing promised here in verse 3. He simply heard the promises of God, and obeyed his command to drop everything and follow him.
And then we immediately see Abraham screw up. He flees with his family to Egypt to escape a famine and lies about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. And God doesn’t even punish him for it! When you read this you might be a little indignant and want Abram to at least get some sort of reprimand, but instead you’ll just see Pharoah’s household catch heat through a host of plagues (which serves as an odd foreshadowing for future plagues in Egypt, ref. Exodus 7-12). But take notice that God’s covenant with Abram didn’t involve any sort of moral requirement. He didn’t tell Abram he would make him into a great nation only if Abram behaved right. In fact, Abraham actively doubted God’s ability to keep him safe in Egypt and thus produced his own predicament. We see in this that God keeps his promises, even when mankind responds in rebellion and disbelief.
We can also see, as New Testament authors point out later in the Bible, that Abraham is the first example of God’s saving work through human faith. Abraham simply had faith in God and his promises, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This lays the foundation for what we’ll understand fully through Christ, that God does all the work of salvation, going so far as to die for his enemies, and we need only respond in belief to enjoy his covenantal promises.
Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Genesis 12 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• How does this covenant build on the promises made to Noah in Gen. 8-9?
• What’s your reaction to Abram lying about Sarai? What do you think it reveals about Abram?
• What can this whole passage tell us about God?
• How can these truths about God define the way we relate to him?