Covenant: The Pivot Around Abraham

In one sense one can say that Abraham is a pivotal person in the development of Covenant in the Bible, but that really is not true.  It is not him, but what Jehovah does with him that is pivotal.  With this Old Testament figure, as discussed previously, God reveals powerful images of what His Covenant is about:

1. Jehovah cuts a very personal Covenant with a man, thereby declaring that He is not a remote God, He is not detached from His creatures.

2. Jehovah pledges Himself to death should He ever break Covenant, thereby declaring the extraordinary depth of His commitment – and His heart –, and that throughout the whole Old Testament He will never walk away from His pledge.

3. Jehovah cuts a Covenant in which for 14 years the man does not reciprocate the commitment, thereby declaring that this relationship springs entirely from God’s heart, not based on what the man will or will not do, can or cannot do – it is a relationship by the grace of God.

4. Jehovah includes the helpless and the hopeless (the eight-day-old baby and the slave) and places them under an eternal Covenant, with an indelible mark “in your flesh,” so that they might know that whatever the future circumstances of their lives, God will never back out nor back away from His commitment – even if it costs His Life.

5. Jehovah includes both those who will receive the Law/Torah (600 years later) and those who will not receive the Law/Torah – therefore the Covenant is not based so much on commandment as much as on the voluntary commitment and submission of each participant.  Because this is from God’s heart, He has no need to change the inclusiveness of His commitment – after all, Jesus died for the whole world, therefore any resistance to Covenant will not come from Him.

6. This is no mere association, but rather such an oneness that Jehovah seeks and finds His nature, His Love, flowing through Abraham, as He seeks and finds an intercessor for even His enemies, and that His justice bends to extremes on account of that Love.

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Mirroring Jehovah’s voluntary commitment, Abraham is in it “to the death.”  Nothing is withheld from the Covenant partner – nothing.  When one enters Covenant, he must be entirely convinced that he can lay everything he is and has into the hands of his partner, without question – whether he be a fellow human or God.  Even if the partner takes seemingly improper advantage of the relationship, this is what the individual has committed himself to.  However, he also could take improper advantage of the partner.  The potential for abuse is enormous, so that this definitely is a relationship which should be entered rarely and carefully.

Now in Genesis 22, the Covenant-Partner requires of Abraham his son.  This is not just his “only” son, it is also the one upon which Jehovah has said hang all the future promises.  Everything that Abraham has depended on and believed is now challenged.  And yet there is not a whimper of protest.  The next morning and for three days he travels with this son to the designated place.  When that son asks his father where the sacrificial animal is, what a conflict must be going on in Abraham’s heart.  Yet his answer is that God will provide – there is no other son allowed by God for the promises, so there would have to be a resurrection if necessary [Hebrews 11:17-19].  And there is not a whimper – because this is the commitment of Covenant.

On the other hand, Isaac is also of interest.  How hard would it be for a 12-13 year-old to run from a 112 year-old man?  Isaac has carried the instrument of his “death” (the wood), and he submits even his life to his father – the parallels are strong in regard to Jesus’ death.

Of course, God does provide a substitute for Isaac and he does not die.  As Jehovah had called upon Abraham for his son, what had he called upon his Covenant-Partner for?  Abraham must have realized that one day Covenant would require God’s Son, Who would submit to His Father, and this time there would be no substitute; however it would mean salvation for the world – “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”  I believe that this hints to what Jesus refers when He says “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and was glad” [John 8:56].

In the first 22 chapters of the Bible, Jehovah has laid out before us everything that the rest of the Bible will further develop in all its Glory, wonder and power, and He has defined in most vivid terms what is the nature of both His Old and His New Covenants with mankind.


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