The Abrahamic Covenant
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
The Abrahamic Covenant is a God-given promise that has influenced the very course of human history. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatians, was clear that it could never be annulled (Galatians 3:17). Many preachers have tried to annul it in some form or fashion, in an attempt to deny the Jewish people a national destiny in their ancient homeland of Canaan. That God would displace peoples in order to restore Jewish national sovereignty offends them, since they regard this as unjust. But God does not see the world as we see it and therefore He harmonizes His judgment of peoples with the return of His people to the Promised Land.
Thus He only brought His people into Canaan four hundred years after the Exodus, when the wickedness of the nations living there was “ripe” for judgment (Deuteronomy 9:4-5). This idea of God judging people and nation groups is rejected by many theologians today. Michael Pryor, an Anglican minister, so fully rejected this notion that he referred to Joshua as “the patron saint of ethnic cleansing.” This ignores the fact that a loving God, who does not change, called for the judgment that Israel’s possession of the land brought on the peoples who were already living there.
The Abrahamic Covenant is also everywhere affirmed as an everlasting Covenant (Genesis 17:7-8; Psalm 105:9-12). Most theologians agree that it was unconditional, but if it were not it was conditional upon Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. This he completely fulfilled and thus God affirmed that henceforth He would keep the terms of the Covenant; a fact that David acknowledged in the Psalms. Note the words of Genesis 22:15-18:
“Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’”
So this forever settles the debate! The Abrahamic Covenant is everlasting, cannot be changed, and even the New Testament scriptures affirm this (Hebrews 6:13-20). Why is it so hard for Christian leaders to get this? Especially since the fruit of seeking to reconstruct it has been rotten to say the least. It has brought arrogance and prejudice against the Jews, taken the Church down a pathway to anti-Semitism and birthed pogroms, expulsions, persecutions, Apartheid, and the Holocaust. This is undeniable! Worst of all, those who deny the everlasting nature of the Covenant accuse God of lying!
Because they cannot accept that God has returned Israel to Canaan in our time, they concoct elaborate theories all designed to undermine the truth of the Abrahamic Covenant. So Catholic and Protestant prelates declare that the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished, and even Evangelicals are constructing elaborate theological theories to disavow the efficacy of this everlasting promise. Some Palestinian Christians have called for the Bible to be “de-Zionized!” Those who affirm its efficacy are smeared as working against peace in the Middle East. They are called hateful warmongers always advancing the Zionist plots of the Jews!
So, what is the Abrahamic Covenant?
A. It is the watershed of redemption history in that it constitutes God’s decision to save the world from sin (Galatians 3:8).
B. It has many aspects or facets, like a diamond;
(1) A promise of custodianship
That is, it will be through an ethnic group called Israel that God will bless the world. This nation will exist as long as the stars are in the sky above us! (Genesis 12:1-3; John 4:22; Romans 3:1; 9:1-5; Jeremiah31:35-37)
(2) A promise of land
Those who “mess” with this land and seek to disinvest the Jewish people of it can expect divine judgment (Genesis 17:7-8; Joel 3:1-3). This promise, in spite of Israel’s disobedience, has been fulfilled time and time again through the course of history.
(3) A promise of a saving Messiah
In Genesis 22 we have the story of the “binding of Isaac”, which Christians view as a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus (Hebrews 11:17-19). The Abrahamic Covenant always held a promise to the descendants of Israel and to the “seed” – Jesus (Genesis 22:17-18). To believe in the one does not deny the other. In Galatians three, Paul was pointing to the “one” – Jesus – and was not denying the promises to the “many”—the people of Israel. Manipulators of the Word of God, anti-Semites, and Replacement adherents emphasize one aspect of the promise and claim the promises to the many have been abolished. They have absolutely no biblical grounds for doing this.
(4) A promise of blessing (Genesis 12:1-3)
That is, God has promised to bless those who defend Israel’s existence, recognizing the unique role she is playing out for the sake of the world. This does not mean “blind support of Israel,” but it does mean standing against those who seek her liquidation and deny her claim to the Promised Land. Israel’s servant purpose on behalf of the world was not finished with the coming of Jesus in the first century. She will yet mediate, in its fullness, the final great covenant of redemption history to the world; the Davidic Covenant (Ezekiel 37:24-28; Revelation 22:12-17).
(5) A promise of cursing (Genesis 12:1-3)
All the nations who resisted the plan of God for world redemption through the Jews have become the wreckage of history. We would do well to learn from this as it is the same as resisting God Himself (Psalm 83). The Book of Esther is a stark reminder of this as, if Haman had destroyed the Jews, Jesus would never have come. The same is true of the Egyptians in Moses’ day and all the other ant-Semites of history, including the wicked thugs of the Third Reich and their children today, the radical Islamic jihadists. A rude and humbling awakening is awaiting our world (Psalm 2).
(6) A promise of salvation (Galatians 3:8)
Israel’s ultimate and great purpose given to her in the Abrahamic Covenant was to mediate eternal life to the world through her great Son, Jesus Christ. We owe her a great debt of gratitude and our God-given role is to appreciate her, pray for her, and provoke her to jealousy (Romans 11). God loves all people the same but He did make Israel His servant to the nations; a role that she has ultimately and uniquely carried out.
C. This Covenant has been uniquely validated by the return of the Jews to Canaan in our day and by a living Church that is found in almost every tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). This return of the Jews is no coincidence and is quite remarkable. As in the past, it has aroused the anger of the surrounding peoples. Even some in the Church are angry, and yet Scripture everywhere gives testimony to this return (Luke 21:24).
Jeremiah gives testimony to a return from the “north country” that will surpass that of the Exodus (Jeremiah 16:14-15). We have witnessed this in that well over a million Jews have returned to Zion from the former Soviet Union.
Israel will be judged and corrected but the nations will be made a full end of before the age closes (Jeremiah 30:11). Israel will not be uprooted ever again (Amos 9: 13-15); she will be redeemed and all nations will flow toward Jerusalem to acknowledge her role in history and rejoice in her God! (Isaiah 2:1-4; Zechariah 14:16-19; Revelation 21:22-27)
In the end, Israel will radiate all the truths and promises God made through her to a fallen world (Isaiah 62:11-12; Romans 11:25-26). All of this will happen because of a promise that God made with the man Abraham 4000 years ago. What an incredible God we serve!
Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.