Pause for Thought

Big Daddy - Covenants part 2

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In a previous article ( we saw how God revealed to Noah that He would never wipe out His creation in another flood. This covenant was the beginning of a series that would demonstrate God’s plan of redemption for humankind that had succumbed to the dark side of the gift of free will. Invariably the belief that man’s will somehow trumps God’s will leads to what we call “evil”!

After Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden, the biblical narrative feels grim. In Genesis 4, Cain sides with the serpent, killing his brother in cold blood, and a man named Lamech brags about his murderous, chauvinistic ways. Genesis 5 repeats the refrain “and he died” eight times, revealing how death reigned over humanity. Then there’s this weird story in Genesis 6 that’s meant to show the rapid advancement of evil. So that by the time we come to the story of Noah, sin has enveloped the whole world, sending it back into pre-creation chaos.

In response, God sends a flood, making way for a restored creation that will begin with Noah and his family.

God enters a formal relationship with Noah and all living creatures, promising that, despite humanity’s corruption, he will never again flood the earth. He will instead preserve the world as he works toward keeping his promise to rescue humanity and creation through the “offspring of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) God then invites humans to partner with him in filling and ruling his world. God’s covenant with Noah is unconditional, and his promise is accompanied with a sign of his faithfulness, the rainbow, to remind future generations of this covenant (Genesis 9:12-17). However, after God makes a covenant with Noah, evil continues to ruin the world. Genesis 9-11 traces the downward spiral of humanity, including the aborted attempt to circumvent God by building the great ziggurat at Babel. We’re left to wonder: How will God restore his good world? But God’s rescue plan continues, and he calls Abraham into a covenantal relationship. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 The things we remember longest and most vividly are usually marked by circumstances with great emotional impact — for example, a whole generation can tell you where they were and what they were doing when the events of September 11 2001 unfolded, similarly if you are alive when President Kennedy was assassinated or a tsunami or major earthquake hit your feelings and surroundings are indelibly impressed on your memory. This may explain why, In the time of Abraham, it was customary to mark a covenant with vivid, gruesome and emotional acts such as the dismemberment of a sacrifice. Typically the pieces of the sacrifice would be laid on the ground and the parties to the covenant would make their agreement in the midst of it! It certainly would be hard to forget! It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “covenant” (“brit”) is the same word as “cut”. This would help explain why we read in Genesis 15: But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” Genesis 15:8-18 NIV The sacrificial animals remind Abraham of the covenant with Noah and humankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom, and the Glory of God stands in the midst of the covenant sacrifice to seal it. It is unknowable this side of Glory why God chose to honor Abraham. According to the story we read in Genesis 12 he was a cowardly sex-trafficker! But honor him He did, and He even changed Abram’s name to “Abraham” which means “father-of-nations” or “Big Daddy!” Not bad for a man who had no children well into his late nineties! In a manner similar to the Noahic covenant, this Abrahamic covenant is also accompanied by an outward sign, a reminder to Abraham and his ancestors. God commands the men to be circumcised — in Hebrew “cut” with the same meaning as “covenant” (Genesis 17:9-14). This is to be a symbol that sets Abraham and his family apart and shows that their fertility and future lie in God’s hands. God tells Abraham to leave his land and follow wherever he leads, train his family to do what is right and just, and practice circumcision in every generation. The covenant is both conditional and unconditional. God and Abraham each have a part to play, but ultimately, God will keep his promise to give Abraham a family who will inherit the land and bless the world. And so God’s plan of redemption moves forward. Abraham is chosen to participate and the key verse describing him is: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 NIV We too are chosen to participate. Let’s keep on believing, just like Big Daddy! More covenants coming up! Stay tuned! Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Saturday November 12th, 2022
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