Summary: God has made covenants with His people throughout history. What has He done to establish a covenant with us?

Read Genesis 12:1-3. Pray. They say April showers bring May flowers, but what do May flowers bring? That’s right, Pilgrims.

I got to thinking about the Pilgrims because William Bradford, their first governor, had written that the Pilgrims came to the New World to escape the persecution and corruption they had encountered in England and Holland. They wanted to create a community to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and were willing to risk the many perils for the hope offered by a New World.

Originally, they planned to join the Virginia Colony, but a series of mishaps and a shortage of rations placed them in MA. Some of the nonreligious passengers, whom the Pilgrims referred to as Strangers, declared that since they didn’t reach their intended destination, nobody could tell them what they were going to do, they were going to live by anarchy.

While they were waiting to disembark, the Pilgrims negotiated a social covenant to which the settlers consented in which they agreed to a set of rules and regulations that would enable the community to maintain order and survive together. This is how the Mayflower Compact came into being.

Now, what is a covenant? It’s an agreement between parties to establish a relationship, whereas a contract is more transaction-based. There are four components to a biblical covenant. 1- It’s a legally and morally binding agreement between the parties. 2- The greater of the two parties establishes the terms and conditions of the covenant. 3- It spells out the rewards for keeping the covenant and punishment should they fail. 4- It is often ratified by a blood sacrifice, showing just how serious this commitment is.

The Old Testament depicts seven different times that God makes a covenant with His creation. In Genesis 1, God makes a covenant with Adam to have dominion over the earth. In Genesis 9, God promises to never again destroy the world by flood. In Genesis 12, 15, and 17, God’s covenant with Abraham includes land, nation, and blessing (this will be today’s focus). In Exodus 19, God makes a covenant with Moses that Israel will be His people and He will be their God. In Deuteronomy 30, God’s covenant for Israel is an affirmation that the land of Canaan will be theirs. In 2 Samuel 7, God promises David an everlasting kingdom. In Jeremiah 31, God promises a new covenant in which He’ll forgive sin and the whole world will know Him.

Let’s look deeper into the covenant God made with Abram. To set the stage, let’s talk about what happened in Genesis 11. In that chapter, we see mankind attempt to build the Tower of Babel but God comes down and mixes up their languages, so the people disperse.

Some time after that, Terah, who is Abram’s father decides he’s going to relocate his family to Canaan, but for an undisclosed reason, stops short and takes up residence in Haran. This is where we find Abram.

God pays a visit to Abram as Genesis 12 opens and tells him to pack up his bags, go from this country he’s known for some time, leave his kindred behind, and keep going until God tells him to stop.

God offers Abram three things for doing this: the land where He tells Abram to stop, that his descendants would become a great nation (never mind that at age 75 he has no children), and he would be blessed. Abram’s name would be great (Father Abraham had many sons…) and those who bless him will be blessed and those who curse him will be cursed. Abram obeys God, takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, and they moved to the land of Canaan.

About 10 years go by and God visits Abram for a second time, this time in a vision. When God repeats His promise of becoming a great nation, Abram questions God. “I’m still childless, I’m 85, my servant is my only heir, how is this going to work out?”

God takes Abram outside to look at the starry sky and tells him to number the stars. So shall your descendants be- too many to count (read Genesis 15:6). I’m sure that Abram didn’t know how God was going to do it, but he took Him at His word and God counted that as righteousness on the part of Abram. You want to be considered righteous before God? It starts by believing His word.

God goes on to remind Abram of the promise of land. God springs into action to establish the covenant. Now Jeff pointed out at lunch that while we read making a covenant in the English translations, the Hebrew phrase is actually cutting a covenant. We see that in action in what happens next (read Genesis 15:9-11). Here we have the covenantal sacrifice. Animals would be cut in half with the two halves laid across from each other. The parties of the covenant would pass between the animal halves, effectively stating that if I don’t fulfill my part of the covenant, may I be like these dead animals (read Genesis 15:17).

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