Summary: Can a Old Testament Covenant promise of God made specifically to Israel be claimed by Christians?

There are many promises of God in the Bible. Some are given to specific individuals, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon. There are also many promises given to entire groups of people and even nations. God would seal His promises by making a covenant, which is a conditional contract, with them.

I am one of those who believes that the Bible is not written to us but is for us. People often fall into the trap of what is known as eisegesis, which is reading words in the Bible and applying them to their own circumstances and surroundings without looking at the grammatical and historical context, which is known as exegesis. I was once told that the three major rules of studying the Bible are context, context, and context.

The word "covenant" (Heb:berith) means alliance, a divine ordinance with signs or pledges between God and humanity and first appears in Genesis 6. The word is used with reference to God's creative and providential activity where He showed Himself to be completely faithful (Jer 33:20,25; Gen 8:22).

The standard Hebrew phrase (ka·ra berith) is used of God's covenant with humanity (Gen 15:18; Ex 24:8; Deut 4:23; 5:2; 2 Kings 17:15; Jer 11:10; Ezek 34:25), but the emphasis is laid on the initiative of God by the use of the verbs "establish" in Gen 6:18; 9:11; 17:7; etc., "grant" in Gen 9:12; 17:2; Num 25:12, "set down" in 2 Sam 23:5, "command" in Josh 7:11; 23:16; 1 Kings 11:11.

All these verbs at times have as their objects the noun berith. In addition, there are numerous references to GOD having "commanded" and given only Israel a "law," "statutes," "commandments," "judgments," etc. Israel alone was expected to "obey" God's word of command, to "keep" His covenant, to "remember" it, to "do" it, and to "walk in" it. However, the Bible shows that Israel "forgot" the covenant, "broke" it, "sinned against" it, "rejected" it, "transgressed" it, and "profaned" it, and as a result, experienced the curses of the broken covenant in the form of natural calamities, war, sickness, exile, and death. Had Israel kept the covenant, it might have enjoyed the blessings of the covenant instead (Lev 26; Deut 27-28).

God made covenants with individuals such as Noah that affected the entire Earth. God was so pleased with Noah that He said in His heart "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."

God blessed Noah and his sons and said only to them,

"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the Earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (Gen 9:7-17 ESV)

It was God who took the initiative to make a covenant with Noah. God's single promise to Noah was that there would never again be a rainstorm causing a FLOOD that would cover the entire Earth, and He signed His promise with a rainbow.

God also made a single covenant with Abraham where He promised a land and descendants to him and was commanded to "keep" the covenant (Gen 15:8-18, 17:1-14). When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God said to Him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless," so that He would make a covenant with Abraham that would multiply him greatly." Abraham fell on his face before God, who then said to him that His covenant was with him alone, and that he would be the father of many offspring and give him all the land he traveled, including all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and that he would be their God.

God also told Abraham that he and his offspring must keep His everlasting covenant by having every male be circumcised when they are eight days and if they are not throughout the generations they shall be cut off from his people because they broke the covenant. The obedience of Abraham was not a condition of the covenant but rather his response inside a religious relationship. There could be no blessings and no fellowship without obedience.

God also made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai (Horeb) after He reminded them of His divine acts and His call to obey Him. Then, GOD established Israel alone as a "peculiar treasure," a "kingdom of priests," and a "holy nation," and gave them stipulations that would guarantee the continuance of fellowship between them and He. The covenant was ratified by an animal sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood (Ex 24:4-8).

God established a covenant with King David and promised him that his direct descendants would have an everlasting kingdom and be known as his sons (2 Sam 7:12-17; Ps 89:3,26,34; Ps 132:11; 2 Sam 23:5; Isa 55:3). Jesus came from the line of David.

God made a promise to King David's son, Solomon. He appeared to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple and declared it would be the place where all Israelites were to bring their burnt-offerings and sacrifices. God tells Solomon that has heard his prayer and says after he built and dedicated the Temple to the Lord (2 Chron 6, 7:1-22).

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chron 7:14).

The words "my name" refers specifically to the entire nation which was called by God (El), Isra-El, translated "those who struggled with El" or God. They were a Theocratic nation and not a minority of true believers within the nation. Isra-El had a unique supernatural covenant with God that He initiated from His side. No other nation had that privilege. Their laws and constitution were the first 5 books of the Bible. Any citizen that worshipped another God or prophesied in the name of another God was killed as part of their theocratic covenant.

In the immediate context of the verse noted, God spoke to Israel's king, saying Israel should obey the Lord's covenant. God was specifically pointing him back to the covenant that He made with his forefather Abraham. At a specific point in the history of Israel, God told Abraham about his descendants, saying, "I will be their God" and "They will be my people." That's what "My people" means.

God reminded a people who had been exiled, enslaved, and defeated that a rebuilt temple or a displaced nation cannot change who they were. They were God's people and would see the future God has for them.

God had chosen the Temple built by Solomon to be a house of sacrifice (v7:12, 15-16) for the people, Israel He had chosen (the descendants of Abraham). If there were to come a time when God withholds rain or sends plagues on the land (v7:13), the people are to pray, with the text seeming to imply that this prayer would happen there specifically. If the people pray and did as God commanded, then He would respond, and they would enjoy the blessings of the covenant which included the healing/restoration and fruitfulness of the physical land itself (v7:14). However, if they disobeyed, God would "shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people" (v19-20). This is part of the covenant that God made through the ministry of Moses with the people.

A similar promise of physical blessings was made by God previously to Israel if they remained faithfully obedient to His covenant and also what the negative consequences were if they did not (Deut 28:1-6, 8, also Lev 26). The King of Israel and his people are to keep the covenant with God, and in doing so, He would bless them, even the very land of Israel itself.

The Old Testament is about Hebrews in ancient Israel who receive Old Covenant promises. The New Testament is about people receiving New Covenant promises. The book of John demonstrates that the promises and blessings given to New Covenant people, those who are Born-Again, are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is the better Temple, people, sacrifice, high priest, etc. God made the New Testament Covenant that builds upon the Old Testament covenants, which were given to different peoples of God that were dealt with differently by God.

There is some national application here for the followers of Jesus (those who are Born-Again) in all the nations in the world (165 at the time of writing) who reflect and live out the truth of 2 Chron 7:14 by walking daily in humility and repentance as they seek after God so that they can be His vessels and agents of reconciliation in order to bring His blessings into the world (see Heb 12:3-11).

It was at the Cross where Jesus died, and then was raised from the dead after three days, that the old covenant of Law passed away in its entirety, and every person who becomes Born-Again are then under the new Covenant of grace (Jer 31:31-34; Gal 3:15-4:7; Rom 6:14-15; 7:4-6; Heb 8:1-10:18). The Old Testament is still the Word of God, and along with the New Testament, they are the final authority as the infallible, inerrant Word that was divinely breathed out by God.

The Born-Again Christian is no longer under the requirements of the Law and stipulations of the old covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:26-27; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb. 8:8-13). They are grafted into the vine of Israel, the people of God, and become with them, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession" because they were once not His people, but, through Jesus Christ, they become "God’s people” (Rom 11:17-24; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Jesus said that all 613 laws of the Old Testament (365 thou shalt not’s and 248 thou shalts, or thou ist in big troubleth!) depend on just two laws which are really one and the same, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”… and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40 ESV). The law all pointed to fulfillment in Jesus, and it still functions as a moral standard for every Born-Again Christian to live their life in the love of God (Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:20–21).

Out of all the nations on the Earth, God chose to covenant with Israel. They did not choose to covenant with God. Every person of that individual nation was required to repent just like every person in Nineveh, from the king down to all the citizens, and even all the animals, were required to wear sackcloth, fast and repent, which they did, and God spared them all. There has never been another nation in the history of the world or seen in the Bible that had a covenant with God.

The New Covenant that we see promised in the Old Testament and made through Jesus is not about a nation but about people who have faith in God, and the goal of this covenant is not about wealth and prosperity. It is more about the mission of bringing God’s message to the world and for every Born-Again Christian to live as God intended.