Summary: How God’s relationship and covenant with Abraham display how God works - not by asking us to come to him, but by him coming down to us.
The Return of the King is a recently released movie about a king who reunites the world of elves, trolls, and humans to fight against the evil king of Mordor in a battle to the finish. It has grossed millions of dollars as people of the world came out in droves to see the third and final climax to this blockbuster movie. People packed theaters and waited in line anxiously to be entertained by this make believe story.
Isn’t it sad that at the same time, even though the admission was free, the world wasn’t half as excited to watch the coming of another King at Christmas? They didn’t wait in line, didn’t get excited about it, didn’t come to hear about this King. Why? Well, He didn’t bear a sword. He didn’t ride on a horse or fight a glorious battle to the finish with thousands of people by his side. He came in a cradle, surrounded only by regular animals and humans in a little stable. The story was not shown with surround sound and cinema lights or man’s imagination, but with the simple Word of God.
It’s that same simple Word of God that takes us back thousands of years - to the original plan - the screenplay if you will - for the coming of this King - to the establishing of the covenant - to the Christmas promise. Even though it might not seem as flashy as a motion picture, I hope and pray that it moves you nonetheless, as we look at
The Covenant of the King
I. Is given by God
The first thing that struck me as I read through this text was the age of Abraham. Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I literally started laughing at first, because it seemed funny to me that God would pick such a seemingly old man to establish a covenant with. After I looked at it longer, however, I remembered that Abraham lived to be 175 years old, so the seemingly old age wasn’t as big of an issue as I thought it may have been. In spite of that, you can still see that God is clearly the dominant figure in this text. As a matter of fact, throughout the whole interaction of Abraham and God, God is the one who creates and maintains the contact. If I’m counting correctly, this is actually the fifth time that God appeared to Abraham out of the blue. The first time, Abraham was still worshiping foreign gods in Ur of the Chaldeans, then God appears to him again in Haran, at Shechem, and again just south of Sodom and Gomorrah. Each time God was the one who came to Abraham, promising Abraham great things.
In today’s text again, for the fifth time, God appears, introducing Himself to Abraham as “God Almighty” - literally El Shaddai. Isaac used this same term for God as he was blessing Jacob - saying, May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. God also said to Jacob at Paddan Aram and said, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The Septuagint translates El Shaddai as pantokrator - meaning “all powerful.” The Vulgate uses omnipotens, which is like our word omnipotent. The word is probably connected with the Akkadian word - shadu - which means “mountain”. I find that interesting, because in the heathen religions found in Canaan, they established what they called “high spots” on the hills and mountains. On the top of these hills they would put up Asherah poles, where religious prostitutes would stand. This heathen religion somehow connected having sex with temple prostitutes on the hills with the fruitfulness of the land and the people. So when God called Himself “El Shaddai,” He very likely was making a contrast to these heathen gods and saying, “I am the true God of the hills - I control life and can give life.” So the Psalmist said, I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2).
After God reminded Abraham of WHO He was, He then told Abraham exactly what HE was going to do. Five times God says, “I WILL” do this, “I WILL” do that. The main point in today’s text, is that HE will establish the covenant with Abraham. He comes from the heavens and does the courting. He establishes the relationship. He lays down the rules for it. This is a picture - not of man coming to God - but God coming to man.