Covenant: Abram, 7 September 2014

Big Idea: God invites us into a covenantal relationship with Him for eternity.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

The original Hebrew word for image usually refers to an object of worship or idol. God created us for relationship. Sure, He had angels, but angels were not created in God’s image. Sure, He had created lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), but they were not created in God’s image. What sets apart from the rest of the creatures on the earth is we were made to know and reflect God.

The Lion King, there’s a great scene where Simba gazes into a pool of water and sees a reflection of His Father. I think that’s what God planned when He created us.

“Remember who you are. You are my son.”

…the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

What beautiful, poetic imagery! God breathed life into Adam. Eve was then formed from Adam and they lived happily ever after. They were one with God. All was well…until The Fall. Adam and Eve broke the one, simple command God gave them by eating from the forbidden tree.

It could’ve ended there. They failed.

God knew, though. Like any dad, He knew His children were weak and susceptible to temptation. He knew they would fail. The knew forgiveness would be necessary…and even had a plan to bring a Second Adam to earth.

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:14)

People often characterize God in the Old Testament as mean and violent. While He takes sin very seriously, He also takes forgiveness seriously. He is a God of second chances…and third…and fourth…and…!

The Series

Look around. What do you see? All around you are things to see: people, objects, creation, etc. The view from space of our home is quite different, however.

The Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

Our new series this fall is called Covenant & Kingdom. It is based upon ideas from Mike Breen and 3DMovements, a ministry that has been quite influential in the life of Scio in recent days. The book, Covenant & Kingdom, is available through Amazon or from 3DMovements.com. I encourage you to get a copy and read ahead as we look at the big picture of the Bible.

Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a double helix is woven in DNA. Everyone get out your telescopes as we prepare to look at the incredible Bible.


What is a covenant? Some confuse it with a contract between two people, an agreement where if you scratch my back, I scratch yours. It is much more. It literally means “to become one.”

covenant, treaty, compact, agreement, an association between two parties with various responsibilities, benefits, and penalties; “to cut a covenant” is “make a covenant,” a figure of the act of ceremonially cutting an animal into two parts, with an implication of serious consequences for not fulfilling the covenant (NIV Hebrew Dictionary)

The essence of God’s covenant is captured in the summary promise, ‘I will be your God, and you shall be my people’ (e.g. Gn. 17:7; Ex. 6:7; 2 Cor. 6:16–18; Rev. 21:2–3). While the covenant is unilateral in establishment, it is mutual or two-sided in accomplishment.
(New Dictionary of Theology)

Covenant is about relationship. Being.
Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing.

God exists in community—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are one (John 17). In fact, we saw earlier God said, “

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… (Genesis 1:26a)

“Us” refers to the Trinity, one God in three Persons. They are one. They exist in covenant. God wanted to be one with Adam and Eve but their relationship was severed by sin.

Sin was the cause of the great flood in Genesis 9. God told Noah

But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. (Genesis 6:18)

After the flood, God said to Noah

I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:11-13)

I wish I could say God’s children wised up and followed Him but two chapters later we see the arrogant trying to build a tower to reach the heavens and “make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). God could’ve destroyed them but, instead, God said

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. (Genesis 11:7-8)

Notice again the plural reference: “let
us go down.”

This brings us to Genesis 12 and one of the most important humans to ever walk the planet.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God makes a covenant with Abram and his wife, Sarai.

From a biblical point of view, faith to believe God comes from listening to God speak to us. Because of his faith, God gave Abram the gift of a relationship with him. Literally, God gave Abram “righteousness”—or a “right relationship” where no “wrong” could spoil it. This had to be given by God as a gift—Abram could not have it by any right or effort of his own. God had extended an invitation to Abram: an invitation to a journey that would lead all the way back to the Garden of Eden. (Mike Breen, Covenant & Kingdom)

Covenants involved two parties, both of whom had to participate. They both had to give up their old identities and begin new lives. Does that sound familiar? Marriage is a God-ordained covenant. He envisioned a man and woman choosing to give up their old identities as single people from distinct families and begin a new life together, forming a new family.

When my wife and I got married more than twenty-four years ago we began to share a bank account, a last name, a home, and even a bed. In a marriage covenant, the two become one, both literally and figuratively which is why marital intimacy is not merely about physical pleasure but an image of God’s design for unity and covenant.

In ancient times, animals were sacrificed to signify the importance of a covenant. Today we often have attorneys. They used animals!

God’s covenant always involve the shedding of blood. Perhaps you and a friend became “blood brothers” or “blood sisters.” When Adam and Eve sinned, God shed the blood of an animal to make clothes for them, to cover their nakedness. Later God rejected Cain’s sacrifice but accepted Abel’s…because it involved an animal sacrifice.

Although it seems odd in our day, …

When someone passed between the pieces of a butchered animal, the blood symbolized the surrender of the person’s old life. It was a visualization of death. The bloody passageway could also be argued to represent the birth canal and the beginning of a new life. (Breen, C&K)

God initiated and invited Abram into this covenant, to become one with Him. The word “atonement’ means “at-one-ment.” God invited Abram and Sarai to be partners with Him, to be in relationship with Him, to help shape human history with Him in blessing future generations.

He took letters from his own name—”Yahweh”—and gave one to each. In Hebrew, only the consonants are recorded, so Yahweh is written YHWH. (The vowels are added in speech as the text is read aloud.) God took his two “H’s” and gave one each to Abram and Sarai so that their names became Abraham and Sarah. Abraham became the “father of many nations” and Sarah remained a “princess,” but now her children would carry the mark of heaven’s King. Covenant is about “two becoming one,” and the identities of the partners are shared. God shows his amazing commitment to his Covenant partners in the gift of the letters of his name. (Breen, C&K)

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5)

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:8)

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.” (Genesis 15:9)

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. (Genesis 15:10-11)

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 your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 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 fathers 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.” (Genesis 15:12-16)

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 river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:17-21)

God makes a covenant with Abram. He will be one with Abram forever.

Covenants were common in the day and it was largely understood that a greater would confer upon a lesser. The strong one always initiated and conferred grace. Family language is used. God gives Abram an astonishing gift to be one.

God didn’t have to do it. He could’ve remained afar, ordering us to obey like robots or destroying us for disobedience. How could the Creator of the universe sacrifice for sinful, weak creatures like us? It’s truly amazing!

Notice God reveals Himself through fire, a burning motif that shows God’s zeal, judgment and holiness. He would later appear to Moses in a burning bush.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11-12)

So What?

God created us for relationship. Despite the failures of Adam, Eve, the people in Noah’s day, the people at the Tower of Babel, and even Abraham and Sarah, God continues to pursue us. He extends mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Although most of us are not Jewish descendants of Abraham, because of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross we have been grafted in as Gentiles. We have been adopted as sons and daughters. As we studied earlier this year our identity is “in Christ.” Everything that can be said about Jesus and His identity can be said of us. Everything God has is ours. Everything God can access we can access.

The sign of the covenant for Abraham was circumcision. Ouch! It was nothing compared to the pain Jesus would endure.

Circumcision was not a public sign but, rather, a personal reminder of the Covenant that God had made with his people. Abraham and all his male descendants would bear a mark on their bodies to confirm that their old lives were gone (literally “rolled away”) and new lives had begun. Many Covenant-making cultures throughout history and around the world have used scars as a way to ratify agreements. We have some knowledge of the “blood brother” rituals of the Native American peoples and the Roman legionnaires. The physical reminder of a scar had an important role in underlining the significance of the relationship. In this case, the scar of circumcision makes a clear statement that the spiritual and physical are interlinked, not separate. Interestingly, scars continue as important signs of the New Covenant in Jesus. Remember, Covenant is a relationship of “oneness” and reciprocation. God asked Abraham to bear a scar in order to confirm their Covenant—but in the New Covenant, God himself chose to carry scars. The resurrected body of Jesus bears scars to this day. (Breen, C&K)

[Luke 24:40; John 20:27]

It may sound cliche, but God loves you.

Nothing you can do can make Him love you more.
Nothing you can do can make Him love you less.

He invites us into relationship with Him both now and forever. He wants us to be real with Him. As we sang earlier, He invites us to walk with Him and talk with Him in the garden…or home or office or school. We are one. That’s covenant.

Abram and Sarai could not have imagined that their covenant sealed with the blood of animals would foreshadow a greater sacrifice, the Lamb of God. Jesus said to His followers, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)


Ideas for this series taken from book Covenant & Kingdom by Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

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