Lech Lecha (“go” or “leave”) | WEEK 3
The Bible could not be any clearer. Both Old and New Testaments declare it without question, and without apology.
God has made an everlasting covenant with Israel.
His special relationship with that particular nation abides forever. The same Lord who saves our souls by faith, and now gathers all believers into His Church, still intends to keep the promises He made to Abraham’s natural children many centuries ago.
The gospel does not negate this ancient covenant. It rather guarantees its fulfillment. “For I say that Christ became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15:8-9, CSB).
Did you see that? The Messiah did not negate God’s covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He confirmed them! He did not transfer those promises to the Gentiles. Instead, the Messiah’s new covenant affirmed the original covenant and then welcomed people from all nations to be included. But the ancient covenant with Abraham’s children remains in tact and will be fulfilled. Our God keeps His covenant.
A careful reading of the ritual between Yahweh and Abraham (Gen 15) makes this clear. The remarkable ceremony between God and His man was not for decoration. It was an indescribably sacred act of covenant that committed Yahweh to Abraham’s children forever.
This ceremony is like a chest full of too much treasure to grasp. So here we will focus on a few points to illustrate the nature of God’s covenant with Israel.
1) This Covenant is Unilateral (that means, it’s one-sided)
Yahweh took the initiative and presented a pact already put together. He simply stepped into Abraham’s life and started telling him all He would do. In fact, the ritual described in Gen 15, actually confirms promises Yahweh gave Abram earlier in Gen 12:1-3. Each promise begins with one decisive phrase: “I will…
- Make you a great nation.
- Bless you.
- Make your name great.
- Make you a blessing.
- Bless those who bless you.
- Curse those who curse you.
- Bless all the families in the earth through you.”
God made this covenant without input from Abraham or anyone else. It was a totally lop-sided proposition. It was all on God; He would do it all. When He says, “I will,” He means, “I will.”
2) This Covenant Is Unconditional
Abraham had no conditions to fulfill. God alone swore His commitment to Abraham. No requirement of Abraham was necessary. This is why Yahweh performed such a strange but powerful covenant ceremony. Unlike the Mosaic covenant, Yahweh obligated only Himself to keep the covenant promises.
The main promise addressed in this passage was the land of Canaan – a land that currently belonged to at least ten other nations (Gen 15:19-21)! So, Abraham asked for assurance, and Yahweh responded immediately. He gave Abraham instructions to sacrifice animals into two pieces opposite each other.
Then the strangest thing happened. Abraham fell into a deep sleep as the sun was setting. But this was no pleasant sleep. Terror and darkness settled on him, sinking him into a supernatural stupor for divine purpose. And that is just when Yahweh arrived. Amid the darkness and terror, Yahweh came to the sacred, ceremonial site to bind Himself to Abraham and his children forever. He appeared as a smoking oven and a burning torch – forms that embodied His faithful presence during the Exodus – and passed through the pieces of sacrificial flesh all by Himself.
Often in the ancient world, when two parties made a covenant, they both would pass between slaughtered animal parts while reciting their mutual obligations. It was a way of saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the covenant, then let what happened to these animals, happen to me!” But in the case with Abraham, only the Lord walked through the pieces… while Abraham slept.
Do you see the picture? Only one party passed through the animal parts. Only God recited conditions He had to keep. Only God bound Himself to an oath: He would multiply Abraham’s descendants and indeed bring them into this land – all while Abraham slept. God could not have given a more graphic display of His unconditional covenant.
3) This covenant is Everlasting
What else could it be? If God is the covenant-keeping God who cut a unilateral and unconditional covenant with Israel, how could such a covenant possibly have an expiration date? It does not depend on Israel’s faithfulness. It depends on God’s covenant faithfulness! By virtue of God’s very nature, His covenant with Abraham – with all of its literal promises of national identity, blessing, and land – must abide forever. Israel may suffer temporary exile because of its sins. It may experience even extreme judgment. But in the end, God’s eternal promises will come to pass.
“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:7-8).
How, Then, Shall We Live?
As the church, we should adopt God’s commitment to Israel as our own commitment to Israel. We should grieve for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, praying for their salvation, evangelizing them, and teaching fellow believers to do the same.
We should be people of our word. Through faith in Yeshua, we are in covenant with God. And covenant people should be, well, covenant people – people of our word. God keeps His Word, and so should we.
Finally, let’s believe God to fulfill His promises to us. Has He shown you that a loved one would be saved? Did He give you a vision about your life? Are there old promises you’ve placed on the shelf? Dust them off and believe again. If God remembers His promises to Abraham many centuries ago, He surely remembers His promises to you.
About the Author
Scott Volk is a Messianic Jew who came to faith in 1975. After graduating from CFNI in Dallas and North Central University in Minneapolis, Scott served in various pastoral capacities in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. After more than 20 years in pastoral ministry, Scott founded Together For Israel, a non-profit ministry that exists to partner with the church for the salvation of Israel (Rom 11:26). Scott and his wife Beth have been married for 30 years and have a heart to see Jew and Gentile united as “one new man” in the Messiah. They have five children and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.