The Abraham Covenant

Frontline Devotion for February 21, 2018 (Season of 'Lent')

By: Dennis Luther

Author Photo

Genesis 17:1-7

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 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." (New International Version)

When Abram's father with the family and herds left Ur near the Persian Gulf, intent on settling in Canaan, he headed northwest following the road near water and stopped in Haran, where he decided to stay for a while. There, the Lord spoke to Abram, bidding him to depart from his father and kinfolk and to go forth with his childless wife and nephew Lot "to the land that I will show you and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." (Gen. 12:2) This was the first of five times in Abram's long life when he received God's covenant of blessing.

What is blessedness? It is recognizing a divine relationship begun by God Himself, accepting as sufficient whatever life may bring, and knowing that you yourself may be a blessing. (The Interpreter's Bible)

Time and again, wherever Abram ventured with his entourage from the time he received that first blessing, he built an altar to worship the Lord and called on His name in prayer. Something stronger than himself gave him inner unity. That "something" is the infinite strength of God and Abram's willingness to rely on it, to trust in it. In so doing, he discovered, as we all must, that the foundation of moral courage is not through striving on his own-it is through receiving.

Today's passage marks the fifth instance of God citing a covenant relationship with Abram. This one is especially noteworthy because it is one of the few times in the Old Testament that God appears. And He doesn't present Abram with a list of requirements, as one who is superior often does when dictating terms of a contract to someone of lesser rank. God states what HE promises to do. And as part of His covenant He gives Abram and Sarai new names, ones that reflect their character as God sees it. And through them, God promises the perpetuation of blessings not only to an endless family line, but as the "father of many nations." In Hebrew thought, family consciousness, cohesiveness, and constancy stand strong, linking thousands of generations then and now. As The Interpreter's Bible commentary puts it, God chose Abraham for the personal example he embodied of moral earnestness and the will to obey, his readiness to exercise his responsibility to instruct his family to follow God's lead as he did, and the recognition that all his blessedness came not by virtue of his own strength, but by God's alone.

May we each live and lead as our father Abraham did. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever- present help in trouble. Though the mountains fall in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, we will not fear." (Psalm 46:1-2)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, here am I, your servant, ready to receive Your promised covenant of love and steadfast, eternal relationship, for whatever work You need me to do. In the name of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.