Have you ever made an agreement with someone and nothing seems to come from it? You agree with a friend to go on a diet together and a week later you are eating cheesecake with her. You make a promises to your significant other, to your friends, and your family more often than you should but how many have you actually kept? How many commitments do you still honor? What became of your promise?
A covenant from the Lord comes with genuine results. A commitment to God comes with a promise of a relationship and that relationship changes us. A promise from God isn’t like the empty promises we give each other which work as a temporary balm and appease us for a moment. The Lord’s promise is a covenant, a binding and eternal contract. It doesn’t always look the way we think it will. We don’t always manage to keep up our end, but it will always be God’s plan and He will always hold up His part and help us uphold ours.
For the most part, people of Abram’s day were having babies in their thirties (Genesis 11:12-26). Abram was 99 years old, Sarai was 90. They were long past child bearing age. God had promised them an heir, more than that He had promised them so many descendants they would be uncountable. But Abram had one son, Ishmael, mothered by Hagar not Sarai. Over time he probably had given up hope a few times. He had probably thought Ishmael was the answer to God’s promise. But God didn’t forget. Verses 1-5 read,
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
The first result of God’s covenant sounds like a command for our part, it is a call to walk before God and be blameless. This sounds like something He is telling us to do, but it is part of His promise. We cannot be righteous on our own, it is impossible. Philippians 3:9 says it this way,
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--
God makes us righteous. He covers our sin with His blood and we are blameless, even when we mess up and sin we are blameless.
God’s covenant doesn’t stay just between us and Him, He multiples us. He was promising Abram that He would multiply Him in two ways, one with blood descendants and the other would be descendants of faith. He would bless him physically and spiritually. He does the same for us. When we enter the faith covenant with Him, we are blessed in many ways. We become part of the multitude of nations in Abram’s promise. The change in us should result in more and more people coming to Jesus.
God’s covenant changes our identity. God changed Abram to Abraham, from “exalted father’ to “father of the nations”. When we enter the covenant of Christ, we are given new identities. He gives us His nature His Spirit (2 Peter 1:3-4). He gives us a new name (Revelation 2:17). He calls us by new names; friend, good and faithful servant, bride, child, chosen, treasured, forgiven, and more. God loves to call us by our new names. He changed Jacob, “supplanter” into Israel, “may God prevail”. He changed Saul, ”inquired of” to Paul, “small and humble”. He changed Simon, “he has heard” to Peter, “rock”. The new names God gives mean something important about His promise. For Paul, his new name meant he would be a humbled servant of the Lord. To Israel, it meant he would let God have His way. For Peter it meant he would no longer be the impetuous temperamental disciple but the steady and strong apostle. For Abraham it meant he would be the father of many nations. Verses 6-8 read,
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
But God’s covenant didn’t stop there. Abraham was involved in it. God doesn’t make covenants with us against our will. He required a sign from Abraham, a signature for the contract, so to speak. Verses 9-14 read,
And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Under the covenant of Christ the circumcision was no longer physical, it became spiritual. We do not cut our bodies, we cut our heart. Romans 2:28-29 describes it this way,
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
That means that we show our commitment, our relationship with God not by things like circumcision, t-shirts, and necklaces but by attitude, submission to God, and tangible love. God is love (1 John 4:8). We are recognized as disciples of Christ by our love (John 13:35). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Who does that for us? Do we do it ourselves? No, God does it when we allow Him to, when we submit Him. Deuteronomy 30:6 says it like this,
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Then the Lord told Abraham that the promise was bigger and better than he could wrap his mind around. Sarai would no longer be Sarai, “like a princess” she would be Sarah, “princess.” Ishmael was not the son Abram had been promised. God promised Abraham his son Isaac. Verses 15-21 record the promises.
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.
The promise was made and the covenant presented. How did Abraham respond after he got off the floor? Verses 22-26 read,
When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Have you entered into the covenant of faith with the Lord through Jesus Christ? Are the results of that covenant apparent?