I’ve shared how covenants were based on agreements, sealed by blood, the exchanging of gifts, vows, and a common meal. Today focusing on the exchange of gifts, a common meal, and wrapping up this series.
Livingstone I presume?
David Livingstone was a British missionary who served in Africa from 1840 to his death in 1873. One day he came upon a powerful chief who offered a covenant with Livingstone. Livingstone spread out on the ground all his belongings, from pocket watch to books, from his few clothes to the goat whose milk kept him alive with her milk. The chief chose the goat, much to Livingstone’s dismay.
In exchange, he was given what appeared to be the chief’s walking stick. Disappointed, Livingstone complained to the Lord about giving up his main source of nutrition due to his many stomach ailments, in exchange for a stick. He complained to one of the local men who told him:
“That’s not a walking cane. It is the king’s very own scepter, and with it you will find entrance into every village in our country.” This proved to be true, allowing the gospel to be spread to the whole region. Livingstone found another goat, but the scepter gave him the ‘keys’ to the chief’s kingdom!
Dad, where is the offering?
In Genesis 22: 1-18 we find the statement in v1-2: “…that God did tempt Abraham, saying…go to the mountains of Moriah to a particular mountain I’ll show you, and make your son a burnt offering to me…”
The first thing to note is that we interpret the Old Testament through the truths of the New Testament. We are told in James 1:13 that God does not test anyone with evil for He is not tempted by evil.
This then is seen as God not tempting as the King James Version translates it, but rather ‘proved’ Abraham. In other words, God was proving what was in Abraham’s heart, not tempting him. As part of covenant challenges come, but knowing with whom you have made covenant means each challenge merely proves their love and devotion – this is what was going on here – an opportunity for Abraham to prove what was in his heart.
God doesn’t tempt man with evil: This was understood even before Abraham
Job and the events of his life happened after the flood but before Abraham. Elihu told Job that God wasn’t making him sick several times. For instance Job 37: 23: “As touching the Almighty, He is beyond knowing. But He is excellent in power, and judgement and justice, and He will not afflict.” Elihu was the only one of Job’s friends who spoke truthfully about the Lord, the only one God did not demand he repent for what he said.
God was proving Abraham’s heart. In the Bronze Age time of Abraham, human sacrifice was common among the heathen. So the Lord was using local culture as an example and teaching point to Abraham and us all.
Covenant heads exchange their most important possession.
Abraham was asked to offer his son of promise to God as his part of the gift exchange of the covenant. We know when the Lord told him to offer him as a burnt sacrifice, Abraham fully realized what was going on.
According to Hebrews 11: 17-19, he knew the Lord had told him the covenant was with Isaac, so whatever he was asked to do, he knew Isaac would live. “Knowing God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, in which he received him in a figure.”
When Isaac asked his father where they would get the offering, Abraham responded; “God will provide a lamb for the offering.” When Abraham was ready to plunge the knife into his son the Lord stopped him, and provided a ram, not a lamb, for the offering. Abraham knew Who he was talking about when he said God would provide a lamb – he knew the Lamb of God and knew the resurrection of the Lamb.
Because you have done this…
In Genesis 22: 16-18 the Lord tells Abraham: “Because you have done this, and not withheld your son, your only son, in blessing I will bless you…and in your Seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Why did this one act have a world-wide effect? Because what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed from heaven. Because Abraham here on earth loosed his son of promise, the Father God was then able to release His Son of Promise from heaven.
This was the Great Exchange. The exchange of sons, and once again like the animals split in Genesis 15 when He walked between them, God provided the sacrifice, reconciling the world to Himself, by Himself. All He needed from Abraham was ‘permission’ to loose His Son from heaven. That could only happen by Abraham first loosing his son of promise on earth. Wow.
I’ve covered some of the elements of covenant, but I’ll have some follow up thoughts on the subject next week, until then, blessings,