© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 20 October 2016
4A11. God’s Covenantal commission, in grace, for Abraham and his chosen descendants:
They were to share with God in accomplishing His primary purpose:-
(a) UNCONDITIONALLY, by increasing in number as God had promised, to bring His blessing to all peoples
(b) CONDITIONALLY, by being wholeheartedly committed to God
(i) IF they believed God’s unchanging Covenantal declarations and promises, and obeyed God’s Covenantal requirements
(ii) THEN in grace God would accept them as righteous and make Himself known TO and THROUGH them positively, in His ongoing relationship with them
4A11(title) God’s Covenantal commission, in grace, for Abraham and his chosen descendants
God’s Covenantal commission for Abraham and his chosen descendants had a similar structure to His Covenantal commission for Noah and all people. Both involved the multiplication of people and had the same intended outcomes [3A11(b)(ii) and see 4A11(b)(ii)]. These outcomes were how, in grace, people were to share with God in accomplishing His primary purpose.
4A11(sub-title) They were to share with God in accomplishing His primary purpose
Because God’s declarations and promises to Abraham were permanent, they would ultimately be fulfilled by God. He now not only intended to make Himself known TO and THROUGH Abraham and his chosen descendants, but declared that He would do so!
4A11(a) UNCONDITIONALLY, by increasing in number as God had promised, to bring His blessing to all peoplesGod promised UNCONDITIONALLY to give Abraham countless descendants [4A8(a)]. God intended them to become His own blessed nation in Canaan. Then THROUGH their whole God-honoring culture and communal life God would express His nature and bring His blessing TO all other people and nations Gen 12:3c [4A3(c)].
4A11(b) CONDITIONALLY, by being wholeheartedly committed to God
God’s commissions after the FALL and the FLOOD made clear that the positive expression of His nature THROUGH people was still CONDITIONAL upon their responses to God. That is, only IF they obeyed God’s specific requirements could they THEN carry out His commission [2A11 and 3A11(b)]. It all depended upon them choosing to live in His ways. So their heart-motivations remained crucial. They must be wholeheartedly committed to God. Only then would they have the necessary moral impulse to respond to the ethical awareness of their own consciences and obey His requirements.
4A11(b)(i) IF they believed God’s unchanging Covenantal declarations and promises and obeyed His Covenantal requirements
4A11(b)(i.i) IF they believed God’s unchanging Covenantal declarations and promises
God’s unchanging Covenantal declarations and promises to Abraham were rather different in nature to those He had made to Noah. Noah’s were for all people and were UNCONDITIONAL and very general [3A8(sub-title, f, g, h) and 3A9]. They also took effect immediately, being necessary for the people’s survival! But God’s specific declarations and promises to Abraham were mostly to be implemented for his chosen descendants. This included their long-term future, being primarily concerned with inheritance.
That brought a vital new dimension into God’s interactions with people. Abraham and his chosen descendants must now believe and have ongoing confidence in God’s unchanging declarations and promises. God highlighted this by promising Abraham that in his old age he would father a son and heir and have countless descendants Gen 15:4,5. Abraham’s response was highly significant and was followed by a startling, unexpected statement! Gen 15:6. So a further CONDITION was revealed for God’s chosen people to share with Him in accomplishing His primary purpose.
4A11(b)(i.ii) Faith in God
The word “faith” does not occur in the OT until later, although Enoch and Noah “walked faithfully with God” Gen 5:22b,24a, 6:9d. God’s faithfulness to Abraham and Jacob is also mentioned Gen 24:27, 32:10.
Faith is a theological term or concept which first clearly emerges here. For Abraham and his chosen descendants, faith in God simply meant really believing His declarations and promises as time passed. That is, actually expecting them to be fulfilled, therefore consistently relying upon them in practical life circumstances. This was how their heart-commitment to God was to be expressed. It would show that they trusted Him, even if their circumstances looked unfavorable – perhaps for an extended time!
In Abraham’s case, his faith in God was especially stretched by the long passage of time until God’s promises of a natural-born heir were fulfilled over 20 years later Gen 12:4b,7a, 15:2-3,4,5-6, 21:5. God had also promised to give the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Yet Abraham’s faith in God was repeatedly challenged by his apparently insecure occupancy of lands in Canaan Gen 12:10, 13:1-2,3-4,5-12,18, 14:11-16, 19:14-29, 20:1-2,10-15, 21:22-34, 23:4,17-20. He eventually died before seeing this promise fulfilled in any major way. The only real estate he actually possessed in Canaan was his burial place! Gen 25:9-10.
4A11(b)(i.iii) IF they obeyed God’s Covenantal requirements
After God reaffirmed His intention to bless all nations through Abraham Gen 18:18b He then clarified how this was to be achieved. He stated His most basic ongoing Covenantal requirement for Abraham Gen 18:19a [4A10(a)(iii)]. God then made this obedience to His Covenantal requirements a CONDITION for His promises to be fulfilled for Abraham Gen 18:19b. This was in principle the same CONDITION that had applied under God’s previous intended roles and Covenantal commission [2A11(a) and 3A11(b)(i)].
Abraham actually did keep God’s Covenantal requirements Gen 12:1,4,5 [4A10(a)(i)] and Gen 17:9-14,23, 21:4 [4A10(a)(ii)]. Excruciatingly, Abraham obeyed God by preparing Isaac for sacrifice Gen 22:9-10. God then confirmed with a vow that Abraham had met His required CONDITIONS Gen 22:15-16. God then again declared that He would accomplish His primary purpose through Abraham! Gen 22:17,18. God later reaffirmed this Gen 26:5 when repeating some of the promises to Isaac Gen 26:4.
4A11(b)(ii) THEN in grace God would accept them as righteous and make Himself known TO and THROUGH them positively, in His ongoing relationship with them
4A11(b)(ii.i) God in grace would accept them as righteous and make Himself known TO and THROUGH them positively
In extraordinary grace, God had initially offered His acceptance to Cain on the basis of him “doing what is right”, in a simple “IF-THEN” conditions/consequences format Gen 4:7a [2A11(b)]. On this same basis, Noah’s obedience to God’s commands had apparently been sufficient grounds for God in grace to “find him righteous”, despite his sinful nature, and to make Himself known THROUGH Noah [3A11(b)(ii)].
Abraham and his chosen descendants were central to God’s accomplishing of His primary purpose. Yet God now “credited righteousness” to Abraham on the grounds of his practical belief Gen 15:6 in two of God’s promises Gen 15:4,5. So such faith in God’s specific promises to His chosen people was an additional CONDITION for God to make Himself known positively THROUGH them.
4A11(b)(ii.ii) The ongoing relationship of God with His chosen people
4A11(b)(ii.ii.i) “Walking faithfully with God”
Enoch and Noah had “walked faithfully with God” Gen 5:22b,24a, 6:9d. God also commanded Abraham to do this Gen 17:1b. This meant that, in grace, God could be in an ongoing relationship with people [2A11(b)].
Evidence of Abraham’s ongoing “walking faithfully with God” was most obvious in the number of occasions that he had direct encounters with God Gen 12:1-3,7, 13:14-17, 15:1-21, 17:1-22, 18:1-15,16-33, 21:11-13, 22:1-2,11-12,15-18. God was making Himself known TO Abraham. In response he worshipped God by frequently building altars Gen 12:7b,8b, 13:4,18b and humbling himself before God Gen 17:3,17a, 18:27,30-32, 20:17, 21:33, 22:14.
When Abraham believed God’s Covenantal declarations and promises, God revealed how this ongoing relationship was possible Gen 15:6. On this basis God was “finding” him to be righteous and blameless, as He had with Noah Gen 6:8-9, 7:1b [4A4(c)].
The word “prophet” first occurred in the OT when it was used to describe Abraham Gen 20:7a. On that occasion it seemed to refer to his ability to prevail with God in intercessory prayer Gen 20:7b,17a. That was a matter of life and death for Abimelech and his people! Gen 20:3-4,7c,8,17b-18. This was another way that Abraham’s “walking faithfully with God” was expressed, as God made Himself known TO Abimelech THROUGH Abraham’s powerful praying.
4A11(b)(ii.ii.ii) God’s presence: He was “with” them
God had declared to Abraham that He would be his God and the God of his chosen descendants forever [4A8(b)(i)]. God implied that He had been with Abraham from the beginning Gen 15:7. This again indicated that God was in an ongoing relationship with His chosen people. Yet it even applied to Ishmael as a young boy Gen 21:20a.
God sometimes repeated this promise of His presence to “be with” Abraham’s chosen descendants, often accompanied by reaffirmations of some of His Covenantal promises Gen 26:3,24, 28:13,15, 31:3, 46:3-4. Jacob became aware of the presence of God and testified to its power Gen 31:5-6,7,42, 35:3, 48:21. Probably recognition of God’s presence with their father was also the main reason why Jacob was so revered by his sons Gen 42:37, 43:9,28a, 44:18-34, 45:13, 46:29, 47:7-12 even though he spoke disparagingly to them! Gen 37:10b, 42:1-2,36, 43:1-6.
4A11(b)(ii.ii.iii) Others perceived that God was with Abraham and his chosen descendants
There were six situations that particularly highlighted how God’s presence with Abraham and his chosen descendants expressed His nature TO other peoples THROUGH them. These were when:-
# Abraham was met by the Philistine ruler Abimelech Gen 21:22.
# Abimelech later made a similar statement to Isaac Gen 26:28a.
# Laban, Abraham’s nephew and the brother of Rebekah, practiced divination Gen 30:27b and was a worshipper of pagan gods Gen 31:19b,30b-37. Yet he expressed his recognition of God’s blessing upon Jacob Gen 24:29,30,31a, 30:27c.
# Pharaoh said a similar thing about Joseph Gen 41:38.
All of these responses indicated that complete “outsiders” were able to discern the supernatural, divine dimension in the lives of Abraham and his chosen descendants. The ways that those people expressed these perceptions were also very significant. Several said that God was “with” Abraham and his chosen descendants or even “within” them.
So Abraham and his chosen descendants were being effective agents of God as He made Himself known THROUGH them TO other peoples. This was the beginnings of success of God’s strategy to develop the nation of Israel as His own people. In their history He was going to accomplish His primary purpose THROUGH them – to be seen in their whole culture and way of life!
Arrow 4A8 -> 4A11
This arrow indicates that God’s Covenantal commission was directly related to the Covenant He had established with Abraham and his chosen descendants. This commission defined how they were to share with God in accomplishing His primary purpose. They were to be wholeheartedly committed to God in response to His UNCONDITIONAL Covenantal commitment to them. This meant to believe and have ongoing confidence in His vast Covenantal declarations and promises. That was one of God’s two CONDITIONS for them to be able to carry out His Covenantal commission and share with Him in accomplishing His primary purpose.
Arrow 4A9 -> 4A11
This arrow indicates the responsibility that God had placed upon Abraham and his chosen descendants. They were the privileged recipients of God’s Covenantal gifts UNCONDITIONALLY promised to them. To believe these promises, as God’s provisions for them, was a CONDITION for them to be able to carry out God’s Covenantal commission.
Arrow 4A10 -> 4A11
This arrow indicates that Abraham and his chosen descendants were to keep within the boundaries set by God’s Covenantal requirements. To obey these requirements was God’s other CONDITION for them to be able to carry out His Covenantal commission.