The covenant God makes with Abraham is one of the most notable in the Bible. God changes Abraham’s name from Abram, promises him generations of nations and kings, and God promises an everlasting covenant will rest with the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 17:5-9). For a Gentile from a pagan land these promises are huge, and looking back today much more than Abraham could have ever realized.
The Covenant Broken Down
God directly says to Abraham, “And I will make thee exceeding fruitful..” this is really interesting because its the same language that is found with both the Adamic and Noahic covenants of being fruitful. But this covenant is different because in those covenants God is telling Adam and Noah to be fruitful, but here God is telling Abraham He is going to make Abraham exceedingly fruitful. The covenant continues with all the blessings that God is going to bestow on the descendants of Abraham. It’s interesting to note that the vast majority of the covenant has more to do with Abraham’s descendants more than himself. Often times the greatest things God will do for us, aren't even really for us. The immediate terms and conditions that God gives to Abraham is the concept of circumcision.
Terms and Blessings of the Covenant
Genesis 7:10, 13 says, “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised…13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Circumcision was the necessary temporary price that had to be paid in order for the covenant to be established. The Noahic and Adamic covenants were more on the individual level while the Abramahic covenant is corporate. Matthew Henry breaks down the circumcision aspect of the covenant in this manner, “It is established; not to be altered nor revoked” (1994). Once Abraham committed to God and took part in the covenant there was no going back. Circumcision was forever a sign to themselves the relationship they had entered into with God. The interesting part about this is circumcision was a fleshly covenant that had to be done to every male.“Not all of Abraham's descendants became heirs of the covenant promise. Ishmael and Esau were disqualified from being children of the covenant” (Diehl). Just because you were born into a family that participated in the covenant did not mean you where in the covenant.
Through New Testament Eyes
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29). Here Paul is directly correlating the Old Testament outward covenant to a New Testament inward experience. After the day of Pentecost and the infilling of the Holy Ghost this outward covenant was made null. When one repents of their sins they are cutting away at the heart, to allow God to infill them with the Holy Ghost. Today, this covenant is still alive but from a different aspect. Instead of an outward cutting away to enter into the covenant, we participate in an inward circumcision of our hearts to receive the same everlasting promise God made with Abraham.