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STUDIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
I. QUAR., LESSON VI., FEB. 11, GEN. 17:1-9
Golden Text—”He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.”—Gen. 15:6
God had promised to make a definite covenant with Abram before he left his native land, Haran. (Gen. 12:1-4.) He actually made that covenant after Abram had complied with the conditions and come into the land of Canaan. (Gen. 12:6,7.) And now, in the words of this lesson, we find God encouraging Abram’s faith by amplifying and explaining that covenant, and counseling him to continue to keep his heart in the proper attitude to receive such favors, saying, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will perform my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”
The covenant was to give all “the land of Canaan” to Abram and to his seed for an everlasting possession. The terms of the covenant clearly indicate an earthly inheritance, an inheritance of that which Abram actually saw with his natural eyes. And Abraham (for his name was here changed as a confirmation of the covenant)
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believed the word of the Lord, and never relaxed his faith, even to his dying day; for, says Paul, he “died in faith, not having received the promises; but, having seen them afar off, he was persuaded of them and embraced them” (Heb. 11:13), although, during his past life, as Stephen said, “God gave him none inheritance in the land; no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.”—Acts 7:5.
That was indeed a remarkable covenant, and a wonderful manifestation of the favor of God toward his faithful servant Abraham; and it was a remarkable faith on the part of Abraham which was able to grasp and appreciate a promise whose realization must be beyond the floods of death; and extending to a posterity so numerous as to be beyond all hope of reckoning.
But, great as was Abraham’s faith, there was a feature of that covenant of which it was impossible for him to have the slightest conception; for it was to have both a literal and an anti-typical fulfilment. This we are enabled to see from subsequent divine revelations through the Apostle Paul, who shows that the seed of Abraham was to be understood in two senses: that there was to be a natural seed, an Israel after the flesh (1 Cor. 10:18), and a spiritual seed, “which seed is Christ” (Head and body): “and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s [antitypical] seed and heirs of the [antitypical] promise” (Gal. 3:7,29), which includes a much more glorious inheritance than the earthly possessions of the fleshly seed, rich indeed though their portion will be; for Christ is the heir of all things, and those who are Christ’s are heirs together with him of all things. All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, who created all things by and for his well beloved Son.—Heb. 1:2; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 1:16.
A hint of this double significance of the promise to Abraham was given for our benefit in the illustrations which God gave of his numerous posterity. They were to be as the sand by the sea-shore and as the stars of heaven (Gen. 22:17)—the former an apt illustration of the fleshly, and the latter of the spiritual seed.
Let all those who are of the faith of Abraham mark these precious promises and follow them up until, the eyes of their understanding being opened, they see by faith the city established for which Abraham looked, the city which hath foundations, the glorious Kingdom of God in both its earthly and heavenly phases. (Heb. 11:9,10. See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. xiv.) The prophet Micah describes its coming glory (Micah 4:1-7) and says that, when the children of Abraham do thus come into possession of the land, they shall rest there in peace; for the nations shall have beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they have war any more. Then “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” And we believe it, because we are of the faith of Abraham, and know that all that the Lord has promised he is able to perform.
And not only so, but to-day we stand upon the very threshold of that new dispensation—the Millennial reign of Christ, when all of these things are shortly to be fulfilled—when Abraham himself shall return from the captivity of death (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18), when his natural seed also shall return and possess the land; and when God will take away their stony hearts and give them a heart of flesh and enable them to keep his covenant and to walk before him with a perfect heart and make them indeed a channel of blessing to all the families of the earth. (Ezek. 11:19,20.) See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOLS. I & II.
— February 1, 1894 —