The Abrahamic covenants are the foundation of those made afterward with the household of faith and contain the essential ingredients from which all the future covenants would be developed to cover the entire plan of YHWH for the whole world. He would become the head of both a natural race and a spiritual race through the promised heir, Isaac.
Although the covenants to Abram were each conditional upon his spiritual growth to validate them, they were unconditional for his spiritual and natural posterity who entered into them.
The knowledge of the way of everlasting life was given to Adam and thereafter it was transferred by each of his descendants in their priestly function to their immediate sons. All of the patriarchs propagated their faith in YHWH and the way of worship in righteous living from father to son down to Heber (the father of the Hebrews), Noah’s grandson, from the original knowledge YHWH gave to Adam, with the necessary additions after the flood.
But several generations were passed over and when we come to Abraham’s family, they were idolaters and he was the first man to come to faith in the living God out of a pagan culture and to make the transition from the realm of this world’s darkness into the kingdom of YHWH. Joshua 24: 2
As such, he set a new precedent for all who would follow and became a prototype for man turning back from rebellion and alienation, to faith in the living God. His spiritual journey to leave all and follow the Creator, is a blueprint for all who would likewise seek everlasting life and spiritual blessing. Abram led the way back to YHWH for men of his era and from that time on, men would be blessed or cursed according to their acceptance or rejection of his spiritual headship of the human race. Genesis. 12: 1-3 Those who were children of Abraham by faith in the promises given to him, would be gathered into his “bosom” at death, as the head of the faithful, to await the resurrection. Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 29; Luke 16:22
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, YHWH appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai (Almighty God); walk before me, and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly .. ..” “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; .. .. ..” “And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a Elohim unto you, and to your seed after you. And I will give unto you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their Elohim.”
–Genesis 17: 1-8
This was the second time that YHWH extended a call to him to come up higher in his spiritual walk and with it came a further development of the revelation of His plan for Abram. With the call, came a further revelation of Himself and His provision, to enable Abram to enter into this covenant partnership.
His exhortation to Abram was, “I am El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, walk before Me and be perfect”!
The word used here for perfect in Hebrew means complete, whole, blameless. The requirement was complete consecration and holiness, a laying down of his own soulish life so as to be transformed and become a perfect, whole man — and that would take time to perfect.
Because He is all-sufficient for every need and His enabling power is given for everything He asks of us, it was an achievable goal and one which Abram was ready to embrace.
YHWH’s grace is evident in putting it in the future tense, “I will make my covenant”, “I will establish My covenant” (vs.2,7), giving time and opportunity for Abram to grow into His likeness. In it there was the reassurance that His covenant was with him already and he would become a father of many nations (v.4), his name would be changed to portray his changed nature and spiritual enhancement.
The promises given were very extensive
1. I will multiply you exceedingly – numerous progeny, natural and spiritual
2. Make you a father of many nations – spiritual fatherhood of people groups
3. A change of name – spiritual regeneration
4. Make you exceeding fruitful – double portion blessing of the firstborn
5. Make nations of you- from Isaac, Ishmael, Keturah’s sons, Esau
6. Kings to come from you – Israel’s kings and Davidic lineage in other nations
7. It will be an everlasting covenant – perpetual – ongoing
8. Land given to him and his seed forever – perpetual ownership of the land
In the previous covenant Abraham had been given the land area of Canaan for himself and his descendants. In this covenant the land is given as an everlasting inheritance to him and his descendants (15:19; 17: 7).
This was expanded in the land covenant given by Moses at Moab, to cover their apostasy and subsequent dispersion, and their promised return to the land. Although expelled from the land, it remained theirs. Abraham never inherited the land in his lifetime, so the fulfilment of this promise for him personally, is still future, as is the full possession of the area specified for the priesthood nation of Israel (15:18).
But the promise here is extended beyond the one nation to many nations and we see the “many nations” lined up in the gallery of faith in the heavenly visions of John (Revelation 7: 9).
A promise was being given to Abraham of being the heir of the world to come, not the present world order, for it says that he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land as though in a foreign country, for he looked for that city whose builder and maker was YHWH- the New Jerusalem. Hebrews 11: 8-10,13 The true children of Abraham are the children of faith and they are heirs with him of the same promise.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13 See Galatians 3: 7-9, 14, 29)
YHWH then instructed him to circumcise all the males in his household as a token of the commitment he had made for himself and his household, to keep the covenant.
Abram obediently acted upon this, although it would be many years before the work of consecration, of which circumcision was a sign, was complete in his life and he stood blameless before Almighty YHWH. By this time Abram was physically past being able to father children, as was Sarai his wife. YHWH had waited until the promise would be established solely by faith in His Word and not by any human effort.
Jewish records indicate that it was soon after Abraham’s compliance with the instruction to circumcise his household that YHWH visited him and regenerated their now “dead” bodies to reproduce. (18: 1-15) It is recorded that Abraham was ninety nine in chapter 17: 1 and he is one hundred when Isaac is born. The wording of the text indicates that the reproductive cycle in their bodies began with this spoken Word (v.14).
The name “Abraham” means, “father of a multitude”. The change is brought about by the addition of the letters “A” and “H”. Sarai had the same name change with the added “H”. The Hebrew letter “H” is an aspirant, a phonetic breath letter, a symbol of the “breath of the spirit of life” (Genesis 7:22; John 3: 8). The new name with it’s breath letter was indicative of the new life from the in-breathing of the Spirit, of the Ruach (Spirit) of YHWH into them (Genesis 2: 7; John 20:22), rejuvenating them physically and regenerating them spiritually to be the progenitors of the firstborn son of YHWH.
Sarai was so transformed at ninety years of age that the king of Gerar, Abimelech, took her with the intent of making her his wife, and Abraham fathered six more children after that. Genesis 20: 2; 25: 1-3
It took forty years of spiritual preparation from the time he left Ur, for Abraham to pass this probation period and receive the blessing of the promised heir, Isaac (40 is the Biblical number for probation).
Although Abraham obtained a promise of blessing for Ishmael, he was not included in the covenant, neither were any of the other sons which he had by Keturah later. Genesis 17:18-21; 25: 5-6
Isaac was born at the set time when Abraham was one hundred years old. Genesis 21: 1-7
As yet there had been no sacrifice offered to ratify the covenant. It was deferred until Abraham had passed the final test in the purging of self from his life. The last test upon Abram’s life was the offering of Isaac, the greatest test of all upon his faith and trust in YHWH and also upon his dedication to His purposes. It required a complete surrender of that which he loved most and that which represented all his future hopes. In effect, it brought a complete identification of himself to the Father who would surrender His only Son for the salvation of the world. John 3:16
Abraham was called to offer him up as a burnt offering, which is a consecration offering. Genesis 22: 2
So Abraham went as he was told to the land of Moriah with two of his men and his son Isaac, who was of age to understand the implications of what was happening and to exercise his free-will against it and resist. But Isaac chose to submit, in trust of his father’s integrity and faith in the promises of YHWH.
The two of them set off by themselves up the mountain with what they needed to make the fire for the offering and Abraham built an altar and set the wood in place and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood, and was about to slay him when the Angel of YHWH called to him and said, “Do not lay your hand upon the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear YHWH, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.” Genesis 22: 9-12
It was as much a test upon Isaac as it was upon his father, to be willing to lay down his life for the call. Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and saw a ram caught in a thicket and offered it up for the burnt offering instead of his son. And he called the name of the place, YHWH Yireh, YHWH will provide. YHWH Himself had provided the sacrifice for the burnt offering to ratify the covenant promises (13-4)
Then the Angel of YHWH called a second time out of heaven, and said:
YHWH’s angel called to Abraham a second time out of the sky, 16and said, “‘I have sworn by myself,’ says YHWH, ‘because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your offspring greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gate of his enemies. 18All the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because you have obeyed my voice.’”
“And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”
Obedience is the outcome of living faith. Abraham demonstrated his faith by his obedience. Obedience is faith in action for, without obedience faith is dead: and without faith, obedience is impossible. James Ch. 2
It was only after the final test of his faith and obedience in the surrender of all things into His hands was met, that a wife was sought for Isaac to continue the lineage for the fulfillment of all the promises.
YHWH said to Abraham that circumcision performed on the eighth day of his descendants was to be the ‘sign of the everlasting covenant’ which He had made with him. Genesis 17: 9-14
It was an outward sign of the inner work which had been performed in his heart by the operation of the Spirit of YHWH in response to his faith. As Paul says, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all them that believe” (both natural and spiritual) Romans 4:11
Circumcision is a token of faith and holiness, through obedience and absolute commitment to YHWH, the Almighty Elohim of Israel. It was to be an external physical sign of an internal spiritual state of heart.
Abraham was to reproduce a holy seed after his kind from the in-breathed spiritual impartation and regeneration of life which he had received from YHWH. Each child was to be a partaker of the covenant and inherit it’s blessings and promises. For this reason they were circumcised on the eighth day and kept in the power of the consecrated Spirit by diligent instruction in the Word, YHWH’s laws and precepts, which would keep them in holiness, and also by keeping their blood-line pure from inter-marriage. [Law – Genesis 26: 5; 18:19; Deut.6: 4-9; John 17:17. Intermarriage – Genesis 24: 3; 28: 1-2; Deut. 7: 3-6]
By so doing, the consecration and holiness to which Abraham had attained would be preserved in his seed.
Each time a covenant member attended to his bodily needs, he was reminded of the covenant. Whenever he engaged in the reproductive act in marriage, he was mindful of the holy commission of the covenant. Each father performed circumcision on his male children, renewing the oath of the covenant.
The eighth day when it was performed was after the cleansing period from childbirth and at the time when there is little pain or blood loss for the child. The token flow of blood from the cutting of the flesh, made it a covenant made in blood with all participants in the circumcision rite (the Brit Milah). Leviticus 12: 1-3
However, if any of Abraham’s descendants who were circumcised did not abide in the covenant and keep His laws, then his outward circumcision would become ‘uncircumcision’ in accordance with the reality of the state of his heart. The “engagement ring” of betrothal to the covenant would be meaningless without holiness and the covenant was broken by unfaithfulness to YHWH. Romans 2:25 In essence, he would be cut off from Israel, the holy priesthood nation and have no part in it. [Genesis 17:14; Ex.12:15; Leviticus 19: 8; 18:24-30; Numbers 15:30-31, etc.]
Therefore the sign of circumcision represented
- Faith in YHWH, the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Israel
- Obedience to His commandments
- Separation from worldly lusts
- Living in holiness
- Because of what it symbolizes, it was not performed during the wilderness journey while Israel was being tested and purged from their fleshly nature.
- That which was of the flesh had to die before entering Canaan.
Living in the land of Israel represented being part of the priesthood holy nation, for which complete consecration is required. Therefore, before entering the land they needed to be circumcised. Joshua 5: 7
The land of Israel itself is holy, separated unto YHWH as His possession, His dwelling place on earth. That is why they were expelled from the land when they apostatized. Ezekiel 11: 7-12
On the same principle, circumcision was not required of the believers in the nations which were returning to faith in Messiah by the apostolic oversight, at the Holy Spirit’s direction. They could only enter into the reality of the symbol when they were fully consecrated in their lives. As Abraham, our spiritual father, it would take time for each to grow in their faith-walk to come to a place of complete consecration of heart.
Jewish practice had been to thoroughly instruct ‘converts’ to the faith in every aspect of “Torah” for at least a year, after which, if they were fully committed to conversion, they were circumcised first before being baptized and accepted into the community. The apostles understood that the Holy Spirit would do the sanctifying work in the new believers and the law of circumcision was not immediately required for those in the nations, although it still applied to those who had not apostatized, in Judaism.
In accordance with this, Paul instructed the believers out of the nations that it was not immediately necessary for them to be circumcised, yet maintained the law of circumcision for Jewish people. When rumors circulated that he was teaching that Jews need not be circumcised or follow the customs according to the law, he refuted these false claims. Acts 15:24-29; 21:20-25; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20
During the present Messianic period while the harvest is being reaped and the seed is being gathered into the storehouse, circumcision is only required of believers in the nations when they become convicted of the law through Spiritual understanding. However, in the Kingdom era, no male that is not circumcised physically as well as by the Spirit in their heart, will enter into the holy city of Jerusalem. Those of the holy priesthood nation will include all twelve tribes, not just the present day Jews, who are mostly only from the House of Judah. The remainder of the twelve tribes will be gathered to them and they will all have entered into this covenant established with Abraham by circumcision. Ezekiel 44:5-9