God’s Covenants and Promises to Israel

God’s aim in human history is to lovingly rule and dwell with his people on earth forever.

  • “I will be their God and they will be my people”
  • “I will dwell among them”

What has God said in Scripture about how he will bring this about? Primarily in covenants

A covenant is a relationship of responsibility. The four major covenants in the Bible are the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants.

These covenants—especially the Abrahamic—provide the key to understanding Hebrew history and prophecy.

It is essential to understand who they were given by (God) and who they were made with (Israel). If we make a mistake in interpreting them or understanding them, how we interpret and understand all of biblical prophecy will be muddled.

1.      Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12; 15; 17:1–21

1) Abram of Ur came from a long and illustrious line of idolaters (Josh 24:2). God in his grace saved him, and entered into a covenant with him.

2) In this covenant God promised Abraham and his descendants a seed (physical descendants), a land (extending from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates), and a blessing (personal, national, and universal aspects).

3) This was a unilateral covenant (only one party involved in the covenant responsibilities; only God passed between the animals, Gen 15:17) God made with Israel that is eternal in duration (Gen 13:15) and yet unfulfilled (Isa 61:9).

4) While other nations would benefit from this covenant (Gen 12:3) it was made only with Abraham and his physical descendants (Gen 12; 15; 22:15–18; 26:2–5; 28:13–14; 35:9–15; 1 Chron 16:16–17; Ps 105:9–10; Isa 41:8).

2.     Mosaic Covenant—Exodus 20–31 (esp. 19:5–6; 24:1–8); Deut 28–30

1) In this covenant, Israel would be a holy nation that God would rule through a mediator and the world through Israel, which would function as a kingdom of priests (Exod 19:5–6).

2) This covenant was one which both parties swore to (Exod 19:8; 24:3, 7) and was thoroughly Israelite.

3.     Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7:11–16; 1 Chronicles 17:7–14; Psalm 89

Abraham’s descendants eventually grew in number, sojourned in Egypt, were delivered from slavery and established in the Promised Land, were ruled over by a succession of judges, by Saul, and then by his successor David. David conquered many national enemies, brought the ark to Jerusalem, and determined to build a temple for the Lord.

1) The Davidic Covenant is important as it specifies the promised seed of the Abrahamic Covenant. Jacob had limited it to the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10). God’s unconditional covenant with David narrows it down to his line.

2) This covenant promised David an everlasting dynasty (a king), kingdom (a realm which the king ruled), and throne (the right to rule).

3) This was an unconditional, Israelite, eternal covenant God made with David and remains unfulfilled.

Yet to be fulfilled of this covenant:

  • Israel existing forever in the land of Israel as a nation, a political entity
  • The Messiah ruling over Israel from Jerusalem
  • The Messiah possessing all the dignity and power such rule would entail

4.     New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31–37; Ezek 36:1–38

1) In this covenant Israel will receive a new heart; repent and become obedient; be forgiven; be re-gathered and dwell in the land; experience permanent, irreversible blessings (including animals, weather, and agriculture); and Gentiles will respond and stream to Israel.

2) This covenant will be entered into by both Israel and God (Jer 31:33; 32:40; 50:4–5; Ezek 37:1–14). It is thoroughly Israelite, eternal, and remains unfulfilled.

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