Why did God call Abraham and enter into a covenant with Israel?
This post is a chapter from Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, 30 Questions: A Short Catechism on the Christian Faith available for purchase from our store. This resource makes for a great teaching tool in local churches, especially for catechesis purposes. We’re featuring a chapter each week in hopes of encouraging you to pick up the book and share it with others as well.
After humanity fell in the Garden of Eden and entered into rebellion, God began to unfold a plan of redemption. It involved two key features.
First, God called a people to himself, entered into a covenant with them, and revealed his righteousness to them. The purpose of the covenant was to enter into a committed relationship with people and reveal his faithful love. The Fall, as noted earlier, is rooted in broken relationships. A covenant is, in contrast, a relationship which is steadfast. Even in the midst of a sinful world, all of us long for those who are committed to us to be faithful. We long for relationships to not be broken. We long for people to keep their promises. God shows us how this can be done. In fact, even when the people of God broke the covenant and sinned against God, he remained steadfast, faithful, and true.
Second, even though God began with one people, he revealed to that people his wider saving purposes and his desire to bless all the peoples and nations of the world. Abraham was an idolater who lived in central Asia. He did not know God or his saving purposes. God revealed himself to Abraham and entered into a covenant relationship with him. This covenant was renewed with Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, who was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is why we refer to the Jews as God’s “chosen people.” In the covenant, however, repeated numerous times, God makes a three-fold promise to Abraham and his offspring. First, he promises to personally bless him with numerous descendants. He promises to multiply Israel and make them as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore. Second, he promises to bless Abraham’s descendants and make them into a great nation. Finally, he promises that through Abraham and his offspring, he will bless every nation in the world. Eventually it becomes clear that this global blessing is made possible through one particular offspring of Abraham, namely, Jesus Christ.
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