The Story of Scripture, Part 6 – Closer to Christ With Each Covenant

Over a period of four hundred years, since their first move to Egypt, Jacob’s sons (Abraham’s descendents) grew from a large family into a massive people group. Indeed, so much so that Egypt’s king at the time began to perceive this fast-expanding racial minority as a real threat to his kingdom. To stamp out the potential danger, Pharaoh reduced the Israelites to slavery. The ultimately satanic nature of this oppression was clearly manifested when Pharaoh ordered that all the male babies be taken from their mothers and killed (this occurs once again later at the time of Christ’s birth under Herod). Very significantly, however, we note that on both of these occasions, God protected the birth of the chosen deliverer.

When Moses was a grown man, God called him to lead his people out from under the yoke of Egyptian slavery. In a series of amazing incidents, ten plagues brought God’s judgment upon the Egyptian gods (each plague an intentional provocation and defiance of Egypt’s so-called gods). Eventually, the Israelites were enabled to leave Egypt and travel through the wilderness toward Mount Sinai. God miraculously parted the Red Sea for them, allowing nearly three million people to walk across the dry ocean bed. Soon, the Egyptians decided to chase after the Israelites, but God caused the ocean to close in upon them, drowning the entire army.

With this deliverance behind them, God made a covenant with Israel, and set them apart as a priestly nation,  chosen to mediate God’s promised blessing to the nations. This then, leads to the next covenant in the biblical story: the Mosaic covenant;  bringing us another step closer to the Saviour first promised in Gen 3:15. Where the Noahic covenant promised to preserve a humanity from whom the Saviour would come, and the Abrahamic covenant narrowed this promise down from that of humanity to a specific race (seed of Abraham); now, in the Mosaic covenant, God was promising to set apart a specific nationality from among Abraham’s descendants. In this way, we see how God’s plan of redemption was continuing to unfold. The lineage that led to the promised Messiah was becoming more and more specific. 

The Story of Scripture, Part 5 – From Humanity to a Specific Seed

As we might expect, after the flood man went exactly the same way again. In the story of Babel we read how (a freshly unified) mankind reaches yet another crescendo of open rebellion against their Maker. Had God not made the covenant of common grace with Noah, thereby committing himself to preserve humanity, he would have destroyed the human race all over again. Instead however, God intended through the Noahic covenant, that a foundation of humanity be preserved. And this so, as a foundation from which to bring forth the promised Saviour.

We come then to the next important figure in the biblical story: Abraham. 

Gen 12:1-3;

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

The covenant that God made with Abraham is significant because it served to elaborate on the promise that he had already made with Adam and Eve (Gen. 12:1-3; 18:18). The Abrahamic covenant comprised of 3 main parts:

  1. God would make Abraham into a great nation.
  2. God would give that nation their own land of blessing.
  3. God would extend that blessing to all nations.

When God had made a covenant with Noah, He was preserving the entire human race in order that the promised Saviour could be born. Now, in the Abrahamic covenant, God was setting about to narrow the lineage from that of ‘all mankind’ to a particular race; namely, the seed of Abraham.

Despite seemingly impossible obstacles, God showed himself to be true in this covenant. Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob. And Jacob had 12 sons, who were all very significant in the future life of Israel.

As the story continues many dangers beset Abraham and his family. In certain moments, it might even have seemed that God’s covenant promise would fail.  However, through it all, time and time again God showed Himself to be ‘God Almighty’: the One who has the power to carry out his purposes.

These purposes eventually led to Jacob moving his whole family to Egypt in order to escape a great famine. However, before Jacob himself died, he prophesied something very important, which once again reminded all the sons of Abraham of God’s great plan; and a promise that yet awaited its fulfillment. 

Gen 49:10:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

By considering this prophecy as they ought, they would once again be given a fresh reminder, and further clarity, of all that they (as a people called by God) should be looking forward to in hope.