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The Covenants-Chapter 5d-The Covenant of promise in Christ to Abraham

Forty-four years after this event, the same covenant was repeated, and transferred to Jacob, the son of Isaac, and grandson of Abraham. Jacob had now reached the age of’ manhood. Painful events had occurred in his father’s house. He was about to leave the scenes of his early days, and enter the great theatre of life, preparatory to which his father gave him his formal blessing. How full of tenderness and affection was that prayer! “God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land in which thou art a stranger, which God gave to Abraham. And Isaac sent away Jacob” (Gen 28:3-5). And “Jacob went out from Beersheba and went towards Haran. And he lighted on a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set. And he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed; and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending, and descending upon it! And behold the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth. And thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Gen 27:11-14). Such is the form and language, in which the covenant is transferred to Jacob. This also, contains within itself, as did that to Isaac, the declaration that it is identically the same covenant previously given to Abraham. Jacob is now assured that he is to be the Father of Messiah.

The scenes in the life of Jacob, were many and various, and not a few of them of the most touching character. When “his pilgrimage upon earth” was about to close, seventy one years after he had been honored with the covenant, he assembled in his chamber, in Goshen, his twelve sons, and in an address replete with affection, faith, piety and eloquence, constituted them into “the means literally a rod, and does not, as so many have imagined, refer here to the regal rule of Judah, but is used metaphorically, to represent the tribe. The substance of this part of the passage is therefore, an assurance that whatever may become of the other tribes, the rod, or tribe of Judah, shall endure in its distinct, and separate, and full existence, until the Messiah promised—the Shiloh—springing from that tribe, shall come and accomplish his mission upon earth. I may also remark that the term rendered LawgiverTwelve Tribes of Israel” Upon each of the tribes he pronounced an appropriate blessing, prophetic of its future circumstances, and character; he assigned them all their places in the promised land; but to Judah alone, and especially, he transmitted the covenant received from his fathers. “The promised land,” Bishop Newton justly observes, “Jacob might divide among all his children. But the promise of being the progenitor of Messiah, must be confined to one only.” That distinction, by divine direction, was conferred upon Judah. Thus he blessed that favored tribe:- “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a Lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen 49:10). The sense of the covenant in the form which it here assumes, need not be mistaken, and yet it has been somewhat embarrassed, partly perhaps, because the authors of our common version of the scriptures seem not to have understood it; and partly because expositors generally, appear not to have comprehended its true relations. A few remarks in explanation from me, is therefore necessary. I may just observe that the word translated scepter[8] [9]here means simply, a teacher, or prophet, and nothing more. With these corrections, the whole text will read truly, and plainly thus:- From Judah his distinct existence as a tribe shall not depart, nor among his offspring shall a teacher be wanting, till Messiah come, and unto him shall all people be gathered. God here pledges that he will himself watch over and preserve this tribe, until “the desire of all nations shall appear.” And how faithfully, in his good providence, this pledge was redeemed, is in the subsequent history of his people, familiar to all who study the sacred records. The other tribes, as is well known, fell into the grossest idolatry, from which no admonitions, or judgments, could recall them. They were at length abandoned to the fury of their enemies, by whom they were overcome, and carried into hopeless captivity. More than seven hundred years before Shiloh appeared, they were all irrecoverably lost, among the nations of the east. Judah by the evident intervention of almighty power, was indestructible, until the promise in this covenant, was gloriously accomplished.

8. shebet (Hebrew)

9. chaqaq (Hebrew)

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

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The Covenants-Chapter 5c-The Covenant of promise in Christ to Abraham

January 11, 2019 1 comment

We now pass from the period of Abraham, and proceed to consider the frequent repetitions to his successors, at various times, during more than eight hundred years, of this same “covenant of promise confirmed before of God in Christ” (Gal 3:7).

To Isaac, his son, and heir, this covenant, about a hundred and fifty years afterwards, was solemnly renewed, and transferred. In the narrative of this transaction by Moses, you are informed that a famine prevailed in Canaan, and that to find sustenance for himself, and his family, Isaac was obliged to leave for a time, the place of his residence. He went therefore “unto Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, unto Gerar. And the Lord appeared unto him and said, Go not down into Egypt;”—whither it seems, he was disposed to direct his steps;—” Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee. For unto thee, and unto thy seed, will I give all these countries. And I will perform my oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven; and will give unto thy seed all these countries. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 26:1-5). The identity of this covenant with that of Abraham, cannot be questioned, since in the covenant itself, this fact is expressly declared :—” I will perform unto thee my oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.”

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 5b-The Covenant of promise in Christ to Abraham

January 4, 2019 1 comment

“The covenant of promise to Abraham, of God in Christ,” is now before you. It is said by the apostle, to have been “the preaching of the gospel to Abraham.” “The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal 3:16-17). To Adam also, was this covenant as announced in Eden, no less “the preaching of the gospel,” since it was “the glad tidings” of a Deliverer from sin, and of eternal life, and salvation. I will also remark in passing, that the blessings promised in all these covenants—the covenants of redemption, of Eden, and of Abraham—were in their spiritual import, never designed to be, nor are they truly, confined to any one family, or nation. The possible impression of their partial or Hebrew bearing, is carefully guarded against, in the very language of the covenants themselves, and earnestly denied by both prophets and apostles. They embraced specifically, “all the families of the earth,” and revealed a Saviour, who is “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” as well as “the glory of his people Israel (Luke 2:32). “Of a truth,” “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation,”—and this has been ever so—” he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him’ (Acts 10:34-35).

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 5a-The Covenant of promise in Christ to Abraham

December 28, 2018 5 comments

Abraham’s place was “Ur of the Chaldees.” There he received a divine command indicative of some future purpose of Jehovah, what he knew not. ‘The God of glory’ appeared to him, and said, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and go into the land which I shall show thee.’ Promptly he obeyed, ‘and went out, not knowing whither he went.’ Providence directed his steps to Haran, where he remained until he had performed the last sad rites of sepulture for his aged father. Then again, ‘The Lord said to Abraham, Depart to a land that I will shew thee, And I will make thee a great nation. And I will bless thee, and make thy name great. And thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee. And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed’ (Gen 12:1, 3). In this simple narrative we have the original promise made to Abraham, which Paul calls ‘the covenant of God, in Christ’, or the pledge that Messiah should come of his family. The promise was made when the patriarch was seventy-five years old, in the year of the world two thousand and eighty-two, and nineteen hundred and twenty-two years before the advent of Messiah. He received and embraced it with unwavering faith, and devoutly and promptly complied with the command with which it was associated. He ‘departed as the Lord had spoken to him’, with all his family and substance. And as Moses instructs us, ‘They went from Haran, to go into the land of Canaan ; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land, to the place of Sychem, to the plain of Moreh’ (Gen 12:1-3), a beautiful valley between the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, where he fixed his residence, and ‘builded an altar unto the Lord,” who there again appeared to him, and said, ‘To thee will I give this land’ (Gen 12:4-6). Upon these events, and in explanation of the full import of the covenant, an inspired apostle says, ‘Now to Abraham and his seed, were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed; which is Christ’ (Heb 11:12).

But Abraham had subsequently, assurances on this subject, still more full, and emphatic. More than forty years he had resided, ‘as a pilgrim and a stranger,’ in Canaan, when the covenant was renewed, “and ratified with an oath.’ Mean time his faith had been subjected to various trials of the severest character. He and his wife had now both reached a very great age; he about a hundred and his wife ninety years, and they were still without issue. In the ordinary course of things, as respects posterity they were both, as Paul justly remarks, ‘as good as dead’. The promised son came not! How could he believe that he would come, or that the promise would, or could, ever be fulfilled? We are assured however, that ‘Abraham staggered not’. His faith was unshaken. “With God nothing is impossible.” Isaac at length was born! And under the circumstances, his birth was as truly miraculous, as was that of the Saviour himself. All his cherished hopes were realized, and this son so dear to his heart, was now verging towards manhood, when occurred another trial of his faith, infinitely more painful and appalling than the former. ‘Take now thy son,” said God to the aged patriarch, ‘thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering!’ But could this command be really from on high! Had he not in this case, every reason to distrust the evidence of even his own senses? Could infinite goodness require of a father, a deed so horrible? Thus Abraham might have reasoned. But no such inquiries were in his heart. It was enough that God had spoken. Of this he was assured. He therefore, hesitated not to obey, but hastened to the appointed mountain; builded there the prescribed altar; placed upon it the necessary wood; bound his son, laid him upon the pile, grasped the knife, and stretched forth his hand to strike the fatal blow; when his proceeding was arrested by a voice from above! ‘Abraham, lay not thy hand upon the lad; neither do thou any thing to him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld from me thy son, thine only son’ (Gen 22:1-13). Another glorious victory was achieved. Faith had again triumphed. Paul illustrating this cardinal grace, thus refers to the incident before us:- “By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises, offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called; accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb 11:17-18). When these and other scenes had passed, and which are recorded, that “we upon whom the ends of the earth have come,” may imitate the unwavering confidence in the word of God, which characterized “the father of the faithful,” then Jehovah said to Abraham:- ” By myself have I sworn,” “that blessing I will bless thee; and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:15-16). These trials of Abraham’s faith, and repetitions in the strongest forms, to him of ” the covenant of promise,” were, like the sufferings of Job, not especially necessary on his account, but were for our advantage. Therefore said Paul, “When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” “Men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them, an end of all strife.” So “God, willing more abundantly to show unto [us the true] heirs of promise, the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it with an oath, that by two immutable things [the promise in the original covenant, and the oath in its repetition] in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail, whither our forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus Christ (Heb 6:13-20).

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 5-The Covenant of promise in Christ to Abraham

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

5. THE COVENANT OF PROMISE IN CHRIST TO ABRAHAM

Purpose of the covenant; the original promise; its repetition with an oath of God; renewal and transfer of the covenant to Isaac; to Jacob; to Judah; to David; its identity in every repetition; the same in its purposes, and its promises, with the covenant in Eden, and the covenant of redemption.

The promises of God in the covenant of Eden, sustained triumphantly, the piety of his saints, until the covenant in Christ was announced to Abraham. Up to this time all that had been certainly revealed as to the person of Christ, was that he was to be of the human race, eminently ‘the seed of the woman’; but of what particular family, or nation, had not as yet transpired. Where men were to look for him, whether in Egypt, in Babylon, in Assyria, or in some other land, no one was informed. The object of the covenant now to be considered, was not more to renew the former promises of a Saviour, than it was to make known his family and place. For this great honor Abraham, ‘the friend of God’, was selected; and Canaan, ‘that land of vine clad hills, and blooming vallies’, was designated as the scene of Messiah’s glorious mission.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 4j-The Covenant of Redemption

December 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Others of the promises of the covenant are given to Messiah for his people.

“To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” These gifts are all comprehended in the “Hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised before the world began.” And to whom but to Christ, could this promise before the world began, have been made; and in what relation, if not in connection with the covenant of redemption? “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” John referring to this subject says, “This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” Nor are these and such like, as pardon, and justification, the only blessings which come immediately from him. He also stipulates others to be conferred by the Holy Spirit. “I will,” said he, “put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Thus he secures your enlightment, your regeneration, and your sanctification, for which when an apostle prays, he predicates his assurance of an answer, upon the faithfulness of God to his promise given in the covenant. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”

And how “great and precious” are his promises, made through Christ, directly to his people! Upon these, delightful as would be their full contemplation, we may not now dwell. I will detain you only to remark, that these promises pledge you grace to direct and keep you in life, and to sustain and comfort you in death; they assure you a happy resurrection; justification at the tribunal of Christ; and in heaven everlasting glory.

Thus we have seen the actual existence of the covenant of redemption; the previous period at which it was brought into being; the purposes it contemplated; the parties covenanting, and the gracious promises it extends to his people. This was the covenant upon which was predicated the announcement in Eden of the

Deliverer from sin, under the power and penalty of which man had fallen, by a violation of the provisions contained in the covenant of works. Well then may we, with all our heart, join in that exalted thanksgiving uttered by the beloved disciple, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father, unto him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.”

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 4i-The Covenant of Redemption

Let us now, for a moment, consider the promises embodied in the covenant of redemption.

Some of these promises are made exclusively to the Son, as the Messiah:-” The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool. The Lord will send the rod [the people] of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing, in the day of thy power.” And again. “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” And again “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.” In view of these and similar declarations, an Apostle says, “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants