“aCovenant For the Ages” July 9, 2023
“A Covenant For the Ages”
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Romans 7:13-25a / Matthew 11:16-30
So, as promised, I would like to speak with you for the next few weeks predominantly from some of our more ancient texts. Today we read from the book of Genesis the somewhat unusual Story of courtship, love, and marriage Between Isaac, the son of Abraham. and Sarah, and Rebecca. You know, I’ve always felt that the title of a sermon is important, so when my first thought for a title was “the Greatest love Story of All Time,” I immediately started having second thoughts; and I’m glad I did. I mean, even if we put aside all that business about bracelets and nose rings, this whole affair runs so counter to what we hold to be precious when it comes to love and marriage that it is difficult to get that warm and fuzzy feeling that a good romance inspires. The fact remains, however, that it is the offspring of Isaac and Rebecca that eventually made the nation of Israel a reality. So, we might say that the story of Rebecca and Isaac was the culmination of God’s promise to Abraham that his offspring would fill the earth: a promise that we know of as the abrahamic covenant. But before we go any further, Let’s explore This word ‘covenant’ if for no other reason that we approach this wild love affair in its proper context.
This from the,)… Shalvi Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women we read:
the Abrahamic Covenant is really the beginnings of the formal revelation of the covenant of grace, of God’s decision to reach into humanity and specifically save people for Himself.
It comes in the form of a promise to Abraham. Abraham, who’s the son of an idolater, who did not know God. God takes the initiative with him, calls him into a relationship with Himself, and makes just unilaterally some promises to Abraham. He promises that Abraham is going to be a great nation, that he is going to be given a land, a place to live, and that through Him, all of the nations will be blessed.
Now that promise that’s given in Genesis 12 takes on a very formal, a covenantal form, later on in Genesis, in which God reaffirms the promises and takes an oath, basically makes a lasting promise to Abraham that He will not fail to come through on this.”
So yes, covenants were taken seriously in those days. From the same article, we learn, “Normally, when a covenant was made in the ancient Near East, they would talk about the covenant being cut. The cutting of the covenant involved the sacrificing of animals. Animals would be literally cut in two. The person who had to keep the promises would walk through those animals, basically saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the bargain, may it be done to me what has been done to these animals.” Typically, in a covenant, the great king would force the lesser party in the covenant to walk through those animals. It was up to the junior member of the party to keep the terms of the covenant.”
First of all, I have to ask: what is with it with these people? Yes, the law of Moses was fairly clear about the when and the where and the why of animal sacrifice,
But there seems to me that the practice brought out the overachievers in the crowd. All the same. Walking through this carnage probably did keep folks on their best behavior.
The covenant God made with Abraham, however, was not based upon threats of punishment Or being hacked into pieces. God’s covenant was based upon a promise. It was a promise meant to supplement a far greater plan and most of all , it was a promise that you could take to the bank, if you’ll pardon the expression. God meant to build a great nation And the union of Isaac and Rebecca proved to be the foundation for that nation.
So yes, I guess we could call this the greatest love story of all time. I’m just glad that the practice of nose rings has fallen out of fashion; that, and the habit of slaughtering large numbers of animals in the hot sun with no refrigeration in sight.
But it’s a fascinating story, nonetheless. Abraham sends his number one servant to find a wife for his son. He is explicit as to where this woman should be found and actually prophesies the details of this meeting. Like I said, it is a fascinating story complete with all the doubts and second thoughts that are bound to show up with such an undertaking. In verse 5 as Abraham was instructing his servant what to do, we read “5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” Here Abraham replies, “6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said.
7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring[ I will give this land’ he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there”
At this point, Abraham offers a disclaimer of sorts to his servant telling him that if things don’t work out he will be absolved of his duty; the duty of matchmaking, I guess. But this seems out of character, don’t you think? It hints at a lack of confidence In the promises God has made and if there is any prevailing quality that we can hold up when it comes to Abraham, it would have to be his unfailing trust and devotion and obedience to the Lord God. It was his chief servant, the one in charge of his livestock and all his affairs, Who lacked trust in the promise. As it turned out, however, the covenant God made with Abraham proved to be stronger than any sort of doubt or misgiving. In short, God’s promises are for real And this covenant for the ages Is a pretty good testimony to that fact.
So what can we take home with us from this story? Is it little more than a slightly embellished history and genealogy lesson? Or can it be that the faithfulness and steadfastness of people like Abraham Might serve to encourage us; to inspire us to place our trust In the power Of our God who loves us more than we can love ourselves. Hmm, come to think of it, that might be the greatest love story of all time.
Amen and Shalom