Kingdom Presence: Old Testament (5)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Genesis 17.1, 2
When we think of Abraham, we tend to focus more in terms of “covenant” than of “Kingdom.” God had called Abraham—then Abram—from his home in Ur of the Chaldees to enter with Him into a covenant of promise, in which he would know blessings from God and become a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12.1-3). That covenant brings forward all that God had spoken to Adam and Noah—about having dominion and increasing over all the earth—and becomes a defining motif for all subsequent unfolding of divine revelation, and all further understanding of the coming Kingdom of God.
God’s covenant, those exceeding great and precious promises which are only fully realized in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1.2-4; 2 Cor. 1.19, 20), provides the bond between God and His people, for the realization of which His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.
We should note two important features of God’s covenant as it relates to the idea of exercising dominion, or, the Kingdom of God.
Covenant and dominion
First, God clearly connected His covenant with Abraham to the covenant He had established with Adam and Eve. While the word, “covenant”, does not occur with Adam and Eve, all the hallmarks of a covenant relationship are visible between them: God’s gracious initiative, His promises of blessing, and the conditions on which such promises may be realized. With Noah, first (Gen. 6.18; 9.9), then with Abraham, the idea of “covenant” becomes a defining term in thinking about God’s relationship with His people and His people’s mission on earth.
The phrase repeated here in our text, “multiply you exceedingly”, takes the mandate given to Adam and Eve and places it squarely within the covenant God was making with Abraham. God’s covenant with Adam and Eve is being continued and extended with Abraham. We can assume that everything else entailed in that original mandate—learning, working, and guarding—was brought forward in God’s covenant with Abraham as well. The covenant with Adam was not replaced by the covenant with Abraham; rather, it was clarified, enlarged, and extended.
Second, as we have seen, Abraham’s experience within the covenant and promises of God involved entanglements with earthly kings, and these could be difficult and demanding. For Abraham, therefore, such entanglements had always to be engaged with an eye to the Most High King and His promises. Abraham would have understood that whatever his King on High had in mind for him—whatever those precious and very great promises might entail, and however they might unfold—it would involve other people and their kingdoms and rulers.
God’s covenant, Abraham would have understood, would be administered, realized, and extended among and within the earthly domains of kings and kingdoms, some of which, as we have seen, would be the direct descendants of Abraham and heirs of God’s mandates and promises.
Thus, as readily as we think about covenant in our relationship with God—Old Covenant, New Covenant—so must we, at the same time, think of God’s Kingdom. God’s covenant provides the framework of divine faithfulness and blessing, and God’s Kingdom provides the administrative economy which shapes His people into a Kingdom and priests. Covenant and Kingdom go hand-in-hand.
A vision enlarged?
Abraham’s vision of what God had promised was clarified, enriched, and enlarged by his entanglements with earthly kings and dominions. Doubtless, he could see, down the corridors of history, earthly kings seeking the blessing of God within the context of His covenant, submitting to His rule and protection, coming to know restoration, healing, blessing, and the goodness of the Lord in their kingdoms through those who are friends of God. Perhaps even becoming rulers presiding over kingdoms characterized by righteousness and peace, like Melchizedek.
And did Abraham envision earthly kings living at peace with, and on the terms of, those who possessed the promises of God, as Abimelech had sought with him? Were the promised blessings of God to be administered among earthly cultures and societies by those who would live according to the rule of the eternal King?
Surely Abraham, thinking about his own relationship with earthly kings, and reflecting on God’s promises and the events which followed his change of name, must have considered that God intended the earth to include nations ruled by kings who knew the blessings of God, who entered into covenant relationship with Him, sought His promises and protection, and would become guarantors of those same promises to the people in their charge. Ultimately, indeed, the kingdoms of this world would become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. Could Abraham see that far into the covenant and Kingdom of God?
Precisely how this would come to pass, and what wonders God would accomplish along the way—none of this was made clear to Abraham. He trusted in what he had heard and seen from God in his experience, and this was enough for him to continue seeking the promises of God in his day.
This also must be our commitment. We can know what God has promised concerning His Kingdom and its unfolding presence. And we can know that His promises and covenant will never fail. Thus, we can commit ourselves to a greater realization of Kingdom presence as we, like Abraham, hold fast to and live toward the promises of God’s covenant.
1. Summarize the promises God made in His covenant in Genesis 12.1-3.
2. How can you see that these promises are indeed all fulfilled in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1.19, 20)?
3. How should these promises of God influence or affect the way we seek the Kingdom presence of God?
Next steps—Conversation: Suppose a new believer asked you what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6.33). How would you explain that mandate?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.