That covenant becomes a defining motif for all subsequent unfolding of divine revelation, and all further understanding of the coming Kingdom of God.
We should note two important features of that covenant as it relates to the idea of exercising dominion, or, the Kingdom of God.
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. With Noah, first, then with Abraham, the idea of “covenant” becomes a defining term in thinking about God’s relationship with His people.
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, I think, that everything else entailed in that original mandate – learning, working, and guarding – was reinstituted with Abraham as well.
Second, as we have seen, Abraham’s experience in 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 eternal reign and rule. 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, they would be inextricably involved with human affairs, nations, and rulers on earth.
God’s covenant, Abraham would have understood, would be administered, realized, and extended 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.
A vision enlarged?
Was Abraham’s vision of what God had promised clarified, enriched, and enlarged by his entanglements with earthly kings and dominions? Could he 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?
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 lived in these according to the rule of the eternal King?
We do not know, of course. But 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 and sought His promises and protection, and who would become dispensers of those same promises to the people in their charge.
But 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 from God and seen in his experience, and this was enough for him to continue seeking the promises of God in his day.
This also must be our own commitment in ours.
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? Ask a pastor or church leader to help you think this through.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.