By Murray Palmatier November 3, 2018
From Covenant to Covenant
Welcome back! Last time, we built upon our first blog by following the story from The Garden of Eden through to the covenant God made with Noah. The history of Man played out here showed our sinful nature since Adam’s rejection of God back in Paradise. The idyllic home in Eden and the peaceful relationship with God, while a distant memory, was recaptured for a brief moment when Noah and his family stepped off the ark and back onto dry land.
It is here that we are now introduced to the concept of “covenant” - something that will play a centerpiece, in various forms, throughout the rest of The Bible. To be sure we understand exactly what this important word means, let’s go to Strong’s Concordance. The Hebrew word for “covenant” is “bĕriyth” (H1285) and means promise, alliance or pledge and is translated as “covenant” 264 times in the Old Testament - so it is a pretty important word!
When it was safe to get off the ark, the very first thing Noah did was to build an altar so that he and his family could worship their God (and Savior). Worship at that time included the offering of clean animals. We will see later that offering animals teaches us many lessons, including the need to give from our finances as a measure of our gratitude for God’s presence in our lives. These offerings also teach us that covenants matter, oftentimes because they have been made with the shedding of blood. In this case, what followed Noah’s worship was a covenant from God, where He promised unconditionally never to bring a flood to destroy Man again. The sign of His promise in this case was the rainbow.
As we start to learn about the importance of these promises, it is important to pause and consider that there are two types of covenants. You will see examples of both when you read The Bible. God’s promise to Noah was an unconditional one. Noah did not need to do anything for God to keep His promise. Noah, and everyone since him, can be assured that there will never be an all-consuming flood again, because of this unconditional covenant God made. You will also see examples of conditional covenants. These are agreements between two parties, where each side promises with conditions that both agree to fulfill. Success or failure to comply from either side yields results that both have agreed to accept. Bottom line - you should get familiar with the concept of covenants because they play an integral role in the story of The Bible.
After Noah received the Promise of the Rainbow, it did not take long for his descendants to pick right back up where their forefathers left off before their watery demise. The history of Man as recounted in Scripture soon becomes the history of Shem and his descendants, eventually focusing in on a man named Abram. But before we get there, Moses recounts for us the evil that came back into the world through the descendants of Noah’s son, Ham. After introducing us to Ham and his son, Canaan, the story goes further downhill in the subsequent generations of Cush and Nimrod.
While the story of Nimrod is limited to a few verses, his historical impact on the world is still felt until this day. Called “a mighty hunter”, historians link him as the king of the land of Shinar, where the tower of Babel was built. This tower was their attempt to show the world that God was not important; that man could rely solely on himself for all things. Rather than look to God as Provider of all things, the tower misled man to think there was nothing he couldn’t do all by himself. The Shinarians became the forerunners of the Babylonians, who would become a great empire and enemy of God’s people, Take some time to read about Nimrod and you will see his fingerprints all over the various religions of today...all leading people away from the God of The Bible who we worship.
We now come to the major turning point in the Old Testament. What we have read so far has just been background to the history of Man since he was ejected from the Garden of Eden. The plan of God that we talked about back when we began this series would not be derailed by our disobedience. Just as God found a righteous man to rebuild with after the flood, he found another righteous man to kickstart the next phase of his plan. We now come to the story of Abram.
Before we get to Abram, we find something very interesting about Noah and Abraham that points to the majesty and perfection of God. When you read the various records of Biblical genealogy, you can actually count that Noah was the tenth generation from creation and Abram was the tenth generation from Noah and the flood. As we read through The Bible, we see God’s greatness in even these smallest of details!
I mentioned that the introduction of Abram brings with it a turning point in the story. The next phase of God’s plan begins with another unconditional covenant that God made with Abram. God looked down and again found a righteous man that He could work with and made a promise to him. In return for living a faithful and righteous life, in the midst of an evil world, God promised that He would make Abram and his future descendants into a great nation that would live in a great land of many blessings. It is this covenant with Abram that forms the basis for the rest of The Bible. From here, the story of Man narrows to focus on the story of Abram and his family. It is here that we will pick up the story next time. I hope you are beginning to see how exciting story of The Bible is...much more intriguing than any Hollywood script...and it’s true!!