A Divine Guarantee

For the week of October 28, 2023 / 13 Heshvan 5784

Message info over an ancient map of the land of Canaan along with a fire pot and torch

Lech Lecha
Torah: Bereshit/Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
Haftarah: Isa 40:27-41:16

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…” (Bereshit/Genesis 15:18)

It is no exaggeration to say that we may be on the brink of a catastrophe hitherto unknown in history. I hope I am wrong—that the current crisis in Israel will calm down, but not until the demonic evil unleashed by Hamas on October 7 is destroyed. I have no illusions, however, if by God’s grace that happens, it will manifest again soon and probably worse.

Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version, except that “Abram” is changed to “Avram”

Serious readers of Scripture have no reason to be unaware of the dynamics at play, including why it is that so much fuss is made over one of the smallest countries on the planet. Yet, not only are most people unaware of such things, but they have also reduced the God of the Bible to a detached spirituality of the inner life, while failing to grasp its global implications and all-encompassing importance. Core to this misguided spirituality is the disregard for the centrality of the people of Israel and the land of Israel in God’s plan.

This week’s parsha (weekly Torah-reading portion) is foundational in this regard. It begins with Avram, whose name is later changed to Avraham (you can figure out the English versions of his name yourself, I am sure). The God of all creation, who made everything “very good” (Bereshit/Genesis 1:31), determined to one day rid the universe of the curse he imposed on the earth due to our first parents’ rebellion against him (see Bereshit/Genesis 3:17-19). Described as the bruising or crushing of the serpent’s head (see Bereshit/Genesis 3:15), we are given no detail as to how this plan was to be worked out until this parsha. If Avram would venture to the alien land God would show him, he would make him a great nation and bless the entire world as a result (see Bereshit/Genesis 12:1-3). One of Avram’s most famous descendants would call the promise to bless the nations, the good news or Gospel (see Galatians 3:8).

The agreement, contract, or covenant (they all mean the same, by the way) that God established with Avram included an aspect that Bible readers have tragically ignored. People often called the covenant made with Avram unconditional, but it did have one condition—a condition he fulfilled. He had to go to a specified location. It wasn’t until he arrived there, that God said, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Bereshit/Genesis 12:7). The land, therefore, was a crucial aspect of God’s covenant with Avram, which was later passed on to his son Isaac (see Bereshit/Genesis 26:2-5) and grandson Jacob (see Bereshit/Genesis 28:13-14).

But did you know how essential the land promise to Avram was? As we also read in this week’s parsha, sometime later, God says to him: “Fear not, Avram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Bereshit/Genesis 15:1). Avram’s trusting response to God’s telling him that, despite his ongoing childlessness, his descendants will be like the stars of the sky, is an appropriate high point for many Bible believers as it demonstrates the importance of faith.

Following that interchange, God has Avram perform a covenant ritual whereby he was to cut up some animals (see Bereshit/Genesis 15:7-20). Apparently, this was a traditional covenant-making ceremony. The Hebrew for “make a covenant” is actually “cut a covenant,” probably taken from the cutting up of the animals. The two parties would walk together between the pieces as a way to declare that if either fails to live up to their covenantal obligations, may they become like the cutup pieces. But note that Avram doesn’t walk between the pieces. Instead, he sees the unusual site of a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passing through them. Commentators consider this an indication that God was taking the full covenantal obligation on himself, so that if either party would break covenant, he, that is God, would suffer the consequences. We see this happen in the person of the Messiah, of course. But neglecting the context of all this prevents us from seeing an essential aspect of God’s commitment to the people of Israel. God’s self-imposed covenantal obligations to the people is not only about the people. Here’s what God says when he reiterates the covenant to Avram:

“To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites (Bereshit/Genesis 15:18-21).

God’s covenant with Avram includes the land, guaranteed! Should Avram or his descendants (those through Isaac and Jacob) fail in their covenantal obligations, God himself would bear the punishment. You know what this means, don’t you? Yeshua’s death doesn’t only ensure your reconciliation with God by faith, but also upholds Israel’s divine right to their God-given land.

Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version


19 thoughts on “A Divine Guarantee

  1. The “offspring” – literal singular seed – was Jesus all along and by extension all in Him which includes everyone under the New Covenant. Paul spells this out without any ambiguity. You need to revise this post and give the entire council of God in it’s complete context free of ethnocentric blinders.

    • Obviously I don’t agree. The Scriptures are clear that the nations come into the promised blessings through Abraham’s seed (offspring) through the ultimate seed, the Messiah, without undermining his destiny for natural Israel. There is no need to undermine God’s covenant faithfulness to natural Israel in order to establish the fullness of blessing given to those among the nations who come to believe in Israel’s Messiah.

  2. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does NOT say, “And to offspring*S* [plural],” referring to many, but referring to ONE, “And to your offspring [singular],” who is CHRIST.” (Galatians 3:16 ESV)
    Paul knows that the singular (Hb. zera‘) can be used as a collective singular that has a plural sense (he interprets it in a plural sense in Rom. 4:18). But it also can have a singular meaning, and here Paul, knowing that only in Christ would the promised blessings come to the Gentiles, sees that the most true and ultimate fulfillment of these OT promises comes to one “offspring,” namely, Christ. Paul’s willingness to make an argument using a singular noun in distinction from its plural form (which occurs in other OT verses) indicates a high level of confidence in the trustworthiness of the small details of the OT text.

    • There’s a both/and going on here. Paul understands that Messiah is the ultimate example of what God intended from Abraham’s offspring without negating the purpose and destiny for natural Israel

  3. Natural Israel’s role and purpose was accomplished in being the human line which birthed Jesus human frame (via Mary) and as a legal heir to David’s throne (via Joseph). Anything beyond this risks making the land a kind of idol.

    • Please provide a scriptural basis for your claim. See my recent presentation, “Israel and the faithfulness of God” https://youtu.be/ojp_NTxIEVk?si=kKnl26DKnnli2Oi2

      • On the subject of Israel and God’s faithfulness for believers today my take is this. The Old Testament demonstrated God’s faithfulness to Israel, and assures the believer today we can trust God. Jesus Christ the Messiah was the peak of all that. His death and ressurecction is all we need to point to now. Sure we can cite the Old Testament examples, but all we need is the ressurection to prove it. If Israel were to disappear off the map tomorrow, it wouldn’t impact my faith at all. Christ is all I need. Sadly many would lose their faith in God were to happen, which calls their entire faith into question as genuine to begin with. Jesus is enough.

      • If Israel was wiped off the map tomorrow, then the Scriptures aren’t true. The idea that everything rests on Yeshua’s death and resurrection isn’t true. In fact, the power and meaning of Yeshua’s death and resurrection are based on the Scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4), the same Scriptures that inform us that Israel will be kept by God forever.

  4. The genealogical records in Matt 1 and Luke 3 establish Christ’s natural and legal connections to King David. Somewhere in the Torah there is an account of the Daughters of Z inheriting that makes Jesus connection with Joesph as His legal guardian a means to bypass Mary’s line via Solomon avoid the bloodcurse.

  5. “If Israel was wiped off the map tomorrow, then the *Scriptures* aren’t true. ” or your *interpretation* is not true. Israel was off the map for a very long time, and the church was doing just fine. It sounds like you would lose your faith in Christ if it were to happen in the future should Israel be wiped off the map.

    • Israel is first and foremost a people. The people of Israel will never be destroyed (see Jeremiah 31:35-37).

      • Hypothetically if it happened. Would you lose your faith in Christ? Or would you lose faith in your interpretation? This is a pretty easy question to answer. Please do so. You also failed to address my point about there being no nation of Israel for centuries.

      • The word nation first and foremost means a people which is most often, but not always, associated with a land with defined borders. Therefore every since Israel became a people (nation) it has always continued to be so. If you reject that notion, I don’t see the value in continuing this discussion.

      • In Revelation we read of the sun being dark and the stars falling and the heavens being rolled up and we read of the New Jerusalem there’s no more sea. So there’s a sense in which the book of Revelation almost alludes to a passage like what is cited in that verse in Jeremiah and of course the destruction in 70 AD. So when it talks about the sun being dark and the heavens being rolled up like a scroll the stars fall like figs from a tree of course this is figurative but it may be saying it’s the end of these things and so figuratively we’re looking at the end of Israel in AD 70. So there’s at one level this could be argued has happened. All that said Paul identifies himself as a Jew and part of a faithful remnant that continues on as part of the church in the New Covenant which has endured ever since. Christians from 70 AD to 1948 had no crisis of faith when there was no land. If that were to happen again it would be no different for Christians.

      • I don’t regard the New Jerusalem as related to 70 AD, but as part of the age to come after the resurrection and the judgment.

  6. “most often, but not always, associated with a land with defined borders.” fair enough. Land is optional. We agree.

    • My writing, “most often, but not always,” has to do with how a people group could exist without having a land. But in Israel’s case, the land was always associated with the people from before they possessed it and afterwards, including various exiles, and through till today.

      • What are we to make of Joshua 6:26 and 1 Kings16:32-33 where we see a city cursed forbidden to be rebuilt (Jericho) only to be rebuilt without God’s approval. It happened and God didn’t stop it. It didn’t have his approval nor blessing. What if the same principle applies to what was rebuilt in 1948. Why do we assume it’s got God’s blessing? It’s a sobering thought.

      • Humans get away with all sorts of things. God will have his way over time. As for the return to the Land culminating in statehood in 1948, I am not aware of anything to suggest that it was un- or anti-biblical. That the Jewish people would return is promised in several places in the Hebrew Prophets, but not the timing. There was never any biblical reason for the people not to return.

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