The Covenants God Keeps (2): Flesh

. 3 min read

Christ Church, Mountain Top (Holy Communion)
Mark 8.31-38
Genesis 17.1-16
week we introduced our new series, The Covenants God Keeps, with the story of
Noah, the first time the word “covenant” shows up in the Scripture. Covenants
are agreements or treaties between two parties. In the case of the covenants we
will examine, the agreement is between God and people. Among several
implications, we noted that God is the initiator of each of these covenants,
and the keeper of them. Though we benefit from the covenants, we are also the
ones who break them; but God remains faithful.
      Lent is the traditional season of
instruction for new believers, for persons preparing to make their vows as
followers of Jesus. We are using the story of the biblical covenants as our
“curriculum” to learn how God desires to connect with us and how God desires us
to live toward God and one another.
covenant story is the covenant with Abraham. Last week, for Noah, our key word
was “water” and the covenant sign, the rainbow, was a sign for God. This week,
it is “flesh”, as in, “you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins” (Genesis
17.11). Israel was not the first or only culture to practice circumcision, but
they were the only one to use it as a sign of God’s agreement with their
ancestor and, by extension, with them as a nation.
      Three times in Abraham’s story we find
covenantal language. The first time does not include the word “covenant”. It
functions to introduce and call Abram, as he was then called, and the language
shows up in the subsequent covenant texts:
 Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land
that I will show you.  2 I
will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name
great, so that you will be a blessing.  3
I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and
in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  4 So Abram went, as the LORD had
told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he
departed from Haran.
Gen 15
      Promise of a son and of the land
      Abram believed God and it was counted to
him as righteousness, 15.8
Gen 17, today’s text

and uniting themes in text:
      “as for me/you/your wife” (17.4,9,15)
      New names for all 3 principals:
      Abraham (not Abram; from “exalted father”
to “father of many nations”)
      Sarah (not Sarai; “princess”)
      El Shaddai (mountain/breast, translated in
English as “God Almighty”)
Mark: “Mine”
      My sister’s cookies
That we belong to God, and that God is our
covenant sign is a mark that we belong, not only to the people as a community,
but also and primarily to God.
 I will establish my covenant
between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations,
for an everlasting covenant, to be God to
and to your offspring after you.
covenantal formulae:
  I will take you as my people,
and I will be your God.
Circumcision as baptism (Colossians
baptism: “You are my son, whom I love” (Mark 1) – “Mine!”
Obedience, the “obedience of faith”;
      “Abram believed”; “faith with works”
      God has been my God since …
Mark: “Mom” (El Shaddai, Tattoo)
That we live into, toward which we aspire
– live like God
 walk before me, and be
      “Father of a multitude of nations”
      “so that you will be a blessing”
– bears in his flesh the covenant sign of both peoples, Israel and the Church, circumcision
and baptism, thus abolishing in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (see
Ephesians 4)

New Interpreter’s Bible (Genesis),
Terence Fretheim