The most pressing geopolitical crisis of our time is the Arab-Israeli dispute over who owns the Promised Land of Israel.
The chasm between the Jews and Arabs began after Abram, at the urging of doubting Sarai, took Hagar as his concubine. Hagar immediately conceived Ishmael, and soon after, Hagar and Sarai began to despise each other (Gen 16:5-6). Abram's regretful decision to follow his wife's prodding, which led to the birth of Ishmael by Hagar, created enmity between the two women. This animosity is the root cause of the hostility that exists between Abraham's descendants (Arabs and Jews) to this day. Some Arabs believe that because they too are the seed of Abraham, the Promised Land belongs to them. It is true that the Arab nations have Abraham as their father through Ishmael, and it is also true that he loved Ishmael and wanted him to be included in the covenant, pleading to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" (en 17:18).
How did God respond to Abraham's request? His answer was instant and resolute: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him" (Gen 17:19). In Gal 4:28-31, Paul reiterated God's position: "Now, we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the scripture say? 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.' So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free."
God honored Abraham's request to bless Ishmael, for the Bible records: "As for Ishmael, I have herd thee: Behold, I have
blessed him, and will make him fruitful... twelve princes shall be beget, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year'" (Gen 17:20-21).
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, when the twelve princes of Ishmael became part of the OPEC nations, which is one of the wealthiest oil conglomerates on planet Earth. They are truly blessed of God because of Abraham. The world's most heated geopolitical issue can be explained in two simple sentences: One father had two sons. One inherited the real estate, and the other inherited the oil. When you go to Israel, you are blessing Isaac; when you fill your car with fuel, you are blessing Ishmael.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
During the most dramatic scene of Abram's vision, God's divine presence, represented by a "burning torch," passed between the cut halves of the sacrificial animals. It was at this time that God chose to bind Himself to a unilateral obligation. This one divine act constituted the ratification of the everlasting covenant He made with Abram. "And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning
torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram" (Gen 15:17-18).
Abram was not required to perform this ritual for he had no obligation under the terms of the covenant. The "smoking oven and a burning torch" symbolized one single blazing fire-the Shekinah glory of God. This same "cloud and thick darkness" would appear "as the smoke of a furnace" at the revelation of the Torah (God's Word) to Moses in Exodus 19, and the "torch" was the "fire" that manifested on Mount Sinai (Deut 5:4). The Great I Am, Creator of heaven and earth, was the promising party within the covenant, and His oath was unconditional. This divine deed reflects one of the most beautiful truths in scripture: God is the great Promise Keeper.
The Sign of the Covenant
After thirteen years of silence, Abram was reminded that he must come to the end of himself before God could go further in sealing His covenant with him. By addressing Himself as "I am the Almighty God" or "El Shaddai," He was pledging the covenant's fulfillment (Gen 17:1). This is the first time the term El Shaddai is used to refer to God in scripture because He was and is sufficient in Himself to fulfill all that He promised. God would multiply Abram abundantly. He was and is the Life Giver who would restore reproductive ability to Abram and Sarai, for they were as good as dead.
Abram repented and demonstrated sincere humility and profound reverence by falling on his face in the presence of the Lord (v.3). The next step in the fulfillment of Aram's divine destiny was the changing of his name. God gave Abram a new name-he would no longer be known as Abram or patriarch, but now he would be addressed as Abraham-the father of a multitude of nations (v.5). Every time Abraham spoke his own name or heard it spoken, he would be reminded of God's eternal promise. When he was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was eighty-nine, the Lord established the sign of the covenant through the act of circumcision. This physical symbol of Abraham's inclusion in God's irrevocable promise was such a significant milestone in the history of the Jewish people that the Torah precisely records it as occurring 2.047 years after creation. His circumcision was a required preparatory procedure before the miraculous conception of Isaac, the "son of promise," could occur.
It was at this time that God reaffirmed His seven "I wills": "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I will give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.... Then God said: 'No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.... But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year'" (Gen 17:6-8, 19, 21).
God's promises are prophetically accomplished facts from the moment He speaks them into existence and are fully realized at His selected time. God's words are so sure in their fulfillment that when He declares in Gen 17:5, "I have made you a father of many nations" and then again, in verse 7: "to you and your descendants"-it is as good as done. Abraham's son Isaac, whom God clearly blessed, inherited the covenant in Genesis 26. It was then given to Jacob and his descendants in Genesis 32. Eventually, these descendants collectively became the "children of Israel" (Ex 6:26) or the Jewish people, and the Promised Land is the land of Israel.
Abrahamic covenant is not just another relic of antiquity; it is the taproot to the Old Testament and the fulfillment of the New Testament-it is alive and well. God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants as the pillar on which the Holly scripture stands. The eternal aspects of this covenant, which guarantee Israel a permanent national existence, perpetual title to the land of promise, and the certainty of material and spiritual blessings through Christ, and guarantee Gentile nations a share in these blessings, determine the whole eschatological program of the Word of God.
Abraham is the "father of all those who believe" (Rom 4:11), and this fact is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian bond, The land of Israel, with its God-given boundaries, belongs exclusively to His Promised Seed. The Abrahamic covenant made by God with the Jewish people is not only eternal; it cannot be altered or amended by governments or mankind. And because of this certainty, Israel lives today, tomorrow, and forever, for as King David declared: "And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name-and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land-before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God" (2Sam 7:23-24).
The greatest legacy of the Abrahamic covenant is that it is the cornerstone of Israel's eternal relationship to God, all other Bible promises are based on this truth.