The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 17

16 09 2009

Click here to read the full text of Genesis 17.

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
– Genesis 17: 20-21

So there’s part of the answer to my earlier musings, although it raises a few more questions, as well. God did intend to bless Ishmael, after all! But  … Ishmael’s descendants will apparently not be part of THE covenant (although Ishmael does have to be circumcised, as a sign of the covenant–seems  like he’s getting the bad end of the deal!). And somehow, Ishmael’s descendants will indeed be blessed through THE COVENANT(because all nations will be blessed through Abraham).

So what exactly is the purpose of this covenant, if you can be blessed without being a direct recipient?

Here’s my take on it: God is setting apart a certain group of people who will be consecrated through him. Through outward signs (circumcision) and inward signs (the legacy of Abrahamic faith), they are to demonstrate in all that they do, that they are God’s people. He’s setting up the system through which He will eventually give the Law, and the Prophets, and the Messiah. The covenant is not just a blessing; with it comes great responsibility.

And this will continue to happen throughout Genesis: a younger son receives the inheritance and finds favor with God. The older brother doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong–he just is not chosen to carry on the covenant.

(Think about spiritual gifts. Just because someone is given the gift of preaching, for instance, does not mean that he is “better” than someone with another gift. But because of his gift, he might be called into ministry as a full-time career—and this calling will ultimately help to sustain God’s church)

I have to constantly keep reminding myself that this covenant, at least, is not necessarily equated with salvation. God is not cutting off Ishmael’s descendants from ever being able to know Him; if sola fide applies, then the descendants of both Isaac and Ishmael will ultimately be saved by faith and not by whether or not they are part of the covenant.

Does that make any sense at all? What’s your take on it?

(originally posted 12/23/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)

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