An Everlasting Covenant, An Everlasting Possession

"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 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." (Genesis 17:7-8)

Abraham was not native to the land of Canaan; he was born in Ur, of the Chaldees. Yet at the age of seventy-five he left family and home, in obedience to the command of God, to find the land that God promised to show him.

This land would be home to a great nation which Abraham would father. And through this nation, God would bless every other nation.

"Now the LORD had said to Abram, 'Get out of your country from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'" (Genesis 12:1-3)

Through Abraham, God would reveal His redemption strategy to restore fallen humanity and Creation which had been cursed. To Abraham and his descendants alone, would the way of the LORD be made known–the path to peace with God and holy living. From Abraham and his descendants, all the nations would discover the One True God, and learn to walk in His righteousness.

The promise–the everlasting covenant– continued through Abraham's son, Isaac, despite the fact that Ishmael was actually the firstborn.

"And Abraham said to God, 'Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!' 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.

'And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.'" (Genesis 17:18-20)

Ishmael did not receive the everlasting covenant, yet God promised to make him fruitful and multiply. And indeed, Ishmael has multiplied exceedingly, as is evident today with the Arab nations throughout the Middle East.

It was during a famine in the land that God chose to confirm the everlasting covenant with Isaac. "And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the LORD appeared to him and said: 'Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of the heaven; I will give your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 26:1-4)

Isaac had two sons. Esau was the firstborn, but he would not be the son of promise. Instead, it was Jacob (Israel), to whom the everlasting covenant was confirmed. "And behold the LORD stood above it and said, 'I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'" (Genesis 28:13-14)

The everlasting covenant was promised to each of the Patriarchs; for this reason, God is called "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" . The fact that the covenant continues with Jacob's descendants can not be over stated. God has designed His redemption strategy to withstand the test of time, therefore, the everlasting nature of the covenant makes it as relevant today as when it was first made with Abraham. God is working towards restoring Creation to the place of holiness–it is His redemption strategy: the process that makes every man, woman and child holy.

Thus we find in subsequent generations that the everlasting covenant is like a memorial sign post, bringing to remembrance the great things that God has done, whilst pointing to the sure foundation and giving assurance to the faithful that God is building His Kingdom.

Note that it was four hundred years after Abraham, when God heard the distress of His people in Egypt, and He "remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob."

At that time, when God appeared to Moses, in the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'" (Exodus 3:6)

Despite the length of time which had elapsed, God pointed to the sure foundation as it was a sign that God was bringing to pass what He had promised to the Patriarchs, and their descendants–the everlasting covenant. He would indeed bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and into the Promised Land, their "everlasting possession" .

At Sinai, the children of Israel received God's instruction for a holy lifestyle. A holy God requires a holy people to live-out His holiness. Obedience flowing from a faithful heart, which is steadfastly devoted to God's instructions, would prove the way of the righteous. Loving God with a whole heart would maintain Israel's walk of faith, and display to the nations what God required of them.

Disobedience, however, would bring chastisement and correction from a loving Heavenly Father. The children of Israel would be exiled from the land, and scattered among the nations, subject to foreign rule and strange customs. The Jewish people would be disciplined until a faithful generation returns to the Lord and His ways.

Meanwhile, the promises for Israel continue unaltered, and the Promised Land remains their home because the covenant is everlasting, and the Land is an everlasting possession.

Seventy years after the first Temple was destroyed, a generation returned to the land under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. They restored the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. God established them in the land. Successive generations, however, struggled to maintain the faith, until eventually a disobedient generation once again felt the disciplining rod of a loving Heavenly Father.

The generation of the first century, of the current era, (100CE) was one of the most significant in the history of the Jewish people, because this generation witnessed the Coming of the Messiah, and then in 70CE they witnessed the second destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem, by the Romans.

Unlike the generation who had returned after seventy years, following the first destruction, a generation did not return until 1,900 years later. Jerusalem and the land of Israel was bereaved of her children for nineteen centuries, following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE.

Whilst a Jewish presence was maintained throughout the centuries, it was not until May 1948, that the State of Israel was re-established as a homeland for the Jewish people, and when the exiles began to return in significant numbers. Today, for the first time in 1,900 years the State of Israel boasts the largest concentration of Jewish people. Moreover, Israel is growing at a rapid pace, and will soon be home to the largest Jewish population since the time of the Temple's first destruction in 586BCE, more than 2,600 years ago.

It is a sign for our generation. Undoubtedly, the everlasting covenant continues, today, and with it the Promised Land also remains an everlasting possession for the children of Israel, the Jewish people.

Being away from your national homeland for so long, has its disadvantages, however.

Under Gentile rule, the Jewish people have been cruelly treated. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people have been exiled from countries, for no other reason than being Jewish. Whole Jewish communities have been wiped out, for no other reason than being brethren of the Messiah. Yet the Jewish people have survived. Even during the more "peaceful" years when they weren't being overtly harassed or tormented, the Jewish people have had to struggle against the pressures of becoming like the Gentiles.

Perhaps of major significance is that the extended years of Israel's exile from the Land has caused the Gentiles to reason that the Jewish people are no longer the Chosen People of God. According to the Gentiles, the everlasting covenant is no longer relevant to Israel. Thus, according to Gentile thinking, the Promised Land is no longer their possession.

However, that is not how God sees it. God promised Abraham: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant." (Genesis 17:7) The covenant has been established with subsequent generations since the days of Abraham, because it is an everlasting covenant. The covenant does not cease after a period of time–no matter how long the duration.

Israel does not need to reside in the Land in order for the covenant to continue. What is especially important to understand is that the everlasting covenant does not cease when Israel is disobedient. Regardless of the status of the people of Israel, the covenant is everlasting.

While God has warned, and history shows, what will happen to the people of Israel when they disobey, yet the Land remains their inheritance. Even after 400 years, or 70 years, or even 1,900 years, the Land of Israel is still home for the Jewish people because it is their everlasting possession, according to the everlasting covenant which God made with Abraham, Isaac and with Israel.

Perhaps, the most sobering aspect for international leaders and the world community today, and that is most noteworthy for their consideration, with regard to making decisions and/or policies relating to the Promised Land, is that judgement awaits those who divide the land, as foretold by the prophet Joel. "For behold in those days, and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgement with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land." (Joel 3:1-2)

In every generation, since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God has been working to restore Creation based on the everlasting covenant with their descendants, the Jewish people. He has given them the Promised Land as an everlasting possession, the homeland from which they are to serve Him in truth, and from where the nations would learn of His ways and the Messiah.

It is a wise man who works together with God, rather than against Him. To deal harshly with the Jewish people, and to divide up their Land are actions that clearly work against His purposes and will undoubtedly bring His judgement.