Keep My Covenant
“God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations’” (Gen. 17:9).- Genesis 17:8–9
In today’s passage, God again pledges to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 17:8). Ancient Egyptian maps show that Canaan comprised an area roughly coterminous with the modern nation of Israel as well as southern Lebanon and Syria. This land, Yahweh promises, will be an everlasting possession, and He will continue to be the Lord of Abraham’s progeny after he is gone.
The promise of land has conditions attached to it. Yahweh’s pledge to be the God of the patriarch’s offspring implies that the inheritance of the promises depends on the fidelity of Abraham’s children to the Creator. This thought becomes more than an inference when the Almighty orders Abraham to keep covenant in verse 9.
Hebrew grammar helps illustrate the foundational principle of covenant-keeping. The terms rendered keep and covenant occur independently throughout the Old Testament, but they are combined in only thirteen places. Of these thirteen, seven describe the Lord’s steadfast love for and commitment to His people (for example, Deut. 7:9). Thus, when God commands His people to keep His covenant, He is ordering us to persevere in a love for Him that motivates service to Him in all that we do (see also 6:4–5; Mark 12:28–34).
Persistent, flagrant violation of the covenant provoked the Lord to send old covenant Israel into exile (Deut. 28; 2 Kings 17:7–23; 2 Chron. 36:1–21). This is a warning for all people. Those who will not love the Messiah have no claim on the Lord’s promises of land and life. Moreover, any who merely profess to be a part of new covenant Israel can, through brazen transgression, reveal they lack faith and be cut off from the covenant (Matt. 7:21–23; Rom. 11:11–24).
Yet in keeping with His promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 17:6), God has always preserved a faithful remnant. This elect group survives by grace alone and, knowing that the Lord requires them to keep covenant, trust in the only one who kept Himself free from transgression. Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to those who trust in Him alone, and they can be assured they will inherit God’s promises to Abraham (Gal. 3:29).
The New Testament tells us we can be sure we have a persevering faith in Jesus if we maintain right doctrine (1 John 2:22–23), love other Christians (3:14), and obey Christ’s commands (2:3–6). While we will not be perfect in this, we will endeavor to do these things and repent whenever we see we are not doing them as we should (1:8–10; 2:1–2). If we do these things, we walk blamelessly. Be assured that you are in Christ if you trust Christ alone.
Passages for Further Study