God’s Covenant With His “Friend” Already Beneficial to Millions
1, 2. (a) What friendly relationship has already begun working out for the benefit of millions? (b) Why was Abraham able to become God’s friend?
MORE than 1,950 years ago a true friend of all mankind said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) The speaker, Jesus, was a descendant of a man who was called the friend of the most outstanding One in all the universe, Jehovah God. This friendly relationship, lopsided though it might seem, has already begun working out for the benefit of millions.
2 Who was the man of ancient times who won so much for us because of his friendship with God? He was Abraham, a descendant of the man Shem, who was one of the survivors of the global Flood of Noah’s day. Abraham entered into a relationship with God, displaying the qualities of a true friend. Moved by love and faith, Abraham acted in harmony with the will of God, and for this reason the Bible writer James states: “The scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’”—James 2:23.
3, 4. (a) What illustrates how highly Jehovah evaluated the faith and confidence that Abraham put in him? (b) With what words did Jehovah bring his statement in Isaiah 41:8 to a grand climax?
3 That man of faith and action was from the city of Ur of the Chaldeans, and he was the first to be called a Hebrew. (Genesis 14:13) This designation came to be applied to his descendants of the nation of Israel. (Philippians 3:5) In view of his making Abraham his friend, Jehovah God also took him into some of His intimate matters. This is indicated by what is written in Genesis 18:17-19.
4 That illustrates how highly Jehovah God evaluated the faith and confidence that Abraham put in him, resulting in unquestioning obedience on the part of Abraham. So without embarrassment or apology, Jehovah climaxed his statement to the nation of Israel by saying: “But you, O Israel, are my servant, you, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.”—Isaiah 41:8.
The Abrahamic Covenant Goes Into Effect
5, 6. (a) What covenant did Jehovah make with his friend Abraham? (b) In the face of what contrary circumstances did God make a promise to his friend concerning a “seed”?
5 The extent to which one’s bond with a loving friend will lead one is exemplified in the fact that the Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah, made a covenant with this mere man, Abraham. At Genesis 15:18 we read: “On that day Jehovah concluded with Abram [Abraham] a covenant, saying: ‘To your seed I will give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’”
6 The Euphrates was the river that Abraham and his household crossed to enter the Promised Land. At the time of the crossing, Abraham was childless, although he had then reached the age of 75, and his wife was past the age of childbearing. (Genesis 12:1-5) Yet, in the face of such contrary circumstances, God said to obedient Abraham: “Look up, please, to the heavens and count the stars, if you are possibly able to count them. . . . So your seed will become.”—Genesis 15:2-5.
7. (a) What is this covenant called? (b) In what year did it go into effect and with what event in Abraham’s life? (c) How many years was that before the Law covenant was made with the nation of Israel?
7 The covenant that Jehovah made with his “friend” we call the Abrahamic covenant. That covenant went into effect in 1943 B.C.E. when Abraham complied with God’s covenant requirements and crossed the Euphrates on his way to the Promised Land. In that year Jehovah God came under obligation to bless childless Abraham with “seed.” The Law that belonged to the covenant made with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai came into being 430 years later, in 1513 B.C.E.—Genesis 12:1-7; Exodus 24:3-8.
Law Covenant Added to the Abrahamic Covenant
8. (a) What was the purpose of the Law covenant? (b) Did the Law covenant invalidate the Abrahamic covenant?
8 By that time, Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac had become a free people. The nation of Israel had been delivered from Egypt and had been led to Mount Sinai in Arabia. Through Moses as the mediator, they had there been taken into the Law covenant with Jehovah God. Since those Israelites were already the natural descendants of Jehovah’s “friend,” Abraham, what really was the purpose of such a Law covenant? It was to serve as a protection to Jehovah’s chosen people. The Law covenant did not cancel the Abrahamic covenant, even though it did show up the nation of Israel as guilty of transgressions in the light of God’s perfect law.—Galatians 3:19-23.
9, 10. (a) How did Abraham’s descendants generally feel about the “seed” by means of which all nations would bless themselves? (b) Has their thinking proved to be sound?
9 Figuratively speaking, the Israelites became the “sons” of that Law covenant. They felt that because they were the natural descendants of Abraham, they automatically became the “seed” by means of which all the nations would bless themselves. Has this proved to be the case? No! Today, almost 3,500 years later, we do see the independent secular Republic of Israel, but it is fighting for its life amid many hostile nations.
10 So one’s becoming a proselyte Jew today with the idea of thus becoming part of Abraham’s “seed” for the blessing of all the rest of mankind is not the way of Jehovah God. What, then, has taken place?
11. How did the apostle Paul explain what happened to the natural descendants of Abraham?
11 The apostle Paul explains the matter for us, saying: “It is written that Abraham acquired two sons, one by the servant girl [Hagar] and one by the free woman [Sarah]; but the one by the servant girl was actually born in the manner of flesh, the other by the free woman through a promise. These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”—Galatians 4:22-26.
12. To whom did the servant girl Hagar correspond?
12 The Jerusalem to which the servant girl Hagar corresponded was earthly, being occupied by fleshly Jews. In the days of Jesus Christ, it was the capital of the nation of Israel and was under the Law covenant. (Matthew 23:37, 38) While the Law covenant mediated by Moses was still in force, natural Israel was the visible part of Jehovah’s organization. Thus it could be pictured by a woman, by Hagar the servant girl of Sarah.
True Sons of the Abrahamic Covenant
13. (a) What corresponded to Abraham’s wife, Sarah? (b) Why can “the Jerusalem above” be called “free”?
13 On the other hand, “the Jerusalem above” was Jehovah’s invisible heavenly organization. Correspondingly, it could be pictured by a woman, by Sarah, the true wife of Abraham. The Law covenant was not made with this organization, so “the Jerusalem above” was free, like Sarah of old. This is the organization that produces the promised “seed,” and that is why the apostle Paul could call it “our mother.”
14. Does the Abrahamic covenant apply to “the Jerusalem above,” and what can the spirit-begotten disciples of Jesus Christ therefore be called?
14 Really, then, the Abrahamic covenant applies to her as the symbolic wife of the Greater Abraham, yes, to Jehovah’s universal organization up there in the heavens. It follows that the spirit-begotten disciples of Jesus Christ are, like the apostle Paul, the sons, or children, of the Abrahamic covenant. Paul goes on to reason that way, saying:
15. What did the apostle Paul say at Galatians 4:27-31 with regard to “the children” of the Abrahamic covenant?
15 “For it is written: ‘Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of her who has the husband.’ Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was. But just as then the one born in the manner of flesh began persecuting the one born in the manner of spirit, so also now. Nevertheless, what does the Scripture say? ‘Drive out the servant girl and her son, for by no means shall the son of the servant girl be an heir with the son of the free woman.’ Wherefore, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.”—Galatians 4:27-31; Isaiah 54:1.
16. What did the symbolic drama of ancient times foretell with regard to the Law covenant, this leaving what to remain?
16 Thus that symbolic drama of ancient times foretold that Jehovah God, the Greater Abraham, would set aside the Law covenant that would be made with Israel at Mount Sinai. In this way the addition (the Law covenant) to the Abrahamic covenant would be subtracted, or taken away, leaving just the Abrahamic covenant with its promise of a “seed” by means of which all the families of the earth would bless themselves.
17. (a) How long was the Law covenant to continue? (b) Why was Jesus Christ the principal descendant of Abraham? (c) Jesus’ becoming God’s Chief Agent for blessing all the families of the earth depended upon what?
17 So the added Law covenant was to continue until the promised “seed” arrived, and this proved to be Jesus Christ. By a divine miracle, he became a fleshly descendant of Abraham. He became the principal descendant of that patriarch. He not only was Abraham’s fleshly descendant but was the Son of God, and hence a perfect human, one who remained “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) However, his becoming God’s Chief Agent for blessing all the families of the earth depended upon the sacrificing of his perfect human life and the applying of the value of this in behalf of all mankind. By such self-sacrifice, he would serve as Jehovah’s great High Priest, offering up a sacrifice that met all the divine requirements.
Law Covenant Nailed to Jesus’ Torture Stake
18. (a) To whom were the benefits of the ransom sacrifice to be presented first, and why? (b) What did Jesus become?
18 The benefits of this ransom sacrifice would be presented first in behalf of the Jewish nation, of which Jesus had become a member by his miraculous birth through the virgin Mary. This was vitally necessary, for the Jews were under a double condemnation to death. How so? First, they were the offspring of the sinner Adam, and second, they had, because of their imperfection, become accursed by failing to live up to the Law covenant with God. However, Jesus became a curse for them. By being impaled upon a torture stake till dead, he was able to lift the curse from “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In 33 C.E., the Law covenant was nailed to Jesus’ torture stake, and the Jewish sheepfold under that temporary Law covenant was shut down, abolished.—Matthew 15:24; Galatians 3:10-13; Colossians 2:14.
19. (a) What new sheepfold had to be opened, and what was it to contain? (b) Those brought into the new sheepfold therefore become what?
19 So a new sheepfold had to be opened up to accommodate the spiritual sheep of the resurrected Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The self-sacrificing Fine Shepherd is also the symbolic door to this new sheepfold. (John 10:7) Those brought into this new sheepfold under the Fine Shepherd become the spirit-begotten sons of the Greater Abraham and thus part of His “seed.” (Romans 2:28, 29) True to this fact, during these last days a remnant of that spiritual “seed” has been serving as a blessing to increasing millions of people in more than 200 lands.
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The Mosaic Law covenant made at Mount Sinai came to an end when it was nailed to the torture stake with Jesus