Theme: God’s Covenant with Abraham
This week’s lessons focus on the faithfulness of God, and call us to remember his many mercies toward us and to praise him for them.
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-45
Important as the opening stanza may be for identifying Psalm 105 as a thanksgiving psalm, it is really not until stanza two (vv. 7-11) that we find out what the theme of the psalm is to be. It is God’s covenant with his people, particularly his covenant with Abraham, which he confirmed with his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. It is hard to miss this point since the word “covenant” occurs three times (in vv. 8, 9 and 10).
What is a covenant? A covenant is a promise, in this case a promise made by God to Abraham and his descendants. For most of us “promise” is a better word than covenant, for “covenant” suggests a bargain and God’s covenants are established apart from any assets with which we might have to bargain. On the other hand, we treat promises lightly, and God does not treat his promises lightly. So maybe we should use the word “oath” or talk about a “solemn commitment.” In any case, the commitment in view here is God’s promise to give Abraham’s descendants a land of their own.
The details are in Genesis 15. God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep, and then appeared to him as a smoking firepot and a blazing torch that passed between the divided carcasses of animals Abraham had previously slaughtered and laid out in the traditional manner for a covenant ceremony. God told him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:13-16). This promise was repeated to Isaac a generation later (Gen. 26:24), and after that to Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15; 35:9-12; 46:1-4).
The covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants is called a unilateral covenant, meaning that God alone sets the terms and that he promises fulfillment apart from the faithfulness or lack of faithfulness of his people. Yet we are not to suppose that the people were absolved from any response at all. They had to own God as their God and promise him their allegiance, just as we do when we come to Jesus Christ as Savior. The psalm indicates this by having the people say in verse 7, “He is the LORD Our God.” This is their response, as well as a reference to the declaration of God himself at the start of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exod. 20:2).
The middle section of the psalm (vv. 12-44) is a selective review of Israel’s history, much as we have already seen in Psalm 78 and will see again in Psalm 106. But the emphasis here, unlike either Psalms 78 or 106 is on God’s utter sovereignty in choosing and preserving Israel.
The third stanza (vv. 12-15) seems to be saying that God’s choice was entirely apart from Israel’s impressive numbers, for they were actually “few in number” (v. 12) and from their personal moral integrity, for even Abraham lied about his wife to Abimelech. True, the psalmist does not mention this directly; but it is the background for the word of God quoted in verse 15: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” The patriarch had deceived Abimelech by saying that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife, and Abimelech had almost taken her before God intervened to warn him that she was married to Abraham. It was then that God referred to Abraham as “a prophet” (Gen. 20:7). Yet a “lying” prophet! Obviously the emphasis here is upon God’s faithfulness, not man’s.
What is a covenant? Why is a “solemn commitment” or an “oath” a more precise term than “covenant” in describing God’s promise to Abraham? Why is God’s covenant with Abraham called a unilateral covenant?
How were God’s people to respond to the covenant? How is this similar to when we come to Christ?
What is the purpose of the historical account in verses 12-44?
Reflection: Has anyone broken a solemn promise to you? How can you take comfort in the promises God makes to you? How does God use you in spite of your sins?
Prayer: Ask God to increase your faithfulness to him.
For Further Study: For more on how God remains faithful to his covenant, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Romans 11, “God’s Irrevocable Covenant.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)