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Q. Why Did God Make His Covenant With Such Jerks?

I am moved to the point of distraction at how God continuously reiterated his covenant to Abraham and his sons despite the fact that Abraham and his family were clearly quite deceitful people!

We have:

1. Abraham’s not relying on God’s ability to protect him, instead telling a lie about Sarah (even though she was, technically, his half-sister, Abraham’s motive was clearly to deceive),
2. Isaac’s identical lie about Rebekah being his sister,
3. Jacob essentially stealing Esau’s birthright by threatening to withhold life-saving water to Esau,
4. Jacob literally stealing Esau’s blessing,
5. Rebekah being an instrument of deception in fooling her own husband because she favored one son over the other.


Dear Friend,

You are right to observe the fact that our Old Testament “heroes” are far from it in reality. Just look at some of the folks in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews chapter 11: Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah. Wow! What an unlikely bunch! Which is exactly the point:

4 “Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. 5 “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people. 7 “Remember, do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 “Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you. 9 “When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water (Deuteronomy 9:4-9, NASB).

When the Israelites worshipped the golden calf in Exodus 32 Moses did not appeal to God on the basis of the Israelites trying harder, but on the basis of God’s character, and the fact that He kept His promises. And this Moses did a total of ten times with that first generation that left Egypt (see Numbers 14:1-25, especially verse 22).

Paul made it clear that God’s choice of Jacob over Esau had nothing to do with works Jacob had done, or would do (Romans 9:10-16). And if this is not enough we see Paul’s words to the Corinthian church:

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

When you read Paul’s Corinthian epistles, or the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 you see that God’s people are messy.

It all comes down to this. God’s dealings with men are the result of His grace, and not of our goodness. I sometimes think of what the angels in heaven must have thought as they looked down upon the church (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 11:10). I believe that Paul has made the reason clear in his epistle to the Ephesians. It can be summed up by the word GRACE:

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:5-12, emphasis mine).

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10, emphasis mine).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power (Ephesians 3:1-7).

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Covenant

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