Genesis 15:18-21, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[a] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
Long ago, God revealed His covenant love by invoking death upon Himself should He fail to keep His word. This is arguably the most important feature of Genesis 15:17, but it teaches other things as well. Commentators note that the animals may represent the set-apart nation of Israel as they are “clean” according to the Mosaic law. If so, when He moved among the animals as a torch, God also assured Moses’ readers of His continuing presence with them.
To renew the glory God intended for His creation, He decided to dwell among His chosen people in order to bring this redemption about. But in Ezekiel 10, the prophet has a vision of God leaving the temple, which basically means Babylon will carry Judah into exile. The ensuing exile might lead us to question if God kept His promise to give Abram’s progeny a land bounded by the Nile and the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18), especially since Israel never held this entire area.
Understanding that the covenant has conditions is helpful here. The Lord pledged the land to His people, but they had to take it and serve Him loyally (Deut. 28). God uses His people’s obedience of faith to bring about His promises. He does not need our service (Acts 17:24–25), but He has decided to use it to further His plan. Under the old covenant, Israel failed to inherit the whole land because they disobeyed the Lord’s command to purge the land; even worse, they then served other gods (Judg. 1:1–2:5; 2 Kings 17:7–23; 23:26–27). Consequently, God pulled up His stakes and left.
Still, though He departed from the temple, God remained with His faithful remnant during the exile (Ezek. 11:16). Through this, the Lord revealed His unconditional faithfulness to the covenant — that He would remain with His people, thus preserving them up to the time of Messiah.
In Christ, the true Israel (John 15), God kept this promise and brought the land (now the whole earth) promised in Genesis 15:18 to Abram’s sons when He inaugurated His kingdom (Isa. 65; Rev. 21). Jesus guarantees this blessing, but we too have a role to play. God uses our Spirit-enabled obedience to Him to make His kingdom grow in power even today (John 14:12–14).
Even actions that seem insignificant to us may be used by the Spirit to advance the kingdom in preparation for the return of Jesus. If you pray regularly for your church leaders, give money for missions, volunteer to serve the body of Christ, help the needy, or do any other such work, you can be confident that God is using your efforts to build His kingdom (Matt. 10:42; 3 John 8). Consider how you can exert more effort in prayer and service for the cause of Christ.
On That Day, Copyright (2022), Ligonier Ministries.