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The Covenant, Part 2: One Holy Tribe

Fr. Joel God & Faith

Slowly through history God reveals himself to human beings. God made a covenant with Noah when he and his family came out of the ark. God waits for ten generations until a man named Abram is born. God calls Abram to leave his land and journey to the promised land. In Genesis 15 God makes his promises into a covenant. A covenant is a kind of solemn promise, like the promises a bride and groom make to each other on their wedding day. This covenant means that God and Abram are one people, one family together.

God tells Abram that he will have so many descendants they will be like the sands on the seashore or the stars in the sky. He even changes his name to Abraham which means “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). Yet Abraham has no children. He has to trust God, and as a sign of his trust, he and all the males in his household must be circumcised. The Bible says that Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was finally born. The Bible is making two important points. The first is that God will keep his promises no matter what, even when it looks impossible to us. The second point is that God guides human fertility. He has given to men and women to ability to work together to create human life. This ability is so awesome, it’s a little scary. But God is the true author of every human life. This is why we call the generation of human beings, “procreation”. God invites us to use this power in accord with His will, in a way that glorifies God. Abraham struggled to see fertility as a gift from God that still belongs to God. When he trusts God with his sexuality, God uses it to bless him and to bless the world.

Isaac has Jacob (God changes his name to Israel). Jacob has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. Just as God had foretold in Genesis 15, this growing tribe goes down to Egypt and becomes enslaved by the Egyptians. And that sets us up for the next covenant story in the Bible.