|THE LANGUAGE OF THE
About 2000 years before Christ God approached a man named Abram and initiated with him the most important relationship
that had ever been established up to that time. It was a coming together of God and man into covenant.
We, in the twenty first century, know little of the meaning of covenant. But Abram understood what it meant for someone
to approach him asking for a covenant to be formed between them. The single underlying principle of the covenant was
that the two parties to the covenant would become one. This is a powerful eternal truth.
Sacrificial animals were slain that night and their carcasses were positioned to form the path of blood. The blood that
flowed onto the ground became the flow of life that would sustain the covenant between God and man for the next 40
centuries. To say that we comprehend how the shed blood of animals became the life of our covenant with God is to
suppose something far too magnificent for our human minds. It is a spiritual truth that perhaps will be understood only
when we stand before the Lord and ask Him all those questions each of us has for Him. But there was a reason God asked
Abram to kill the animals and to position their dead bodies as He did. The blood was the key to the covenant between God
As we study the chapters of Genesis leading up to that momentous night when the eternal covenant was struck we see
conversations initiated by God in which important language was used. In Genesis 12:1-3 look closely at the first verse.
Notice what God requires of Abram, it is to remove himself from his homeland and to literally separate himself from his
father’s house. To a tribe-oriented people, this was the ultimate sacrifice! Why did God ask such a hard thing of him? It
was because he was to become a part of entirely different family. It is important to notice the language of God at this point.
As He initiates this conversation with Abram, the topic immediately becomes “family.” This may seem like no big thing to us
who are steeped in the self-driven world of the western mindset, but Abram understood where God was going with this
because he understood the language of covenant. When the word “family” is used, it is understood that covenant is
Let us further analyze this first conversation between God and Abram. In verse 2 we see the Lord speak of making Abram
a great man on the earth. There are two key words in this verse: 1) nation, and 2) name. Each of these words refers to the
idea of a family. Perhaps we in the modern age view a nation as a melting pot of nationalities. A nation to us is simply a
geographical area recognized by its boundaries and perhaps its political ideology. We fail to think of a nation as a
homogeneous unit, but rather a place. Not so with the ancient world. When one spoke of a nation, the hearer immediately
saw in his mind a family. They might inhabit a particular area of land and espouse a specific religion or ideology, but the
distinguishing factor of the word nation was the family to which it referred. This truth is born out as one traces the next
four hundred of years of Abram’s [Abraham’s] family, which was called the nation of Israel. Nation meant family.
The word “name” in verse 2 clearly shows what God had in mind. He was forming a new family. One’s name is surely the
most important identifier of one’s family. We cannot separate the two words. The name God was to place on Abram’s family
would identify that family throughout the ages. Each time we read the phrase: “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” the family that
God birthed with Abraham on that dark hillside should come to mind. God was not starting a new religion. He was starting a
new family. Relationship was what He wanted then, and it is what He wants now, as well.
In verse 3 we read about blessings and curses. These are words of the covenant language. Keep in mind that a covenant
denotes a family relationship; therefore, when one refers to a blessing, the thing that is understood is some favorable
pronouncement directed to a family member. Blessings were primarily intended only for one’s family; that was the way in
which the speaker would insure the family’s continued well being. The mention of the word “blessing” is certainly covenant
By the same token, the idea of a curse was intended for the enemy of the family. It was meant to inflict damage on one’s
enemy. The word “curse” is surely covenant language. It is so because it identifies the enemy of the family. [the only one
on which one would pronounce such a horrible thing] The highest goal of one’s enemy is to destroy his enemy, and to
completely erase his memory from the face of the earth. To accomplish this dastardly goal, one must destroy every member
of the enemy’s family, because the family will reproduce and raise up warriors who remember the enemy and thus will
return to wreak vengeance upon the curser. Can you see what God is saying to Abraham in verse 3? He is assuring His
covenant partner [His family member] that He will be there to avenge him if an enemy should attempt to curse him. We
might put it this way: in a covenant relationship any enemy of one party to the covenant becomes an automatic enemy to
the covenant partner. There is an underlying knowledge to the covenant partners and that is the preservation of the family
is of the utmost importance. Blessings and curses are the means by which this preservation is accomplished.
This concept of blessings and curses may seem foreign to us. This is so because we have learned to place so little value
on our words. To us words are merely conveyances of thoughts intended to bring the listener into understanding with us.
This is what is done with words, but it is far too shallow in its meaning. Words are literally containers of powers. Words
release spiritual forces. Words release emotional forces. Words release mental forces. Words even release natural
forces. Every word therefore has great potential power in it, either for good or for bad. The blessing releases the good.
Curses release the bad. None of us would want to see something bad happen to us or to our family; that is why the power
of the blessing must be understood and the speaking of blessings should be practiced regularly that our family might be
blessed accordingly to our covenant with God.
In the previous paragraph I referred to “our family.” The first thought when I say, “my family,” might be for me the Barnett
family. For you it might be the Smith or Jones or Fredrickson family. Such names identify our earthly families. The last
sentence in verse 3 of Genesis 12 reads, “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God must have had in
mind our earthly families in this statement, because the word is in plural tense. When you or I speak blessings over our
earthly family, good things happen to them. In a much broader sense, when something good happens to my personal
family, for example, that means that something good has actually happened to the family of God – the family created by the
covenant between God and Abraham. This is so because of my status as a family member in that spiritual family. Literally,
the Barnett family is a member of God’s covenant family. When I as the family leader chose to receive Jesus Christ as my
Lord and Savior, I was born into a new family. My earthly family gained access to that same spiritual bloodline because of
my choice. (Acts 16:33)
I introduced something very important in the previous paragraph, and that is what the Bible calls the new birth. (John 3:3)
Let’s take a look at that passage of Scripture to see the covenant language found there. Being born again is the entry point
into the family of God. Jesus’ response to Nicodemus here reveals to this Jewish leader a truth that hearkens back to
something he knew quite well, and that was the story about Abraham’s striking covenant with God. He knew the passage of
Scripture in Genesis. And he knew that when the word “birth” was used, it could mean nothing other than something
pertaining to family - God’s covenant.
I encourage you to look for and enjoy the language of God's covenant when you read the Bible. It is filled with covenant
language just for His family.