During our last general conference, President Russell M. Nelson asked us to undertake a specific course of study. He said, “As you study your scriptures during the next six months, I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel. I think you will be astounded! Ponder these promises. Talk about them with your family and friends. Then live and watch for these promises to be fulfilled in your own life.”1
For many, looking for scriptural examples of blessings promised to Israel will yield new and exciting realizations. Many of us will find that the scriptures speak of these blessings more than we may have realized in the past.
For more than two decades, as I have taught students about this topic, I have presented them with a list of all the covenant blessings promised to Israel that I could find. I made a handy little bullet point list that worked well as a handout and for lecture slides used in the classroom. I believe my students, my devotional and fireside audiences, my BYU Education Week classes, and others all had a good experience with this.
Yet when I recently wrote a book on the blessings promised to Israel as part of the Abrahamic covenant, I realized that there was more we could have all been getting out of this all along. I looked for cohesive groups of blessings and the relationship of one blessing to another. As I did so, I realized that these blessings flowed together and intertwined in a way I had not expected. They worked together in a way that made so much sense and which allowed me to get so much more out of them. I hope that by summarizing what I have learned here will also help you to gain more from your scriptural studies about the blessings promised to Israel. Hopefully it will make it just a little easier for you to accomplish President Nelson’s challenge to study, ponder, and discuss the promises the Lord has made to covenant Israel.
Covenantal Love and Mercy
The first thing I came to realize is that there is a core component of the Abrahamic (or new and everlasting)2 covenant from which Israel’s blessings flow. That core component is that God wants to form a higher and closer relationship with us. One way we could describe having that kind of close relationship with God is that we could say that God prevails in our lives more than anyone or anything else.3 As I wrote in my book God Will Prevail: Ancient Covenants, Modern Blessings, and the Gathering of Israel, “I cannot overemphasize how much the covenant is about creating a special, binding, intimate relationship with God. All other aspects of the covenant hinge on this one and flow from it.”4
The primary covenantal obligation, to love God with all our hearts,5 and the primary covenantal blessing, that God will be our God and we will be His people,6 are both aimed at creating this unique, higher, closer, binding relationship with Him. Once that relationship has been begun, formalized by a priesthood ordinance7 that administers the covenant (baptism), we are naturally able to enjoy a higher communion with God. This communion allows Him to give us direction and instruction.8 It also allows God to extend to us a special kind of love and mercy.9 Just as the marriage covenant forges a special kind of bond that creates a higher and closer kind of love, so does the covenant we enter into with God. It just isn’t possible to have the same kind of love and mercy in a non-covenant relationship that is possible within a covenant.10
Blessings and Land
A closer relationship with God naturally yields blessings of all kinds. The most important of those blessings are the change in nature it naturally brings about. We cannot draw closer to God without becoming more like Him. As our nature is changed, we become a peculiar and treasured people, or a holy people, or a kingdom of priests and priestesses.11 These are the greatest kinds of blessings.
Still, there are other blessings God wants to bestow upon His people. For ancient Israel, many of the blessings of prosperity God wished to bestow upon them could only happen if they had a place in which they could live, plant crops, and raise livestock. Therefore, God promised land to Abraham and his seed for forever.12 Today the notion of lands of promise are still in force, but this can also find expression in the idea of being able to gather together either physically or spiritually. There are many other forms a “promised land” can take. Historically the Saints have had places God has asked them to gather, such as in Kirtland, Independence, Salt Lake City, or Laie, Hawaii. We also gather in wards and stakes. Recently we have all learned that we can gather virtually as well. Homes filled with the Spirit, ward camps, and a variety of other places where we can safely gather, thrive, and worship, can all be a kind of promised land. To be sure, the scriptures are clear that there are physical lands God has promised His people, and He will honor those promises. At the same time, all of the blessings of the covenant find many ways of being fulfilled.
Blessings and Prosperity
Once Israel (modern or ancient) experiences a higher relationship with God and they are given a place in which they can safely receive other blessings, God is anxious to pour those blessings out upon His people in a mighty way. Scripturally, we see that God promised He would prosper Abraham/Israel in a great many ways. Israel was promised that all they set their hands to would prosper. God promised to provide rain. This in turn would cause the land to yield generously, bringing abundant fruit and an increase in flocks. Sometimes this is described as being in a land that would flow with milk and honey. This would make it so that Israel’s storehouses would be full. In some ways, this is summed up by the expressive phrase that God would bless Israel beyond measure.13
Of course, all of these things are a form of physical prosperity. While today many people may not feel the need to have abundant crops, scriptural promises about agricultural prosperity can symbolize any number of temporal blessings. Yet there are many other forms of prosperity that would flow to Israel as the natural result of their higher nature and closer relationship with God. For example, Abraham was promised that he would be a blessing to his seed and the families of the earth.14 Further, Abraham’s seed will bless the earth.15 Surely one of the ways they would do this was by carrying the gospel to all the world, giving them a chance to receive priesthood ordinances and ultimately salvation and exaltation.16 As a result of all this, Abraham will have a great name among all nations.17 Further, because of this, all who receive the gospel will bless Abraham.18
In a fallen world, when a person or group are blessed with all manner of prosperity, there will inevitably be those who want to take their prosperity from them. As a result of this, God promises to protect His covenant people.
Prosperity and land help to provide protection, but only God proves to be fully able to safeguard, for only God can fully prevail. This is part of what God was promising Abraham and Israel when He said His hand would be over them. In other words, covenant keepers will prevail by the power of God because God will fight covenant-keeping Israel’s battles.
What did it mean that God would fight Israel’s battles? Not only did the Lord promise to Abraham that He would be his shield, but He promised that Israel would conquer rather than be conquered. As a result, people would fear Israel and they would rise above rather than fall below other nations.
The imagery in the following set of verses is used to convey God’s protecting hand so comprehensively that it leaves those who hear or read it buoyed as they shelter behind God’s shield: “And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”19 In other words, Israel would prevail with God’s help.
This protection is actually two-pronged. The Lord promised not only that those who fought against Abraham would be cursed, but also that those who blessed Abraham would be blessed.20 This not only discouraged others from attacking Abraham’s seed, but encouraged all to aid them in whatever way they could.21
One form of protection promised to Israel is that they will have kings to rule over them and defend them. This promise was expanded upon in the days of David with the promise of a Davidic line of kings.22 Christ is the ultimate expression of this promise, being the great king who fights our battles for us and leads us into salvation.
Because danger can take many forms, so will God’s protection. Our ultimate danger is falling prey to death and hell—therefore, our ultimate protection is from those twin threats.
We will certainly suffer many things, for that is the nature of a mortal probation. At the same time, covenant keepers can be sure that God will protect us from all manner of enemies, from our small trials to delivering us from the grave itself.
Once Sarah and Abraham were blessed in such a way that they had a safe place to live that could not only support them but a great number of people, they were in a position to receive the greatest of blessings: posterity. We can only be fully successful in the fullest sense of having posterity when we are realizing covenant blessings.
Sarah and Abraham were promised not just that they would have posterity, but that their posterity would become nations. In fact, they were promised innumerable posterity.23 Yet the blessings of posterity did not include just numbers. As discussed above, they were promised that their posterity would bless all the earth, eventually helping all who were would listen to also enter into the covenant.24 Further, they were promised that their seed would forever have the opportunity to be part of the covenant and receive exaltation. The covenant given to Abraham and his descendants was to be everlasting (even to a “thousand generations”).25
The greatest expression of this covenant would be Christ. Not only would He truly make exaltation available to all the earth, He would also give its inhabitants an opportunity for new life, and “have it more abundantly.”26 He would give all who wanted to be part of the covenant the chance to live forever, increasing eternally.27
The greatest blessing promised to covenant Israel is that of exaltation. This includes not only individual exaltation, but the opportunity for the family and families of Israel to be exalted together, enjoying a blessed and expanding companionship for the eternities.
In fact, not only will the opportunity for joy and offspring continue unceasingly, but so will the opportunity for kingship or queenship. The promise extended to Abraham and David about being rulers finds only a shadow of its full expression in mortality. All who keep the covenant will receive in the hereafter “their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”28 Rising even above the majesty of King David, as a covenant keeper you will find that Christ will “prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.”29 Covenant keepers “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions.”30 Indeed, those who make and strive to keep their covenants are promised exaltation, the greatest of all the gifts of God. Jesus Christ, the guarantor of the covenant,31 makes it possible for God’s covenantal promises to be bestowed upon our heads. In the end, Israel will be redeemed “according to the election of grace, which was brought to pass by the faith and covenant of their fathers.”32 It is overwhelmingly ennobling and comforting to realize that if we are trying to keep our covenant, we have a right to exaltation.
Each covenantal promise is rich and overpowering. Taken together, they are staggering. This last promise, that of exaltation, is beyond our ability to comprehend. Truly we are blessed with an overabundance of promised riches.33
To summarize, as inheritors of the Abrahamic covenant, we have access to the same blessings promised to Sarah and Abraham. We will find these blessings expressed more fully in our lives when we know what they are. Further, we will more easily recognize them in the scriptures, and thus be able to better study them there and ponder them as President Nelson has asked. Thus, a quick outline of the things we have discussed may be helpful:
- • God wants a higher and closer relationship with us.
- • We begin that relationship be entering into a formal covenant that is administered by priesthood power.
- • That covenant changes our nature, which allows us to have the closer relationship with God that He desires.
- • That closer relationship also makes a higher bond of love and mercy available to us.
- • All of this makes it possible for us to receive other blessings. These blessings include:
- • A promised land in which we can prosper
- • Prosperity and abundance in many forms
- • Divine protection of us in our land and including our prosperity
- • Posterity
- • When we and our posterity have been able to experience all these blessings to the fullest, our nature will be changed by the atoning power of Christ until we are exalted. At that point, as godly beings, we will be able to finally have the closest of relationships with our Father.
Of course, this is a simplified and succinct discussion of the blessings promised to Israel. The blessings are so rich and beautiful that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to explore them and never finish. President Nelson’s talks are a good place to expand that study, and the greatest place to come to better understand those blessings is in the scriptures. My writings and those of others are only aimed at helping you in your quest to find these blessings in the scriptures, and thus fulfill prophetic counsel.
Lead image: Shutterstock
By entering into covenants with His people, God forges vital connections that allow Him to guide and bless His children in incredible ways. Latter-day Saints have long been encouraged to stay on the covenant path—but what is that path, and how do we stay the course? In God Will Prevail: Ancient Covenants, Modern Blessings, and the Gathering of Israel, BYU Professor of Religion Dr. Kerry Muhlestein encourages readers to take hold of God's promise to gather His covenant people by recognizing the connection between covenant making and the eternal and transformative love of the Savior. Available now in eBook at DeseretBook.com.
- See Kerry Muhlestein, Joshua M. Sears, and Avram R. Shannon, “New and Everlasting: The Relationship between Gospel Covenants in History,” Religious Educator 21/2 (2020): 21–40.
- Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” October 2020 General Conference.
- Kerry Muhlestein, God Will Prevail: Ancient Covenants, Modern Blessings, and the Gathering of Israel (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2021), 47.
- Deuteronomy 6:5
- Genesis 17:7, 8; Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 29:13; Abraham 1:19, 2:7
- Abraham 1:18
- Abraham 1:2
- Deuteronomy 7:9
- Ibid., 12.
- Exodus 19:5–6
- Genesis 12:1, 7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 13:17; Genesis 15:7, 16, 18; Genesis 17:8; Exodus 6:8; Leviticus 18:24-30; Leviticus 25:18; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:1, 18; Deuteronomy 30:16, 20; Abraham 2:6, 19; Doctrine & Covenants 52:2
- Genesis 15:1; Genesis 17:6; Leviticus 25:18-19; Leviticus 26:4-5; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 28:3–6, 8, 11–12; Deuteronomy 29:9; Deuteronomy 30:9, 16; Abraham 2:9
- Genesis 12:2-3; Abraham 2:9
- Genesis 22:18; Abraham 2:10; Acts 3:25; 3 Nephi 20:25, 27; Galatians 3:8; Doctrine & Covenants 124:58
- Abraham 2:10–11
- Genesis 12:2; Abraham 2:9
- Abraham 2:10
- Leviticus 26:6–8
- Genesis 12:3; Abraham 2:11
- Muhlestein, God Will Prevail, 52-53.
- 2 Samuel 7:8-16
- Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:2, 4, 5, 6; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 24:60; Leviticus 26:9; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 30:16; Abraham 2:9; Abraham 3:14
- Abraham 1:19; Abraham 2:9-10; Galatians 3:7, 29; 3 Nephi 30:2
- Genesis 17:7; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalms 105:8
- John 10:10
- Doctrine & Covenants 132:30
- Doctrine & Covenants 132:19–20
- Doctrine & Covenants 132:49
- Doctrine & Covenants 132:19
- Hebrews 7:22
- Doctrine & Covenants 84:99
- Muhlestein, God Will Prevail, 59–60.