God’s Promises to Abraham, Part 1

Genesis 12:1-3 –   1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.  2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The words God spoke to Abram here form a spiritual foundation for our understanding of the rest of the scriptures. From God’s special calling and choosing of Abram we are able to see His progressive work that consummated is the coming of Christ, His death on Calvary and His resurrection from the dead.  We need to understand how God fulfilled His promises to Abram (later Abraham).

I.  The Elements of the Promise:  When we describe the words of Genesis 12:1-3, we often speak of them as containing 3 interrelated promises. This is a good way to catergorize the many promises that God made to Abraham. (Some suggest that it is best to understand the promise as a twofold promise:1)  A nation & land promise which was physical; and 2) a seed promise, which was spiritual).   God restated and amplified His original promises several times to Abraham’s children. The content of God’s promises to  Abraham and His children were:

A .   A Great NationGenesis 22:17 –  17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. He promised to turn Abram’s children into a great nation (I will make of you”)

  • All males of his household were given the special covenant of circumcision (Gen.17:1-14);
  • His previously barren wife, Sarah, bore him a son (“of promise”) when he was “one hundred years old” (21:1-7).
  • Later, that son, Isaac, took a wife from among his father’s people (ch. 24);
  • and Jacob, the “chosen” son of Isaac, took a wife from his mother’s people (28:1-4). Both men were warned to take no wives of the Canaanites, nor of other nations where they dwelt, a warning extended throughout the generations yet to come. Clearly, this was a breeding process—the “building” of a race of people, who were to serve God’s purposes in a special way.
  • Later known as the nation of Israel, (Jacob named called Israel by God). Israel became God’s nation through the giving of the law at Sinai, as they received their own “constitution” and God separated them through His commandments.

1.  Prior to entering the land of the “promised land” of Canaan, Moses said, “ The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. “ (Deuteronomy 1:10)

2.  Later Israel is identified as God’s special people, a great nation of His own making: 2 Sam. 7:2323 And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people,

B .  The Land of Canaan: After Abram entered the land God led him to, God reiterated His intentions concerning the land: Genesis 13:14-15 14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are — northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.

1.  God later provided definitive boundaries to the promised land to Abraham:  Genesis 15:18-21 – 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates —  19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

C.   The Seed:in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” A repetition of the promise in Genesis 22:18 reads, “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”

    • We are not left to guess the meaning. Paul writes, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
    • Paul’s grammatical emphasis makes it clear that the blessings for “all nations” did not depend upon Israel as a nation, nor upon Jews as a people, but upon one of Abraham’s descendants, Jesus Christ.
    • Furthermore, the “blessings” for all nations in Christ are spiritual. Peter spoke of “the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up his Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:25- 26). In proclaiming Christ as the “sure mercies of David,” Paul said, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:34-38).

II.   The Fulfillment of the Promises: It is crucial that we understand the manner in which God fulfilled the promises He made to Abram in Gen. 12.  Much false doctrine, especially the false teachings of premillenialism, has their roots in a misinterpretation of these promises, and a failure to recognize their proper fulfillment.

A.   Premillennialism alleges that Jesus will return to this earth before he commences a thousand-year reign on David’s throne in Jerusalem. Premillennialism, and its theological sister, dispensationalism, argue that God intends to reestablish a physical Jewish kingdom in Palestine. The doctrine contends that there is yet a purpose to be served by physical Israel (interpreted as the present physical state of Israel that began in 1948)

1.  Dispensationalists also allege that in the “seven-year tribulation period,” just prior to Christ’s “millennial reign,” God will restore the Jews to Palestine, and a national conversion of the Hebrew people will occur.  One writer describes this so-called “restoration” as follows:

  • The same prophets who predicted the world-wide exile and persecution of the Jews also predicted their restoration as a nation. . . This restoration was to come about in the general time of the climactic seven-year countdown and its finale—the personal appearance of the Messiah to deliver the new state from destruction (Lindsey 1970, 37-38).

B.   A careful consideration of the Bible text will indicate that God fulfilled every physical element of the promises He made to Abraham.

note:  The physical aspects of these promises were but means to a far more important and eternal purpose of salvation from sins for all mankind. “There is neither Jew nor Greek. . . you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

1.  We have already shown that God fulfilled His promise to make Abraham’s children a great nation. This special covenant relationship was driven by the law given at Sinai, and predicated on their keeping of that law. In speaking about the value of the law to Israel Moses said..6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’  7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:6-8) The law was exclusively to the nation of Israel.

  • We shall view more closely tonight how God replaced physical Israel with spiritual Israel, the church.

2.  God gave all the land He promised – Scriptures clearly refute all of the present “land claims” of the premillenialists, as well as those of the anglo-Israel movement.  Joshua 21:43-4543 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

a. The retention of the land was conditional on their faithfulness.  Joshua 23:11-1611 Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. 12 Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations — these that remain among you — and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you. 14 “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. 15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the Lord your God promised you, so the Lord will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the Lord your God has given you. 16 When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you.”

3.  God returned a remnant to the land: There is not a single N.T. passage that speaks of a restoration of national Israel and the literal return of Hebrews to Palestine at some future time.  The prophets did speak about a restoration of Israel to the land after the 70 years of exile in Babylon.  Jeremiah 29:1010 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

a.  Ezra 1:11 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom,… Jeremiah’s  prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, through the work of Ezra & Nehemiah.

b.  Other predictions, which speak of a “restoration” of Israel, refer to a spiritual restoration (to God, not Palestine— such as Isaiah 49:6-9; where Isaiah speaks of Jehovah’s Servant (the Messiah) restoring Israel and blessing all nations. Paul references this verse twice (2 Cor. 6 & Acts 13 in Antioch) in connection with the preaching of the gospel to both the Jew and the Gentile.

Conclusion: Return to Genesis 22:17 – Although we have viewed this in the context of the nation promise, consider a further aspect of this promise to Abraham: “your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.’ What a fascinating promise to a sojourner who had no homeland.

a.  This prophecy was quoted by Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father in Luke 1:68-7468 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,  69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,  70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,  71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,  73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:  74 To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear…

b.  Zachariah was prophesying about the coming of Christ and His redemptive work. It was according to the promise of God that God’s people would not have to fear their enemies because of the Messiah who was to come.

c.  Some have connected this with Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18 –  18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Through Jesus resurrection we possess the gates of our enemy, Satan.

God fulfilled the promises He made to Abraham. Abraham was accounted as righteous through faith and obedience in the presence of these distant and intricate promises.