Tracing the Promises of God to the Patriarchs – Part 1

Intro: Promises of God tell a story… they tell our story. Important to see how God keeps His word.

I. Promises and Curse: How does God respond to human crisis? A review of the book of Genesis may give us some insight. The early history of humanity, as revealed in the book of Genesis reveals 3 major universal crises and God’s response. Three times God pronounces universal judgments on humanity. In these 3 events we can notice a connection between the curses and the promises of God.

A. The first is obviously Genesis 3 – the emergence of sin, and its consequences for every person. We noticed God’s response last week in our study of Gen.3:15. God brought a curse (judgment and punishment). But in the same context we find a promise that pointed men to the intentions of God.

1. The seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent. As we noticed last week, this promise introduced God’s intention to destroy the devil and redeem men through the coming of Jesus.

B. The second crisis begins in Gen. 6 – The degenerated state of morality that led to the worldwide judgment of the flood of Noah’s day. Gen 6:5-7 – Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” We will notice again that God injects promises to accompany the curse.

1. first in the promise to Noah that he and his family would survive His judgment. A promise of personal salvation. Gen 6:17-18 – And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark — you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. This promise was conditional on Noah’s obedience to God’s commands.

2. After emerging from the ark safe and sound, God responds to Noah’s thankful worship with a promise of future mercy. Gen 8:20-22Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. 22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” 9 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them:”Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. God would not continue to destroy all His creatures, even though men would continue to grow evil. Notice that God extends blessings to Noah and his sons, as they had done all that he commanded.

3. Later God expands this promise into a covenant with Noah and all the earth. God says… Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said:”This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Gen 9:11-17) The presence of rainbows in the sky are a continual memorial to the faithfulness of God, and the importance of His promises in response to man’s continuing disobedience.

4. Another intriguing promise associated with the family of Noah is mentioned at the end of His story in Genesis 9. After Ham (and possibly his son, Canaan) failed to cover Noah’s nakedness, Noah made predictions concerning His sons. Gen 9:25-27 – Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” 26 And he said: “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.”

              • note: Shem is the son through whom the people of the Syro-Arabian peninsula emerged, as well as the nation of Israel (children of Abraham). Japheth is the father of the Europeans and Asians. Ham is the father of the Africans, Egyptians, and particularly the Canaanites of the OT history.

a. Thus, Japheth and Shem were blessed. But Ham’s descendants (Canaanites) would become servants of his brother’s people. God would be the God of Shem. Notice v. 27 – Is the subject Japheth or God? Some suggest that the subject the second phrase is God. He will dwell in the tents of Shem. God will live among the descendants of Shem, not Japheth or Ham. Burton Coffman writes… The humorous view that the Caucasians shall live “in the tents of Shem,” is said to be fulfilled in that most of them pay rent to Jewish landlords! We do not think this is what the text meant. Unger is probably correct: “‘He (God) shall dwell in the tents of Shem,’ another reference to the spiritual blessings upon Israel through the Messianic line.” – (from Coffman’s Bible Commentary) If this is correct it points to selection that follows in chapter 12 – Again seen in the progression of God’s promises.

C. The third crisis may not appear to be much of a crisis to us. Gen. 11 records the presence of a single language throughout all the descendants of Noah, and their ambitious desire to build a tower to the heavens. Gen 11:4And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” What is described in this text is the arrogant, selfish and humanistic spirit the prevailed. It was not what God had intended, and God recognized again the need to bring a judgment. He confused their language and scattered the people over the face of the earth. This was more than just a work stoppage. It was a judgment against the self-reliance and selfish heart of men. They trusted only in themselves. It was a clear indication that the people were corrupt inwardly and had turned away from God.

1. But once again there is hope. Again, the hope that God extends is seen in the life of a single man. His name is Abram, and he is a man of faith. And again God makes promises of future blessings: Gen 12:1-3 – 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.”

II. The Promises to Abraham: the Blueprint of Redemptive History. The Messianic hope is unmistakably tied to the promises God made to Abraham, his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob. His family becomes the ancestry through which Christ, the Messiah comes, and ultimately bruises the head of the serpent.

A. Delineating the Promises to Abraham: Some count as many as 8 promises in these verses, including the land promise of verse 7. Genesis 12:1-3, 7 – 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. 1) I will make you a great nation; …2) I will bless you… 3) And make your name great;… 4) And you shall be a blessing.. 5) I will bless those who bless you… 6) And I will curse him who curses you… 7) And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”… 8) “To your descendants I will give this land.”

1. Of these promises there are 3 general promises that are repeated later and become what is generally understood as the promises of the Abrahamic covenant.

              • “I will make you a great nation”
              • “I will give you this land”
              • “In you (your seed) all the families of the earth will be blessed:

2. In recognition of their ultimate fulfillment many (Homer Hailey, and others) designate 2 promises, one physical (nation, land) and the other spiritual (seed of blessing). I want to trace these promises through the Patriarchs and then see the fulfillment of the physical promise… look later at the spiritual fulfillment.

B. The Promises and the Covenant: When Abraham did not gain an heir after several years, he took his case before God in Genesis 15. How could the seed promise be fulfilled if Abraham was childless?

1. In response to his plea the Lord made a covenant with Abraham that included the physical promise of innumerable descendants and the promise of the inheritance of the land of Canaan. Genesis 15:5-6 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. 7 Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” Gen 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.”

a. The promise of innumerable descendants is viewed as a part of the nation promise. God reiterated this to Abraham in Gen. 13:16, in Gen. 15 (as we just read) and significantly enough, in the commandment for circumcision in Gen. 17. (Abraham is 100 years old & has one child, Ishmael. God changes his name from Abram exalted father, to Abrahamfather of a multitude!) Read Gen. 17:1-7

b. Notice that God says 3 times that Abraham will be the father of nations (plural) – Gen. 17:4, 5, 6. When Abraham mentions Ishmael as the seed, God says no, it would be Sarah’s boy. (v. 18-19)

1) The term nations may also apply to the spiritual application of the promise that others would be grafted in who were not of physical Israel. But there was more to the nation promise than simply the number of descendants. It ultimately would include the character of the nation (people). They would be like Abraham. Abraham would have more than a physical seed. He would have those who of all nations who would be the heirs of this promise.

C. The covenant that God made with Abraham was repeated after his death to his son Isaac in Genesis 26:3-43 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;

D. And then later to his grandson, Jacob in Genesis 28. Before Jacob left his home and family, Isaac called him in and reiterated the land-nation promise that had been given to Abraham. Genesis 28:2-4 – 2 Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.3 “May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples; 4 And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham.”

1. After the vision of the ladder reaching to heaven, God Himself speaks to Jacob. Gen. 28:13-1413 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

III. Tracing the Physical Fulfillment of the Promises: When did God fulfill these promises to Abraham? It seems obvious from what we have noticed that Abraham himself did not see any of these promises fulfilled in his lifetime. His grandson (Jacob) was still awaiting it when he died. We can see the physical fulfillment of two of these promises in the later history of the O.T.

A. The nation promise: God commissioned Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery.They journeyed to Sinai at God’s leading. It was there they received a law specifically for them. It represented a specific covenant with the house of Jacob. Ex 19:5-6 – 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. Israel became God’s people – a nation of his making.

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) This was a direct reference to the nation promise made to Abraham. They were experiencing the fulfillment.

2. Israel’s 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.

3. Later Israel is identified as God’s special people, a great nation of His own making: 2 Sam. 7:23And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name — and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land — before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? Later Hosea spoke of the people of Israel as those who had been the people of God but were not his people (Lo-Ammi). Although Israel did become a nation (and fulfilled the promise physically), Israel did not fulfill the desire of God in becoming the “holy nation”. They did not fulfill the full intention of God that was expressed in the promise itself.

B. The land promise: Did Israel possess all the physical land that God promised to Abraham? Is there a physical land promise yet to be fulfilled? Notice what Joshua says at the time of the conquest of the Canaan. Josh 21:43-45 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.