Intro: “There is more to it than meets the eye”. We use this expression to challenge people to look more closely. Don’t just scratch the surface. I want to challenge you to look more closely at the fulfillment of the promises of Genesis 12. Jesus challenged those of His day to consider the connection between Abraham and Himself. John 8:56 – Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Jesus is making a clear statement about His divinity here. Before Abraham was, I AM (v. 58) But there is another way in which Abraham saw “Jesus’ day”. He saw it through the promises of God. His faith rested in promises personally made to him and later to his children, that one day someone from his family would bless every person. That day never came to fruition in his lifetime. But he believed it would come to pass – He saw that day through faith. We see by looking back, and viewing divinely revealed history.
- How can we see what Abraham saw? Galatians 3:7-9 – 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
I. Tracing the Spiritual Fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promises – As we mentioned this morning, we generally recognize a distinction between the land-nation promises and the seed promise. The seed promise is often referred to as the spiritual seed promise.
a. As we noticed last week, the term seed can be both plural (its most common usage) or singular, as it speaks of only one individual. Its use in Gen. 3:15 shows this dual meaning.
- The seed of the serpent is not a single individual, but those who are like the serpent, or descend from him. (“You are of your father, the Devil”) –
- But the seed of woman is modified by a singular personal pronoun in v. 15 – (He shall bruise your head”).
- In the same way, the seed of Abraham is viewed both as plural and singular. Mary, the mother of Jesus says God spoke to the fathers, Abraham and his seed; referencing the many who received the words of the prophets in Lk. 1:55.
b. We know that the ultimate fulfillment of the seed promise of Genesis 12, 15, and 17 is consummated in Christ. Paul does not leave us to guess or conjecture. 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). Thus, it would not the corporate nation of Israel who would bring blessings to all nations. Those blessings would come through a single individual – Christ. Thus the fulfillment of the seed promise is spiritual.
c. Consider how this is reflected in even the events of Abraham’s life. Gen. 22 After Abraham and Sarah tried to force God’s hand through the birth of Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar, God made it clear it would be Isaac through whom the promise would come. As Abraham was mourning the departure of his son Ishmael, God spoke to him: Gen 21:12 – But God said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Ishmael left, and Isaac remained. But in the very next chapter, God instructs Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to Him. How can that be?! Abraham leaves for the place of sacrifice without rebuttal. As Abraham, his servants, and his son, Isaac draw near, Isaac poses a question that intensified and focused the problem posed in the event. Gen 22:7-8 – Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Abraham’s faith led him to answer God will provide a lamb. But God did not provide a lamb to take Isaac’s place, he provided a ram. Consider what Homer Hailey states here:
- There was more to this than meets the eye. The fulfillment is unfolding spiritually as God’s intentions become clearer through the promises.
A. The Nation Promise: Although the land-nation promise was fulfilled through the physical blessing of Israel, those elements of the Abrahamic promises also had spiritual implications to the seed promise.
1. God’s promise to make the seed of Abraham into a nation included prescriptions on the character of that nation. We noticed from Exodus 19 that God called Israel to be a “holy nation” and the covenant of the law and the tabernacle displayed vividly the holiness of God that was to be expressed in the priesthood and in the people themselves. Israel did not separate themselves and did not become the spiritually holy nation that God desired. (I will be your God, you will be my people.)
2. Peter connects this promise to the N.T. church in 1 Peter 2:9-10 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
3. Much of Hosea’s prophecy about the nation of Israel was based on the nation promise that was undone by Israel’s unfaithfulness. He speaks of a restoration of Israel, when the promise will be fulfilled in a spiritual way. Hosea 1:10-11 – 10 ‘Yet the number of the children of Israel, Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ 11 Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel Shall be gathered together, And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel! Hosea 2:23 – 23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’
4. In Romans 9:25 Paul quotes Hosea 2:23 to say that it was always God’s intention to make the Gentiles His people too, and thus places a spiritual N.T. fulfillment on the nation promise of Abraham. Thus the promise that Abraham would be the father of nations (Gen. 17) was ultimately fulfilled in the gospel of Christ.“ There was more to the nation promise than just the events of Sinai. God’s intention was to create a spiritual “holy nation”, and it was not just physical, fleshly Israel.
5. In Romans 4 Paul shows that the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise was not through the law of Moses, but through faith in Christ– Rom 4:13-17 – 3 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”)
B. The Land Promise: We have already noted that the land promise was unconditional on its reception, but conditional on its retention. They would get the land, but would only keep it through their faithfulness to God. God gave all the land he promised to Israel. They were unfaithful to God and He removed them from the land. There is not further physical fulfillment of the land promise.
1. Are there spiritual implications to the land promise? The land of Canaan became a symbol of God’s spiritual blessings. His eternal and spiritual provisions.
a. Restoration – Many of the promises of the Prophets that reference the land promise to Israel speak of a physical restoration that took place in the days of Ezra. 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.
b. In Hebrews 4, after describing the failure of the Israelites to enter the land of Canaan because of unbelief, the writer states that there is a promise remaining of entering into “His rest” because the gospel has been preached to us as well as them (4:1-2). He quotes from the 95th Psalm (written long after Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and subsequent entering into the land) and shows how it speaks of another day in which the rest is promised – “today harden not your hearts” .The ultimate rest is a spiritual rest with God. Heb 4:8-9 – 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
c. Later in Hebrews 11 he speaks of a “better country, a heavenly”, that Abraham and others looked forward to through faith. Heb 11:13-16 – These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
d. Jesus fed 5,000 with a boy’s lunch and the people wanted to make Him king immediately. Give us the bread, like Moses did in the wilderness. Jesus’ response was “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). John 6:48-51 – I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” He was the ultimate fulfillment of the land promise, because He alone would provide for His people.
C. The Seed Promise: It is not difficult to see the spiritual focus of this promise as it is revealed in the N.T.
1. Peter – Acts 3:25-26 – You are sons of the prophets, and 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.’ 26 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.
2. Paul – Acts 13:32-38 – And we declare to you glad tidings — that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ 36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
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 1:68-74 – 68 “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. These promises reflect his intentions toward us, his holy nation, inheriting his eternal rest, being provided for through the words of life, saved from our enemy through the sacrifice of His lamb.