It was about 1900 years B.C. that God found someone through whom He would send the Redeemer into the world. Though a son of an idol worshipper living in a city of idol worshippers, God found a man of faith. God spoke to Abraham and called him to become a part of His plan to save you and me from our sins and secure for us the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Over five centuries later, Joshua reminded the people of Israel about this. He said, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. '” (Joshua 24:2). The New Testament refers to Abraham as the “friend of God” (James 2:23).
Consider the three-fold promise God made to this man of faith:
“Now the LORD said to Abram,
'Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.' So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:1-7).
Three Promises Made To Abraham
First, God promised Abram that He would lead him to a foreign Land and give it to his descendents (Genesis 12:1,7).
Second, God also promised Abram that He would make a great Nation of him (Genesis 12:2).
Third, God promised that He would bless all the families of the earth in his Descendant (Genesis 12:3).
God repeated these promises to Abraham's son, Isaac, and to his grandson, Jacob. He also repeated them many times, and elaborated upon them by giving more information through the prophets. He has also fulfilled them!
God Fulfilled The Nation Promise
We can read through Genesis and Exodus and see that the Jewish nation emerged from Abraham's descendants. Abraham's grandson, Jacob (also called Israel), journeyed to Egypt during a famine. He had twelve sons whose families multiplied so rapidly that they threatened the Egyptians, who, in turn, enslaved Israel. According to inspired prophets such as Moses, their nation was formed during this bondage (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy. 4:34; 2 Samuel 7:23). This was just as God promised Abraham:
“ Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.'" (Genesis 15:12-16).
Although other nations emerged from Abraham (Genesis 17:20; 19:37-38), the nation of Israel was considered as God's chosen in accordance with the words of the prophets as well as Jesus, the Son of God. God kept His promise, not only in Israel, but also through the descendants of Abraham by faith, that is, through His people today, spiritual Israel, the church of Christ.
God Fulfilled The Land Promise
As we continue reading through the Old Testament, we see that Abraham's descendents received the land promised to them. After the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian bondage, they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years.
When they reach Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb), God gave them the 10 commandments and the rest of the Law (Exodus 19, 20). At Sinai, God made a unique covenant with them, one not made with their fathers (Deuteronomy 5:3). Though God would give them the land as He had promised, they would only retain it if they were faithful. Otherwise, God would allow their land to be taken from them (Deuteronomy 28:1-2; 15; 36,37).
The Israelites continued to wander and were eventually led into the promised land, beginning with Joshua's conquest of Jericho (Joshua. 1:1-6). Throughout the Old Testament, we can read about the land promise that God had made to Abraham as being fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; cf. (Nehemiah 9:7-8).
Abraham believed God, and this was counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 cf. Hebrews 11:8; cf. vs. 6). Abraham's faith led him to obey; it was not a substitute for obedience. Abraham was also patient. Waiting until late in life for children he knew would come because God had so promised (Romans 4:19-21). Abraham was faithful, even though his father worshipped idols. Righteous men and women have always had to rise above their environment (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
God Fulfilled The Promise of the Descendant
Though the first two of the three promises are fulfilled, as we continue reading through the Old Testament, we fail to see the promise of the descendant through whom the whole world would be blessed as being fulfilled, even though Abraham's seed produced many notable leaders. As we read the New Testament, however, we see that Jesus was this descendant of Abraham. However, we read that He was not merely a descendant of Abraham, but was the seed -- the seed of promise (Galatians 3:16). Jesus became the blessing of Abraham for the Gentiles (vs. 14); all who would belong to Him would be considered also as Abraham's seed, eligible to inherit the promise (vs. 29).
Jesus is described in this way by Paul in a sermon in Antioch (Acts. 13:16-39). Paul stated that the Savior, Jesus, was the offspring of David (who was a descendant of Abraham), according to promise (Acts 13:23; 16-17). Paul stated this again in his letter to the Romans (Romans 4:13; 16).
God is faithful. He will fulfill His promises. Not all Abraham's descendants reached Canaan, though. Why? Because of unbelief and disobedience (Hebrews 3:7-12; 19). The same can happen with us with reference to heaven (Hebrews 4:1-3; 11). Our rest is spiritual and eternal, and we must be careful not to come short of it.
The world has been blessed. God gave His Son for the whole world. He has offered us victory. His purpose has stood. God's people today are Abraham's descendants by faith and inherit the promise as well, the blessing of eternal life.
By Jon W. Quinn
Expository Files 23.6; June 2016