“The Promise: A New Start”
(Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-8)
Notes of a sermon preached by Peter Bannister on 1st February 2015
How quickly they are made – and how soon they are forgotten
Think of the plaintive cry of young children;
“But Mummy, Daddy – you promised…”
– perhaps we begin to realise we’ve let them down
As someone once said:
“Parents are sometimes a bit of a disappointment to their children. They don’t fulfil the promise of their early years”
Think of the promises made in workplace – perhaps offer of promotion or of an increase in salary which somehow never seems to materialise.
Think of promises made by some parents at baptisms – promise to bring up their child in Christian faith – yet never see them in church again.
One thing I can assure you for – over next 3 months we’re going to be inundated with all kinds of promises by politicians as we come up to the General Election – only afterwards that they find excuses why those promises couldn’t be fulfilled.
As someone once said :
“Vote for the party that promises least, that way you will be least disappointed”
But of course there is One Who never fails to keep His promise, One who will never let us down – even though there may be times when we think He has forgotten
Romans 4:20 – 21 Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
It is with this in mind that we turn to those opening verses in Genesis 12 – page 13
Let’s just recall where we’ve got to. Chapters 3 to 11 of Genesis are a trail of disasters –
The Fall – Adam & Eve unable to keep the one command God had given them – and as a result thrust out of the Garden of Eden
The Flood – all because God had seen the wickedness on earth
The Tower of Babel – futile attempt to reach up into heaven – result was the scattering of people and the confusion of languages. If you had troubles at school grasping the intricacies of French or German (perhaps nowadays Mandarin and Russian) – you know where to place the blame
Banishment. Destruction. Division.
Yet each time God in His grace gave a promise
After the Fall, promise of one who would come who would crush the head of Satan (3:15)
With the Flood, not only the provision of the Ark to save Adam & family, but the promise that never again would the Lord destroy every living creature (8:21-23)
And what happened after the Tower of Babel? Where was the promise? Well, begins here in Genesis 12
Gen 12:1 not only a key event in life of Abraham (or Abram as was)
– not just a major change for his people
– but it is a turning point in the whole course of human history.
1The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
Opening 3 verses give the promise of 3 great blessings – 3 blessings that overlap – all of which linked
1st BLESSING – what we’ve just read –
1. The Promise of a Land.
go to the land I will show you.
Could well have seemed ridiculous to Abram – after all, he was a city dweller. Already uprooted himself from city of Ur and settled in Haran. Just when thing becoming reasonably comfortable, told to be on the move again. He was to become a nomad – suppose if he had to fill in a form nowadays – where it said address – “Of no fixed abode”
I guess some of us have had the experience that just when things seem to be settling down, life becoming easier, suddenly it seems the Lord showing us it’s time to move – He has something else in store
Sometimes speaks to us as read His Word – or maybe circumstances
A new job – or loss of a job, or new course of study
Illness or bereavement – forced into a move
Maybe growing conviction that the Lord wants you somewhere else
Do we resist? Or do what Abram did
4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him;
What lay behind it? The promise of a land.. Promise repeated in 17:8:
8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God
Abram never saw the fulfilment of this promise – in fact the only piece of ground he was to own in that land was the grave where he was to bury his wife, and where later he would be laid to rest.
Little did he realise prob over 600 years before the land was to come to his people
– the taking of the country under Joshua
– the establishment of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel
But in spite of not knowing the outcome – trusted God:
Hebrews 11:8 – 9 8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
Was that the final fulfilment of the promise?
The people of Israel were to come back to the land many times.
– came in to take possession after those years if slavery in Egypt
– came back after being driven to exile in Babylon
Or was the final fulfilment in 1948 with the founding of the State of Israel after Jews fled (as remembering last week) from Holocaust?
Actually Bible points to something far greater than this
The eternal promise is to be found on what lies beyond this earth
Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
That’s the true inheritance – place of glory where God’s people are with the Lord Himself
Slaves – spirituals -“I’ve got a home in gloryland that outshines the sun”
“Swing low sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home” – song hear next Fri when Eng v Wales coming – but point to far more important!
Cf Jesus (Jn 14:3) “I am going to prepare a place…” The best is yet to be
2nd Blessing linked with this
2. A NATION
Gen 12:2-3 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
A great nation , and a great name to accompany this
That had been the very aim of those building the Tower of Babel
Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
& of course plans came to nothing – result was v thing trying to avoid
But what about Abram. Given a promise – could have seemed ridiculous. Why? Look at vs 4
4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.
75! What children did he have? None
Not particularly old nowadays – at 75 things to look forward to.
I’m just about to receive a free TV licence (whether much to watch another matter) – but it’s free!
But somehow at 75 I don’t think I’d look forward to starting a family – think Glenda would be a bit surprised !
But this how Abr wd see promise of a great nation- repeated again in 15:2-5
2But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
And Abram believed the Lord – at least for a time – but even a great man like Abram has feet of clay. At the beginning of chap 16 Sarai convinces him that she can’t have children and the promise of a child will have to come another way – throught her maid Hagar – & Abram went along with the plan:
16:2,4 “Abram agreed to what Sarai said….He slept with Hagar and she conceived”
He failed to trust the Lord – and we’re still suffering the consequences of this nearly 4000 years later.
Had God finished with him? Not a bit of it. The promise comes again
Genesis 21:1 – 2 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.
How old was Abram when promise given? 75
How old was he now? Vs 5 tells us he was 100 when Isaac born.
His faith had been weak at times – just as no doubt it is with us
– but the Lord always keeps His promise
– even if sometimes it appears He has forgotten
“God’s delays are not God’s denials”
3rd Promise – Blessing for
3. ALL PEOPLES
Gen 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Not just one nation – but all peoples on earth – reverse of what happened after Tower of Babel. Then people were scattered. Now people are blessed
Promise of blessing comes with a strong warning for those who not prepared to accept this – those who curse the people of God will be cursed
Told later in OT (in Zech 2:8) – whoever touches the people of God are touching the apple of His eye – putting themselves in a dangerous situation
The promise of blessing is expanded
Gen 17:4-7 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
And do you realise something? This applies to you and me, if we are people who share the faith of Abraham
Our God is the same God who is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – we inherit His blessing
2 great passages in NT have both Peter & Paul saying the same thing:
Acts 3:25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’
Galatians 3:6 – 9 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
All peoples! All nations! That includes Christians throughout world –
those being persecuted (Iraq, Syria, N Korea), places where mission links are (Boroboro, Togo, Romania, Midlands……) – and you and me.
How does this blessing come about?
Just look 4 verse on in Gal 3 to verses 13-14
Galatians 3:13 – 14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Where is the ultimate fulfilment of the promises of God?
Found in Christ – the one who in the very 1st vs of Matthew’s Gospel we are told is the son of David, the son of Abraham
– the one who took our sins on himself on the cross so that we could be forgiven and receive these great promises given to Abraham
A Land – the homeland God prepared for us in glory
A Nation – the reminder that the Lord kept His promise of descendants becoming a great nation
All Peoples – the message of the Lord spreading out to the whole world
– including us, when we trust in Christ.
Abraham never saw the fulfilment of these promises himself
but he had the faith to trust that God was working His purposes out
and one day they would come
Paul in Romans 4:3 quotes the words of Gen 15:6:
3What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”
Abraham believed God. Way of promise today is still the way of faith
Sermon Headings and Questions for Discussion
Background: Genesis 3 – 11 – the Fall, the Flood & the Tower of Babel leading to Banishment, Destruction & Division – but also to the wonder of God’s Grace.
Three Promises of Blessing in Gen 12:1-3 (as Abraham knew – Romans 3:20-21):
1. A LAND (Gen 12:1)
– repeated in 17:8, and see also Hebrews 11:8-9
For fulfilment, see Hebrews 11:10
2. A NATION (Gen 12:2)
– reversal of Gen 11:4, in spite of seeming impossible (Gen 12:4)
Repeated in Gen 15:2-5, & beginning of fulfilment in Gen 21:2
3. ALL PEOPLES (Gen 12:3)
expanded in Gen 17:4-7
Repeated in New Testament – Acts 3:25 and Galatians 3:6-9
Accomplished through Christ – Galatians 3:13-14 (cf. Matt 1:1)
Same requirement for us – the way of faith (Gen 15:6 and Romans 4:3)
1. Why were both the command and the promises in Gen 12:1-4 so important – for Abram, his descendants – and for us today? What do we learn from Abram’s response?
2. The promise of Gen 12:2-3 (repeated in 15:2-5) took 25 years to be fulfilled (see Gen 21:1-2,5). What does this teach us about God – and what can we learn from it?
3. How do we become “heirs of the prophets” (Acts 3:25) and “children of Abraham” (Gal 3:7)? How is this promise fulfilled through the death of Jesus (Gal 3:10-14)?
4. What does Heb 11:8-10, 39-40 teach us about the promise of the Lord? In the light of verses 8 and 9, how should we understand the promise in Gen 17:8? If we are the Lord’s people, what have we to look forward to?