October 18, 1998
God gave Abraham a promise and a vision of what the Lord would do for and through Abraham. The Lord gave Abraham a "dream."
1. A great nation of people would come from him.
2. God would bless him.
3. God would make his name great.
4. Abraham would be a blessing to others.
5. God would:
Bless those who blessed him
Curse those who cursed him
Bless all families (Nations) of the earth through him.
Abraham believed God, and took action based upon the promises of God. He moved as God told him to do.
In v. 7, the Lord appeared to Abraham again with a promise. I will give all this land to your children. Abraham again believed God, and took action again. This time he built an altar.
In both cases above, Abraham's inward faith in the Lord resulted in outward action. Words of faith in the Lord are worthless unless there are actions behind those words.
12:10, there was a famine in the land. This famine did not catch the Lord by surprise when he told Abraham to go to this area. There were many promises for Abraham to claim in the midst of the famine:
Deuternomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Famines prove what we are made of.
Proverbs 10:3 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death. 3 The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.
God has the power over famine, and he is able to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. (We are also told that famine is one of God's judgments against sin, Deut. 29.)
WHAT DO WE HAVE THUS FAR.
First, Abraham had been given exceeding great and precious promises by the Lord.
Second, Abraham believed those promises enough to take action, even leave his home, not knowing where he went.
Hebrews 11:7-10. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Third, v. 10, a famine rose in the land where he had been sent by the Lord. God knew about the famine when he sent Abraham into the land
Rather than trust the Lord to fulfill his promises in the famine, this great man of faith went down into Egypt without checking with the Lord. He even misled the king about his beautiful 70 year old wife.
Though Abraham was not where he had been told to go, God watched out for him and blessed him while he was in Egypt, 12:16. When he came out of Egypt, he brought something with him he should not have, Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian handmaid.
Thus though Abraham had the promised blessings of God, including God's promised care in famine, Abraham forgot the promises and used his own reasoning to fulfill the promise.
13:14-18, God renewed the promise to Abraham.
Then in Genesis 15, God renews the promise, adding that his seed will be impossible to number, v. 5. Though Abraham had no children, he believed the promise, v. 6 (a key verse in Scripture).
After the great promises of chapter 15, we have chapter 16. Here Abraham grows weak in the faith again. He listens to his wife, and he takes Hagar as a second wife.
Some reasons for what takes place in Chapter 16: first, maybe Abraham does not see how God can possibly fulfill the promise because of his age--he may be about 85 now. Second, maybe because of the length of time between the promise of chapter 12 and the events of 16 --- maybe about 10 years. Third, maybe because of his wife's doubts about the Lord--the idea was hers.
Chapter 17, Abraham is 99 years old. So it has been at least 25 years since Genesis 12, and maybe as much as 59 years (the first call was in Gen. 11:27-32, at which time Abraham may have been only 40; see The Chronology of the Bible, by Frank Kassen). God renews the promise again, adding several details to the promise -- many nations, kings from him, the land of Canaan named and given to him. Now the physical sign of the promise is given, circumcision. This chapter also changes Abram's name to Abraham and Saria's name to Sarah.
Chapter 20, Abraham again goes where he has no buisness going, Gerar. Here he again misleads a king, King Abimelech, concerning his beautiful 90 year old wife (she is about 10 years younger than Abraham).
God in his mercy again protects and prospers Abraham.
Over a period of at least 25 years, and maybe as much as 60 years, here is what we have:
First, Abraham had been given exceeding great and precious promises by the Lord.
Second, Abraham believed those promises enough to take action.
Third, a famine caused Abraham to "lose faith," and go somewhere he had no business going.
Fourth, God renewed the promise to Abraham.
Fifth, Abraham again grows weak, listens to his wife and takes another wife. Ishmeal is born
Sixth, God again confirms the promise to Abraham.
Seventh, Abraham again goes where he should not go, and misleads the king concerning his wife.
Genesis 21, after at least 25 years with no physical sign of the promise being fulfilled, the promised child is born, Isaac.
In Chapter 22, Abraham is told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, at a place that God would show him. For three days, Abraham and his only son traveled to the place appointed by God. The location of v. 4 is said to be the same place Christ was sacrificed upon the cross.
Abraham's confidence in the Lord by this time was so strong that he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead if needed:
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Let me draw two conclusions from the above account of Abraham.
Abraham had been given a "vision" by God. Many great and precious promises were given, and his hope was enlarged several times over a period of 25-60 years (he died at 175).
However, over the many years, Abraham's "vision" collapses several times. His hope was dashed several times, but each time, his hope was strengthened to the final point where he was able to trust God to raise his only son from the dead if needed. At that point, Abraham was able to put the fulfillment of the hope given to him by the Lord totally in the hands of the Lord.
He was able to say with Job, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (1:21.) Job said, What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (2:10.)
When their hope died, Abraham and Job (who probably lived at about the same time) both were able to encourage themselves in the Lord.
1 Samuel 30:1 And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; 2 And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. 3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. 4 Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 5 And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. 6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
David expresses his confidence:
Psalms 37:1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. 6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
God has given us many exceeding and precious promises. We claim those promises for our ourselves, for our families and loved ones, for our occupation, for our church, for our communities. Our hopes get up, as no doubt Abraham's did in Genesis 12. But over a period of time, we see those promises fail, so we feel the Lord has forgotten about us, or that we misunderstood the promises, or that the promises just don't work for us.
It took at least 25 years for the promise of a child to come to pass for Abraham, and he never did possess the land. If the father of faith, Abraham, grew weak in the faith, how much more prone are we to discard the promises of God when they do not come to pass as we feel they should?
When our hope is dashed, we must learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord.
We are clearly shown that God's promise to Abraham was not based upon his good works any more than salvation is based upon our good works. Twice Abraham moved out of the perfect will of God; twice he lied about his wife, and once he took another wife when he grew weak in the faith.
Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Though we are told by Paul how we must live as Christians, he also points out that it is not our good works that save us. We are saved by the washing of regeneration, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
No matter how hopeless situations might appear, they are not as hopeless as Abraham faced when he was told to sacrifice his son.
No matter how much we may fall short of what the Lord has told us to do, we are saved by grace through faith.