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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, November 30 2023

God's promises to Abraham

Shortly after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a Savior, who would bring judgment on the serpent, identified in Revelation 12:9 as Satan the devil: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

This promised redemptive work of the Messiah, our Savior, is the foundational promise God made to humanity, paving the way for salvation through Jesus Christ. God also made many promises to Abraham, whose relationship with God was so close that James tells us he was called the "friend of God" (James 2:23).

Abraham’s descendants were to become millions of people in many nations. God even changed his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning "father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5; Romans 4:17-18), and promised: “...I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered" (Genesis 13:16, also Genesis 15:5 and 22:17).

Abraham was also the recipient of territorial promises. His descendants were to receive the "Promised Land," which is the area they settled after God brought them out of Egyptian captivity (Genesis 15:7 and 13:15). Another promise God made Abraham had far reaching international significance, with every nation benefitting: "... I will…make your name great;…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" (Genesis 12:2-3 and Genesis 18:18).

Genesis 49 explains the same blessings God promised Abraham were passed on to his great-great-grandchildren, the 12 sons of Jacob. Most of the blessings were physical in nature, however one of Abraham's great-great-grandsons, Judah, received a special promise. The scepter—the pledge of royalty which would eventually include the Messiah—would not depart from Judah's line of descendants "until Shiloh comes." (Genesis 49:10). Most commentators agree that "Shiloh" is a reference to the Messiah, and later prophets confirm the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Matthew 1:1-25 and Luke 3:1-38 list the genealogy of Christ through Joseph and Mary, showing He was descended from Judah.

Abraham possessed a spiritual trait that was vital to his receiving these promises from God. He had great confidence God would fulfill His promises, and God viewed Abraham's faith as righteousness. Even though Abraham was not perfect, God regarded him as a righteous man because he deeply believed in and obeyed God. "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:20-22, also Genesis 15:6 and 22:18).

God chose to carry out His plan through Abraham rather than someone else because “... I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him" (Genesis 18:19). "... And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:4-5).

These crucial passages in Genesis tell us God gave Abraham the promises because he had faith that was evident by his obedient actions. Because of his confidence in God, Abraham put his heart into trying to accomplish all God had commanded him. He also faithfully taught his children to follow God's way of life.

Abraham is also mentioned prominently in the list of God's faithful servants in Hebrews 11:8-12. Yet neither he nor those who came after him have, as yet, received the promises of the eternal inheritance God made to him, but God has not forgotten them. "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Christians, those "baptised into Christ," are also the heirs of Abraham who will receive the eternal aspects of these promises through faith, along with God's people from ancient times who served Him in faith. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26-29). All are to receive their eternal inheritance together, at the same time (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

God wants His servants to exercise the same faith as Abraham. "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:17). "…. He [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'...Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 4:20-22 and 5:1-2).

When exercised properly, faith automatically builds a strong relationship and fellowship with God. He expects us to exercise faith by obeying His commandments then, following Abraham's faithful example to enjoy a friendship and ever-closer relationship with Him.