God called Abram and told him to settle in the land of Canaan. God gave Abram specific promises:
- He will become a great nation.1
- All peoples on earth will be blessed through him (that referred to the Messiah).2
- The land Canaan (Israel) would be the property of his descendants. 3
# God is very specific about who He is.
He is not just any deity. God’s promises are closely tied to who He is. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (the Jewish people who now live in Israel). 4 This specific God made the specific three above promises to the three descendants in that family.
# Did they receive it?
No! Hebrews 11:13 is clear, ‘All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.’
# Does that verse mean that God failed?
- No. It means that their faith was a ‘guarantee’ of things to come ( things that we can also hope in). When the apostle Paul defended himself before king Agrippa, he said, ‘…it is because of my hope in what God promised our fathers that I am on trial today.’ 5
- Paul understood that there will be a resurrection and that some of God’s promises will only be fulfilled then. He said, ‘Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?’ 6
# God did not promise Himself into a corner.
- God could make those promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because His whole plan was worked out before He began to create this present universe. His magnificent goal and project is a New, Eternal Kingdom.
- As the all-powerful God He had the resurrection of Jesus in view from the beginning. It would lead to the resurrection of all people.
- Through the resurrection, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live in God’s new country and they will see their offspring through the Messiah – all the people who were saved and prepared for eternal life.
We can have full confidence that what God promised will happen. ‘God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil? 7 O course not. If it is in the Bible it will happen. We can trust God and His promise of the future Kingdom and all its blessings
- Genesis 12:2; 22:15-18
- Galatians 3:16
- Exodus 3:15
- Genesis 15:18
- Acts 26:6
- Acts 26:8
- Numbers 23:19
Why do we follow Jesus? Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ 1 It is a privilege to follow Jesus, pray, study the Word, et cetera, but it does cost. As humans, we naturally ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ (See ‘What’s in it for me?’) Our generous, perfect Father God promised us eternal life as a reward. Yet, what will convince us that the exciting glorious future will become true?
# What does Scripture guarantee us?
‘No eye has seen, no ear had heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him….’ 2 The next verse tells us, ‘…but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.’ 3
# Did the Old Testament promises come true?
- God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants will inherit the land of Canaan. 4 Abraham received the promise around 2,000 BC. Today, 2018, many of Abraham’s descendants, the Jews, live in the land God promised them. It is a unique event in history. Never before has a nation suffered so much and yet come back to the land God promised to their ancestors thousands of years ago. That unlikely promise of God to a man married to a barren woman became true.
- God also promised Abraham, ‘I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.’ 5 He repeated it to Jacob, ‘Your descendants will be like the dust of he earth….’ 6 It sounds like fiction. The number of Jews today in Israel and scattered over the world cannot be like the sand on the seashore. Could this promise become a reality?
# God’s answer in the New Testament
- ‘Understand then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.’ 7 That means all followers of Jesus are Abraham’s descendants, his children.
- Jesus explains it in the parable in Luke 16:19-23. The beggar, Lazarus, who laid at the gate of the rich man’s house, died. The rich man also died and was shocked by what he saw, ‘In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.’
- That means Abraham welcomes to his side (in his bosom, or in his arms) every believer who dies. The rich man correctly addressed Abraham as ‘Father Abraham.’
Please note: There must be billions of believers at Abraham’s side already. The numbers grow daily as believers die and translate into Abraham’s presence. That means God’s second improbable promise to Abraham became true.
Four thousand years ago God promised to Abraham a country and numerous descendants. Both became true. It testifies to the truth of God’s Word. Are there more examples of ‘strange’ promises of God that became true – fulfilled promises that boost our faith in our future destination?
- Mark 8:34
- 1 Corinthians 2:9
- 1 Corinthians 2:10
- Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8; 26:4; 28:13
- Genesis 22:17
- Genesis 28:14a
- Galatians 3:7
People think the Bible is about religion, but we beg to differ. It is about reality. God is real, His Kingdom is real and what He does has to do with reality. For example, Israel is living proof that the God of the Bible is alive and well and keeps His promises:
# Abraham was the original ancestor of the nation of Israel.
- God called Abraham to move from Haran and go to Canaan, about 1921 BC (nearly 2,000 years before Christ). 1
- God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ 2
- The history of Abraham’s descendants had many ups and downs. There were two exiles where they were removed from their promised land (first by the Babylonians from 605-586 BC and then by the Romans in 70-136 AD). From then on they were banned from Jerusalem, except for the Passover Feast.
- Then the miracle happened. In 1948 on May 18, ‘for the first time since September 8, A.D. 70, the Holy Land by official Gentile action belonged to the Jews.’ 3 The Jewish state is living proof that God kept His promise to Abraham.
# God would bless all people on earth through Abraham.
‘…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ 4 The promise has to do with Jesus. He was a descendant of Abraham and through Jesus all nations on earth have the potential to be blessed. The followers of Jesus are part of the multitudes who have been blessed through Jesus.
# God promised blessings to Israel’s friends and curses to its enemies.
- God promised that those who curse Abraham’s descendants will be cursed and those who bless them will be blessed. ‘…I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.’ 5
- Abraham’s descendants, almost like Jesus, are hated without reason. People invent false reasons on which to base their hostility. It all boils down to hatred of God. But God warned people that it is a dangerous exercise to curse Israel, as many do.
# Are the Jews as numerous as the stars in the sky?
- Did God’s promise to Abraham come true that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky? 6 It doesn’t seem so because Israel is a small nation.
- Yet Galatians 3:7 says, ‘Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.’ So not only the Jews but also gentile children of God through Jesus, are Abraham’s descendants.
- Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to illustrate this. The rich man is in hell after his death (he probably did not prepare for eternity but concentrated only on material wealth). The poor man is in heaven at Abraham’s side. 7
- So Abraham welcomes every person who dies as a believer in Christ, in heaven, as another of his children. There must be multitudes of Abraham’s ‘descendants’ already in heaven with him – as numerous as the stars in the sky.
# Remarkable hatred against God
- The following scene describes the hostility against God, ‘When the thousand years are over [while Satan will be in the Abyss], Satan will be released and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth…. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city He loves.’ 8
- Look at the remarkable fact. For a thousand years the devil will be inactive. The moment he is released, he begins to deceive people to prepare to attack God’s city, Jerusalem. Isn’t it a remarkable proof that he is alive and hates God and His people?
- Incidentally, that is also the devil’s last act of rebellion on this earth, ‘And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into to the lake of burning sulphur.’ 9 Then the devil will inherit his final destination where he will be tormented day and night for ever.
The hatred of the devil and those he influences against God’s people, is an outstanding evidence in real life that there is a God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is alive and well. Israel is living proof of the living God and we can trust Him to fulfil His promises.
- Genesis 12:1-3
- Genesis 15:18
- Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, Dr H L Willmington, Tyndale House Publishers, inc., 1981, p 977
- Genesis 12:3b
- Genesis 12:3a
- Genesis 15:5
- Luke 16:22-23
- Revelation 20:7-9
- Revelation 20:10