3 CORE PROMISES COMPRISING THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT THAT DEMAND FAITH AS THE ANTIDOTE TO FEAR, DOUBT AND QUITTING
Remember that it was said of the Lord Jesus as He became incarnate and emptied Himself of the manifestation of His glory and limited Himself to walking around on earth in a human body: “He was tempted in all respects like all of us and yet He never sinned.” If that was true of our Lord, think of how it was true of Abraham.
– He was tempted to fear his many enemies; he could have given in to any number of insecurities – think of the odds he had just faced in rescuing Lot and his family from Ched’s Cohorts – the alliance of 4 powerful kings. Abraham didn’t make any friends there. Think of how fearful he was down in Egypt where he had fled to escape the famine in the land – that was a failure of faith that exposed Sarah to the indignity of being snatched into Pharaoh’s harem.
– He was tempted to doubt God’s promise – where was this seed that would bring so much blessing? Much less innumerable descendants? He must have had confidence issues. Think of the discussions that must have gone on between him and his barren wife. He was driven to seek fleshly alternatives to try to help God with this seemingly impossible expectation.
– He was tempted to give up since the possession of the promises was in the unforeseeable future. Yet Hebrews 11:8-12 tells us that …
Were God’s Promises to him real and tangible and solid or mere Pipedreams??
Abraham is known as a man of faith because that is the defining characteristic that is the antidote to all of these temptations – to fear, to doubt, to quitting.
These are the same temptations that each of us faces today.
– What are your insecurities regarding the future? Centered around finances, around health, around how your kids will do in the future …
– What are your doubts …
– Where are you tempted to throw in the towel and give up?
How are we doing in Believing God?
I. (:1) PROMISE OF ABSOLUTE PROTECTION AND GREAT REWARD –
DON’T FEAR – NEED FAITH NOT TO FEAR BUT ENJOY SECURITY
A. Divine Revelation – Promise of Absolute Protection
“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,”
“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you;”
Parunak: We do not sufficiently appreciate the majesty of God. When he allows his glory to shine forth, even for a moment, the most holy of men must be terrified because of their sin. He and his ministers thus customarily greet those in their favor to whom they appear with these words, “Fear not.” What a blessing it is when God thus greets us, instead of the alternative, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:23; 25:41).
The Lord is personally a shield to Abram – Why did he need a shield? As we already stated, he would have had a wide variety of enemies that would love to settle a score with him.
The Lord not only has our back … He has our front and our side as well; we are surrounded on all sides by the protection of our God
That enables us to take risks … to trust God’s promises; to step out of our comfort zone and live aggressively by faith; in a sense, we are untouchables
Ephes. 6:16 – remember the armor of God – we need to take up the shield of faith
B. Promise of Great Reward
“Your reward shall be very great.”
Remember, Abram had refused reward from the King of Sodom; he found his reward in the Lord
Where are you looking for your reward? Don’t look to find it from the world ….
Don’t live as a man-pleaser seeking the admiration and acclaim of others …
We can’t even comprehend or imagine the great reward that awaits us in the future for a life of faith; a life of serving God and loving others
Esau was willing to give up his birthright for a bowl of stew – don’t make the same mistake
Live in light of Eternity – not trying to maximize the pleasure of the moment; don’t be short-sighted
We have Eternal Security – kept in the hand of the Lord Jesus who has saved us and nobody is able to pluck us out of His hand; our insecurities should melt away as we rest in His protection and anticipate His reward. He Himself is our lot in this life so that we rejoice in the Lord Jesus and serve with great contentment and great anticipation of all we will experience as co-heirs with Christ for all eternity
What are you afraid of? Have faith in the promises of God.
II. (:2-6) PROMISE OF COUNTLESS OFFSPRING –
DON’T DOUBT – NEED FAITH NOT TO DOUBT BUT TO HAVE CONFIDENCE
A. (:2-3) Substitution Theology – Expression of Confusion and Doubt
“And Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.’”
Deffinbaugh: In the Ancient Near East there was a well-attested practice to ensure an heir, even if no son were born to the man.156 The childless couple would adopt one of the servants born into the household. This ‘son’ would care for them in their old age and would inherit their possessions and property at the time of their death. At this low point in Abram’s faith, it was the best for which he thought he could hope.
Parunak: Abram’s question here, and the later one in v.8, show that faith is not blind to the apparent obstacles to God’s promises. However, it brings those concerns back to God, acknowledges his sovereignty, and leans on him. The form of address shows the reverence with which Abram brings this question. He is not challenging God’s statement, but seeking to understand it.
Amillennial perspective – where the OT promises to Israel are said to be just spiritual promises that are applied to the church because of the failure of Israel to believe – that is just another example of Replacement Theology – that is exactly what Abraham was doing here –
God says emphatically: “No, No! Don’t give up on my promises just because you can’t see how I will make it happen.”
B. (:4) Divine Revelation – Promise of Physical Offspring — Statement
“Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.’”
Hughes: Three times previously God had promised Abram a multitude of descendants – initially when he called him in Ur (12:2), then in Canaan at Shechem where he built an altar (12:7), and last from the highest spot in central Palestine as Abram was surveying the promised land in every direction (13:14-16).
C. (:5a) Promise of Countless Offspring – Symbol
“And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’”
Parunak: The point being made is the same as 13:16, “as the dust of the earth.” 22:17 introduces a third, the sand on the seashore. All three emphasize an innumerable progeny.
3 incredible images that convey the same message of countless offspring
– true in a physical sense for Abraham
– true in a spiritual sense for Abraham as the father of all those who believe
Again, we participate in these wonderful promises by way of application; we are the spiritual seed of Abraham
D. (:5b) Promise of Countless Offspring — Statement
“And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”
E. (:6) Response of Faith – Linked to Righteousness
“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
This is the heart of today’s text
Not the initial point of his faith – he believed God when he responded to the initial call back in Ur of the Chaldees (Heb. 11:8); continuing to believe as God provided additional revelation
This faith was focused on the promised seed
Jesus: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad” ( John 8:56).
MacArthur: The Apostle Paul quoted these words as an illustration of faith over and against works (Ro 4:3, 9, 22; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23). Abram was justified by faith.
Cf. Lev. 7:18; Num 18:27; 2 Sam 19:19; Osalm 32:2; 106:31
People in the OT were saved by grace thru faith – that is how righteousness was reckoned to their account – the heart of the doctrine of justification as Paul explains it in the book of Romans
How are we doing in this important area of Confidence?
– We are instructed to come boldly into the presence of God; to bring our petitions before His throne
– As Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, He commanded them: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14
III. (:7-21) PROMISE OF POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND –
DON’T QUIT – NEED FAITH NOT TO GIVE UP BUT TO PERSEVERE
A. (:7) Divine Revelation – Promise of Possession of the Promised Land
“And He said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.’”
This is a very specific land with very specific borders – not some spiritualized concept
[meant to include a map showing all the modern nations this land touches – Turkey, Kuwait, Syria, etc.]
Hughes: monumental language because God would later use an almost identical formula to introduce the Mosaic covenant at Sinai – Ex. 20:2
B. (:8-21) Reassurance of the Promise
1. (:8) Petition for Reassurance and Additional Details
“And he said, ‘O Lord God, how may I know that I shall possess it?’”
Wants more details; more insight – what is going to take place and how long will it be before God’s promise comes to fruition; not an expression of doubt but a sincere desire for more insight
The tone seems similar to that of Mary when told she will be the mother of Messiah: “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34).
2. (:9-11) Preparation of the Covenant Ceremony
“So He said to him, ‘Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.”
5 specific animals that would become standard sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant – not sacrificed here but symbolizing God’s covenant people
Legal act of ratifying a covenant agreement
3. (:12) Peril of the Process Revealed – Nightmare scenario
“Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.”
God was showing Abram in more detail the events that must transpire before his descendants would get to possess the land
4. (:13-16) Prophecy of the Future of the Nation and of Abram
a. (:13-14) Of the Nation – Possession would be the end result of a long, painful
process of oppression and slavery in a foreign land
“And 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.’”
Clearly speaking of bondage in Egypt and God’s deliverance
b. (:15) Of Abram – Peace for Abram – but no quick possession
“And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace;
you shall be buried at a good old age.”
Abram would not personally experience this bondage; died at age of 175
c. (:16) Of the Timeframe
“Then in the fourth generation they shall return here,
for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
Parunak: A delay in judgment occasioned the delay in covenant fulfillment.
Patience of God is emphasized
Steven Cole: “Amorite” is here a general term for all the residents of Canaan. That phrase tells us that God has a predetermined limit to which He allows nations to go in their sin before He steps in and judges them. It shows us the awesome sovereignty of God, who knows in advance when the sins of a nation will be ripe for judgment.
5. (:17-21) Performance of the Covenant
“And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”
Steven Cole: There are different guesses as to what this symbolized. Some say that it meant to invoke that the same thing that happened to the animals might happen to the party who broke the covenant. Others say it pointed to the essential unity of the two parties, and that there is life and strength in unity, death in separation. Thus the two parties were solemnly signifying their commitment to the covenant.
Parunak: The remarkable thing about the ceremony in Gen 15:17 is that only God walks between the pieces of the animals. He takes on himself full responsibility for the fulfillment of the promises. This covenant is unilateral; Abram is asleep through the entire ceremony. God unconditionally grants to him the benefits described in the following section. (This insight is extremely important eschatologically. It means that no failing of Abram’s seed can deprive them of this promise, and thus forms the foundation for the future earthly reign of our Lord Jesus over the earth.)
Steven Cole: boundaries which were approximated under the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 4:21), but which still await complete fulfillment. . .
it’s refreshing to read F. B. Meyer (born in 1847), who wrote, “Somehow the descendants of Abraham shall yet inherit their own land, secured to them by the covenant of God. Those rivers shall yet form their boundary lines: for ‘the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it’” (Abraham [Christian Literature Crusade], p. 72).
Deffinbaugh: The bottom line for Abram was that God’s promise was now much more specific. Abram would have a son of his own through whom blessings would be poured out. Abram’s offspring would be very numerous and, in time, would possess the land. But before this, they would go through a time of delay and great difficulty. . .
he is brought to the realization that faith cannot be separated from suffering, for God uses this to draw men into intimate fellowship with Himself.
Standing on the Promises of God
1. Standing on the promises of Christ, my King, thro’ eternal ages let His praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.
2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.
3. Standing on the promises of Christ, the Lord, bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God.
4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall, list’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God.
Steven Cole: Adoniram Judson, the great 19th century missionary to Burma, lost two wives and several children to death in that difficult land. He saw very little fruit from his labors, and had many discouragements and setbacks. Then a war between England and Burma broke out and Judson, being a foreigner, was imprisoned in squalid conditions. There, sick with fever, he received a letter from a friend who asked, “Judson, how’s the outlook?” Judson penned his classic reply, “The outlook is as bright as the promises of God!”
DON’T FEAR … DON’T DOUBT … DON’T QUIT