By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
What Is God's Promise to Abraham?
In Genesis 11 we are introduced to the person of Abraham, he was Abram at the time. During this introduction, we see that he set out with his father Terah, his wife Sarai (who would become Sarah), and his nephew Lot. Leaving from Ur of the Chaldeans they set out for Canaan but ended up settling in Harran. It is from Harran that God spoke to Abraham and gave him this instruction and this promise. The Lord had said to Abram,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“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.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3
This was not only an incredible promise but it was an incredible ask because Abraham was 75 at the time and God was asking him to leave everything he knew. Abraham didn’t even know where he was going yet; in spite of this, he obeyed God and went anyway. I’ll be honest I don’t know if I could have done that. Imagine God asking you now to sell everything, take your family, pack up the moving truck, start driving and I will tell you where to go. Like I said that was a big ask. Yet there are some things to know about God’s promise to Abraham that can be an encouragement to you and I today.
Here are five things to know:
1. It didn’t make sense based on Abraham’s circumstances.
After asking him to leave the first thing God did was to tell Abraham he would make him into a great nation. This didn’t make sense, as Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah was not only past the childbearing years, she couldn’t have children when she was in those childbearing years. This is one reason that demonstrates how much faith Abraham had. He obeyed God and trusted his promise when there was no way possible for him to decipher how God would make it happen, yet he obeyed anyway. For you and I God’s promises often work the same way. They are usually made when the situation and circumstances don’t match what God is telling you. Yet that is the beauty of God’s promises they don’t have to. God is not limited by your circumstances. He is able to move and do in spite of your circumstances, which is exactly what he did with Abraham.
2. He was blessed to be a blessing.
There is a simple truth to the blessing of God on Abraham’s life. God blessed him so that he could bless others. This truth is not just for Abraham it is true for you and I as well. When God blesses he never intends for it to be kept to yourself. That goes against God’s character. God takes from his best and shares it with you. He expects you to do the same. Everything God gives you may be for your enjoyment but it is not for your exclusivity. God blessed Abraham so he could be a blessing. God blesses you for the same reason. Whatever degree God has blessed you, you should in turn bless others. If God has given you great wisdom and knowledge, bless others with it. If he has given you artistic and creative ability, bless others with it. If he has given you leadership and business acumen, bless others with it. Whether God has given you much or little you should bless others with it. I believe sometimes it’s one of the things about God’s promise to Abraham that can be overlooked.
How Did God Fulfill His Promise to Abraham?
3. The promise of Genesis 12:3 has greater reach.
In verse 3, here is God’s promise to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse."
Most of the time this promise is viewed in relationship to Israel and rightfully so. But I want to add another thought to this promise because this promise has a greater reach than just Israel. I think there is probably a question mark in your head right now so let me explain. This promise did not just apply to Abraham but to Abraham’s seed. Because of this there are two parts of this promise that are relevant for us today.
First, the greatest offspring that came from Abraham’s lineage was Jesus Christ. Therefore, this blessing and cursing does not just apply to the way you treat Israel it applies to the way you treat Jesus. For those who bless Jesus, God will bless them. For those who curse Jesus, God will curse them. Second, however, this promise also applies to those who are in Christ. Consider these 3 scriptures.
"Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." – Ephesians 2:12-13
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household." – Ephesians 2:19
"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." – Ephesians 3:6
God’s promise to Abraham, especially the part in Genesis 12:3 goes beyond the nation of Israel. Paul is clear here that those who are Gentiles have now been included in this citizenship in Israel. Therefore the promise of Genesis 12:3, while still relevant for the people of Israel, also extends to everyone who is found in Christ. If you are in Christ then this promise applies. Those that bless you God will bless and those that curse you God will curse.
4. All the nations of the earth have been blessed.
Of all the things to know about God’s promise to Abraham, this one was probably the hardest to execute. How would it be possible that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of Abraham? Remember this is an eternal promise because God did not put an expiration date on it. The fulfillment of this promise is not in Abraham himself or the nation of Israel. The fulfillment of this promise is in Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus and the sacrifice that he made it is now possible that all the nations of the earth can be blessed and God can fulfill this promise he made to Abraham. When God made this promise to Abraham I believe God was thinking well beyond the nation of Israel. I believe he was thinking of all those who would eventually be part of his family because of the sacrifice of Jesus, thereby blessing all the nations of the world.
5. It wasn’t about Abraham, it was about God.
The last thing I want you to know about God’s promise to Abraham is that it was dependent on God to bring it to pass, not Abraham. Here is what God promised to do.
-I will show you where to go.
-I will make you into a great nation.
-I will bless you.
-I will make your name great.
-I will make you a blessing to others.
-I will bless those who bless you.
-I will curse those who curse you.
-I will bless all the people on earth through you.
Eight times God said I will. There was only one requirement necessary to set these promises of God in motion. Abraham had to go. He didn’t have to work it out. He didn’t have to figure it out. He didn’t have to make it happen. He didn’t have to try to bring them to pass. All he had to do was go. This same truth applies in your life with the promises of God. It is up to God to bring them to pass. It is up to you to act in faith and obedience. Don’t worry about the how, trust in the Who. If God says I will, like he did for Abraham, he will do for you.
The beautiful thing about God is he has not changed. His promises have not changed either. He is still the promise keeper and most of all he can be trusted. Abraham trusted God’s promise and though he didn’t live to see the fulfillment of everything God said, his faith set in motion the plan of God to be fulfilled. I encourage you today to be like Abraham and trust God’s promise. Whether he fulfills it all in your lifetime or not you can know for sure that God will do what he has said he will do.
Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Inner_Vision
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.