Some of you play soccer and some don’t, but I doubt if anyone watching the game would have trouble understanding it. You kick a ball and try to get it in the opposite net. The same is not true for cricket, rugby and football. You have to watch it many times and have it explained before you understand it. It is clear that there is some kind of a plan to these games, but it is pretty fuzzy exactly what that plan is.
Some books you read are like that. Some have a simple clear story line, but I have read books that are very obscure and you really can’t figure out if they are going anywhere. I usually stop reading books like that.
When we read the Bible, we may wonder if there is a plan. I suspect that there are many people who stop reading the Bible because they just don’t get what it is all about.
We may have thought about that during the last two messages on Genesis. Three weeks ago we studied Genesis 3 which talks about sin and we examined how sin permeates our world. Last Sunday, we looked at the story of the flood and saw how God hates sin and destroys evil. It was not very encouraging to read about sin and God’s wrath on sin. However, in both of these messages we have already noted the hint of a message of hope. Today, as we look further, we will magnify the hope which is contained in these early chapters of the Bible. We will be encouraged to know that it is not all bad news. We will discover the wonder that what is happening in the world is not random acts which make no sense, but that God has a plan, a plan that gives hope and a future. It was present already back in those ancient days and is still present with us today.
How far back can you trace your genealogy? Because of war and being refugees and a lot of moves, I can’t go back much more than the late 1700’s in some family lines and less in others. For example, I know very little about my Toews side of the family.
Some of you are very interested in genealogies, but I wonder how many of you have studied the ones in the Bible. We used to call them the “begats” from the KJV translation which always talks about one person who begat another person. We don’t talk like that any more, but changing the language has not helped us actually read the genealogies. We still avoid them, skim over or even skip over them. That is OK most of the time, but sometime, I would encourage you to study the genealogies, because there is a very important lesson to be learned in them.
Let me show you. There are 5 lines of genealogy in the early chapters of Genesis. There are lines for the two sons of Adam - Cain and Seth and then there are lines for the three sons of Noah - Shem, Ham and Japheth.
As you can see from the chart of the line of Cain, it is traced perhaps one or two generations down and then we know nothing more. On the other hand, the line of Seth is traced from one generation to another until we get to Noah. It is going somewhere.
After Noah, as we examine the descendants of Ham and Japheth, we see the same kind of thing which happened with Cain. The line is traced for one or two generations and then it is dropped. The line of Shem, however, is traced from one generation to another until we get to Abram.
Why are the lines of Seth and Shem traced so far? Because they are going somewhere. Where are they going? It is clear that the line of Seth goes to Noah - a significant person in God’s plan. It is also clear that the line of Shem goes to Abram - another significant person in God’s plan. Why this direction? Because already in these early Biblical records, we are made aware through the way the genealogies are displayed that God has a plan. As we follow the rest of the descendants of Abram throughout the Bible, we come finally to the most important person in God’s plan and that is Jesus Christ. The New Testament, clarifies this when it says in Matthew 1:1, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…”
Although we avoid the genealogies they serve this significant function. The genealogies tell us that God has a plan. The New Testament clarifies the plan when we notice that it involves Jesus.
After Noah, the next significant person is Abram and in his life we discover more about the plan of God. How is God’s plan developed in the life of Abram? Listen to what God says to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3
After so many verses that give us the bad news, we now begin to hear words that sound a little more like good news. God chose Abram to carry his plan forward and He made some pretty powerful promises to Him. There are three main promises that God made to Abraham here, which reveal His plan.
The first promise, is included in the statement, “I will make you into a great nation.” How do you become a great nation? Through descendants. At this point in his life, Abram was 75 years old. He and his wife had no children. How would he become a great nation? The promise is expanded in 12:7 after Abram had entered the land of Canaan. There God made a promise “to your offspring.” At this time, Abram had no offspring, but it didn’t seem to be a great problem to him.
In the next chapter, after Lot and Abram separated because there wasn’t room for them to care for all of their herds and flocks, God once again promised in 13:16, “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.”
Somewhere within the next eleven years, we are not exactly sure, Abram still had no children, no descendants and he began to wonder how God was going to fulfill this promise. In Genesis 15:2, Abram began to ask God about this. He said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” But God kept making the same promise and responded to Abram’s question by saying in the next verse, “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir...Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
In Genesis 16:1 we are again reminded that Sarai still had no children. At this point both Abram and Sarai were getting worried and so they hatched a scheme to have offspring. The scheme they hatched was not unusual in that culture and it worked. When Abram was 86 years old, he had a son by his wife’s maid and they name him Ishmael. Abram thought that God’s will has begun to be fulfilled and God let him think that for another 13 years.
When Abram was 99, he had only one child and that one not from his wife. At this point, God appeared to Abram again and gave him the promise once again. So powerful was the promise this time that he gave him a new name and instead of Abram, he would be called Abraham, which means “father of many nations.” When Abram suggested that he was happy with Ishmael being his descendent, God responded that he would have a son whose name would be Isaac and who would be the son of promise and at age 100 years, Isaac was born.
God made a promise to him that he would become a great nation. How was that promise fulfilled? Ishmael was born to him and 17:18-20 promised that he would become the father of 12 tribes. Isaac was born to Abraham and becomes the father of 2 sons - Esau who became the father of the Edomites and Jacob who became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then we read in Genesis 25:1-4 that after Sarah died, Abraham married again and that he had other children with his second wife who also became a number of nations.
God made a promise to Abram that he would make him a great nation. As we read on we are amazed to see how God did it, even though his wife was barren, eventually God gave a child through her who become the line of promise, but also gave many other children to Abram who became nations. God keeps His promises! God carries out His plan!
The second aspect of promise that is included in the phrase in Genesis 12:3 that “I will make you into a great nation” is the promise of a land. Abram was told to leave his home land and go to the land of promise and when he had obeyed God and gotten to the land of promise, God reiterated the promise in 12:7, “to your descendants, I will give this land.”
The promise was repeated in 13:14-17 after Abram had allowed Lot to take whatever land he wanted. God brought him to a high mountain and showed him all the land around and said, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
The promise was also repeated in chapter 15:18-21 when God again said, “I give this land” and further describes the boundaries of the land. There we read about some of the details of the promise - how they would be enslaved for 400 years and then come out, but that does not minimize the promise. It is repeated again in chapter 17:8 saying, “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Once again we see how God made and kept his promise. By the end of Abraham’s life, we know that Abraham only inherited a burial plot for his wife and a few of his descendants in the land, but eventually, particularly in the days of Solomon, the promise was fulfilled. God gave the land according to promise and had indeed made Abraham a great nation!
The further promise is that of blessing, but we want to look at this in two parts.
First of all, we need to take note of the way in which God blessed Abraham in his life. Notice how many times the word “bless” appears in 12:2,3. When we read this it is clear that Abram was a lucky guy, God was going to give him a lot of good things. “The Lord will actively intervene on Abram’s side.”
The first indication of the fulfillment of this promise is found in 12:10-20 when Abram is in Egypt. In spite of his mistakes, two things happen in Egypt. First of all, Abram was protected by God and nothing bad happened to Abram or to Sarai. In fact, a curse fell on the Egyptians because of Abram. God specially blessed and protected Abram. Furthermore, we read that when Abram left Egypt, he left with a lot of stuff. God had blessed him with many possessions as we read in Genesis 13:2, “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.”
A second indication of the special blessing on Abram is seen in chapter 14 in the story of the kings who form an alliance and end up capturing Lot. Abram headed out to rescue Lot and was successful, with a mere 318 men, which should make us realize that he was blessed. When they came back from the rescue mission, he encountered a king whose name was Melchizedek. This man, who had a special relationship with God, reinforced the promises previously made and blessed Abram, as recorded in 14:19 when he said to him, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.”
In these and other incidents throughout his life, we see how this promise was also fulfilled. God had chosen Abram and had his special hand of blessing on him.
All of these promises - descendants, land and blessing are part of the indication of God’s plan. He chose Abraham for his special purposes and had a plan for his life and his descendants after him. God was at work!
But the most significant of the promises is that made in 12:3 when God promised Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Up to this point, we have only seen things that pertain to the nation of Israel. These are things that are interesting because they tell us about God and how he works, but they are really history of long ago. But when we read, “all nations on earth will be blessed through you,” we need to wake up and take note. Who is “all nations?” We are all nations. This says that we have experienced blessing because of Abram. This has something to do with us. It tells us that the plan of God pertains to us! As we look through the chapters that follow, we do not see anything that would indicate a fulfillment of this promise. Where do we find its fulfillment? How does it apply to us?
The answer is found in the New Testament. It is amazing how many times Abraham and the promises made to Abraham are mentioned in the New Testament. When Mary became pregnant with Jesus, she sang a song of praise to God and said in that song, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” In her song she recognized that the promises made to Abraham were being fulfilled in her son Jesus.
When John the Baptist was born and Zechariah was able to speak, he prophesied about the significant role John would have in fulfilling God’s plan by preparing the way for God’s anointed. In Luke 1:73, he also spoke about “the oath he swore to our father Abraham.” He recognized that the promise made to Abraham was about to be fulfilled in his son, John, and the one whom his son would prepare for, who is Jesus.
Numerous other passages in the New Testament make this connection. One of the clearest is Acts 3:25, which says, “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’” In a context of preaching about Jesus, Peter made this connection indicating that the promise of blessing to all peoples on earth had now been fulfilled in Jesus.
Thus we see that this promise of God, made so very long ago to one man Abram when he was wandering in the desert with his wife, nephew and possessions has been fulfilled. So long ago, we already have indication that God had a plan and from the perspective of the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of that plan, a fulfillment that is focussed on Jesus.
We rejoice as we read these Old Testament stories and discover that God has a plan. It is in God’s plan that all of the things we have examined this morning come together.
Genealogies point in a direction and ultimately point to one person. The blessings given to Abram culminate in one person. God has fulfilled his plan in that one person - Jesus Christ. Through the line of Abraham - Jesus came to this world, which was God’s plan from the beginning.
God has fulfilled his plan because Jesus is the Saviour from sin for the whole world. A few weeks ago when we looked at the terrible devastation caused by sin, it introduced the hopeless situation in which we all find ourselves in this world. We sin, there is no way to change that, we suffer under guilt and we experience the tragic consequences of sin in its violence and destruction of the world and all its inhabitants. But God’s plan provided Jesus who died and made possible forgiveness of sins and a way to become free from the guilt and power of sin.
When we looked at the flood story and saw that God hates sin and must destroy all who sin, we felt the power of God’s warning and His wrath on sin. But today we rejoice as we recognize that God had a plan and has fulfilled his plan in Jesus Christ. Jesus death and resurrection have made it possible to receive forgiveness and so to be given the gift of eternal life.
This plan of God is, as was promised from the beginning, a plan for “all nations on the earth.” Although the plan of God was carried out through the one family line of Abraham, it is expanded to the entire world and is for all people. Jesus is the Saviour of the world.
As we recognize the wonder of God’s plan, the question that we must answer is, “am I included in God’s plan?” It is not enough that God has a plan. Throughout the life of Abraham, we see that it was the faith of Abraham which allowed him to become a part of God’s plan. In Genesis 15:6 it says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This verse is repeated in the gospel presentations of the New Testament. It is still faith which allows us to be a part of this plan. Have you expressed faith in Jesus as the one who has forgiven your sins and given you eternal life? If not, I invite you to accept God’s plan and receive the gracious gift He has for you.
If you have, in a moment, we will have an opportunity to give thanks to God for His plan, for Jesus who fulfills His plan and to praise Him as we observe the Lord’s supper.