The Life of Abraham, Part 17: The LORD’s final Words to Abraham
In the last passage we were left on the mountaintop, spellbound by the rapid turn of events. What had looked like an awful death for Isaac turned out to be supreme joy when the LORD intervened with the promise that He would himself be the sacrifice. Here some 1800 years before Christ is a stunning preview of what would happen at Calvary. No one could do enough to earn the Lord’s favor, not even sacrificing your child, or in the case of Isaac, giving your body to be burned. The saving love would have to be from God Himself. Only His sacrifice would do. When we realize that the LORD of the Old Testament is revealed as Jesus in the New, we must remember that it was the Son of God who called down from heaven. He would one day become flesh and walk among us as Jesus Christ.
Exposition of the Text
The text we are studying today are the last recorded words that the LORD would speak to Abraham. As we noted, Abraham would live 50 more years or so. But in a way, these world are the culmination of the life of Abraham.
Our study began with the calling of Abraham. He had lived some seventy five years before this time in which God worked behind the scenes to prepare him for the journey of faith including the moving from Ur to Haran. This call came out of the blue, and Abraham believed and followed on this impressive journey. The first call was short on details. Abraham was to go to a place where God had prepared. He knew nothing of the land. He had no children, and his nephew Lot was heir. Bit by bit, the LORD revealed more and more of the picture. Jesus tells us that Abraham saw Christ’s day, which is the ultimate destination of the promise. This does not mean he fully understood this, but then again, even we who have a much clearer picture are far from knowing everything either. We learned that the LORD takes His time and that His ways and thoughts are not ours. We learned that when Abraham trusted in himself that trouble occurred that the LORD had to rescue him from. When Abraham trusted in the LORD, even the impossible became possible.
This text picks up on the mount. It says that the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven. In it the LORD swore by His own name as He could not swear by any greater. His oath was in response to Abraham’s covenant loyalty and obedience to His word. Because he had withheld nothing from the LORD, not even His precious son, the LORD was going to bless Abraham and his descendants in an unbelievable manner. His descendants would be so great as to be countless. The LORD had already told Abraham of this earlier, so this is basically reminding Abraham. So is the rest of the promise which the LORD gives Abraham. His descendants would tear down the strongholds and all nations would bless each other using the name of his descendants. With these words, the LORD speaks to Abraham the last words we have in Scripture
We remember that these words were written down by Moses just before his death and the crossing the Jordan River of the children of Israel. They would face great fortified cities and chariots of iron. This would be a reminder of the LORD’s oath to Abraham meant that the LORD would also be with them in the conquest. They were the seed, they were about to possess the land, the New Eden, they were promised life. The presence of God would go before them so that they would have fellowship. They also would have influential dominion over the nations. This would be because of Abraham’s loyalty.
However, a strange twist happens to the story. Israel would not be faithful to the covenant. What looked like the approach of fulfillment of the promise to Abraham was fulfilled only in part. It would soon become evident that these promises to Abraham were farther off than the first Canaan.
Most translations of the text see descendants (seed) as being plural as though this is a promise to Israel. But Paul takes the promise of seed to be singular and not plural. And this seed he sees to be Christ. Isaac and the miracle of his birth was only a pointer to an even greater and more miraculous birth, that of Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus Christ that nations would bless one another. It is the spiritual descendants born of the seed of the spirit which would be like the sand of the sea and the stars of the skies. The physical descendants have always been a small minority in comparison to the world. Even today, they are a few million among billions. The failures of the first nation of Israel show that the promise to Abraham is actually fulfilled in Christ.
The Book of Hebrews lifts up the faith of Abraham as a man who looked for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. This city was a heavenly one. No man could make a city like it. If there was any city like it on earth, Abraham could have gone to it or even back to the advanced city of Ur in his day. We must believe that he saw beyond Canaan to a better land of promise. This was the true goal of the Old Testament saints as well. The writer of Hebrews used the examples of faith of those in the Old Testament to encourage his flock which was undergoing their own wandering from cities from which they had been expelled and their citizenship revoked.
Abraham serves as the model pilgrim who spends his life down here as an alien because he is a citizen of a far greater city. He is a model for us who have to realize that as the gospel song says are “kind of homesick for a country where we have never been before. We have to trust that it will exceed our wildest expectations. We must be willing to wait patiently for it to come.
We began this study of Abraham with God’s promise, and we end it here with God’s sworn promise, a promise which is as much for us as it was for Abraham. We realize that Jesus has gone before us and is in the finishing stages of preparing the heavenly Jerusalem on the new Mt. Zion. The effects of the fall have been reversed by the work of Christ. We are just waiting in pregnant expectation of its arrival. Soon the final pains will be over. This time it won’t be a dashed hope. What was before revealed in types and shadows will have become reality in full. What we have received as a down payment of the Spirit will be without limit.
The story of the Bible is so much bigger than we often make of it. It is far more than just getting along in this world or a book about morality and philosophy. It is an invitation to belong to God’s grand symphony, something so much greater than ourselves, so much greater than our perceived needs.
The journey that Abraham was called to was one of faith. This is the same faith we are called to. We are called to believe the stupendous promises of God which seem beyond all possibility of our attaining. But believing this promise is what we must do if we are to partake in the promise. Those who refuse to believe will not partake of it at all.
We are going to something greater than even Eden. We are going to live life far greater than that Adam and Eve. We will rule and reign a vaster territory than even earth itself. All of the curses will be reversed. We will be part of a great family which will fill the heavens. And we will have eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord. Onward Christian pilgrioms!