In the name of the F, S, and HS.
We begin our look at Jesus this morning with Abraham. A lot has happened since last week with Adam. There was a murder, a bunch of births, corruption, a flood, the rebirth of the world and a rainbow, an attempted coup, and then we have the birth of Abram. Through all this corruption and death, the people of the world forgot God. This was actually forced on humanity, because they were trying to seize that which, at this point, they had no claim.
In the episode of the Tower of Babel, we find humanity attempting to make a city of their own, a tower that allowed them access to heaven, and they were trying to create a name for themselves that was distinct from God. It is important to point out here, that the word for name in Hebrew is “shem.” The very next passage, the one right before our passage today is the descendants of Shem—the creation of the Semite people—the people of a name. And this leads us to Abram and the reintroducing of God to his people.
Today we have the call of Abram—later Abraham—and the making of promises that will later be turned into official oaths made by God to Abraham in his covenant. Covenants are the way in which God slowly reveals more about himself to his people. This covenant promises Abraham three things, God will give him, 1) an heir which will turn into a great nation, 2) land, and 3) blessing.
God is establishing a people by which he can reveal himself to the rest of creation. He is going to use the “people with a name” to show the rest of the world that this is the name by which they should seek to be known. Abraham and his eventual nation are to be an example and that example is going to be the entry point of all humanity. “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
So as history progresses we should expect to see these things slowly played out. Slowly, because it wouldn’t be a promise if it was immediately given realized, that would be called a gift. It is slowly played out in the course of history, but this only shows us that God has taken an interest in humanity—specifically the descendants of Abraham.
The heir is the first promise to be realized. This necessarily had to be fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime; he had to have a son for a nation to be born. So at the tender young age of 100 (he lived to be 175), he becomes a father by Sarai, a father to the heir of the promise.
The next promise is fulfilled many years later under Joshua, when the Israelite people finally take possession of the Promised Land. It should have happened under Moses, but the people rebelled and then they were forced to wonder the wilderness for 40 years—a little time-out for bad behavior. But it is nonetheless fulfilled in due time and they do indeed inhabit the land and become a great nation.
The third promise is a bit tricky so we will come to that a bit later. But here we have the mighty Israelite people—now a kingdom, and a kingdom to which other nations look to for guidance and as a model. During Solomon’s reign, rulers of foreign nations would come from far and wide to pay tribute to him and to seek his great wisdom. But this is where the Israelites jump the shark.
Solomon’s reign, for all its glory, ends up in the removal of the blessing of God upon the Davidic monarchy and the kingdom of Israel and they fracture into two kingdoms, north and south. And eventually this Northern Kingdom is overtaken by the Assyrians and taken off into exile—never to be heard from again.
Next the Southern Kingdom is defeated and sent off into its own exile—this time by the Babylonians. They get to come back under the Medo-Persians, but they are not ruling it. This was followed by the Greeks who even desecrated the Temple, which was followed by the Romans. And this brings us to the time of Jesus.
Just a quick recap: by the time of Jesus, the Jews had lost the Promised Land, one of the three promises of God to Abraham in an everlasting covenant. The great nation that was promised through the heir was now little more than a piece of real estate that larger empires would inhabit on their way to attack other empires. The blessing that was promised never really came about. Right when they had the opportunity in Solomon to establish this, he fumbled the hand off and the other side recovered the ball. So God’s promises for his everlasting covenant, by the time of Jesus, stand at 0 for 3—an impressive stat for an all-powerful, all-knowing God. It seems as though this everlasting covenant is a complete bust.
But that is the beauty of an everlasting covenant—it goes on forever. It actually was not properly fulfilled until the birth of Jesus. Jesus, as Matthew points out in his genealogy, is “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” thus making him an heir of Abraham. That whole heir thing was a little fuzzy in Abraham’s day, being that he had two sons Ishmael—the firstborn—and Isaac—the heir.
As we all know, there is still fighting today as to who was the heir. But the ultimate fulfillment of the promise is when it is firmly established and cannot be taken away. So this promise of an heir through which every family on earth would be blessed was not realized until Jesus was born. So Jesus is also the Second Isaac.
Jesus also comes to provide us with the real Promised Land—heaven. Israel the plot of land is good, but it is imperfect—it has proved to be an unattainable promise. It is not even today fully held by any one group, so, as with Jesus Christ being the ultimate realization of the heir, the ultimate realization of the Promised Land must be heaven. Once in heaven, it cannot be taken away—not by the will of the person—for in heaven one can no longer sin—nor can it be taken away by force—since Satan has been beaten once for all time. Only heaven can be the ultimate realization of the promise of an everlasting covenant with Abraham.
And finally all nations were to be blessed by Israel. The ultimate goal of this blessing was their inclusion into the promises of Abraham—into his covenant. God favored Abraham to reintroduce himself to humanity and to allow them to attain the name which they were so adamant to attain by themselves in the story of the Tower of Babel. This was fulfilled by the inclusion of the Gentiles, which began in the ministry of Jesus and became official in the ministry of Paul. The ultimate realization of this will also be fulfilled in Jesus as all of creation that wishes to will be included into heaven.
To sum up: Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the promises made to Abram today in our OT lesson. He is the ultimate realization of the promised heir. He gives access to the ultimate realization of the Promised Land. And he is the way in which the ultimate realization of the blessing of every family on earth in their incorporation into the body of Christ.
The depth of which God loves us is that he is the ultimate keeper of his promises. He does not forget when he promises something, rather he is steadfast in his remembrance and faithful to see them to their ultimate fulfillment. More on this next week.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.