God’s Promises to Abram – The Whole Bible

The last two weeks of our Bible overview set up the problem that the rest of the Bible answers. Sin has broken God’s perfect world, what is God going to do?

If it was us, we might have wiped the slate clean and started again. God doesn’t do that though. Instead he makes a covenant, or a set of promises, about how he will restore things so that once again God’s people will live in God’s place under God’s perfect rule and blessing.

He makes this promise to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3:

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

(Gen. 12:1-3 ESV)

The promise of land is there in v.1. The promise of being a great people is there in v.2. The promise of blessing is there in vv.2-3. For Abram and his wife Sarai this is a particularly tough call. They’re a childless older couple and so there are various confirmations and re-iterations of this covenant to them (see Genesis 15 and 17) including changing Abram’s name to Abraham (a change of meaning from exalted father to father of many). And eventually in their old age, their son Isaac is born.

In many ways this is a basic gospel story. God makes promise to deal with sin and restore his perfect creation and the right response is faith. In Genesis 15:6 we find that because Abraham trusted in God’s promises he was counted as righteous, which is something that Paul applies to us in Romans 4. Salvation is not by our works, but by faith in God and his covenant (which, as we will see, is going to be fully worked out in Jesus).

Abraham sees only the smallest fulfilment of the promises (his son Isaac), but the promises go down through the generations (see Genesis 26:24; 28:13-15) and gradually we see the people of the Israel grow in number, so that in Exodus 1 we read:

But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

(Exod. 1:7 ESV)

The only problem is that “the land” in that verse is Egypt, not the land God has promised them. So there’s definitely more to come next week…