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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Gen 12; The Promise

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Portraits of Christ in Genesis 12
“The Promise”

  1. Abraham is the man the New Testament writers use to illustrate our salvation.
    • He was justified through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the Word of God alone, by grace alone, for the glory of God alone.
    • When Jesus’ greatness was being questioned by the Jews, He pointed them back to Father Abraham. (John 8:56-58)
    • The point is that Someone greater than Abraham was standing before them.
    • It was the God of Abraham.
    • In Moses’ day, the Israelites were inclined to focus on their righteousness, rather than on God’s holiness.
    • They were preoccupied with their ability to keep the ‘keepable, observable’ commands of the law, while conveniently overlooking their inability to keep the ‘unkeepable, unobservable’ demands of the heart.
    • This led to a man-centered religion that was more interested in practical hints to holiness, rather than in relying upon the blood sacrifice to wash away their iniquity.
    • They were led to believe man contributes to salvation through his works.
    • Man never has found acceptance with God on the basis of his own works.
  2. The Apostle Paul looks back to Abraham to comprehend the basis of our acceptance with God. (Romans 4:1-5)
    • Even though Abraham was a man of faith, his faith was less than perfect.
    • His faith must be credited to a faithful God. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
    • In other words, man is saved by the sovereign will of God so that we might be overwhelmed with gratitude.
    • There is no clearer picture of our salvation than that worked in Abraham by our faithful God.
  3. Let’s go back to the Gospel according to Moses, in Genesis 12 to learn more about Abraham, as a prototype of our salvation.
    • Remember this chapter had definite interest to Israel, as they had come out of Egypt and were preparing to enter the Promise-land.
    • This chapter held keys to their destiny, as well as foreshadowing events that would ultimately find amazing fulfillment two thousand years later.
    • To comprehend Abraham’s salvation as well as our own, we must begin where the Apostle Paul begins by describing the sovereign will of God.
    • In Ephesians 1:4 it says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him.”
    • What is true of us is true of Abraham.
    • He was chosen as we were—by God to fulfill His holy purpose.
    • Abraham was predestined as part of the chosen seed promised to Eve.
    • God foreordained that salvation would come through the seed of the Woman, Israel, in Genesis 3:15.
    • We have previously traced the promised seed through two genealogies, with ten names in each of them.
    • The first genealogy recorded was from Adam to Noah, and the second one was from Shem to Abraham. (Genesis 11:26-27)
    • As Noah was the tenth after Adam, Abram was the tenth after Shem.
    • “Abram” means “father.”
    • Later God calls him “Abraham” meaning “Father of many.”
    • Abraham was appointed to bear a promised seed that would lead to Christ.
    • Like us, Abraham was saved from God’s judgment.
  4. Genesis 11:1-9 records the history of the “City of Man,” Babylon.
    • Its founder was Nimrod.
    • The “City of God,” however, is associated with Jerusalem and Abraham as its founder.
    • The residents in Babylon deliberately rebelled against God.
    • They sought to build a city that exalted man with their own hands.
    • At the center of civilization was a tower standing as a monument to “designer-religions gods,” created by man for man.
    • This city was under God’s judgment of linguistic, religious, and cultural confusion.
    • God scattered the people over the face of all the earth.
    • But out of Babylon, or Ur of the Chaldeans, God chose Abraham to be the founder of the City of God.
    • When God called Abraham, he and his family were idolaters worshiping moon gods and demons.
    • Abraham was not seeking God—God was seeking him. (Joshua 24:2-3)
    • He was effectually called out of Babylon by our Sovereign God.
  5. This was celebrated sixteen hundred years later in Jerusalem, by the people who returned from Babylonian captivity.
    • Israel assembled to hear the reading of the Gospel, according to Moses, by the Levitical priests.
    • Read from Nehemiah 9:5-8
  6. Abraham was commanded by God to obey His Word.
    • God called Abraham to leave the old life behind. (Genesis 12:1)
    • He was commanded to get out of his country and away from his relatives.
    • To follow God he had to disassociate with country and family because of their enslavement to idolatry and sin.
    • Abraham obeyed and left Ur.
    • He traveled as far as Haran and then waited until the death of his father, before leaving on his journey west.
  7. Genesis 12:4-5 tell us Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother Lot, with all the possessions they gathered, as well as the people they acquired in Haran.
    • God had blessed Abraham in that short time with needed possessions for their journey.
    • We must keep this in mind: “God never asks anything of us without also providing the resources for us to accomplish what He asks us to do.”
    • The terms of the Covenant God made with Abraham first required obedience.
    • Obedience was a manifestation of true faith.
    • No man can say that he has saving faith in God and continually live in disobedience.
    • Abraham was not justified by good works, but justified by faith in the God of Grace. (Genesis 12:4-5)
    • Hebrews 11:8 says “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
    • Faith is radical dependence upon God.
    • Faith is obeying God one step at a time, rarely knowing where He is leading.
    • Faith means trusting Him to lead, to provide and to protect.
    • In Galatians 3:6-9 Paul describes God’s call upon Abraham as “the Gospel preached him.”
    • We are justified or declared righteous through faith in the God of Grace.
    • This is how Abraham came to faith and to be reckoned righteous.

A covenant not only has laws to be obeyed, but it also offers blessings by God for a glorious future. (Genesis 12:2-9)

  1. The Lord promised, “I will make you a great nation.”
    • When God created Adam he pledged to bless him saying, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
  2. The Lord promised, “I will bless you.”
    • As God blessed Noah, He also blessed Abraham, for they were the chosen seed of the blessed Savior, Who would ultimately crush the head of the serpent. (Genesis 9:1)
  3. God promised, “I will make your name great.”
    • This pledge is in contrast to the inhabitants of Babylon, who were determined to make a name for themselves apart from God. (Genesis 11:4)
    • A great name means nothing unless it is a result of God’s blessing by dependence upon Him.
  4. Not only will Abraham be blessed, but God promises, “I will make you a blessing” (Genesis 12:2)
    • To be truly blessed of God is to be a blessing to others.
    • This is God’s intent in blessing us, so that we may bless others.
    • Certainly history has been blessed by God through Abraham.
  5. This Covenant also guaranteed the protection of God’s People.
    • He promised, “I will bless those who bless you.” (Genesis 12:3)
    • In other words, many nations have been blessed not because they are good or smart, but because of their historic association with the God of Shem and the people of Abraham’s seed.
    • We enjoy blessing only as a gift of God’s common grace.
  6. The reverse is true when God says, “I will curse those who curse you.” (Genesis 12:3)
    • We saw that when Cain rejected God’s way of worship through a blood sacrifice there was a curse on his life.
    • But God promised to protect Cain by warning “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold.” (Genesis 4:11-12)
    • The more any country separates itself from the blessing of the God of Shem and Abraham, the more it faces certain judgment.
    • I believe Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel sentiment also puts a nation at risk.
  7. The promised blessing, however, took on true historic dimension when God promised to bless Abraham with a son, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
    • God promised to bring a deliverer through the woman and her seed. (Genesis 3:15)
    • Genesis traces this seed through Adam, Seth, Noah, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah.
    • Remember what Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)
    • When did Abraham see Christ?
    • He saw Him by faith through the promises of God, as he anticipated the promised Son through his seed.
    • This is the “Gospel According to Moses,” as promised to Abraham.
    • But remember Moses continually records in this history that “Sarai” was barren.
    • The promise is always outside of man’s capacities and always in the hands of a sovereign God.
  8. The Lord also promised a land for His people, “I will give this land to your descendants.” (Genesis 12:5-9)
    • Abraham walked by faith not knowing where he was going until he got there.
    • The Lord then appeared to him and affirmed that He would give this land to his descendents.
    • As Abraham walked through the land he stopped in Shechem, Bethel and the Negev building an altar to offer sacrifices to the Lord out of gratitude for God’s faithfulness.
    • Each place he dedicated to God was also the site of Canaanite cities.
    • Hebrews 11:9-10 recounts Abrahams faith, “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
    • Abraham lived every day by faith, believing someday God would give this land to His descendants.
    • He was a pilgrim in a foreign land.
    • He was looking for the City of God where God is the builder and maker.

Moses gives us further historical evidence that God was protecting the Seed by delivering Abraham Out of Egypt. (Genesis 12:10-20)

  • Even though Abram was dwelling in the land promised by God, there was a severe famine in the land. (Genesis 12:10)
  • The blessed Seed was once again at risk.
  • Abraham traveled to Egypt to escape death. (Genesis 12:10-14)
  • As Moses records this part of the story you can imagine the Israelites hearing this and saying, “Oh my, that’s the same reason our father Jacob went to Egypt 400 years ago.”
  • This is a history Moses will later tell when he writes about the life of Joseph.
  • But we who read Matthew’s Gospel in the New Testament get another side to this story that occurred two thousand years later.
  • King Herod had issued an edict to kill all infant Jewish boys in the region of Bethlehem, fearing the birth of Israel’s King.
  • Mary and Joseph were warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.
  • Abraham, Jacob, Mary and Joseph all sought refuge for the promised Seed in Egypt.
  • Abraham and his family were protected in Egypt by Pharaoh. (Genesis 12:11-16)
  • Abraham entered Egypt fearing Pharaoh’s men would observe the beauty of his wife Sarai and kill him.
  • Abraham may have lived all his married life having other’s comment about the beauty of his wife.
  • To protect his own life, Abraham devised a plan to call Sarah his sister.
  • She was a half-sister and may have shared inheritance rights, but this was a lie spun out of a lack of faith in God’s covenant promises.
  • Like so many lies, Abraham could not foresee the complications that were ahead.
  • Sure enough, when they arrived in Cairo, Sarah was taken into Pharaoh’s house to join the royal harem.
  • The Pharaoh he feared not only protected him, but also gave him many gifts as Sarah’s brother.
  • Abraham had been protected, but what about Sarah and the promised Seed?

The same predicament later faced Jacob and his sons, who dwelt in the land of Egypt.

  • The Pharaoh protected Jacob for Joseph’s sake, but if his progeny assimilated with the Egyptians, the Seed would have become corrupted.
  • Likewise, Mary and Joseph were protected in Egypt from Herod, but what would happen to their son Who was called Jesus, the Savior of His people, if they stayed there?

The God who saves His people called Abraham out of Egypt by plagues. (Genesis 12:17-20)

  • Pharaoh experienced a series of plagues and believed the Lord had cursed him because he took Sarah as his concubine.
  • Abraham was reprimanded by the Pharaoh and then commanded him to take his wife, and all the wealth he had gained from Egypt, and get out.
  • Again, you can almost hear the Israelites’ shock, as they are told this event by Moses.
  • Jacob and his sons went to Egypt because of a famine and were protected by Pharaoh, until a new Pharaoh came to power who also sought to enslave them.
  • It wasn’t until God brought plagues upon Egypt that Moses and his people were released.
  • When both Abraham and Jacob left Egypt, they carried with them the wealth of Egypt.

Two thousand years later Mary and Joseph were informed by an angel that it was safe for them to return to Israel.

  • Matthew quotes from Moses’ prophecy in Numbers 24:8 and Hosea 11:1 that this came about so these prophesies might be fulfilled that say, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
  • As Mary and Joseph rode out of Egypt, they carried with them the wealth of Abraham and Jacob…the seed of the promised Son of God, Who would bless all the peoples of the earth.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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