“In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates,” Genesis 15:18.
(Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony service January 22nd 2021)
The chapter begins with the words: “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,“ verse 1.It is a wonderful example of the seasonableness and a fitting word that the Lord speaks to His people.
At the end of the previous chapter, Abraham, having been the means of rescuing the king of Sodom and his own nephew, Lot, from the hands of Chedorlaomer king of Elam and his allies, the king of Sodom offered Abraham the larger portion of the spoil but Abraham refused it on the very wise grounds: “That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich,” verse 23.
The Christian should never be seen to be made rich from a source that would bring dishonour to the name of the Lord and His bountiful provision for His people. It was in response to this attitude and action by Abraham that the Lord appeared to him and said: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Here is a very practical example of what it means to ‘live’ by faith!
The response of Abraham indicates to us what was uppermost in his heart and mind. “And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my houseis this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir,” verses 2-3.
Abraham had an ‘eternal’ view of life! He did not merely live for ’today’ but he has tomorrow and the future in view.
Oh that men might think of the future and seek to make preparation regarding it.God’s first words to him had a promise of a bright future. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” Genesis 12:1-3. He was right to look for the beginnings of a fulfilling of the promise. He was childless! How could he see the fulfilment of the promise while this remained so?It was in answer to this prayer that the Lord now speaks to Abraham - on “the same day” as He graciously responds to Abraham’s prayer.
The events in this chapter took place some 1900 years before the birth of Christ. This verse 18, which forms the centre of our study, contains a promise to Abraham and to his descendants which has yet to be fully and finally fulfilled.
It was spoken to Abraham on a very special day, ‘the same day!' This day was the day of Abraham’s salvation. We read in verses 5-6: “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
This record is confirmed for us by Paul in Romans 4:2-3. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” That which had caused him to respond to God’s command in 12:1, is now fully developed and he had come to a fixed and settle faith in Jehovah. The reiteration of God’s promise, and that in a fuller, expanded form, brought forth faith. Here is the origin of faith. “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:15-17.
So our text with all it contains is a record of what the Lord said to Abraham on the day he was brought to a saving knowledge of the Redeemer.
Let us first of all consider this truth :—
I. I BELIEVE THAT WE MAY CONCLUDE THAT IT IS THE LORD’S WILL THAT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING OF OUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, HE WOULD HAVE US UNDERSTAND WHAT AWAITS US!
Oh how much awaits us! This was a great promise with regards the earthly possession that Abraham and his seed would come into BUT I think that what God has promised to ALL His people is of even greater dimensions than this glorious heritage promise to the offspring of Abraham, redeemed Israel. We redeemed Gentiles must not feel that we are to expect a lesser eternal heritage. Think of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. 1:1-14. That is illustrative of the inheritance of the saints.
The fact that Abraham was informed of the future blessing that would come upon his descendants is, I believe, of special significance. I know my SGAT listeners will say ‘Amen’ to this statement. However, there are many amongst God’s people who need to learn what is the simple lesson in this statement. God does not conceal the future from His people! The message that God’s servants are charged with preaching is the ‘whole counsel’ of God, all that is in the Bible!
Let me enlarge upon this by saying:
1. All too many preachers today preach what they call the gospel but which is no more the gospel than is the first line of the first commandment the entire decalogue!
The evangelical call to repentance and faith is but part, a vital part, of the message of God. The Saviour ‘began’ to preach, we are told in Matthew 4:17.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I would suggest that Matthew’s synopsis of what the Saviour preached on this occasion was indeed just the beginning of the wonderful revelation of God’s TRUTH of which the Saviour’s ministry consisted. He led His listeners into the depths of God’s truth. In Luke 8:1, we read: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.”
What a full unveiling of the truth of God that would have been. Little wonder it was said of Him: “Never man spake like this man,” John 7:46. Paul the apostle gave us the watch word which ought to be written on every preacher’s heart.
“And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,” Acts 20:18-27.
There you have just what it is God’s servants are called upon to preach, leaving NOTHING of God’s revelation out!That was demonstrated for us in these words of God to Abraham.
2. It must be said with sadness that there is today in the pulpits of evangelical assemblies a leaving out of an essential element of God’s truth.
In our verse, the Lord deals with the future of Israel and its possession of the land. Our future, as Christians, is tied in with Israel’s future. In Romans chapter 11, Paul links the restoration and salvation of Israel with the return of our Saviour. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins,” verses 26-27. This wonderful change in Israel’s spiritual standing will come when the ‘Deliverer’ will come out of Sion. These words are a quote from Isaiah 59:20. “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.” We cannot contemplate the return of Christ without contemplating what will be Israel’s portion on that great day. To attempt any consideration of the day of the Saviour’s return with out giving a proper place to what the Bible says about Israel’s restoration and regeneration requires an ignoring of much of the Bible.
To refer again to Paul and his preaching of the whole counsel of God, consider what he wrote to the Thessalonians. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” 2 Thessalonians 2:5. Note what it is he says he taught them during his brief stay amongst them. He referred to the great falling away, the revelation and character of ‘the son of perdition’ and to the evil attempt that he will make upon declaring himself ‘God’! In the short time Paul was in Thessalonica he taught the believers all about prophecy! How few places there are that teach even a little of this essential element of the ‘whole counsel of God’!
3. The future is one thing about which all believers are concerned.
The Lord here told Abraham of that which still lies in the future! Christ understood the desires and anxieties of His people regarding the future and addressed it. John 14:1-3. This was also dealt with in 1 Thess 4:13. How many pastors are happy to have God’s people in ignorance about many these things connected with eternity! Some even go out of their way to keep them in ignorance!
II. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT THE LORD HAS TOLD ABRAHAM HIS PURPOSE FOR HIM.
1. This a subject which requires repeated teaching.
“And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him,” Genesis 12:7.“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth,then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee,” Genesis 13:14-17“And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it,” Genesis 15:7. Our text is a reiteration yet again of this promise.
2. There was an enlarging of the details each time.
Compare the above verses. 12:7 - “This land.” 13:15 - “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” 15:18 - “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.”
3. It was set forth in such terms as to show that it was an immutable purpose!
“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety,” 15:13. “The LORD made a covenant with Abram,” verse 15:18.
III. THIS WONDERFUL PROMISE WAS BORN OF GRACE.
This was the fifth time that the Lord had uttered these words to Abraham. 12:7, 13:15, 15:5, 7, 18. That number is linked to ‘grace’!
1. Abraham was chosen of God in grace.
From the very beginning, God’s dealings with Abraham were of ‘free unmerited favour’! “And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite,” Ezekiel 16:3. “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac,” Joshua 24:2-3.
So it is with us all. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:11-13.
“And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee,” Acts 7:2-3.
2. He was the most unlikely father of nations.
“But Sarai was barren; she had no child.” Genesis 11:30. “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform,” Rom 4:18-21. “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable,” Hebrews 11:11-12.
3. That same grace was seen in Isaac and Jacob.
“And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived,” Gen 25:21. So it was with Jacob’s wives. “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren,” 29:31. It was of this woman, Leah, who for a time had no children Christ sprang. “And she . . . bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing,” verse 31. Likewise, the Lord had mercy on Rachel and she bore children. “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb,” Genesis 30:22.
IV. THIS IS THE FIRST MENTION OF A COVENANT ESTABLISHED WITH ABRAHAM
As I have already said, the Lord had mentioned to Abraham before just what He planned to do for him and with him, 12:7, 13:15. But now a solemn covenant is entered upon with Abraham. How sure and certain are those things the Lord has here promised.
1. The ownership of the land.
The land belongs to the descendants of Abraham no matter what the Palestinians, the Arabs, the United Nations, Iran and all the other enemies of Israel may say!
2. The borders of the land.
It encompasses territories over which other nations presently exercise control and claim ownership. But it will be given to Israel one day. “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites,” Gen 15:18-21.
V. THE FULFILLING OF THIS COVENANT IS WHAT WE, AS WELL AS ISRAEL, LOOK FORWARD TO.
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? . . . . For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins,” Rom 11:11-12, 15, 25-27.
We too then look forward with joyful hope as did Abraham. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city,” Hebrews 11:13-16.