Chapter 4 The Promises Made to Abraham

God called Abraham alone, and blessed him, and increased him. (See Isaiah 51:2.) He took him from the other side of the flood, where he, with his fathers, had served other gods, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. (See Joshua 24:2, 3.) Ishmael, the son of the bond-woman, was set aside, according to the word of God—“In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Gen. 21:12.) Again, of Isaac’s two sons, Esau was set aside, and Jacob was the chosen one. Again and again did God make great and unconditional promises of blessing to Abraham and to his seed, promises unsought by him, and upon which he had no claim any more than any other man upon the face of the earth. But they were the expression of the sovereign will and purpose of God, in love to Abraham, whom He had separated from all the earth unto Himself.

The first of these promises is in Gen. 12:1, “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.”

In Gen. 17:1-8 these promises are repeated, and enlarged upon; and again confirmed with an oath in chap, 22:15-18.

To Isaac, the heir, the promise is also confirmed (see Gen. 26:2-4); and afterwards to Jacob, as he slept and dreamed at Bethel. (See Gen. 28:13-15.)

The furnace of affliction was also foretold as part of the heritage of that elect seed. They were to be strangers in a land not theirs, four hundred years, to serve them and be afflicted by them, and in the fourth generation to return to the land of promise; and finally to possess it, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the Euphrates. (See Gen. 15:13-18.)

With the fulfilment of much of this most Christians are familiar. How Israel groaned in the land of Egypt, serving under and afflicted by Pharaoh and his taskmasters; how God at length did visit them, raising up for them a deliverer, even Moses; how the nation that afflicted them He judged; how He led them through the desert, never forsaking them, though grieved with their incessant provocations. “For He remembered His holy promise and Abraham His servant. And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness: and gave them the lands of the heathen.” (Ps. 105:42-44.)

But though undoubtedly much that was promised to Abraham and to his seed has been fulfilled, does there not yet remain very much, to be accomplished?

It was promised—”To thee will I give this land;” but Abraham, to the end, “sojourned by faith in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.” (Heb. 11:9.) So thoroughly did he confess himself a stranger in it, whilst knowing that he was the heir of it all, that he would not even own a grave in it without purchasing it of those who then possessed the land. (See Gen. 23.) For the fulfilment of this promise, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still wait.

Again, the land was promised to Abraham’s seed for “an everlasting possession.” But although brought into it by Joshua—very soon, through departure from Jehovah—all the curses written in the law fell upon the apostate nation. Instead of the blessings of the covenant with Abraham, the terrible denunciations of Deut. 28. (read the whole chapter) have been their portion to the very letter, every word being marvellously fulfilled. But is the promise therefore never to be fulfilled? Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” (Rom. 11:1-28.) “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal. 3:16-18.)

We here have clearly explained to us that the law, coming in as it were by the way, to prove the utter impossibility of man’s ever earning for himself a title to blessing —could indeed postpone, but could never frustrate, the ultimate fulfilment of every word that God had promised to Abraham and to his seed.

The curses of that law are still being borne by Abraham’s seed. Cast out from their land, a byeword and a hissing among all nations, and yet reserved as a separate people, they are living monuments and witnesses of the truth of the prophetic Word, and of the faithfulness of God, who, though true to the judgments He has pronounced, will also, in His own time, he true to the mercy He has promised.

And so, according to the prophetic utterance of the Lord Jesus Himself, Jerusalem was laid even with the ground and her children within her (Luke 19:44); and still is “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24.) But Jerusalem shall not he for ever thus downtrodden by the Gentile. He, who foretold her desolation, has fixed the duration of her shame. The “times of the Gentiles “shall be fulfilled, and then the seed shall inherit the land and hold it in everlasting possession.

Further, it is written, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Can this in any sense be said to have received its fulfillment? Surely not; for we know that the kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, but Satan is the “god of this world “(2 Cor. 4:4), and “the prince of this world.” (John 12:31.) The children of God in this age are “not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world,” though He was in it. (John 17:16.) “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” (1 John 3:1.) “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19.)

But, as already stated, the fulfilment of every promise made to Abraham, in its fullest sense, is yet in reserve, being, through the law and Israel’s apostasy, postponed till the time arrives in the purpose of God, when, setting aside entirely the intervening covenant of Sinai, and acting in grace upon the everlasting covenant “confirmed before in Christ,” He will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, the essence of which shall no longer be, “Thou shalt not,” as in the law, but the sovereign and gracious “I will” of the living God.

To some of the Scriptures detailing the events preceding and accompanying the final restoration and blessing of Israel, and, through Israel, of all nations, it may be well now to turn.