The patriarch of Israel (Gen. 12:1,2), “the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5), the ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:1 with Gen. 22:18), and the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:12,16): Abraham is central in scripture and in our faith.
God called Abram and made him promises:
“Go forth from your country …
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Yahweh repeated variations on these promises:
“… count the stars…. So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
“…I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens … and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…”
The three primary promises in these passages:
- The great nation promise (fulfilled in Israel: Josh. 21:43-45, etc.).
- The land promise (fulfilled in Canaan: Josh. 21:43-45).
- The Seed promise (fulfilled in Jesus: Gal. 3:13-18).
God’s goodness to the nation of Israel fulfilled these promises. During the annals of the Old Testament, God blessed them when they were faithful, punished them by foreign nations when they were unfaithful, and repeatedly brought them back from oppression when He considered the timing right. Why was God so patient with them? Why was His grace so often extended? Because the Seed promise had to be fulfilled through that nation — the descendants of Abraham.
Consider the Seed promise. The Savior, Jesus, would come through Israel; He would be a descendant of Abraham. As Paul wrote, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Gal. 3:16). The Seed promise God made Abraham was about Jesus coming through his lineage. The story of Abraham is the story of Jesus.
But the Seed promise God made Abraham was about more than Jesus: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Gen. 22:18). Jesus came through Abraham’s lineage to bless “all the nations.” As Paul discussed God’s workings through the Old Testament, he made the following observations recorded in Galatians 3:
- “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (v. 6)
- “So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (v. 9)
- “It [the Law of Moses, sc] was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator [Moses, sc], until the seed [Christ, sc] would come to whom the promise had been made.” (v. 19)
- “Therefore the Law [of Moses, sc] has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (v. 24)
- “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (v. 26,27)
- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (v. 28)
- “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (v. 29).
Belonging to Christ makes us true descendants of Abraham — “heirs according to the promise” (v. 29)! God’s most important promise to Abraham involved the coming of Jesus the Christ. Since Jesus came to save us, the story of Abraham is our story.
Our connection to Abraham and his story give us history beyond our years. The Old Testament record of ancient peoples, including the story of Abraham and the nation of Israel arising from his lineage, is not some detached document with little or no meaning to us. It is the story of God’s preparation for our opportunity of salvation in His Son. Every promise connected to Jesus, every prophecy of His majestic person and saving work, is in preparation for what God has made possible for us in Christ. The story of Abraham is the story of Jesus: how He would come, what He would do, and the hope He would provide.
But the story of Abraham is also our story; Jesus did not come to do these things in a vacuum. He did all these things — in fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham — to make it possible for us to be saved, thus incorporated into God’s family: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus … baptized into Christ … Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).
Thank God for graciously saving us in His Son, making us Abraham’s true descendants, God’s true Israel, the “church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:23). What a rich history with which we are involved! What a Savior! What a blessing!
written by Shane Carrington