What did God promise Abraham?
Hundreds of Bible prophecies tell us about the mission, purpose and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are filled with prophecies of both His first and second coming.
What is the first Messianic prophecy of the Bible?
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Shortly after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a Messiah, a Savior, who would bring judgment on the serpent. The serpent is identified in Revelation 12:9 as Satan the devil.
This announcement of the Savior is the foundational promise God made to humankind because it paves the way for salvation through Jesus Christ. Without a doubt the promised redemptive work of the Messiah is one of the most important promises God has ever made.
What did God promise Abraham?
"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:5; compare Romans 4:17-18).
What an astounding statement! God had a close relationship with Abraham and promised him his descendants would ultimately comprise many nations. God even changed his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning "father of a multitude," to reflect the importance of this promise.
God made many promises to Abraham. The patriarch had such a close relationship with God that a Bible writer called him the "friend of God" (James 2:23). Abraham's descendants also received several great and far-reaching promises.
How many descendants did God promise Abraham?
"And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered" (Genesis 13:16; compare Genesis 15:5; 22:17).
Abraham's descendants were to number into multiple millions of people. Again we see that God made some wonderful promises to this faithful servant.
What territorial promises did God make to Abraham?
"Then He said to him, 'I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it'" (Genesis 15:7; compare Genesis 13:15).
God said Abraham's descendants would receive the "Promised Land." This is the area his descendants eventually settled after God brought them out of captivity in Egypt.
What promise of international importance did God give Abraham?
". . . I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3; compare Genesis 18:18).
What was this "blessing" that would come to the whole world?
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people" (Genesis 49:10).
Every people and nation is to benefit from this promise. Genesis 49 explains the blessings promised to the 12 sons of Jacob. The same blessings God promised Abraham were passed on to his great-great-grandchildren. Most of the blessings were physical in nature. How-ever, one of Abraham's great-great-grandsons, Judah, received a special promise that the scepter—the pledge of royalty that would eventually include the Messiah—would not depart from Judah's line of descendants "until Shiloh comes."
Most commentators agree that "Shiloh" is a reference to the Messiah. Later prophets confirm that the Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah. Isaiah 11:1-5 tells us the Messiah would come from the descendants of Jesse (the father of David), who emerged from Judah. Matthew 1 and Luke 3 list the genealogy of Christ through Joseph and Mary. Both show He was descended from Judah.
Romans 15:12 also shows us that Christ's human roots are in Judah. Plainly, one of the promises God gave to Abraham was the promise of the Messiah as our Savior.
What spiritual trait of Abraham was vital to his receiving promises from God?
"He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:20-22; compare Genesis 15:6; 22:18).
Faith became an integral part of Abraham's character. He had great confidence that God would fulfill His promises. God viewed Abraham's faith as righteousness. In other words, even though Abraham was not perfect, God regarded him as a righteous man because he deeply believed in and obeyed God.
Why did God choose to carry out His plan through Abraham rather than someone else?
"For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him" (Genesis 18:19).
". . . And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:4-5).
These crucial passages in Genesis tell us God gave Abraham the promises because he had faith, a faith that was evident by his obedient actions. Because of his confidence in God, he put his heart into trying to accomplish all God had commanded him. He also faithfully taught his children to follow God's way of life.
Did Abraham and others who followed him receive all of the promises of God?
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
Abraham is mentioned prominently in the list of God's faithful servants in Hebrews 11 (verses 8-12). Yet we read that neither he nor those who came after him have received the promises of the eternal inheritance God made to him. But God has not forgotten them.
When, then, will they receive the promises given to Abraham?
"And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40).
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26-29).
True Christians, those "baptized into Christ," are also the heirs of Abraham. They will receive the eternal aspects of these promises through faith, along with God's people from ancient times who served Him in faith. God wants His servants to exercise the same faith that was in faithful Abraham. All are to receive their eternal inheritance together, at the same time (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
What does God expect of us as Abraham's spiritual descendants?
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:17).
"And not being weak in faith, he [Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness' . . . Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 4:19-22, 5:1-2).
We, too, must have faith in God because through faith we are justified and receive the promises God made to Abraham. This faith, however, must be dynamic. When exercised properly, faith automatically builds a strong relationship and fellowship with God.
How does the Bible describe Abraham's faithfulness?
"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:20-26).
God expects us to exercise faith by following His laws and ways. Following Abraham's faithful example will allow us to enjoy a friendship and ever-closer relationship with God. (To better understand Abraham's life of faith and how you can make faith a part of your life, be sure to read the booklet You Can Have Living Faith .)