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December 12, 2004
Gods Promise to Bless His People
Genesis chapters 9, 12, and 15
We will continue the overall topic started last week from
Galatians 4:4 where we are told that, when the fullness of time had come, God sent
forth His Son
God, of course, is way ahead of the game. From the Garden
through to Revelation, He has promised to bless His people. The plan began to unfold in
Genesis . . .
- Promise previewed
- Promise stated
generally (Genesis 12:1-3)
- Promise guaranteed
specifically (Genesis 15)
All over our country the notion of Christmas is once again under
attack. From the standpoint of society, God seems to be becoming increasingly optional.
Its almost as if we should opt away from God, as though God just doesnt seem
to fit in our world.
It seems to me that ever since the Garden and the fall, once there
was sin, once Adam and Eve exposed themselves to evil as an option and ate of the tree,
their first response toward God was avoiding or hiding from Him. I dont think much
has changed. I think that from a natural standpoint if we are not personally in a
relationship with God, its a natural thing to want to be distanced from Him.
Even in our own lives, if we are flirting with a lifestyle that God
would not approve of, its as though we are estranged. Its a relationship and
thats how relationships work. As a culture, when God becomes optional or distant or
unnecessary or irrelevant, its only because we are very uncomfortable in His
One time, God even showed up, took on human flesh, lived in a culture
and ultimately, was murdered by it, because people are not comfortable, naturally, with
God. I find this to be true and that just pulls me to the Bible, to the truth of
Scripture. What if Christmas were illegal? What if no more, in a public way, could the
birth of the Messiah be acknowledged?
I challenge you to think about this. What would that do to our faith?
What would that do to our relationship with God? Wouldnt we, as Christians, be
forced in a sense into a position where we would have to reconsider first things? Do we
really know Him? Do we really trust Him? Do we really embrace Him? Or do we depend upon
the culture to tell us whether or not our God is relevant.
If Christmas becomes unpopular, fine. Thats natural. Its
natural to treat God that way when you dont know Him. But I know Him; we know Him.
And He will always be popular and there will always be Christmas and it will always be a
celebration regardless of what the world determines. Isnt that great? Ultimately, it
He is every bit alive, having been born in a manger in Bethlehem to a
virgin, whether or not anyone out there cares to be comfortable with that. It doesnt
change a thing, and that takes me to God, who makes promises and who keeps them. He
promises a number of things.
In our Christmas series we are talking about promises God has made.
Last week from the earliest chapters of the Bible, God has promised victory over the
enemy. That is not hanging in the balance. Today we want to talk about His promise to
bless His people, moving further in the book of Genesis.
I think its amazing to trace what happens in Bible history
beginning in the earliest chapters of Genesis. We see generations go by before God shows
up again. People will turn their backs on Him, beginning with Adam and Eve. Theyre
expelled from the Garden, problems arise, a flood comes, a tower is built, people
naturally drift away from God, then He shows up again.
When God blesses, He promises deliberately to focus His favor. In a
fallen world, where people do not move naturally toward God but rather away from God, when
God focuses His favor in a world like ours, its like a beam of light penetrating
darkness. Its always a good thing and always effective.
I want to take us back to Genesis and talk about this promise of His
to bless, this promise of His to focus His favor on a people. When God focuses His favor
on a people He makes it happen and He carries it through to fruition. He has promised to
restore a fallen race, make it better than it ever was before, the ultimate blessing
eternal fellowship at peace with God. Hes bringing it about. He began it long
ago. He brought it into focus at the manger in Bethlehem and later at the cross at
Calvary. It didnt begin there. It began long before that.
We will be looking at some Bible history this morning. When we talk
about Bible history, were talking about what the God of heaven has done when He has
stepped into the human experience. I think that few things could be more fascinating than
1. Promise previewed (Genesis
When we come to Genesis chapter 9, a lot has occurred and God has
addressed it. Back in the 3rd chapter was the fall, the original fall of our
first parents, the curse upon the race, the expulsion from the Garden, and everything has
been downhill ever since. Remember that in the fall, God didnt just say, Well,
youve done it now. See you. But He stepped in deliberately on behalf of those
people who had just sinned. He provided garments and gave them a promise that the day
would come when that enemy who had been such a key factor in the fall and in the curse --
one day that enemys head would be crushed.
God didnt just say, OK, its a fall. Were
done. Im moving on. Another planet. Another solar system. See you. He stayed
with it. He made a promise that He fully intends to keep. What well find out about
the promises of God is that they begin perhaps in a general sense and get more specific
over time as He reveals more and more of Himself and of His plan. But the fall was
followed by a promise. Later, Genesis 6 tells us that people got very, very bad as
generations followed the fall. God sent judgment upon the earth in the form of a flood,
from which eight people were delivered because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
So God judged the world and started over with Noah. Again! He
didnt say, Oh, its wicked, lets wipe them out. Im done.
Im finished. Im gone. Oh no, He preserves Noah and Noahs family
and starts over again with them, giving them a promise that this time was made first in
Genesis 3. Now its going to be repeated with more details in Genesis 9. The promise
will be repeated in Genesis 12, more details, and again in Genesis 15 and again in Genesis
18 and again in 22, until God presents His people with a picture of what He is up to and
encourages them throughout, Trust Me. Im on it.
So the fall was followed by a promise. The flood was followed by a
promise and thats the promise I want us to look at as Noah and his sons and
daughters-in-law begin their new lives in a new world and in a very real way. Recall that
Noah was the key player; he was right with God; he was spared through the waters of the
flood, but Genesis chapter 9 gives us a bit of a down side to Noahs later life.
Sometimes we think these people in the Bible are heroes bigger than
life, but normally we see that theyre a lot like you and me. There was a problem
with Noah and his sons and this is how it went. In Genesis 9:20 Noah began farming and he
planted a vineyard Thats good. He drank of the wine and became drunk. Thats
Some time has elapsed, more people have been born, and civilization
has begun to grow again. Noah has planted a vineyard, the plants are growing, bearing
fruit and Noah is thinking, I wonder if I can still do the wine thing. So he
picks the grapes and gets the sugar and does the fermentation and drinks too much and
became drunk. It says that he uncovered himself inside his tent. We dont know
exactly whats going on here but we do know it isnt good. This is a gloss over,
intentionally in the Bible. Its an intentional euphemism saying, Were
not going to tell you what happened. Please trust us here. It was some sort of a sexual
perversion that was going on.
Heres Noah in his tent and Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the
nakedness of his father and told his two brothers. He didnt just tell them, Oh
by the way, Dad is naked in the tent. He was making sport. He was delighting in
whatever perversion was taking place. Ham thought that was really something and he wanted
to include his brothers in the yuk yuk part of it. He wanted to draw them into
whatever was going on.
Shem and Japheth werent having it. They were concerned for
their fathers name, their fathers character. They were concerned for the
integrity of what God had freshly begun. Gods agenda was to them more than whatever
problem their brother had. So they did the right thing. They took a garment, laid it upon
both their shoulders and walked backward. The point of the story is that they took pains
to preserve their fathers integrity and to honor him because they knew God had
Ham, the other brother, is out of it. He has an unrighteous streak
and now it is showing. They walked backward, covered the nakedness of their father. When
Noah awoke, he knew what his youngest son had done. So he pronounces curses. This is where
were going in this whole thing. God through Noah is going to make promises, negative
22 So he said,
(the son of Ham
Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants He shall be to his
Clearly like father, like son. The reason that Canaan is brought into
this issue is because without question there is family collusion here. His side of the
family is bad news; theyre going to pay for this.
He also said,
Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth
So Shem and Japheth get good news; Ham gets bad news. But in the good
news to the two brothers, God couches a promise that is very important. It needs to be
read this way in verse 27:
May God enlarge Japheth; and let Him dwell in the tents of Shem
Him ought to be capitalized. In other words, May
God dwell in the tents of Shem, thus deliberately focusing His favor, blessing, on
one of the three. May God dwell in the tents of Shem, which indeed God does, and let
Canaan be his servant.
What we have is God dwelling in the tents of Shem, God now promising
that this blessing, that He has stated He will do, will come to Noah and his three sons.
Out of the three sons, coming through Shem. God is going to dwell in his tents.
Its interesting if you count, because the next individual of
prominence well get to is in Genesis 12 Abraham. Abraham is a Shemite, a
Semite we call it today. The Semitic peoples are the descendants of Shem, thats
where we get that expression. There are a lot of them. As a matter of fact, if we cared to
do it, we could read from Genesis 11 and learn that between Shem and Abraham, there were
eight generations and each generation with lots of sons. But God has made a promise, He is
focusing His favor, and He is narrowing it down. Hes not just saying, Oh,
lets bless these people. No, were going to bless Shem and later on
narrowing it down from all the hundreds and hundreds of possible offspring of Shem, he
arrives at Abraham. Thats how it works. Many possible channels of blessing; God
picked one. One man Abraham.
In Luke chapter 3, the genealogy is given, tracing to Jesus.
23When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age,
being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,
When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of
age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, and on and on. It goes way
back through time, generation after generation after generation. But well notice at
verse 34 we get to the son of Jacob; the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son
The Bible is pretty clear on this. Of all the options God had
available through Shem, He deliberately takes it to Abraham. Throughout Scripture, God is
clearly, consistently, sovereign. He is in control of these things. He doesnt stand
back and say, Oh, what do I do now? Look at that silly Noah and what hes done.
And Ham, he shouldnt have. What am I going to do? Maybe Japheth and Shem will come
through. Now, Ive got to restore this thing. I have to fix this thing. Its a
No. God isnt like you and me. As the generations unfold beyond
Shem, God is not saying, Oh, is this guy a good guy? Everyone is born
naturally in sin. God knows that. He knows how much time He wants to elapse, which people
He wants to use. When the time comes, He puts the finger on Abraham and two thousand years
later, when the fullness of time had come, He sent forth that One who is the focal point
of the whole promise because God is completely in control.
Dont ever worry about that. He is completely in control or He
is not God. If Hes not in control then He has needs or He is ignorant. In either
case, He is no longer the God of Heaven. But He is sovereign.
2. Promise stated generally
Genesis chapter 12, verses 1 through 3, is what the entire rest of
the Bible is about. If you have to take the Bible to a pivotal turning point, to a
foundation, speaking from the standpoint of whats coming next, its all about
Genesis 12:1-3 through the end of Revelation from that point.
These are huge verses. Please understand this is big stuff. Eight
generations have elapsed since the blessing given to Shem. Now with all those different
possibilities, where God could have taken His blessing, He comes here, to Abram, living in
the northern Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent, a place called Haran, and God steps in. He
comes to Abram and He gets very specific with him. God becomes very near and very involved
because thats how Hell work out His promise to restore. Hell do it
personally. Hell use people, but its His project and Hell see it
He steps in. He talks to Abram. In these three verses, He talks about
a blessing. Five times in three verses, He uses that term. He fully intends to focus His
favor in a restorative way through Abram. There is no more significant individual other
than Jesus in the history of the world.
the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
2And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will
And in you all the families of the
earth will be blessed."
Not just your family. All of them. Introducing His saving grace to be
extended throughout the world. Starting right here. That notion of go into all the
world did not begin in Matthew 28. Always Gods design was all the world.
Abraham is the key.
Growing up, I used to think, Whats the big deal about the
Jews? In my recall, World War II, 1948, theres a Zionist thing, a country over
there in the Middle East. Who are these people and why does anybody care about them?
Why is it that they seem to grab headlines from time to time?
The Jews are traceable here, to God saying, I will make you a
great nation. Thats profound. He will make their name great. That may strike
us, Well, they arent a great nation. Arent they? I would say they
are a fairly influential nation. Thats just the way things are now.
There were many, many nations raised up in the ancient Near East.
None of them exist in the world today except this one. You cannot find an Amalekite, a
Canaanite, any of the ites. Theyre gone. Where are the Assyrians as a
nation? Theyre gone. This is unique; this is special. The history of this people,
ethnically, is fascinating. Which is why, in 1948, when there happened to be an absence on
the United Nations Security Council, there was a vote allowing statehood to Israel. Going
back to 586 B.C. there was no nation. They were everywhere; now theyre back and
theyre a nation. That isnt just, Thats interesting. No,
thats deliberate; thats what God has done. Spiritually is another matter, but
ethnically there they are. God said, I will
make you a great nation and I will make your
Back in Genesis 6, before the flood part of the problem that
brought on the flood was that people were trying to make their own names great. The sons
of God, the daughters of men, the Nephelim, the giants, all these people were great in
their own eyes. They were great in the eyes of one another but their design was, I
will make myself great. They are gone.
Later on at the tower (Genesis 11) people got together and said,
Lets build us a tower, lets make it high, lets make it permanent,
lets make it big, lets make us a name. Theyre gone.
Now we come to Genesis 12. God steps in and says, I believe I
will make your name great. Now its My job. Ill do it. And its
done. Thats the big deal about the Jews, at least till now. We cant go a whole
lot further than that except to say this. In the city of Hebron in Israel, about a half
hour south of Jerusalem, theres a huge complex built by Herod the Great in the first
century. Inside that complex is the only place in all the world where one building houses
three worship centers. Inside the building and in Hebron six key individuals are buried.
This is where they buried Abraham, his wife Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah,
Leah, and Jacob. All these big players from the book of Genesis are buried at Hebron,
which is significant. Its also important to know that there are three worship
centers there: a mosque, a synagogue, and a church, all in the same place. People come and
go and do their worship in three of the major religions in the entire world. Why? Because
each of those major world religions traces their origins to Abraham. I will make
your name great.
You and I couldnt grab headlines like that if we tried three
lifetimes. But God was in Abrahams life and He indeed made his name great and He
promised him in Genesis 12 that all the families of the earth will know His focused favor.
I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who curse
you. Say what you will, but its in the Book.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith,
preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED
This guy is key! He is key ethnically; hes also key spiritually
and thats how the promise focuses and arrives at your doorstep and mine. Blessing
Gods focused favor He will restore. Hell do it through Abraham.
Thats the general promise.
specifically (Genesis 15)
The promise was stated generally in Genesis 12:3; it is guaranteed
specifically in chapter 15, to Abraham by God, graphically and permanently. The chapter
starts with a dilemma. Abraham remembers the promise. He believes it, but he is really
unsure how God is going to carry it out. Why? Abraham and Sarah are really old and
theyve never had children. Shes has never been able to bear children
So Abraham is thinking:
said, "O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my
house is Eliezer of Damascus?"
Abraham is a wealthy man. He has a lot of holding, but he does not
have an heir. So according to culture, his right hand man gets his stuff since Abraham
doesnt have any children of his own. By law, Eliezer, who is his servant, his
foreman, gets everything. Abraham is not quite comfortable with that, because God has
said, Your descendents. So Abraham is wondering about the use of that term.
Abraham knows he is going to have a seed, but he
doesnt understand fully the implications of that. Hes questioning God.
3And Abram said, "Since You have
given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
4Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man
will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your
5And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and
count the stars, if you are able to count them " And He said to him, "So
shall your descendants be."
He said, Abraham, more than the stars of the heavens,
youre going to have offspring. From your body.
It says in Romans 4, Abraham considered his own body as good as
dead due to advanced years and the deadness of Sarahs womb, but realized God
is beyond dead. Dead is not a threat to God. Hes trusting in a God whose abilities
are clearly beyond his own.
In my own way, in my own flesh, its not going to
Well, its a good thing its not up to you,
isnt it, Abraham? Its a good thing its up to Me.
We have to go back to that a lot. Its a good thing its
Gods kingdom to build. Its a good thing Heaven is His creation. Its a
good thing He provided salvation. Its a good thing He gives us His Spirit and His
Word and His church.
Abraham is going to take his place there after this graphic object
lesson in the stars. Thats the dilemma and the clarification. Its going to be
from Me, Abraham, and not your works. Verse 6 is monumental:
6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He
reckoned it to him as righteousness.
He is hereby made right with God, right here, this verse. What did he
have to do to be right with God? Trust Him! He didnt have to jump through any hoops,
push any buttons, climb any hills, pray any prayers. He didnt have to do anything,
but trust God. He put all his trust in God. Thats it. And that is the beauty of the
Gospel. Thats the beauty of the grace of God. This is a huge verse.
It is not circumstance. It is not by accident that he places his
trust in God after God promises to bless through Abrahams seed. We know, as the
Bible will unfold for us that Abrahams seed finds its culmination in the Messiah.
The Messiah is the One who purchases our salvation. Did Abraham have all those facts? No,
he didnt. He did not have all the facts, but he did have the same God and he was
given a promise and he trusted the God of the promise. God said, You are now right
with Me. Thats what being justified means, being made right with God.
How do you get right with God? Trust Him. Thats it. Abraham
believed in the Lord, he trusted in the Lord. He reckoned it to him, or considered it to
him, as righteousness.
So God says now its assurance time. This is where it begins, in
7And He said
to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this
land to possess it."
8He said, "O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?"
A lot of people today go back and forth on this one. Lord, how may I know?
God says, OK, Ill take care of that. I will prove to you I am serious about
this blessing thing.
9So He said to him, "Bring Me
a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a
turtledove, and a young pigeon."
He brought all of these to God and Abraham knew what was coming. What is unfolding now
is an ancient, legal event that seals a contract. They called it cutting a covenant and
they meant it literally, because Abraham takes these animals and birds and cuts them in
half. He lays the pieces apart from one another, leaving a pathway between them. The idea
behind this graphic illustration is we will pass between the pieces thus
saying graphically that, may this happen to me (being halved) if I dont
fulfill my side of this deal. Im so serious about this that Im putting my life
on the line.
Abraham knows where this is going, so he gets the animals, cuts them, lays them out.
when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great
darkness fell upon him.
God said to Abraham, Know this for certain, and He
reiterates the promise with specifics regarding the land and then it says in verse 17:
came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a
smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.
What has happened? Who is the pillar of fire and the cloud? Its
God! Only God passed between the pieces. Thats what is significant here. God is
saying, Were going to make a deal. You lay the path out. Abraham
didnt pass between, only God did. God is saying, I will bless you. I promise I
will bless you. Heres the proof of My promise. I alone will pass between the pieces.
I alone will take complete responsibility for seeing that My blessing is brought through
to completion. That is wonderful! God guaranteed it.
That is assurance. How will I know. Heres how you may know watch
Me. See what I can do. And God passes between the pieces. If that didnt
convince Abram that God was serious about an unconditional promise, I dont know what
There are verses at the end of the Bible I would like to draw
attention to. Can we know? Do we really think God would leave us twisting in the wind,
wondering where we stand with Him? The Bible makes this very clear.
11And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life
is in His Son.
12He who has the Son has the life; he
who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
The Son is the One to whom the promise ultimately goes.
13These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
is such good news. I can think of none better. The Bible says as fulfillment of Gods
promise to bless, when the time was absolutely right, when the fullness of time had come,
not a minute early, not a minute late, God sent forth His Son.
taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®,
Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995
by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
© Jim Carlson 2004, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville