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Covenant with Abraham

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2023 12:01 am

Covenant with Abraham

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 25, 2023 12:01 am

Have you ever worried that the promises of God won't come true? Today, R.C. Sproul introduces us to a man named Abraham and to the covenant that God made with him, showing that the Lord always keeps His promises and is never late in fulfilling them.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

God does not simply bless him as an individual for his own benefit, but Abraham is blessed so that he might be a vehicle of blessing to manifest multitudes of people who come after him.

He was blessed to be a blessing. After becoming a Christian, I learned that many Christians grew up singing about Father Abraham. Many sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them, and so are you. But how much do you know about Abraham and the significance of the promise God made to him? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham. Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind.

Paul in Galatians 3 says that Christians are sons of Abraham. Today, as R.C. Sproul continues his Dust to Glory series, we find ourselves in Genesis 12, and he introduces us to this significant figure in the Old Testament and in God's plan of redemption.

Here's Dr. Sproul. I think we're living in a very interesting time. It's a time of crisis. We're in a period of history that is somewhat unusual, where we're in that time where we're making a transition not only from year to year or even in terms of the turn of a century, but rather the time of the turn of a millennium. And of course, any time that you have that transition from millennium to millennium, all of the historians and the sociologists and the prognosticators of the future talk about the significance of this moment in history. Now, the historians of our day have described our time as the post-Christian era, a time where the teaching of Christianity has been deemed increasingly irrelevant, a time when the church is seen as a museum, outdated, outmoded.

It's been reduced in certain places of Europe to the role of the mausoleum, indeed the gravesite for those who have declared the death of God. And yet there remains in this world today a pulsating group of believing Christian people who still live at this point in time trusting in promises that were made two thousand years ago. Two thousand years is a long time, and there's some irony in this in that we're at that point now where just about two thousand years have elapsed since the birth of Jesus. But on the occasion of the birth of Jesus, you recall the angel Gabriel came to this young girl and announced that she would give birth to a baby whose name would be Emmanuel. And this young maiden, under the influence of the Holy Spirit two thousand years ago, sang a song. And we all know the song.

We love the song. It's called The Magnificat, in which Mary, under the power of the Spirit, sang out, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior. And if we look through the text of The Magnificat and come to the very end of that song, here are the words that came from Mary. She said, He has helped His servant Israel, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His seed forever. Now shortly after this song of praise, inspired by the Holy Spirit from the lips of Mary, another song appears in Scripture, and this is the song that is sung by the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias. And in the midst of his song, he said this, That we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham.

Now here's the irony. We're standing on the threshold of a change of a millennium. We're standing in that point in history being two thousand years distantly removed from the promises of Christ.

And some people are having a hard time believing them because so much time has elapsed, so much time. And yet Mary and Zacharias, ironically, were in virtually the same situation because they were looking back two millennia. They were looking back for two thousand years and blessing God for remembering a promise that He had made to somebody else two thousand years before they lived. And so in a very real sense, Mary and Zacharias represent a similar situation to what we are facing today. And both of these people, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, celebrated that God remembered something. God remembered His promise. He remembered a promise that was a promise to give mercy, and of course that promise was the promise that He had made two thousand years earlier to the patriarch Abraham. Now we've already said that the Old Testament in a certain sense is the autobiography of God, that its chief character is God the Father.

As His character is revealed in every word that is spoken in the Old Testament text, every deed that is recorded, every relationship that is remembered. But from a human perspective, from the plane of human history, we could come at it in a different way. We could say, well, the whole record of the Old Testament is a history of the descendants of Adam and Eve. But of course, all history is a history of the descendants of Adam and Eve because they're the parents of all people who have ever lived. In a more narrow and specialized sense, the whole scope of Old Testament history is the history chiefly of the descendants of one man.

In fact, if it were a soap opera today it would probably be called something like this, one man's family. And the man whose family history is recorded throughout the Old Testament literature is Abraham. Now, of course, one of the points of crisis in our time where this spirit of skepticism that declares that we're living in the post-Christian era is manifested is in this skeptical attitude towards the historical reliability of the Old Testament and particularly the earlier chapters of the Old Testament. And in the corridors of biblical scholars and those who indulge in what's called higher criticism, there has been in the last 150 years a massive attack against the historical character of Abraham. Abraham has been regarded as a mythological character, merely a legend whose life gives us some kind of parabolic lesson. But apart from the moral lessons that we can learn from this saga, there is no real historical substance to it.

And of course, in the 19th century these assumptions were considered to be assured results of scholarly research. But something has happened. Many things have happened indeed in the 20th century to bring a dramatic change to that spirit of skepticism. The late William Foxwell Albright, before he died, made a sharp rebuke of biblical scholars for ignoring the hard evidence of archaeological research and allowing philosophical speculation to bring an undue spirit of cynicism and skepticism to the Old Testament text. And at the heart of this is the story of Abraham. Now, let me mention in passing a few things that have happened in the 20th century that are very important to our understanding of Old Testament history. In 1929, there was a discovery in Rosh Shemrah that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that writing had been developed as early as the second millennium B.C. in the Middle East because the skeptics of the 19th century said there wasn't even any writing in the world at this time and that the record of Abraham must have come significantly later because writing hadn't even been developed in this part of the world. In 1935, the Mari tablets were discovered, which indicated a historical record of customs and behavioral patterns that exactly mirrored and duplicated the customs that are recorded in the account of the life of Abraham. Also in the 30s, another dramatic discovery was made with the Nuzu tablets, which did the same thing, gave us a wealth of information of Old Testament times and showed a correspondence of customs and behavioral patterns, legal documents, that sort of thing. And then more recently, the Ebla discovery, which there demonstrates the existence of cities, peoples, even names that occur in the Bible, all of which has demonstrated that it seems like every time an archaeologist turns over a shovel full of dirt, another aspect of this record is verified for its authenticity. So what we're going to say here at the beginning is that when we look at the story of Abraham, we ought not to look at the story of Abraham as an exercise in mythology, but rather as an announcement that comes to us in the sacred Scriptures of something that takes place in real history, in real space, in real time, where a real God calls a real individual out of a land of paganism, speaks to him, consecrates him, and makes a promise to him that changes the entire course of history.

Let's look at that record as we find it in the 12th chapter of the book of Genesis. We read at the very beginning of chapter 12 of Genesis this account. Now, the Lord had said to Abram, get out of your country from your family and from your father's house to a land that I will show you, and I will make you a great nation.

I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing, and I will bless those who bless you. Some of you will remember the Old Testament survey that was produced by some Lutherans called the Bethel Bible Series. And that particular introductory survey of the Old Testament uses interesting graphics with each segment of the period that is being studied, and the way in which this segment of the life of Abraham is captioned is by the words, blessed to be a blessing. And I thought that was a marvelous method of succinctly and tersely capturing the very essence of what is going on here in terms of the historical significance of this man Abraham. God does not simply bless him as an individual for his own benefit, but Abraham is blessed so that he might be a vehicle of blessing to manifest multitudes of people who come after him.

He was blessed to be a blessing, and that motif is carried on throughout the whole Old Testament period and even into the New Testament period that when God blesses us, He blesses us that we might become a blessing to those who are around us. But if we look now at the elements of this promise, we see, first of all, that what is going on here is the making of a covenant, a covenant that is announced here in chapter 12 and ratified in an amazing way in chapter 15 of Genesis that I commend you to study carefully because there in chapter 15 of Genesis, God answers the questions of Abraham when Abraham said, how will I know that these promises that you're making to me will come to pass? And God, in the context of that chapter, seals His promise with an oath, and in that oath, God is saying to Abraham, Abraham, if I don't keep every word that I have promised to you, may I be cut asunder that God backs up His promise by swearing not by His mother's grave He has no mother, not by the earth, that's His own footstool, or by the heavens, His dwelling place, but rather God swears by His own holy character and His own divine nature. Now again, what are the terms of this covenant promise that God makes to Abraham, and how do they impact the rest of biblical history, and how are they relevant to us, and what is it about them that would cause Mary to sing the Magnificat and Zacharias his song of praise? Well, if you notice what I read here, there are three elements to this promise. The first one is there is the promise of land. God says to Abraham, Abraham, I want you in your old age to get up from your father's land, from all of the familiar surroundings that you have, and I want you to move, and I'm going to take you to a land where you don't know where you're going and you're not going to know where you're going until you get there, and I am going to give this land to you.

So, the first promise has to do with land, and we'll talk about that more in a second. The second is, I will make you the father of a great nation, and later on that is spelled out more specifically when God says to Abraham, look at the midnight sky, and if you can, try to number the stars that are in the sky. If you've ever been out on a clear night in the summer and gazed toward the heaven, toward the Milky Way, and on a clear night, the Milky Way appears as a dense cloud in the sky, but it's not a cloud. It appears as a dense cloud because it is made up of millions and billions of individual stars, and God said to Abraham, look at that night sky. Count the stars, and there he goes, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

He could have stood there from the day God asked him to count the stars to today, and he would still be counting if he were counting as fast as he possibly could. And then he took them to the seashore, and he said, look at the grains of sand along the shore, and count them, number them if you can, because so will be the number of your descendants. Now, this is a man who had just, God said to him, Abraham, I am your great reward. And he said, well, what reward do I have when I am childless, and my heir is my servant Eliezer of Damascus?

I'm too old. My wife is too old to have any children, but God said, not only are you going to have descendants, but they're going to be like the stars of the sky and the sand by the sea. You are going to be the father of a multitude of people. So we have the second part is the promise of descendants. And thirdly is the promise that through Abraham and his seed, a blessing will come upon the nations, that through this action the whole world will receive a magnificent blessing. So herein are the three aspects of this covenant promise that God makes to Abraham. Now what really happens if we look through the rest of the period and we look through the rest of the history of these promises, how much land did Abraham own and possess? The only parcel of real estate he lived to possess was Machpelah, which was his burial site.

That was the extent of his ownership. And what about his descendants? Well, we know the story of how God promised to bless him, make him the father of a great nation, and so he expected to have a son, but no son was given. And even when the promise was given to Abraham in his old age, one year passes, two year passes, five year passes, years upon years pass, and his wife is still barren. And following a custom that is incidentally demonstrated to be part of the ancient ritual through these tablet discoveries that I mentioned earlier in the 20th century, his wife Sarah gave her servant slave to Abraham that she might be a surrogate mother so that the promise of God would be fulfilled. And so Abraham unites with Hagar, and they have a baby, and his name is Ishmael. And now Abraham says, I have a son, and the promises of God can now take place, and maybe I will have descendants like the stars and like the sea.

But the promise of God was not through Ishmael. It was through Isaac that the seed of Abraham was to be fulfilled. Abraham tried to make it happen in an artificial way, but it's not what God had in mind until then God supernaturally works to make the womb of Sarah fertile and the true son of Abraham and Sarah is born, and his name, as we know, is called Isaac, which in Hebrew means laughter, because when Abraham told his wife that she was going to have a baby according to the promise of God, she thought that was the funniest thing she ever heard.

She just roared. So, if we have a baby, I would call his name Laughter, and then Isaac is born. And he realized what happened with the promise of land. Abraham waited and waited and waited, and he was put to the test time and again to trust the truthfulness of that divine promise, and as I said, he never inherited the promise of land other than his grave. And now as he rejoices in the birth of Isaac, God comes to him and puts him to the supreme test in Genesis 22 when he says to Abraham, now take your son, your only son, the son whom thou lovest, Isaac, and go to Mount Moriah and there give him to me, sacrifice him to me, kill him. And the supreme test came upon Abraham when he made that dreadful journey to Mount Moriah, which tradition says is located on the exact spot that later in history is called Mount Calvary, where God took his son, his only son, the son whom he loved, Jesus, and went through with the sacrifice and took his life as a substitute for us and for Isaac because Abraham passed the test and Isaac was spared so that Isaac could have a son and that Isaac's son could have a son. And so through this descendancy, the promises of the covenant would come to pass. And through this heritage, through this line, as the Apostle Paul said, through the seed of Abraham, all of the nations of the world are now given the benefits of exposure of the work of Christ, Abraham's greatest son.

But this was not without testing, and the point is it didn't take place immediately. That blessing that was promised to Abraham had to take 2,000 years before it was realized until this little girl heard the announcement of Gabriel, and she is saying, he remembered. He remembered the mercy. He remembered the promise that he gave to Abraham. And as the Spirit announced to Zacharias that his son would be the forerunner, the herald of the coming Messiah under the same Holy Spirit, Zacharias said he remembered the promise. And the whole history of redemption is the working out of that event 4,000 years ago.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham. This series, Dust of Glory, has been used of the Lord to help new Christians, those coming out of false teaching, and seasoned Christians to help refresh and clarify their understanding of the Bible. And this complete series, 57 messages, can be yours for your donation of any amount. When you give your gift at, we'll send you this 8-DVD overview of the entire Bible and give you digital access to all 57 messages as well as the study guide. So give your gift today at or by calling us at 800 435 4343. Tomorrow R.C. Sproul will consider Abraham's grandson, a man who tricked his brother, lied to his father, and still received the blessing of God. So join us Friday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-25 03:51:19 / 2023-05-25 03:59:27 / 8

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