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God's Faithfulness is My Protection

 

Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-21

 

Jim Davis

 

Looking back historically we understand the rise and fall of civilizations wrapped up in the thoughts and desires of humanity. There is an unalterable law of the universe set forth in creation—we reap what we sow. Wheat seeds produce wheat, the seed of a human produces another human—even a thought planted in the mind brings forth after its kind. A thought has the potential to germinate into a strong desire, bud and spring into full bloom bearing fruit affecting our lives—yea, our entire world.

 

The fall of Genesis reveals the potential destructiveness of the subtlest misguided desire planted in the heart when allowed to run its course. Adam and Eve lived in a pristine world. No thorns. No thistles. No weeds. No clothes. No hostility. No enemies. No sickness. No curse. No death. Suddenly the world changes in one regretful decision. One can only imagine how scary it must have been to have their eyes opened as they hid from God. Imagine traveling from innocence to wearing fig leaves to cover your nakedness. It was traumatic. Every pristine blessing is now accompanied with a curse.

 

Imagine watching that innocent animal slaughtered and the skin ripped off to cover your nakedness. Try to imagine the shock of standing over the first grave—the grave of your son—knowing you as a parent are responsible for his death. I can’t imagine the impenetrable foreboding shadow being cast over their future—the future of our world—as they stood by that graveside. Imagine Adam living 930 years observing the devastation brought upon an innocent world. He felt the impact of God’s statement, “The day you eat, you shall surely die.” Imagine the death of the entire planet as we know it is wrapped up in a simple misguided thought.

 

The Curse of Evil

 

Contrary to popular belief the curse in Eden is not the curse of God. It is the curse of evil. It is the same curse inherent in every evil thought. Evil seeks to master us through the earthshaking curse. “Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin [evil] is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:6-7 NIV).

 

Evil would bring a curse even if there were no God. In fact, evil rules God out—when God is ruled out evil reigns through its enslaving curse. I can’t imagine the terror of evil reigning in eternity. How horrible will an eternity without God be where evil’s curse will reign unrestrained? The inborn deathly destruction and devastation evil brings should be a deterrent in restraining evil tendencies.

 

The main thrust of salvation and redemption must be understood in light of God salvaging creation from the curse of evil. His goal is to bring his entire creation back to his original plan and purpose. The first promise of God’s deliverance from evil was given in the following verses.

 

Genesis 3:14-15

So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,

 

"Cursed are you above all the livestock

and all the wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

and you will strike his heel." NIV

 

God promises to bring the full curse of evil back upon the one who brought the curse into the world. God’s salvation would rise from the offspring of woman to crush evil forever destroying the curse. . He reaps what he has sown. He would be cursed above all those he brought the curse upon In God’s promise to bring evil back upon evil’s head is God’s plan of deliverance to humanity through the seed of woman.

 

There is absolutely no way of understanding the Bible without understanding this one basic principle. Everything written is directly connected to this promise in Genesis 3:15 and its fulfillment. The biblical narrative is God’s unfolding story of deliverance for humanity through the seed of woman. The biblical narrative begins with Eden lost and ends in Revelation with Eden restored. It begins with the curse Satan brings into this world; it ends with the destruction of Satan and everything that is evil. It ends with Eden restored.

 

Revelation 20:10

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. NIV

 

The biblical narratives concentrate on the promised deliverance and its fulfillment. To understand the full extent of what is being said here we must connect Genesis 3:15 to the following verses:

 

Galatians 4: 4-5

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, [Jesus Christ] born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

 

These verses in the book of Galatians reveal the fulfillment of the promise made in Genesis 3:15. God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the curse to redeem those cursed. He came to restore the full rights we had in creation as the children of God.

 

Salvation through Abram’s Seed

 

The Old Testament reads like a mystery holding out seemingly vague promises which only leave the reader wondering how it all will work out in the end. In Genesis chapter twelve God begins to unfold his mysterious plan to redeem his creation through Abram’s descendants. . The first vague promise of redemption in Genesis 3:15 is mysterious. God makes another seemingly vague promise that he would bless all the peoples on earth through Abram’s descendants.

 

Genesis 12:1-3

12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

 

2 "I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you." NIV

 

The promise to Abram was mysteriously vague as he peered into the future. However, the promise becomes clear to us through retrospection. Retrospection is always enlightening. Looking back on my life there are some things very obvious to me that I should have done differently. Retrospection makes clear what was unclear at the time the decisions were made. We call it 20/20 hindsight. Likewise, today we can better understand biblical history in retrospect.

 

Paul tells us the mystery has been revealed in the gospel of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-5).

The New Testament traces God’s history backward through the righteous seed of Abraham. Matthew writes his gospel for the Jews as he traces the descendants of Jesus back through the Jewish genealogical record to Abraham. He seeks to show that Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Matthew 1:1ff). Christ is the seed of Abraham through whom all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed. Christ is the one who crushes Satan’s head, while only Christ heal is bruised (Genesis 3:15).

 

Today we have a clearer picture of the promise God made to Abraham and his descendants because we are heirs according of the promise. Paul writes, “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. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29 NIV). Abraham’s descendants simply relied upon God’s promise. Today we have inherited the promise through Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals that we are the recipients of those promises. In retrospect we are the heirs of what Abraham could only hope to come to pass.

 

Romans 4:18

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." NIV

 

Deliverance from the Curse

 

God’s promise to Abram isn’t simply futuristic. Surely, it holds out hope for the future. Yet, it was a promise to guard and protect Abram from an evil. God says, “I will bless those that bless you. I will curse those who curse you.” The story of the Old Testament is about how God’s people lived while holding onto his promises.

 

The amazing thing about God’s promise to Abraham is how God personally reveals himself to Abraham as he struggles to believe and obey God’s promises. It gives a believer an appreciation of what God is doing in the life of every believer seeking to obey.

 

Time passes after God’s initial promise to Abram. Abram begins to question God’s promise.

 

Genesis 15:1-8

15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

 

"Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield,

your very great reward."

 

2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

 

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

 

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

 

7 He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."

 

8 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" NIV

 

We are so much like Abram. We question God as seek to walk by faith in the unseen. God promises to be Abram’s shield [protector] and his very great reward. Hope seems so mysteriously vague. God renews his promise to Abram. Still, Abram persist asking, “How can I know . . .?” How can he know God’s promises are true? How can we know his promises are true?

 

God speaks to Abram saying, "You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, and they will be oppressed as slaves for four hundred years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (But you will die in peace, at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, when the sin of the Amorites has run its course" (Genesis 15:13-16 NLT).

 

Prophetic statements such as this one are often disconcerting. We may question God. We ask ourselves, “Why would God do this to Abraham’s offspring.” God says, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land . . . oppressed . . . enslaved  . . .” Initially, it seems as though God is bringing a curse upon Abraham and his descendants.

 

God knew Abram’s descendants would be living among those who were allowing the destructive course of evil to run its course. He knew the precise hardships they would face as they sought to live in an evil world. It is not the curse of God but evil’s curse bringing this to Abram’s descendants. He knew the curse would seem overpowering and debilitating as they lived as strangers in this foreign land. This is a promise of deliverance despite the evil forces. It is a promise of his ultimate protection. It was a renewal of the promise made to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4—God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who sought to curse him.

 

The value of the biblical stories is that they are filled with examples of warning and encouragement as we struggle to follow Christ. The Bible reveals that we can’t hide from the curse or isolate ourselves from its affects, but we can trust in God for deliverance. God sees the end from the beginning. He sees what sin is going to do. He sees the fruit it bears before it begins to germinate in hearts.  God knows the outcome of every evil action. God has already made a way of escape.

 

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

 

God continues to bless those who bless his children and curse those who curse his children as he provides a way of escape for his children. It is God’s way of reminding us he is in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it.  He wants us to be able to focus on what he is asking rather than fighting the curse of evil.

 

Romans 12:17-21

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

 

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  

 

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NIV

 

In the previous chapter of Genesis, Abram fights with the kings of the plains of Sodom as he sought to rescue his nephew Lot. God gave him victory, but his victory didn’t leave him feeling confident. He knows aggression breeds aggression. Others would perceive him as a very real threat to be defeated. God steps in and reveals his plan for the deliverance of Abram and his descendants. God reveals the future of Abraham’s descendants for the next four hundred years, then God makes a personal promise to Abraham, “Your people will return to inherit this land . . . you will die in peace, at a ripe old age” (Genesis 15:13-16).

 

God’s salvation and deliverance in the ancient world was all inclusive. It went beyond forgiveness as a merciful God interceded in the affairs of their world. It was a promise to sustain and protect them as they trusted God to work out his plan for their lives. They weren’t trusting God to do the miraculous. They trusted him daily for the ordinary things of life.

 

Salvation history reveals evil running its destructive course. About five hundred years after Abram God judged the Amorites and gave their land to Abram’s descendants as he led them through the Red Sea. When sin ran its course God exterminated the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.

 

Personal Scope of the Promise

 

The story of Abraham is about God seeking Abraham.

 

Genesis 15:8-11

8 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?"

 

9 So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."

 

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. NIV

 

What is about to happen was common to the ancients. “Ancient Near Eastern texts reveal that these procedures were used by men making compacts or covenants. Ordinarily, both parties to the covenant agreement passed between the halves of the split animals and thus signified their solemn intention to abide by the agreement, under penalty of experiencing the same end as the sacrificial victims if they failed to keep the covenant” (Jeremiah 34: 18-19). (Clyde Woods, Genesis-Exodus, The living Way Commentary on the Old Testament, 1972, Clyde Woods.)

 

Jeremiah gives us a clearer picture of the meaning of what every animal sacrifice in the Old Testament symbolized.

 

Jeremiah 34:18

18 The men who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces. NIV

 

God condescends to give assurance to Abram as he literally cuts a deal with him.

 

Genesis 15:17-21

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates —  19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites." NIV

 

 

Making an animal sacrifice was like saying, “May God treat me like I have treated the sacrifices I walk between, if I fail to live up to my promise.” However, here in Genesis 15 we find God entering the covenant. It is God making the promise. Abram merely prepares the sacrifice for God to pass between. It is God who descends to accommodate himself to something tangible for Abram’s sake. It is God who is saying may I be treated like these sacrifices, if I fail to live up to the covenant I have made with you.

 

Hebrews 6:13-15

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants."   15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. NIV

 

Conclusion:

 

The New Testament reveals to us the fulfillment of all the promises of God to Abraham. They come to us through Jesus Christ. God continues to protect and salvage those who call upon his name.

 

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a

a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage.  One ranger found a bird literally petrified in the ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

 

Intrigued by the sight, he touched the bird gently with a stick.  When he did, three tiny chicks scurried from under the dead mother’s wings.  The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and gathered them under her wings.

 

She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies.  She was willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.

 

As we read the Bible we understand God’s unwillingness to abandon us to the curse and shame of evil.

 

Psalms 91:1-4

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge

and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust."

 

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. NIV

 

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