Abraham & the Promises of God - Radical
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Abraham & the Promises of God

In this message from Genesis 11–18, Mike Kelsey highlights the faithfulness of God in the promises made to Abraham. This same God is still faithful to keep His promises today, which should give God’s people hope in any and every circumstance. Mike Kelsey is Campus Pastor at the McLean Bible Church Montgomery County location and a member of the Teaching Team.

  1. God is trustworthy and his promises are true.
  2. God’s promises are true.
  3. God promises to accomplish a covenant purpose.
  4. God is trustworthy.

Genesis 12 Helps Us to Understand the Rest of the Bible

It’s a joy to be together in God’s Word. This morning we’ll be starting in Genesis 12. We’re in our series “The Story of Scripture,” and our sermons are corresponding to a Bible Reading Plan where we are reading through the Bible using key chapters that are chronologically arranged. Our goal is to see how it all fits together and ultimate to see how God unfolds redemptive history throughout the pages of Scripture. 

When David asked me to preach, I asked him what subject I should address. He told me, “Preach about Abraham.” I responded, “Bro, that’s 14 chapters, Genesis 12 through 25. Do you want to be a little more specific?” He told me, “No.” Now, to be fair, he did kind of preach all 42 chapters of Job last week, but then, he has a Ph.D. and I’m still struggling to help my daughter with her homework. So, we’re not going to be able to dive into all 14 chapters today about Abraham, but we’ll begin in Genesis 12, then we’ll bounce around quite a bit. 

I want to briefly answer one question, then we’ll pray. As you’re reading through the narrative of Scripture, and as we’re preaching and studying God’s Word today, why is this section about Abraham so important to understand? I’ll give you a few quick reasons. First, the story of Abraham helps you understand the rest of the Bible, which is basically the story of God keeping His promises to Abraham. That’s why when you read through the Old Testament, and even through the New Testament, you see these promises we’ll read about in Genesis 12 repeated over and over and over again. 

Genesis 12 Helps Us to Understand World History

The story of Abraham not only helps you understand the Bible, but it also helps you understand all of world history. As we’ll see, God’s plans through Abraham are still unfolding today. So in that sense, world history itself is basically the unfolding of these promises. Then finally—and this is where it gets personal for each of us—the story of Abraham reminds us that God is a trustworthy God and His promises are true. That’s the bottom line for this sermon. 

As I was following the Bible Reading Plan and thinking about how it applied to my own life, I think God is ultimately revealing to us through the record of Abraham’s life this main point: God is trustworthy and His promises are true. 

Let me pray for us, then we’ll dive in here. 

Father, we need You today because we can hear Your Word, but without faith, we won’t benefit from it. Please work in our hearts and open our eyes so we might see wonderful things from Your Word. God, would You enable us by Your Spirit to comprehend what You have to say to us would You enable us not only to be hearers of Your Word, but also to be doers of Your Word, so that we can enjoy You and participate in Your work? We pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Before we dive into Abraham’s story, let’s look at who he was. If you’re new to the Bible, you probably noticed that Abraham’s original name was Abram, which literally means father. In Genesis 17 God changes his name to Abraham, which means father of many. We’ll see why that’s important in just a minute. 

Abraham was originally from a Babylonian town called Ur, but he grew up in a town called Haran. There wasn’t anything particularly special about Abraham; he’s just a regular guy. In fact, he has a track record of messing up over and over and over again, even though Abraham is a pretty big deal throughout Scripture and in religious life even today. 

For example, we see he is a chronic liar. He lies a couple times in these chapters, throwing his wife under the bus to protect his own skin. He has moments when he struggles to believe God. Yet with all of his faults and failures, God establishes a covenant with Abraham and blesses him. Today, three major faiths, which together account for more than half of the world’s population, look to Abraham as the father of their faith. This is the man we’re going to study today as we begin reading in Genesis 12. 

Let’s First Begin in Genesis 11

Actually, I want to back up to a few previous verses and start with Genesis 11:31: 

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. 

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 

God’s promises are true. 

God is trustworthy, and His promises are true. I want to take the second half of this statement first: God’s promises are true. We see in these verses the promises God gave Abraham. Some of these applied to Abraham personally—to bless him and make his name great—but there are also some broader promises that form the foundation of what we call the Abrahamic Covenant. 

Genesis Details God’s Promises to Abraham

There are three main promises in the Abrahamic Covenant. The best way I have come to summarize these is to think of them like three threads that run through the fabric of the Bible. If you pull on one of these threads from Genesis 12, then you can trace that theme, that promise, all the way through the rest of the Bible: 

  1. God promises to establish a covenant place
  2. God promises to multiply a covenant people
  3. God promises to accomplish through His covenant people a covenant purpose

A lot of scholars speak of these promises using words that are more faithful to the text: land, seed, blessing. We’re going to pull on each of these threads and follow them through the Bible, so hold on to your hats. I’m going to start with the first promise of a covenant place—the land. 

As you study the Bible, from the very beginning of Scripture—even in the Garden of Eden—the reason covenant land is so important is because God desires to dwell with His people on earth. So throughout redemptive history, God has given His people a place where His presence and glory will be revealed and enjoyed. 

In Genesis 15 God Expands on His Promise

So we see this promise in Genesis 12 where He says, “I will give you this land.” Then in Genesis 15, He expands on that promise a little. Not only does He promise this land, but He ratifies and secures the covenant for Abraham by establishing this covenant place. Let me read from Genesis 15, picking up from verse seven: 

And [God] said to [Abram], “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they 

serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the 

Girgashites and the Jebusites.” 

That’s a lot of “ites.” When you hear this, you might be thinking, “This is why I don’t read the Bible. This is why I’m already behind on our two-week Bible Reading Plan, because what in the world is going on here? You lost me at ‘heifer.’ What is happening?”

Here’s what’s happening. God is ratifying the covenant He’s making with Abraham. A covenant is a formal agreement between two parties. So just like we have ceremonies that ratify certain covenants, like our marriage ceremonies, in Abraham’s time there was a standard ceremony for two people ratifying a covenant. They would take several animals, cut them in half, place the halves across from each other with an aisle in between. Then both parties would walk down the aisle in between these dead animals. The implication was that if either of the parties broke the covenant, if either of them reneged on their promises, they should end up like those dead animals. Essentially it was saying, “May they pay the penalty for breaking covenant.” 

Genesis 17 & 18 Demonstrate How the Covenant is Unconditional

How many people walked down this animal-lined aisle? One. God—represented here in the smoking firepot and the flaming torch—walked through the aisle and ratified the covenant while Abraham was asleep. Why? Because God is taking full responsibility for fulfilling this covenant which is called an “unconditional covenant.” It’s not unconditional in the sense that it does not require obedience. You see that clearly in Genesis 17 and 18. The covenant is unconditional in the sense that it is initiated, secured and fulfilled by nothing other than God’s grace. Before Abraham had done anything to earn it, God had already decided that He was going to fulfill this covenant. 

So you see this fulfilled in Joshua 21:45 when God brings His covenant people—the descendants of Abraham—into the Promised Land. As they’re in the land of Canaan, it says, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Not a single word that God promised had failed. God is faithful to keep His promises. His promises are true. 

Now, this was a partial fulfillment. They didn’t take over all the land that God had promised them. Some would say that the final fulfillment of this is in the end times—the Millennial Kingdom— when Jesus returns to reign on earth for a thousand years. Others argue that this promise is ultimately fulfilled after the final Judgment, in the new creation when God’s people inherit the earth. Listen, what we all agree on is that every square inch of this Promised Land and every square inch of the entire earth belongs to God. One way or another, as co-heirs with Jesus, all of God’s people will eventually enjoy all of God’s real estate. 

In Genesis 12 God Promises to Multiply

God promises to establish a covenant place, but He also promises to multiply a covenant people. This is the “seed.” God says in Genesis 12:2, “I will make of you a great nation…” In Genesis 12:7, He mentions Abraham’s offspring. This promise is repeated and expanded in more detail in the chapters that follow. In Genesis 15, Abraham is worried, wondering, “How is God going to accomplish this?” So in Genesis 15:5, it says God brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said, “So shall your offspring be.” Our memory verse for this weekend is Genesis 5:6, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” 

The promise is repeated in Genesis 17:6 when God says to him, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful.” As you’re reading through this, this language should begin to trigger certain things in your mind, because you’ve heard this “Be fruitful and multiply” language before. All the way from the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God’s plans are still moving forward, even after the Fall. God said to Abraham, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” 

God promises to multiply a covenant people through Abraham, but there’s one huge problem. Genesis 11:30 tells us, “Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.” That’s why, as God clarifies the promise and tells Abraham and Sarah they are going to bring forth a child and name him Isaac, both of them initially laugh at God’s promise. When Sarah laughs, listen to how God responds beginning in Genesis 18:13: “The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?”’” Then we read verse 14 which is such good news! God says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Is anything too hard for God? “Can your circumstances stop Me from fulfilling My promises?” God keeps His promise. As we read, Isaac is eventually born and from there God continues to multiply His covenant people. 

Throughout the Bible, you see Satan working through godless leaders trying to kill the seed and stop God’s people from multiplying, but he’s not able to do it. You see it when they’re in Egyptian slavery, but they continue to multiply. Over and over and over again, God’s people continue to multiply. 

Genesis Sets the Stage for the New Testament

When we step into the New Testament we see Matthew beginning his Gospel account with a genealogy that begins with Abraham. Guess where it ends up? With Jesus, the promised Seed, the promised descendant, the Messiah Who would come from Abraham through the line of David to save all His people from their sins. 

And God is still not done with His original covenant people, the Jews. As we see in Romans 9 through 11, God still has a plan and will still fulfill His promises to multiply His original covenant people. God’s plan was never just for Abraham or just for Abraham’s extended family Israel. Through them, God promised to accomplish a covenant purpose. We see this in Genesis 12:3 where God promises Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

God’s plan for His original covenant people Israel was never supposed to stop with them. They were never designed to be a cul-de-sac of God’s blessing where they just enjoyed it all for themselves. They were designed to be a highway, where God would deliver His blessing through them to all the families of the earth—people from every nation, tribe and tongue. 

Don’t forget this, because it is so fundamental to God’s character and so critical to understanding God’s goal. God’s goal from the beginning has been to bless. and extend His blessing to all those who will believe Him by faith. So God says to Abraham in Genesis 17:4, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” Throughout the Old Testament, we get glimpses of God’s international, multi-ethnic plan moving forward, bringing blessing to other ethnic groups.

These Passages Show God’s Heart for the Nations

We see Rahab—the pagan Canaanite woman whom we’ll read about later—finding refuge among God’s people and eventually being included in the lineage of the Messiah. We see how God commands Israel through His law and prophets to make provision for visiting foreigners, to be a place, a community of blessing to them. We see God sending a very reluctant Jonah to go and proclaim His mercy to the pagan Ninevites. God gives us glimpses of His plan to reach beyond the Jewish borders and bring blessing to other peoples. 

Then Jesus, the promised Messiah, shows up, gathers and trains 12 disciples. Why 12? Because He has come to accomplish through His new covenant community what the 12 tribes of Israel could not. So in Matthew 28 Jesus commissions His disciples with the same words we commission each other with as we leave every Sunday—Matthew 28:18—20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I love how one writer put it: “When Paul read that Abraham would be the father of many nations, he heard the Great Commission.” 

The story doesn’t end there though, because in Acts 2, after His death and resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to indwell all believers. What happened? When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they began proclaiming the gospel in foreign languages they didn’t know to a crowd of 16 different racial groups. The crowd was amazed that they were hearing these men speak in their own native language. 

Think about the implications of this. Why does God do this? Was this just an early commercial for the Rosetta Stone? What exactly is happening here? God does this to confirm the fact that through Jesus His eternal covenant blessings are available to people from every nation, tribe and language. Then throughout the book of Acts—from one ethnic group after another—people hear the gospel, they trust Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. That’s why Paul, reflecting on the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, wrote in Galatians 3:7—9: 

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 

The blessing of the Abrahamic covenant is that by God’s grace, people from all nations will be adopted into God’s covenant family through faith in Jesus. That’s the mission God has been up to since the beginning. That’s the mission you and I are caught up in. This is why the mission of our church is to glorify God by making disciples and multiplying churches, beginning right here in the DC area, then extending all around the world. So 58 years ago, five families came together in McLean, Virginia, and McLean Bible Church merged into the mission of God. McLean Bible Church, this covenant community in Christ, stepped into the flow of this river of blessing that is rushing toward people who would believe in Jesus Christ. Listen, God is doing it. He’s doing it today through us. He’s doing it here and all over this area—and all over the world. 

He’s going to continue to do it because the story doesn’t stop there. In Revelation 7:9—10, John sees the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant promise. It says: 

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

We Can See the Promises in Genesis 12 At Work in History

Why do I take you through all this? Because I want to show you from God’s Word that His promises are true. All of God’s promises are true. For every one of these promises we see proclaimed in Genesis 12, God is at work throughout biblical history, throughout world history, fulfilling these promises. We have the benefit of looking back and seeing how God did all of that. 

God is trustworthy. 

God’s promises are true and God is trustworthy. Maybe another way to say that would be, “God’s promises are true because God is trustworthy.” We look back on how God fulfilled His promises, but I want you to go back to the beginning of Abraham’s story for a minute and think about what all of this must have been like for him. It’s easy for us to look back at God doing all this stuff but think about what this was like for Abraham when he first received the promise. 

Genesis 12:1, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” Notice the order gets more and more specific; more and more intimate, showing how progressively difficult this decision is. Abraham had to leave everything. The Hebrew expression translated “Go” means to deliberately disassociate yourself. The word used literally means, “Leave by yourself.” Leave your country, leave your kindred, leave your own family and your own home. Abram’s family had stopped halfway to Canaan, but God was calling Abram to go all the way. 

As I was studying this, I felt like the Lord could use this to encourage some of you who have been called by God to follow Jesus maybe further than your family did. Your decision to follow Christ and obey Him all the way have maybe created some distance, some isolation, from your friends or from your family. I love John Calvin’s paraphrase, which gives us a helpful picture of what this was like. He paraphrases Genesis 12:1 like this: “I command thee to go forth with closed eyes.”

My kids always want to show me something, so they’ll come, make me stand up, take my hand and say, “I want to show you something. Close your eyes.” Now, my kids are still developing, so I don’t fully trust them but I’ll play along. So they take my hand and lead me through the twists and turns of my house—sometimes up steps and that’s when I start getting really nervous—until I get to where they lead me. 

Listen, that’s often what it feels like when we’re following Jesus. It’s taking one step at a time and the only confidence you have is the fact that even though you can’t see, the One holding your hand does. 

Abraham Exhibited Saving Faith

God tells Abraham, “Disassociate yourself. Leave everything you’re familiar with.” Why? Where? “I’ll show you.” So often we refuse to follow God unless He gives us the whole picture, but God doesn’t always give us the full picture. Why? Because God isn’t just taking us somewhere—He’s making us into someone. He isn’t just leading us—He’s doing something in us. He is building and strengthening our faith. James 1 says He is testing and training and developing our faith, so that it will produce perseverance in us. 

So why would Abraham go? When God spoke to him, why did he obey? One word: faith. He genuinely believed God was trustworthy. I’m not saying it was easy for him. Abraham had to wait in that frustratingly, seemingly never-ending space between promise and fulfillment. Some of us know what it’s like to be in that space. Waiting can wear you down. God first promised Abraham offspring, then they just go on and on and on. Sarah still isn’t pregnant. You don’t think they weren’t trying? They were trying and they were trusting. And in the waiting, they began to get worn down. You see that in Genesis 16, for example, when they believed God would fulfill the promise, but they didn’t know how. So rather than wait for further instructions, they began to take matters into their own hands. 

But God is faithful. Abraham believed the Lord and God counted it to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). Why was Abraham able to be in right relationship with God? Not because of anything he necessarily did to earn it, but because in response to God’s covenant grace, he believed. Paul states in Romans 4:20—22 that Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” 

Paul goes on in verses 23-25, “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him.” Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in Him “who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The same way Abraham came into this right standing with God is the same way we do—by faith. 

Paul gives a clear definition of faith in Romans 4: faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what He promised. This is key for you and me to understand when we’re following God. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what? What He promised. Why is that important? Because faith is not just believing God to do what you want. Faith is believing God to do what He says. Faith is believing God to accomplish His Word, to be faithful to what He’s promised. 

Isn’t this the same kind of faith we saw when we read about Job last week? In the midst of his suffering, down from the pit of deep pain, he calls out to God, “God, I know everything I’m going through, but I also know that You can do all things and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job knew and Abraham knew. And later Paul would know, and many of us have seen that God is trustworthy and His promises are true. 

You can bank on the promises of God. These are the same words that when God spoke, everything obeyed and came into existence. God doesn’t just talk about what’s going to happen; His words determine what’s going to happen. He doesn’t just keep His promises, He works through His promises. Not a single word from God will ever fall to the ground. All of His promises to you and me will be fulfilled, and if you truly believe God is trustworthy, you will do what He says. God’s promises are not merely designed to comfort you—although they should. They are also designed to compel you, to motivate you to live the life God calls you to live. God is trustworthy, and His promises to you and me are true. 

I’ve been praying for those of you watching and listening to this message. I’ve been pleading, “God, right in the midst of their doubt, right in the midst of their situations and circumstances, would You help them believe? Would You help us live lives that display our belief that You, God, are trustworthy and that Your promises are true?” 

Listen, cling to God’s promise for salvation. If you don’t know God, His promises are good and they are true. But they also include His warnings and His promises of judgment. God promises that those who do not have the Son, who reject Jesus as the sacrificial payment for our sins are under the wrath of God and will experience the judgment of God. 

But the good news is found in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There’s the promise. You can bank on that. God is trustworthy and that promise is true. Today, no matter who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve done, if you sense in your heart that God is calling you, you want to be forgiven of your sins, you want to have this relationship with God and eternal life with Him, God says, “Call on the name of the Lord, believe the gospel and you will be saved.” 

If you need peace, Philippians 4:6—7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…” And here’s the promise: “…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Believe God’s promises for joy in Psalm 107:9: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

When you’re overwhelmed, believe God when He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When you feel alone, Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” When you’re afraid to do what God has asked you to do, believe Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

When you’re exhausted and need strength, believe Isaiah 40:28—29: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” You might be exhausted, but “He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” 

I can remember just a couple years ago when my oldest son was three. He would wake up over and over again throughout the night, screaming my name for no reason. I would yell back at him. It was a bad season; it felt like I was losing control. It’s funny now, looking back on it, but it wasn’t funny then. I was at the end of my rope and was desperately praying, “God, I need some strength.” I was pleading and praying, believing these promises, asking God for help to be controlled by the Spirit, that God would give me strength, that He would help me be kind and patient and bear the fruit of the Spirit even when I was exhausted. 

As I was praying that—and my wife can attest to this—it was like all of a sudden, he would scream my name in the middle of the night, but rather than scissor-kick the blankets and threaten his life, God filled me with compassion. He gave me the strength not only to adore, but to extend grace. All of a sudden I would walk into his room, able to say, “Hey, buddy…” If you’re exhausted and at the end of your rope, believe that God can give you strength. 

When you’re not sure what to do, believe James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given.” When you sin, believe 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you’re wondering whether God still loves you, believe God’s promise in Romans 8:31—35: 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” 

Paul then spends a lot of verses answering that question by stating that no one can separate us from His love. 

When you’re confronted with the brokenness and pain of this fallen world, believe this promise in Revelation 21:1—4:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

We could go on and on and on. God is trustworthy and His promises are true. You see it in Abraham’s life. You see it in the Abrahamic Covenant and the fulfillment of that. But listen, it’s true for you and me in our lives as well. All of us will come to moments—and some of us are in moments right now—when you know deep in your heart that God is calling you to obey Him in some area of your life. It might be to forgive. It might be to sacrifice, to be more generous, to invest your life, to leave your career as you thought it was going to be and to go to some foreign place in order to proclaim the gospel to people who haven’t heard about Jesus. It might be to start that business in order to be able to build some capital, to be able to fund Kingdom purposes. It might be to break off a relationship because it’s impure and you know right now it’s constantly causing you to fall into ungodliness. I don’t know what it is. We’re all going to come to those points, just like Abraham in Genesis 12, when God said, “I want you to break from life as you’ve known it and I want you to follow Me. You don’t know all the answers. You won’t have the full picture, but I’m calling you to take one step at a time and trust Me.” 

Every one of His commands is an invitation to enjoy every one of His promises. Every step along the way, God will confirm to you, “Son, daughter, I am trustworthy and My promises to you are true.” So let me ask you, what is God calling you to do today? How is God calling you to trust Him in this season of your life? You can trust Him. 

Let’s pray. 

Father, we confess to You that we do not like walking in the dark. It’s so difficult for us sometimes to live by faith and not by sight, to trust You, to truly believe that Your Word is sufficient for us, to truly believe that obedience to You is worth it. But Father, I pray that You would help each and every one of us trust You today. I pray that You would do in all of us what we are not able to do in our own strength. By Your Holy Spirit, enable us to trust You. Reassure us that, just like You have been fulfilling these gospel promises to Abraham, You will fulfill Your promises to us. 

I pray for anybody here who does not have a personal relationship with You, who has not turned from their sin and put their trust in Jesus yet. O Lord, persuade them that the gospel is true and that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Draw them to faith in Your Son and enable all of us to enjoy Your covenant promises now and for all of eternity. God, we pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1 

What is a covenant? What is the purpose of the covenant God made with Abraham?

Question 2 

Why does Genesis 15 speak of “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces?” 

Question 3 

How does Genesis 11–18 show God’s trustworthiness? 

Question 4 

How does Hebrews help us understand God’s redemptive plan? 

Question 5 

What is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of a covenant place?

What does the passage say?

  1. God is trustworthy and his promises are true. 
  2. Genesis 11:31 – 12:3  
    1. “Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son  Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when  they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. Now the  Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will  show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you  will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the  families of the earth shall be blessed.” 
  3. Genesis 12:4 – 9  
    1. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when  he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions  that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of  Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem,  to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and  said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.  From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west  and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram  journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.”  
  4. God’s promises are true. 
  5. God promises to establish a covenant place. 
  6. Genesis 15:7 – 21  
    1. “And he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to  possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer  three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ And he  brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds  in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going  down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord  said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be  servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that  they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers  in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for  the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a  smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant  with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river  Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,  the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’”  
  7. Joshua 21:43 – 45 
    1. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of  it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not  one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not  one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” 
  8. God promises to multiply a covenant people. 
  9. Genesis 15:1 – 6 
    1. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your  reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and  the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and  a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall  not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward  heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring  be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  
  10. Genesis 17:1-7 
    1. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty;  walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you  greatly.’ Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall  be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be  Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I  will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and  you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you  and to your offspring after you.’”  
  11. God promises to accomplish a covenant purpose. 
  12. Genesis 12:3  
    1. “. . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 
  13. God is trustworthy. 
  14. Faith is not just believing God to do what you want. Faith is believing God to do what He said.  
  15. Genesis 15:6  
    1. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” 
  16. Hebrews 11:8 – 12 
    1. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a  foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking  forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received  power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and  as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”  
  17. Romans 8:31-39 31  
    1. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his  own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall  bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who  died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who  shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,  or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as  sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For  I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in  Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
  18. Revelation 21:1 – 4
    1. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the  sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as  a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place  of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them  as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be  mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”  

Mike Kelsey is Lead Pastor of Preaching and Culture at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., where ​he has been a pastor for over 13 years. In his role, Mike leads MBC to engage in current cultural issues in order to reach new and emerging generations as well as people disconnected from and disenfranchised by the church. Mike and his wife Ashley live in the D.C. metro area with their three children.

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