Genesis 12:1-9 - 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.2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. 7Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.”
We use the expression, “no strings attached” for transactions that are unconditional. No later payments or obligations are required. There is no danger of forfeit or termination because of “fine print” in the agreement. In Genesis 12, we read about a covenant that God made with Abraham with no strings attached. It is known as the unconditional Abrahamic covenant and is foundational to God’s relationship with the Jewish people -- not only in ancient times, but today as well. Thus it is important for all growing Christians to understand the terms of the Abrahamic covenant to properly understand and interpret the rest of the Bible. Background Notes When we think of Abraham, we should first recognize the importance of this biblical figure. Abraham is the only person in the Bible who is called “the friend of God.” He is called the “friend of God” in three different places in Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:7 - “O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” Isaiah 41:8 - “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend...” James 2:23 - “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.” Abraham is mentioned more than 70 times in the New Testament. Why is Abraham so important? Genesis 12:3 gives us the answer: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” How are all the families of the earth blessed in Abraham? The answer is obvious! Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, and it was through the Jewish people that the Savior of mankind came. The Lord Jesus Christ was in the line of Abraham. Verse 4 says that Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran. Haran was at the top of the Fertile Crescent, where today Turkey and Syria come together. Originally, God called Abram from his home in Ur of the Chaldeans in ancient Mesopotamia, which was located near the Persian Gulf in what is now part of Iraq. “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.” (Acts 7:2-4) After the death of Abram’s father, Terah, in Haran, Abram continued on to Canaan. He lived first at Shechem, then on a mountain between Bethel and Ai, and then further south in the Negev. In Joshua 24 we read more about Abram: ”Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” So Abraham came out of a background of idolatry. God didn’t call Abraham because he was a “good” or “godly” person. No! God called Abraham because He called him! That is, God called Abraham according to His own sovereign and elective choice, and that is the way God calls us as well. God does not save us according to some intrinsic goodness or godliness in us -- He saves us according to His sovereign grace and mercy! Notice at this point that Abraham’s name is Abram, and Sarah’s name is Sarai; God changed their names in chapter 17. At that time God promised Abraham that he would be the “father of many.” Doctrinal / Teaching Points 1. The preservation of the people of Israel is part of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham. Question: Why are the Jewish people still in existence today? Answer: Because of the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham. Verses 2-3: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Other ancient peoples have passed off the scene, but not the Jewish people! Other nations have tried to destroy the Jewish people, but they themselves have been cursed instead. The Jewish people continue to this day. Why the miracle of the Jewish people? It is the result of the unconditional Abrahamic covenant, which God made with Abram in Genesis 12. We know from the New Testament that all believers are considered children of Abraham. All those of faith are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Read Galatians 3 and Romans 4 in this connection. However, the fact that the Abrahamic covenant applies to all believers as the spiritual descendants of Abraham does not deny, or remove, or eliminate, or change the promises that God made to Abraham concerning his natural descendants, the Jewish people. The preservation of the people of Israel is part of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham. 2. The gift of the land of Israel is part of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham. In verse 1 we read that God told Abraham to go to a land that He would show him (v1). What land was that? It was the land of Canaan, the land where Israel is located today. In verse 7 we read that the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” What land? The same land of Canaan, where Israel is located today. God never rescinded, cancelled, annulled or changed this unconditional promise. So the Jewish people of today have a divine right to the land of ancient Israel. This divine right, of course, does not give the present secular state of Israel the right to use unbiblical means to gain the land. No! God will restore all the land to the Jewish people when they return to Him. And they will return to the Lord and to the land according to prophetic Scripture. (See Deuteronomy 30:1-6, in this connection.) The gift of the land of Israel is part of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham. 3. The guarantee of the future of Israel is part of God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham.
“Unconditional” means that God did not place any conditions or stipulations on Abraham and his descendants regarding this covenant. There were no strings attached! God promised to keep His covenant regardless of whether Abraham and his descendents would be obedient or not. It is an unconditional covenant.
There is nothing in the Bible that invalidates the Abrahamic covenant. It is still valid and binding today. Romans 11 is a very important chapter in this connection. It informs us that, because of disobedience, the Jewish people have been temporarily set aside from the place of blessing, but when (when, not if), the Jewish people return to the Lord , all the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant will be theirs, including the Land.
1. Let’s have a faith that obeys like Abraham.
In Genesis 12:1, the Lord 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.”
That was quite a request that the Lord made of Abram, wasn’t it? Leave your country, your family, and your father’s house! “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him” (v4). From archaeology, we know that Ur of the Chaldeans was a pretty nice place in the ancient world -- highly developed and civilized. Abraham probably had a good job and a nice home, but in obedience to the call of God, Abraham and Sarah -- let’s not forget the faith of Sarah here! -- left the good life in Ur and followed the call of God. In Hebrews 11:8 we read, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” That is an obedient faith!
Suppose God were to call you this week to a new sphere of service for Him. Suppose it meant that you had to leave the home and area where you are happily settled and content. Suppose it meant that from now on you would have to live a life of sacrifice. Would you be willing to obey? God may call you to a life of sacrificial service for Him. Do you have an obedient faith? Let’s have a faith that obeys like Abraham.
2. Let's have a faith that witnesses like Abraham.
Abraham was not only told to leave his homeland in Ur. He was told to be a blessing in the land of Canaan. That is the idea at the end of verse 2, “And you shall be a blessing.” Now how was Abram to be a blessing? He was to be a blessing by witnessing for God in the land of Canaan -- and that is exactly what Abraham did! When he came to Shechem, and the terebinth or oak tree of Moreh (v6), he built an altar. This place was probably a Canaanite shrine, but Abraham fearlessly built an altar to the Lord there and witnessed to the idolatrous Canaanites, who were then living in the land. The same was true when Abram moved to the Bethel and Ai area. He built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord (v8). The phrase “called on the name of the Lord” would include the idea of witnessing for the Lord.
What a contrast we see in the life of Abraham compared to the people at the tower of Babel. They built their tower to make a name for themselves. Abraham built an altar and called on the name of the Lord and was a testimony for God. Abraham wasn’t looking to build a name for himself. He not only had faith in God, he witnessed for God.
What about us? Do we have a faith that witnesses like Abraham? It’s not easy these days, but God will make you a blessing, if you witness for Him as Abraham did.