God’s Everlasting Promise to Abraham
Did you know the Bible has a theme from end to end? It’s a continual story starting from Genesis to Revelation. Sometimes we look at it as a self-help book, picking what we want for ourselves and throwing out what we don’t need. But there is a covenantal theme that binds all the stories of the Bible together. In all the books, the characters of the Bible look back to a promise, a covenant we find in Genesis. The root of the promise is found in Abraham.
We begin a new series this week, The Common Thread: The connection between you and God’s promise to Abraham. This week we start at the beginning with God’s everlasting promise to Abraham found in Genesis 11—15. We’ll see how the promise is broken down into three parts: the land, the children, and the blessing.
As we walk through the Bible in this series, our hope is that you see the common thread that is binding all of us together; how God’s blessing to one man and the faith that followed, brought the biggest blessing: our Messiah.
Steve Conover: This is the Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover, and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We're excited to get into a new series called The Common Thread. This series is all about how you and your relationship with God are connected to the promise God made to Abraham.
Chris Katulka: I'm really excited about this series. I can remember learning about God's promise to Abraham for the first time. And then seeing how it impacts the whole Bible, you know. It impacts the characters, the stories, the psalms and the prophecies of the Bible. They all look back to this one promise. And this promise is even connected to you. It's connected to me. And our faith in Christ. It's a common thread that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and that's why we're calling this series The Common Thread. The connection between you and God's promise to Abraham.
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris. Our team has been talking a lot about this series. And I believe it's going to be extremely beneficial for our listeners. But before we get started, let's take a look at what's happening in the news. Israeli elections will be held on April 9th of this year. These elections will decide the ruling party in Israel's government, which is called the Knesset. And from that party, a prime minister will emerge. Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party will be on the ballot. However, with Netanyahu facing corruption charges, his political future remains in question.
Chris Katulka: Steve, the last elections that were held in Israel were in 2015, and the current Israeli government, get this. It has 17 parties in the Knesset. We only have two, and sometimes even three, and that's nuts. But to think 17 parties. These parties rise and fall very easily. And they have to form alliances with one another based on their shared political agenda. So in light of the coming election, parties are now breaking apart and forming new alliances to win the vote in April. This just goes to show how vibrant the Israeli democracy is. That is gives voice to each citizen.
As we enter into 2019, I'm really excited to start this new series, The Common Thread series. On how we connect to the overarching story of the Bible. The Bible is more than just some ancient book written more than 2000 years ago. The Bible is alive, and the stories and prophecy and poetry and wisdom of the Bible are uniquely connected to a promise made in the beginning of the Bible.
And you, my friends. You are connected to this promise. Did you know that the Bible has a theme? From beginning to end it's a continual story. Starting from Genesis to Revelation. It's easy, though, to sometimes look at the Bible as a self-help book. Kind of cherry picking passages we want for ourselves, and throwing out the ones that we don't need. That's why most of us don't really often do our Bible studies, or our devotionals in the book of Leviticus.
But the magnificent truth is that there is a covenantal theme, a promise theme that binds all the stories of the Bible together. In all the books, the characters of the Bible look back to this promise. It's a covenant that we find in Genesis. And the root of it is found with Abraham. In fact, you could argue Genesis one through eleven, from creation to the flood to the tower of Babel, all of these things were driving us to this one moment when God chooses Abram. Because Abraham's story will drive the rest of the book of Genesis. And I would even argue, the rest of the Bible.
So, let's go back to this foundational promise. Genesis 12:1-3. God calls Abram and says this. Check this out. Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country, your relatives, your father's household to a land that I will show you. And then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. And I will make your name great so that you will exemplify divine blessing. And 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."
Now listen, God is telling Abram to do one of the most difficult things anyone could do. To leave everything he knows, to leave his family and his comfort, and to step out and to follow him. And notice, God tells Abraham to go to a land that I will show you. So the first part of God's promise is the land. God is going to show Abraham the land that will eventually become Israel. And along with that land, God says to Abraham, "From him will come a great nation." Which means that Abraham will bear children. And it's really important to remember that when God called Abraham out of Ur, he was 75 years old, and he had no children. And God, even at 75 calls Abraham and says, "Go to the land that I will show you, and I'm going to give you descendants. I'm going to turn you into a nation."
And then God says this to Abraham. "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." God is giving Abraham, and even more of an incentive to step out in faith. God is saying to Abraham, anyone who takes this covenant that I'm making with you lightly, will face my judgment.
And then, finally, the heartbeat of the promise that God made to Abraham is this. “In you, all of the families of the earth will be blessed.” That Abraham, if you step out, and you follow me, I'm going to give you the land. That's Israel. I'm going to give you so many children, that it will become a nation. Even at the age of 75. And I'm going to protect this promise. By blessing those who bless you, and cursing those who do not take this promise seriously.
And Abraham, if you step out, you will be the catalyst of redemption. You will be the vehicle of the coming salvation. Because through you, Abraham, all of the families of the earth will be blessed. Now, Abraham does what God calls him to do. He steps out and follows God. And when he arrived in the land God promised him, he noticed something. The promise God made to him included land, check. Blessing, check. And children. But there's still no children for Abraham and his wife, Sarah.
So Abraham took it up with God. Listen to this exchange between God and Abraham in Genesis 15, it says this. "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 Abraham said, 'Oh Lord, God. What will you give me, for I continue childless?'" Listen, God is saying to Abraham, you can trust in me. I'm going to be your protector, and I'm going to be the one who provides for you. But that's when Abraham kind of turns around and questions God a little bit. Because, look it, if you're going to be my provider, God, then why hasn't the promise that you made to me seen its fulfillment, yet? I'm still childless. You promised a child.
That's when God takes Abraham outside and says, "Look up to the heaven and number the stars, if you're able to number them." And then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abraham believed God, he put his faith in God once again, and God counted it to him as righteousness. And then the Lord said to Abraham, "I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land to possess." Abraham then had a serious question for God. I love this. Even in the moment of Abraham's faith. When God credits it to him as righteousness, Abraham still I think like any human being, has moments of doubt. And listen to what he says. "Lord God, how am I supposed to know that I shall possess it?"
Abraham is saying, show me. Give me a sign. How am I going to know that you're going to fulfill this promise that you gave to me? And that's when God makes a timeless, listen folks. A timeless covenant with him. He tells Abraham to split a calf and a goat and a turtle dove in half. And then Abraham falls asleep. And in Genesis chapter 15 verse 17, it tells us that when the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. And on that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying, "To your offspring I give this land from the river Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates." God made a covenant, a binding covenant with Abraham.
And I know for you listening today, this kind of...this sounds weird. It sounds weird to me. We're talking 4000 years of being removed from this moment between God and Abraham. And here's God telling Abraham to cut animals in half and then a smoking fire pot and a torch passes between the pieces. But did you know that actually, this was the way that people made contracts with one another in the days of Abraham? In fact, leading old testament scholar Victor Hamilton says this, "The biblical world offers widespread evidence that animals were slaughtered in treaty contraction ceremonies." And I know that sounds kind of difficult. But in short, Dr. Hamilton is saying that we have tons of evidence to show that animal slaughter was connected to contract making in the ancient days.
So, instead of signing millions of pages of paper to get a mortgage to buy a home, or a car like we do today, people in the ancient day would actually slaughter animals and agree on a deal. And listen to this, this is interesting. By slaughtering an animal, the two parties that were in this contract together were saying this. ‘If I don't live up to my end of the bargain, I'll end up like one of these dead animals.’ It's the fine print of the mortgage papers that you sign.
Notice however, the text says that Abraham falls asleep, he dozes off. He's not even thinking, all this contract, this covenant is taking place, and Abraham is asleep. And now this smoking pot and flaming torch, which represent God, go through these pieces alone. God made a promise to himself to fulfill what he promised to Abraham. This is how it becomes an eternal promise. A promise that will extend well past Abraham's day. And that's why when we return, I want to show you how this eternal, timeless promise connects to you, and how it becomes the thread in the Bible that connects all the pieces together. And how the characters of the Bible understood this promise, and interpreted what God would do for Israel, the Jewish people, and the whole world through this one promise. So, be sure to stick around.
Steve Conover: Each year we hold prophecy conferences in select cities in the United States and Canada. We realize not everyone can join us, so we'd like you to know that our 2018 Prophecy Conference Highlights, they're now available in several formats, DVD, CD and MP3. Enjoy all 15 sessions from the series entitled The Sign of His Coming. This covers what Jesus said from the Mount of Olives, including his predictions about Jerusalem, the Tribulation, and His Second Coming.
This series is an excellent tool for Bible studies, on your own, or in a group. To order your copy of the 2018 prophecy conference highlights, The Sign of His Coming, go to foiradio.org. Or call our listener line at 888-343-6940. Again, that's foiradio.org or call our listener line at 888-343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, everyone. We're talking about the promise God made to Abraham. And how this promise becomes the foundation. It becomes the common thread that binds the Bible together, and how this promise to Abraham affects you and relationship to the Lord. Because believe it or not, even though this promise was made 4000 years ago, it actually affects your relationship with God. It's connected to your faith. It grounds your faith.
So, first let me show you how this promise doesn't just remain static in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15. Just listen to how God's promise to Abraham gets passed down through the ages. And I want you to listen to this. The same promise that God made to Abraham of land and descendants and a blessing gets passed onto his son Isaac as an inheritance. And then, the same promise gets passed on from Isaac to his son Jacob. And then that same promise of land and descendants and a blessing get passed from Jacob to his sons, the sons of Israel. And that's why when you get to the beginning of Exodus and Exodus chapter two, after four centuries of being in Egypt, the text says that God remembered his covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And then all of a sudden, who appears? Moses. The deliverer.
And that's why when you get to Deuteronomy 9:5, God says to the sons of Israel that it's not because of their righteousness that God's going to bring them into the land that God promised them. But he's doing this to fulfill the covenant he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And again in Second Kings 13:23, it says the same exact thing. That it's not because of who they are, and the greatness of who Israel is and the Jewish people are, it's because of the promise, the oath, the covenant that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The psalmist in psalm 105 is reminded of God's faithfulness, and the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Saying that God will always remember the eternal covenant he made with Israel.
In the new testament, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist sees salvation coming through Jesus and says in Luke chapter one that God remembered the covenant that he made with Abraham. In Acts chapter three, verse 25. Peter's preaching that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. That is the one who God called to bless all the families of the earth. And finally, the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 6:13 says that when God made the promise with Abraham in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15, he could swear by nothing greater than his own name. His own reputation. And that's why it was only God who walked through those pieces.
And here's the best part, my friends. What started this whole thing? What was it that made all this possible? Well, first, God's sovereignly picking Abraham to be his servant. To whom he would entrust this timeless covenant. But what made it all possible was Abraham's faith. It took one step of faith. It took one act of faith when Abraham left his family and his friends, and the way of life that he knew and grew up under for 75 years in Ur of the Chaldees to follow after God. And it was this faith that becomes the bedrock for the promise.
The promise God made to Abraham is connected to his faith in God. And remember, even in the midst of his doubt, Abraham believed in God, and it was considered to him as righteousness. It's faith that's connected to the promise. And here's the amazing thing, my friends. That promise lives on in you today. God said to Abraham, if you step out in faith, you will be the catalyst that brings blessing to all the families of the earth. And if you are listening to this today, you stand 4000 years removed from the day God spoke that promise to Abraham. And that promise found its fulfillment in your life the day you placed your trust in Jesus the Messiah.
You found the ultimate blessing in the great great great great great, I think you get the point. The great-grandson of Abraham. Jesus. See, this foundational promise connects the whole Bible together. Old and new testament. This promise grounds your faith. Your faith becomes more tangible, and discernible and more clear when you connect it to this promise. And so for the rest of this series, we're going to connect the stories and characters of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and we are going to see how this unconditional, timeless promise made to Abraham impacted their lives in times of blessing and obedience. And in times of sin and disobedience. But the overarching theme, the thing that drives everything is that God remains faithful to his covenant promise he made to Abraham.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the holy land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold. A dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: One risen morning I met a small group of young religious children at the bus station with their teacher. As is my custom, I said to them "Shalom." The teacher gave me a nasty look, but the children answered very nicely. "Shalom." I asked the teacher, "Are you not feeling well? Could I help you?" "No." I ask, "Why are you so unhappy?" He answered, "Because I do not want an atheist like you to have such close contact with my pupils." I ask, "How do you know I am an atheist?" He responded, "A person who believes in God covers his head. But your head is uncovered." I then asked, "Was Moses a Jew?" "Of course," he said. "You were right. But what did the Lord say to Moses when he was standing before the burning bush?" The teacher did not answer, so one of the children said, "I know. The Lord said, 'do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'"
I then said, "You see? The Lord did not tell Moses to cover his head. Who are you that I cannot stand before you with my head uncovered? Do not think your long beard and black hat can save you." He became more interested in what I was saying, and the children were hanging onto my every word. The teacher asked, "How can you speak about salvation with such surety?" I replied, "I have had the great privilege of being saved. And not because I was so nice, or so good. I'm a sinner, just like everyone else. But I will have everlasting life."
Pslam 23:6 says, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. By now, two buses had come and gone, but the teacher didn't seem upset about it. He wanted to prove himself right, and he didn't care how long it took. And then suddenly he said, "Aha, now I know who you are. You are a missionary." I asked him. "What about Abraham and Jonah? Were they not missionaries? Even all of your ultra orthodox rabbis are missionaries. Only difference between them and me is that I preach the gospel of God according to the Bible. But you and the rabbis spread only vanity. Even when I greeted you with “Shalom” you would not answer me. And the Lord God commanded us, love your neighbors as yourself. Instead, you're teaching your pupils to hate their neighbors."
This made him very angry, and he shouted, "A Christian has no right to tell me how to educate my pupils." I responded, "It is not important whether you call yourself a Jew or a Christian. The important thing is to keep the very least of the Lord's commandments, and in doing this you will find him. He will then receive you just as you received me when I came to him on his terms. It is written in Isaiah 2:3, out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. We were very near to this prophecy's fulfillment. Please, please pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed our kickoff to the new series, Common Thread. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Next week we're going to look at the life of Moses. And something that's amazing is that Moses, he was given the task to lead the Israelites into the promised land. But he didn't get a chance, because of his own limitations. He stood there at Mount Nebo and looked out over the promised land. He never made it there. But I believe he was confident in God, because he understood God's promise back to Abraham. We're going back, the common thread. Moses understood that God had a plan for the Israelites beyond him. That he would accomplish the task and fulfill what he had destined for the Israelites.
Steve Conover: We look forward to that. Chris, we hope you'll join us. A reminder, the Friends of Israel Today remains on the air thanks to the faithful giving of our listeners, just like you. If you would like to donate, visit foiradio.org. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka, today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Co-written by Sarah Fern, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating Biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
2018 Prophecy Conference Highlights
Each year The Friends of Israel holds prophecy conferences in select cities in the United States and Canada. We realize not everyone can join us so we have made available our 2018 Prophecy Conference highlights!
Now available in several formats; DVD, CD, and MP3, enjoy all 15 sessions from the series entitled, The Sign of His Coming—covering what Jesus said from the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24—25, which include His predictions about Jerusalem, the tribulation, and His Second Coming.
This series is an excellent tool for Bible studies, on your own or in a group.
MP3 CD SET
Apples of Gold: I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord
Zvi said hello to a teacher and his pupils at a bus stop. The teacher was rude and did not respond to him. Zvi asked why he was being rude and the teacher explained that because he did not wear a covering on his head, he assumed he was an atheist. Zvi explained that a man-made law such as covering one’s head did not mean that those who did not choose to abide were atheists. The discussion between the teacher and Zvi eventually lead to Zvi’s belief in who the Messiah was..
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Also heard on this week’s show:
»There is a Balm in Gilead, (Timothy Shaw, from the CD, Hymns of Comfort and Praise)
»When You Leave (Sergey Cheremisinov) / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0