Bible Study

What Are The Three Promises God Made To Abraham?

One night God spoke to Abraham in a vision with a word of encouragement. But his worries and concerns seemed greater than the reality of God’s promises. What happened next changed his future and a moment of doubt became the foundation of Abraham’s faith. What are the three promises God made to Abraham in Genesis fifteen? And what changed his perspective to enable him to believe?

God’s Promises to Abraham

The three promises God made to Abraham in Genesis chapter fifteen are linked to the events in the previous chapters. Depending on your translation the chapter starts with the phrase, after all these things, or some time later. To understand Genesis chapter fifteen, we need to look briefly at the prior circumstances.

Genesis 12 & 13

Previously God had called Abraham out of Harran, the country where his father had settled, to continue the journey to Canaan. At Abram’s call in Genesis chapter twelve, God had promised to bless him and to make him into a great nation. More than that, all the people on earth would be blessed through him.

In response Abraham had left Harran, with his nephew Lot and their families, and travelled to Canaan. After a famine and a short visit to Egypt, Abraham settled in the area around Bethel. God blessed both Abraham and Lot; so that they prospered. But their herdsmen quarrelled over the amount of grazing land, and they agreed to separate. Abraham stayed in Canaan and Lot chose the plain of Jordan.

Genesis 14

Shortly after Abraham got involved in a major battle. He was drawn into a conflict when four foreign kings went to war against the five kings of Canaan. Unexpectedly they defeated them, and among the spoils of war carried off Lot and all his possessions. When Abraham heard what had happened to Lot, he gathered his men together and set off in pursuit.

Abraham attacked, routed, and defeated the foreign kings. God gave him victory, and he recovered all the people and goods that had been stolen. This included Lot, his family, and all his possessions. On Abraham’s return, the king of Salem came out to greet him with a blessing:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Genesis 14:19-20

Abraham gave a tenth of everything that had been recovered to Melchizedek, king of Salem and acknowledged that this blessing came from the Lord. Apart from the share that belonged to his men, Abraham returned the people and stolen goods to the king of Sodom.

God’s Covenant With Abraham Genesis 15

We are all on a journey of faith and God reveals the details of His plans and promises for our lives, one step at a time. And each step requires a response from us…

God’s covenant with Abraham was developed in a series of three interactions. Firstly, in Genesis 12, with a call to move, to which he responded with obedience. Abraham left everything that was familiar behind, to begin a journey into the unknown. Secondly, with encouragement and renewed vision, where Abraham responded with faith in Genesis 15. Thirdly, and finally, with a change of name and circumcision, to which Abraham obeyed signifying his consecration to the Lord – Genesis 17.

“No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you… The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:5-6,8.

Genesis 15 Explained

When we are in the middle of a battle, we depend on God to bring us through. Sometimes when that fight is over, even when God has given victory, we can feel shaken. We may feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. But God does not condemn our weakness, He is gracious towards us.

At the beginning of Genesis 15, it appears as if Abram’s faith is faltering, and he receives a word of encouragement from the Lord. God speaks to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

When we are fearful, God reminds us not to be afraid! It is possible that the battle had made Abraham more aware of his mortality – and his legacy. He appeared to be thinking about what he would leave behind, and whom would he be leaving it to. Abraham mentioned a servant in his household, Eliezer of Damascus as his possible heir.

In ancient Canaan, it was a recognized practice for a childless man to be able to adopt one of his male servants to be the heir or guardian of his estate. Later in Genesis, we see Abraham trusting the senior servant in his household, the man who was in charge of all that he had, with an important task. That may have been Eliezer of Damascus.

What Are The Three Promises God Made To Abraham?

God had called Abraham with a three part promise. This was to give him the land that He would show him, the land of Canaan. And to bless the childless Abraham and to make him into a great nation. More than that through Abraham all the people on earth would be blessed. In response to Abraham’s doubts, God graciously reaffirmed and revealed more of the details of His promises.

Picture of a man walking down a roud in the countryside towards some high mountains and the text, 'Visible grace, God's three promises to Abraham.'
What Are God’s Three Promises To Abraham?

1 Abraham Would Have a Son and Direct Descendants.

God speaks clearly to Abraham and promises him that he will have a son and heir. God then takes Abraham outside of his tent for a shift and a change in his perspective.

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:5

FACT There are more than 8,000 stars clearly visible to the naked eye in the darkness of a Near Eastern night sky.

Sometimes we need a change in perspective, to lift our eyes off our circumstances and up to God, the Creator of the Universe. The One who can do so much more than we can ever comprehend!

Abraham became a great nation. This promise was fulfilled and is being fulfilled. By the time the Israelites had left Egypt, they were so numerous ‘that the land was filled with them.’

2 Through Abraham’s Descendants All Nations Would Be Blessed

Abraham’s gift from God of a son was not for him alone. The blessing on Abraham and his descendants had a godly purpose. This was far beyond what Abraham would see or could ever comprehend.

The unconditional covenant with Abraham had universal benefits and an eternal outcome. The ultimate fulfilment of God’s covenant with Abraham comes in Jesus Christ. We, in Christ, are also considered offspring, children of Abraham, and heirs of God’s promises through the new covenant.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and 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

Abraham had to get up and leave his tent. He had to disrupt and disturb his comfort and make a physical effort to change his position. Then he gained a fresh perspective. Abraham became convinced in the faithfulness of God and that His promise would be fulfilled.

“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

If our problems, whatever they may be, are consuming our thoughts then we need a fresh perspective. Sometimes we need to shift, make a move, and do something different. If we take the time to meditate on the promises of God and His loving kindness toward us, change will follow. Transformation comes by renewing our minds in the truth of God’s word.

You might also like to read: Fix Your Thoughts On What Is True

3 God Would Give Abraham The Promised Land.

Abraham had been involved in a physical battle and had seen the power of the adjoining nations. Not only the power, and wealth, of the kings of Canaan but the strength of the foreign armies that surrounded them. God, however, had given Abraham victory in battle to rescue his nephew Lot.

It is possible that the battle had made Abraham more aware of the enormity of the task of claiming the land of Canaan as their own. If we focus on our weaknesses and the strength of the opposition, the task can seem beyond us.

It is when we are overwhelmed that we need to lift our eyes off ourselves and onto the Sovereignty of God. And we can ask God for encouragement, for assurance of His provision, protection, and blessing – just as Abraham did.

An Unconditional Covenant Between God And Abraham

Abraham asked for a sign, or a guarantee, that the land would be given to him and his descendants. God instructed Abraham to bring animal offerings before Him. These were a heifer, a goat, and a ram, all cut in half, along with a dove, and a pigeon. As the day drew to a close Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and the weight of darkness came upon him.

While in this deep sleep God spoke words of prophecy to Abraham, revealing his future, and the everlasting nature of His promises. As Abraham slept, he heard God’s word and he saw a vision of a smoking firepot with a blazing torch. This passed between the pieces of cut slaughtered animals symbolizing the presence of God.

The practice of walking down an aisle flanked by pieces of slaughtered animals was an acceptable covenant practice in ancient times. Two parties were committing to become one and both parties would walk between the broken pieces. This symbolized their commitment to keeping the agreement so that their fate was not that of the animals.

But here Abraham was in a deep sleep and God’s presence alone passed between the halves of the animals. This action symbolized an unconditional covenant. This was God’s promise alone and He binds Himself to keeping the covenant.

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18-21

Lessons from Genesis 15

What are the lessons from Genesis 15 that bring encouragement for our journey of faith today? Abrahams journey begins, as does ours, with a call from God to trust in Him.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8

As Abraham’s journey progressed, in Genesis fifteen, his faith faltered. But God was gracious and patient with Abraham and encouraged him. With a fresh perspective, Abraham believed that God would bless him with a son. He believed that God would be faithful to His word and it was credited to him as righteousness.

“And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” Hebrews 11:11-12

But, for Abraham, there were still some doubts about gaining the land. And we see God’s graciousness, as He affirmed His word to Abraham. While in a dreamlike state, God revealed to him some of the future events of Israel and their everlasting inheritance of the land.

This built substance to the word given to Abraham of the blessing of a son, and of descendants who would form a nation. The land would be theirs, as promised by God who is faithful to His word.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance…” Hebrews 11:13

The lessons from Genesis 15 are simply to choose faith, and to believe in the goodness of God. We see Abraham’s humanity and God’s Sovereignty at work. We see Abraham’s doubts and God’s grace. And we see faith in action releasing covenant blessings!

Picture of a sunset looking down a long road lined with trees and the text 'Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.' Hebrews 11v1
Lessons from Genesis 15

Abraham chose faith, to respond with obedience, and to start on a lifetime journey. Not all his decisions were wise, there were times when he was fearful and made mistakes. But through his life, his faith would grow in the faithfulness of God.

The same choice is ours today. Not all our questions will be answered, and we may not see all our prayers answered in the way, or the time, that we would like. But, by choosing faith we can live in the blessing of God’s grace now, and for eternity.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

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