In Genesis 12, we have the fundamental and critical account of God calling Abram out of the idolatrous land of Ur of the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia (cf. Josh. 24:2-3; Acts 7:2-4). In His call lies an extremely important promise:
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [Gen. 12:1-3]
Later, after God leads Abram to the land of Canaan, a rift develops between his herdsmen and those that belong to his nephew, Lot. After Abram wisely deals with this situation—allowing Lot to choose which portion of land to inhabit—God reiterates this wonderful promise to him again:
Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. [Gen. 13:14-17]
We may learn some important lessons from this great Old Testament promise that God made to Abram.
First, we learn that God was interested in the salvation of humanity, and planned such through this promise. It was according to the divine plan that God designed “before the foundation of the world” (cf. Eph. 1:4-5) that God, the Word, would come to earth in human form (cf. John 1:1-14). The promise of redemption through the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15) would narrow to the seed of Abraham (which later would be narrowed through the seed of Judah [Gen. 49:10] and the seed of David [2 Sam. 7:12-13; Matt. 1:1]), and the apostle Paul explains in depth that the fulfillment of this was Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). Therefore, after Jesus came to provide redemption from sin to humanity, he fulfilled the salvation portion of the promise that God made to Abraham. Thus, there is no more distinction between Jew and Gentile, and we need not offer any more special treatment to the Jews/Israel as a godly race. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:7, 29). Many religious (and even political) people need to understand this today.
Second, we learn that the false doctrine of premillennialism builds itself on a false platform. One of the basic tenets of premillennialism is that the land promise that God made to Abraham was unconditional. Thus, they argue that the promise has never seen its fulfillment. However, the Bible proves otherwise. Indeed, God promised the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. Through the efforts of Moses and Joshua, God leads these descendants out of more than four hundred years of slavery in Egypt to this Promised Land. After the twelve tribes possess and divide the land, an important statement appears in Joshua 21:43-45:
And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he swore unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
One problem that many have is the use of the term “forever” with respect to the promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:15. However, one must understand that the Bible does not always use the term “forever” in a completely unlimited sense. For example, circumcision was an “everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:13), but its significance died along with the Law of Moses (cf. Gal. 5:2-6). Likewise, the observance of the Passover was an ordinance “forever” (Ex. 12:15), but its importance also ceased with the inclusion of the new covenant (Heb. 4:1-11). Thus, the land promise has already seen its fulfillment, and the fighting over in Palestine today (much less since the Crusades) only shows a lack of understanding of spiritual truths and results from the fruits of wickedness (cf. Jas. 4:1).
Third, we learn from this that we may rely upon the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises. In Joshua 21:43-45, we see the emphasis of God giving the land to them and the blessings associated with them receiving the land. Thus, the faithfulness of God becomes the inspiration of their faith, which is a shadow of the inspiration of our faith (cf. Gal. 3:11). The only way to trust God is to believe that God will do what He said He would do. His delay in answering the promise did not mean that He was unfaithful. Nevertheless, when I fail to see the faithfulness of God, I will fail in being faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). Any failure on the part of a promise of God is not His fault, but my fault (cf. Ps. 77:10).
May we learn these valuable lessons from this great promise of God to Abraham, and may we teach these lessons to an unlearned people who desperately need to know these things!