The Promises of God fulfilled in Christ (Luke 1:68-73) Part 2- A Physical or Spiritual Promise?
In the first part of this series I laid out a road map of the things we will be studying together. We looked at the first promise made about Christ in Gen 3:15. Now in part two of this series we will examine the promises made to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3, 7, 13:14-16, 15:1-6. We will be trying to use scripture to determine what the promises were that God made to Abraham and the fathers (Luke 1:72-73) and whether these promises were of a purely physical nature or of a spiritual nature.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 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: 3 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
And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16 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. Gen 13:14-16
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Gen 15:1-6
In these verses we see God giving Abraham commands and promises. He is told to leave his country, kindred, and father’s house. God tells him that he intends to make a great nation out of Abraham, that his seed would be as the dust of the earth, that his seed would inherit the land, that through Abraham and this seed ALL nations of the earth would be blessed, and that God would bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse Abraham. We are then told that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.
(Side note: I will not be covering the land promise in this series because this will be more focused on how Jesus fulfills the promises of the Seed but I would like to point you to Romans 4:3 and Hebrews 11:13 to see that Abraham was looking for a heavenly city/country, not a worldly one, and we should look, in hope, for the same today!)
There is something very important to note in the promise of this “Seed”. Isaac himself is not the promised seed but is the one who God will fulfill this promise through (his physical bloodline). We need to look and see that the promise of the seed was renewed by God to Isaac in Gen 26:2-5.
And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. Gen 26:2-5
It would seem from what we read in Genesis chapters 15 and 16 that Abraham seemed to think that this “seed promise” is more of a physical promise that he is going to have to help along. God promises in chapter 15 that Sarah will bear him a son. In chapter 16 we see that Sarah and Abraham come up with a plan to move this promise along; Abraham will have a child with Sarah’s handmaid Hagar and that son will be called the son of Sarah. From this union Ishmael is born. Abraham seems to believe that now God can fulfill his promise to him in Ishmael but God tells Abraham that it is NOT Ishmael who will receive the covenant from God. In Genesis 17 God appears to Abraham again and tells him that he will have a son, named Isaac, by Sarah, and that God will establish His covenant with him and not Ishmael. I must stress again, as I did with Cain and Abel, that there is something deeper here going on. God is not just speaking to Abraham in physical terms but there is a deeper, spiritual, undertone to this all. In fact, we see that Ishmael, who was physically from Abraham, and also the sons of Abraham’s concubines, were sent away and were not to inherit the covenant promises (Gen 25:5-6). These promises are not physically inherited at all or else Ishmael and these sons from the concubines would be included in them as well. They after all were physically descended from Abraham!
The idea that this is not strictly physical is further enforced when we see the story of Isaac and his children, Esau and Jacob. Isaac’s wife Rebekah has twins. If God intended for the covenant to be passed down by physical descent, then both of these twins would share in the covenant promise. Once again though we see that it is not purely a physical promise passed down by lineage and bloodline. We see in Gen 25:23 God has already told Rebekah that Esau will be a servant of Jacob. In Romans 9:8-13 we are told that from the beginning, before the children were born, God hated Esau and loved Jacob based on His own sovereign choice and that it had nothing to do with physical descent,
That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
It is interesting to note in this story that based on physical lineage and physical abilities (like hunting) Isaac fully intended to pass the blessing and covenant on to Esau and not Jacob. In Genesis 25:27 we see the men are described as almost polar opposites, “…Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” It seems like Isaac loved that Esau was a cunning hunter, a “man’s man” while Jacob is described as a “plain man” who dwelled in tents. You could see that by the looks of things Isaac may be thinking that God would intend to pass this blessing and covenant on to a man who was respected as a strong hunter, seemed like a “hero”, and would bring his dad special meat from his hunts. In chapter 27 it talks about how Isaac loved to eat the venison that Esau brought in from his hunts. Isaac asks him to bring him this meat, so he can eat it, and pass the blessing on to him. The problem for Isaac and his way of thinking is that God did not intend for this blessing to go to Esau but had already chosen Jacob to receive this blessing.
From the stories about this “seed of the woman”, the “seed of Abraham”, the “seed of Isaac” we can start to see a pattern that this promise is not just physical in nature but has something deeper and spiritual going on. We see that the promise was passed to Isaac and not Ishmael (or the sons of concubines), Jacob but not Esau, but even more we can see that the promised seed was not Abel, Seth, Isaac, or Jacob. We can see that even within families where there were twins the promise was not shared because of bloodline or physical lineage. There is something much deeper going on here, something spiritual. There is a coming seed that is much more special than these men of God that are mentioned in these stories!
In part 3 I will be showing how scripture, especially in the New Testament, supports the idea that this promise was not strictly physical in nature but was spiritual. Thanks for your support and continue to keep me in prayer please!
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