Let us pray: Dear Savior, remind us today that Your many promises are real. Remind us that we’re never too old to embrace Your promises of forgiveness, eternal life, and inner peace with You. Yes, teach us what You taught Abram and Sarai of old—that for Christians each day is better and more rich in blessings than the day before. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR WHO MAKES PROMISES AND ALSO DELIVERS ON THEM!
TEXT: Genesis 12: 1-8
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
There’s an old line to a once popular song which goes: “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.” How true! And yet, we all have and we all do make promises that we cannot keep. Let’s review a few. In your wedding vows you promised in similar words to these: “to be faithful to your spouse and remain true to them in good times and bad in sickness and in health.” Have you ever broken that promise? When you were confirmed you promised to: “remain faithful to Christ and face death rather than renounce any of His blessed truths.” Have you always kept that promise? Kids promise to be home on time for dinner. But, often they are not. Husbands promise to pick up milk on their way home from work. But, then they forget. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions to yourself or resolved to give up something during Lent? Have you kept that promise, or already fallen backward? Then there is the confession of sins we all say prior to receiving communion. Incorporated in that confession is a promise. “Do you seek to amend your sinful life?—Yes, with the help of God.” How often have you agreed to avoid sins, even specific sins, and then immersed yourself back into them during the week? Yes, don’t make promises that you cannot keep! For to do so is hypocrisy and living a lie.
God makes promises, a lot of them, to us, too. But, God is neither hypocritical nor a liar. Never, ever! And today we see that in our lesson which clearly teaches us that:
GOD MAKES PROMISES—AND KEEPS THEM, TOO
Abram was living in Haran—modern day Iraq. He was a rich man. He and his wife, Sarai had numerous possessions and people who worked for them. Abram was also an old man. He was 75 and probably looking forward to his “golden years.” The one thing he lacked was ason. He lacked an heir to leave it all to. For you see, they were childless and at 75 with Sarai just a few years younger, they didn’t expect any kids. Abram was also a believer, a faithful follower of the Triune God. And one day God talked to Abram and gave him some astounding news. God made some mind-boggling promises to Abram when he least expected them. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abram was in a conundrum. What should he do? Should he take God up on His promises? Should he obey them? Should he leave the known behind for the unknown? Note that God really promises three things here. 1. He will provide offspring. So many that Abram’s seed will turn into a huge nation. 2. God will bless him and give him a special place to live. And 3. All peoples on earth will be blessed (eternally) through Abram’s line. That’s a promise of the Messiah. That’s a promise of Abram’s ticket to eternal life.
Abram has none of this yet. He has nothing tangible to go on, nothing he can see or touch. He only has God’s Word of promise. But, Abram acts! He obeys! He leaves Haran behind and takes everyone in his extended family to Israel. It was a long journey. It was a hard journey. The many animals depended upon water and vegetation to eat. Robbers and thieves abounded in the surrounding countryside. Yet, Abram went anyway. He believed God’s promises.
When Abram arrived he finally stopped at the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. We’re told: “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” There he worshiped. There he “called on the name of the Lord.”
Note that God again repeats the most important part of His tripartite promise to Abram. He promises offspring, children, from whom the Messiah would eventually come. And note also that Abram doesn’t waver in his allegiance to God. He builds an altar instead and worships His loving, kind God.
Now, for the next 25 years or so, God delivered on most of those promises. Abram grew more wealthy. He was given land, a lot of it. But, no children were born to he and Sarai. Finally, at age 100 when his faith was stretched thin, God again came to him and said: “Next year at this time you will have a son.” Sarai laughed at it. But, Abram remained faithful. He believed. He trusted in what he could not see. And a year later Isaac was born. The rest is history. From his line came the Israelites. From his genes, the genes of faith, came Christ his Savior. From Abram’s line came you and me and all other believers in God’s promises.
God never makes promises that He cannot and does not keep. We see that in Abram and it is still true for us today. For God is changeless. What does God in the person of Jesus Christ promise you and me? “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of eternal life.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” “Do this” namely celebrate the Lord’s Supper according to His command and “receive the forgiveness of sins.” Likewise, when it comes to prayer, Jesus promises: “Ask, and it will be given to you.” When it comes to heaven He says: “I go to heaven to prepare a place for you.”
God promised a Savior from sin, from our inability to keep our promises. And God delivered. He sent Jesus to die for us. He sent Jesus to make us right with God. He sent Jesus to rise from the dead, from our graves, so that we wouldn’t have to fear death. And all God asks in return for His goodness is for us to believe in His promises. He asks us to do as Abram did—to embrace God’s truth and in love and gratitude try to live according to it.
St. Paul often used Abram, or Abraham as he is later known, as a lesson for us. A lesson to learn from and live by. In today’s epistle from Romans Paul speaks of Abraham’s faith. What made him different? Why is he considered the father of the faithful? It wasn’t his own acts of holiness. It wasn’t his life of saintly behavior. For Abraham’s life is replete with examples of how he backslid and acted anything but a saint. No, what made Abraham special was his faith. He trusted in the Lord. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Paul goes on to say this: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Folks, that is you and me. If we hold up our lives to God and offer them to him on our own, all we see and all He’ll see is all the times we’ve let Him down and broken our promises to Him. The wages of such behavior is death, eternal death. But, when we believe in Christ and trust in God’s promises and cling to them in humility and thankfulness, God sees Christ’s holiness and Christ’s perfection on us and in us and keeps His promise to adopt us as His children. Abraham knew that and was saved. And now you know that, too. Amen