Summary: God made a special set of promises to Abraham. But do those promises apply to us?
OPEN: A mother was read a Bible story about Abraham to her 5-year-old daughter. when she finished, she started asking her a few questions about it. “What was Abraham's name before God changed it?” She looked puzzled for a moment… then smiled as she asked, “Lincoln?” (Annelle Maurer, Loma Linda, CA. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart.")
God changed Abraham’s name? Well… yeah. In our story today, we see that Abraham’s name had ONCE been Abram. Abram means “exalted Father” and Abraham means “Father of a multitude.”
But now, why would God do that? Why change this man’s name? Well God seems to do that a lot in Scripture especially when He’s making a major change in the person’s life. For example, Jacob became Israel; Simon was renamed Peter; and Saul was transformed into Paul. And of course in Revelation 2:17 God promises us “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Even we can get a new name.
In each of those people’s lives (Jacob, Simon and Saul) there was like a rebirth that took place. They became different men than when they had their old names. So what became different about Abraham? What did God DO with him? Well Abraham was once just a normal guy. He was a shepherd and a husband and he tried to live a life pleasing to God. But then, one day God says “I want to do something special with you. I want to make a covenant (or contract) with you. And that’s what this Genesis 12 passage is all about. God introduces Himself to Abraham… and then He makes a promise. “I want you to leave your home and your kinfolk… and go to a land I’ll show you. And I’ll make you into a great nation; I’ll bless you and make your name great; I’ll make you into a blessing for others; if others bless you, I’ll bless them, but if they curse you… I’ll curse them.”
And when all was said and done Abraham became one of the important people in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we read the phrase “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob over and over again. And Abraham’s grandson Jacob was renamed Israel and became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. So, literally, Abraham was the great-grandfather of the 12 tribes of Israel. So when God said he would make Abraham into a great nation… Israel comes to mind.
But then, in the New Testament we’re told that Abraham is Our Father too! Galatians 3:7-9 says “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
So God made Abraham the father of, not just the people of Israel, but ALSO of you and me, and of every Christian who ever lived. AND, that means that this covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 12) applies to us right now.
ILLUS: Back when I was in Bible college there was another student who rejected that idea. He didn’t think the promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 12 applied to us. He was particularly offended with the promise: I’ll bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” “You can’t claim that promise,” he said. “That is only made to Abraham. Now, that really annoyed me because I was pretty sure that was wrong, but I didn’t know quite why! But then I read in Galatians 3:29 “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
The promises found in Genesis to Abraham are ours because we’re Abraham’s offspring. For example, when I die, my children will be heir to my estate (such as it is). As my heirs they inherit everything that belongs to me!!! In the same way, we are heirs of Abraham - so, we get what he got… including his promises.
For example, God told Abraham “I’ll bless those who bless you.” And Jesus said, “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42) Are you Christ’s disciple? Well, that means that whoever blesses you will be blessed by God.
And God told Abraham “I’ll curse those who curse you.” Paul wrote: “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6) What’s that mean? It means God will curse those who curse you.