Series: It’s Time to Take the Promised Land (Pt 1)
Episode: One Man’s Promise
God promised Abraham lots of children and lots of land. At the time, given he was 75 years old and he and Sarah were without children, that “promise” must have seemed absolutely impossible. Yet somehow, God went about bringing that promise to life in Abraham’s heart.
I guess most of us are familiar with the term, “The Promised Land”. Well it comes from the fact that God promised the land that we now know as Israel to His people through a man, the father of that nation, Abraham.
Now we’re going to take a look at that story today on the program because its one that applies so much to who we are and where we are today in the 21st century. So many people are wandering round through life aimlessly. Oh, they may have heard God’s promises, maybe they may have even believed them; eternal life, peace, joy, a relationship with God.
We can believe those things more or less but when you really take a good hard look at God’s promises and then at your own life and circumstances, well the two can be just a little bit hard to put together, how do they fit? That’s a problem Abraham had too and God knew it and did something about it. And you know something God hasn’t changed.
So where does this term The Promised Land come from? Well it all begins when God promises some land to Abraham. This is how God first engages with His chosen people, ultimately He comes to Abraham who’s the father of the chosen nation, Israel. Now Abraham is living this really comfortable existence, he was quite wealthy, he lived in a placed called Ur which is near Babylon or around the modern day Baghdad. Now God calls Abraham out of that place, if you have a Bible grab it, go to Genesis chapter 12 beginning at verse 1 and it says this:
Now the Lord said to Abraham “Go from your country and your family and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.
That is an incredible promise because Abraham and his wife Sarah were old, I mean they were well into their 70’s and the greatest hurt of their lives was that they were childless, they had no children, they couldn’t conceive and here God comes to them in their, well their latter years you’d think, with a two part blessing of land and children and not just a few children but “… I will make of you a great nation.” So God’s talking about here an abundant blessing.
There they are in their comfort and their wealth and they’re old and God comes along, we quite don’t know how, with this outrageous promise, what do they do? They up and leave, they take their possessions and their servants and their animals and they hit the road and go westward to a land called Canaan and we find out what happens when they get there, you can read about it a few verses later in Genesis, chapter 12, verses 6-8:
When they’d come to the land of Canaan, Abraham passed through the land to a place at Shechem to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So Abraham built an altar to the Lord there who had appeared to him.
Now just think about God’s promise to this old man, He says, “I will give you descendants.” He’s 70 something years old! He has no children, God says, “I will make a great nation of you.” Really? “And I will give this land to your descendants.” Do you think Abrahams looking there saying, “God, I’m in my 70’s, I don’t have any children, this land is occupied by the Canaanites.”
It all must have seemed pretty impossible but right here, right in the middle of all this impossibility, the Promised Land is born. God speaks this promise into Abraham’s life and Abraham believed it with his life, how do we know that? Because he left his comfortable existence in Ur, the place where the toilets flushed and the buses and the trains ran on time and all that sort of stuff and he followed down the dusty trail of God’s promise over hill and dale.
That is a pretty outrageous decision to take and he gets to this land of God’s impossible promise, a land filled with the Canaanites who weren’t about to say, “Well, God said you could have it. Sure Abraham, take our land, we don’t mind.” This childless, 70 something Abraham gets there, what does he do? He builds an altar to the Lord, he honours God, he bows down and says, “Well God, even though this doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense, I am going to believe you.”
God knows what going on in Abrahams heart, He knows that this is a tough call so He takes him up a hill and makes the promise again, Genesis chapter 13 beginning at verse 14:
The Lord said to Abraham after Lot had separated from him, “Raise up your eyes now and look from the place where you are. North and South and East and West, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth so that if anyone can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.
Get up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land for I will give it to you.” So Abraham moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre which are at Hebron and there he built and altar to the Lord.
I love this, I love how, how God lays out the land before him, this picture on top of the hill, God’s speaking to Abraham and breathing His promised land into this old mans heart. “Go on, walk through it as far as the eye can see. I have made this outrageous promise to you, you’ll have so many descendants it’s more than the grains of dust in the whole earth.” And Abraham builds an altar and honours God.
You see what’s going on here? God is taking him through a process, this huge leap this old man with no children, this huge leap to the Promised Land full of children, God leads Abraham gently into a place where he can believe but like you and me he’s human, he’s struggling with all this in his heart. You read about that in Genesis, chapter 15. Abraham goes to God and says:
I still don’t have a son, this other mans going to end up being my heir, how is this promise ever going to happen?
Look at what God says, Genesis chapter 15, verse 4:
This man shall not be your heir. No-one but your very own son shall be your heir. God took Abraham outside and said, “Look towards the heavens and count the starts if you’re able to count them.” Then God said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And Abraham believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it under him as righteousness.
What a beautiful picture, Abraham is aching, he wants to believe in God’s promises, the land and the descendants and this mighty nation but it’s so hard isn’t it? So God takes him outside to look at the stars and look at the milky way without the city lights and the smog, there are so many stars, it’s a glorious sight and finally the word of God, the promise of God, God’s Promised Land drops into Abrahams heart.
He still made plenty of mistakes along the way. You read about it in the next few chapters of Genesis but the Promised Land was written in Abrahams heart. And centuries went by in the history of Israel, in Egypt and all that stuff they went through in the Exodus, centuries went by but it happened, the Promised Land happened. And on that night under stars alone with God the Promised Land was written on Abrahams heart, he believed.
Today will you let God write His promises on your heart?