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Thursday, June 27, 2019

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter FIFTEEN


Contributing commentaries by Sonny Islas and James Fire


GENESIS 15:1-6 Faith Conquering Fear  and
GENESIS 15:7-21 The Furnace and the Lamp  – both by Ray Stedman

Chapter Fifteen – by James Fire - here is the video teaching recorded at ETERNAL LIVING WORD Church.

In this chapter the LORD appears to Abram; this is the second time that He does so, the first time in Chapter 12:7, but that was about 12 years ago.

The LORD always appears when He is most needed, not necessarily in a vision, but His presence that gives us peace when we are afraid and need comfort, or through the revelation of His Word to grant us guidance when we are confused and need direction. Scripture states that He is a very present help in time of trouble (PS. 46:1).

Here the LORD’s Word comes to Abram and He declares Who He is and what He intends for this man, the father of the faith, whose example we follow as we walk by faith and not by sight (2 COR 5:7). And the LORD God declares the same to us, His children.  We know Who He is; our Abba Father, our LORD Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit our Comforter – and we know He has blessed and awesome plans for us (EPH 2:10; JER 29:11).

GOD brings a glorious revelation to Abram here, and we recognize the binding oath of a covenant which is known as the Abrahamic covenant, the central focus of this chapter.
There are seven covenants in the Bible that the LORD makes with the people of this world, four of which are made explicitly with Israel alone (Abrahamic covenant, Palestinian – or Land Covenant, Mosaic and Davidic covenant); the other three (Adamic, Noahic and the New Covenant) are made with all humanity and not limited to Israel.

For a detailed explanation of these covenants, see this article by GOT QUESTIONS.



THE COVENANTS OF GOD

Adamic

All of mankind - conditional
Noahic

All of mankind - unconditional
Abrahamic
Israel - unconditional

Land (Palestinian)
Israel - unconditional

Mosaic
Israel - conditional

Davidic
Israel - unconditional

New Covenant

All of mankind - unconditional

GENESIS 15:1
1 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
.

The LORD declares that He Himself is Abram’s shield – as well as his exceeding great reward: What do these things mean?
Certainly we can understand that the LORD is our shield, our protector, much as a soldier is protected by his shield when facing the enemy on the battlefield.

PSALM 3:1-8
1 Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah
.

It states in PSALM 5:12 that the LORD will surround the righteous as a shield, and in PSALM 28:7, that the LORD is our strength and shield; those of us who trust Him and are helped. Nine Psalms all together speak of the LORD our shield. The LORD protects His children as any good father would, and especially those who are walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh (for if we walk in known sin, we make ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, just as any knight would be vulnerable on the battlefield without any crucial part of his armor).

And so, what does it mean when it says that the LORD is our exceeding great reward? The same thing as expressed in the book of HEBREWS:

HEBREWS 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him
.

In seeking the LORD diligently – that is, “to search out, to investigate, to crave, to worship, to seek carefully – He reward us with the greatest reward He has to offer: Himself! To Abram He states that He, the LORD GOD is his exceeding great reward!

GENESIS 15:2-3
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? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir
.

For the Semite, and therefore to the Jewish mind, possessions and wealth is useless without an inheritor and so Abram is lamenting that he has no son to bestow his inheritance to, even though the LORD had already promised him that his offspring would be as numerous as “the sands of all the Earth” (GEN 13:16). Abram, just like all of us, needs reminding (and remember, this was very likely more than a decade ago) – he needed reminding of God’s loving faithfulness – and the LORD is gently faithful in reminding us of His Word of truth and promise:

GENESIS 15:4-6
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. 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. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness
.

The LORD declares with absolute clarity that Eliezer, the servant of Abram will not be his heir, but assures the father of the faith that his heir shall be his own son. I picture God beckoning this man to step outside of his tent and showed him the stars and declared that his offspring will be as the stars of heaven. I don’t know this for sure, but perhaps Abram was thinking, “Well I’m not too old, this is a possibility – but time is wasting, and GOD better hurry up before it’s too late!

Mary and Martha thought the LORD Jesus was too late to raise their dead brother Lazarus to life but He sure showed them! And He can show us too, it’s never ‘too late’ for GOD!
Notice that – previously GOD said his offspring would be like “the sands of the Earth”, and here, “as the stars of heaven” – is this significant? 

I think so: Abram, the father of the faith would be the father of Israel and an example to all Jews of genuine and effective faith. He also is the example to all the church of genuine and effective faith. The kingdom of Israel is destined to rule on the Earth during the Millennium, thus “the sands of the Earth”. The kingdom of GOD is destined to rule in the heavenlies with the bride of Christ, the church, ruling by Christ’s side, thus “the stars of heaven”!

For more on this, read the following articles (note: TTUF does not necessarily agree with everything contained in these works):
When GOD spoke His Word, “Abram believed [Him] and it was counted to him for righteousness”. Paul quotes this in ROMANS 4:3 – chapter 4 of ROMANS is all about the faith that Abraham (and David as well) expressed that demonstrated their salvation.

GENESIS 15:7-8
And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

Now the LORD declares to Abram, concerning the land that he will inherit; He previously promised him a people, and now a land for his people to dwell in. Yet once again, Abram questions GOD on this – how do I know that this is going to happen? A valid question certainly, and how does GOD answer it?
Let’s read on. . .

GENESIS 15:9
And he said unto him, Take me an heifer
[a female cow]
of three years old, and a she goat [that’s a goat that’s a she] of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

How does this answer Abram’s question? We may not understand what this is about, but Abram did! This instruction to the father of the faith by GOD was to conduct the ritual of a “blood covenant”- it was a type of covenant that used to be conducted by kings or heads of states in making peace treaties between their respective nations, but later was also adopted by people in general; but this was the greatest and most serious of the three different types of covenants, because breaking it meant death!

There are three types of covenants in the Old Testament that represented legal, and binding contractual agreements between people:

1. The Shoe Covenant:
RUTH 4:7
Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel
.

2. The Salt Covenant:
NUM 18:19
19 All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute forever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee
.

3. The Blood Covenant: This is the most binding and serious agreement because it involves the shedding of blood dating back to Noah. GEN 15:7-21. We read about this blood covenant in JEREMIAH as well as here in GEN 15

JEREMIAH 34:18-19
18 And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, 19 The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf
;

Here for the first time the Lord introduces a covenant into his relationship with Abram. In response to Abram’s faltering faith, he graciously reinforces his promise (cf. 12:2-3) with a covenant oath.

GENESIS 15:10-11
10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away
.

So, GOD is about to enter into covenant with Abram for the purpose of promise regarding the land the LORD is granting to him, and to his descendants. And notice what happens in the midst of this ritual: “the fowls of the air came down on the carcases”. The fowls of the air represent Satan and his agencies of fallen angels and demons (MARK 4:4,32; REV 18:2) and he is always intent on the destruction of Israel – even here at the beginning, throughout all history, and as we near the end of the age, especially in today’s world!

GENESIS 15:12-15
12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age
.

Abram waits upon GOD until the setting of the sun, and darkness is approaching. There are times in our lives when we feel like we’re left in the dark; we don’t see GOD’s answer in our sight and we can sometimes become bewildered or disillusioned, because we don’t understand how GOD will work things out. We may even be afflicted with doubt in the form of fiery darts by the enemy, who wants to trip us up in our walk of faith. But if GOD promised, then we can hold fast by faith in the dark night what we heard in the light of His revelation!

Abram is sent by GOD into a deep sleep. Remember when this happened before, to Adam? GOD sent Adam into a deep sleep just before He took a rib from the man, to create a wife for him. Likewise, GOD is about to create a ‘wife’ for himself in this blood covenant with Abram: that is, the nation of Israel, whose husband is the LORD YHWH as mentioned in ISAIAH:

ISAIAH 54:4-6
Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood anymore. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called
.

Then the LORD issues a prophetic declaration regarding Abram’s decedents – they will be foreigners in a far land and suffer affliction by this people in slavery for four hundred years. Muslims claim that GOD’s promise here refers not to the Jewish people, but themselves (many of which are Semites as are the Jews), but when in all of history were the Muslim people slaves for four hundred years to a foreign nation and then delivered to be brought into a land that GOD promised them? No, this prophecy was perfectly fulfilled in the days of Moses and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, having been afflicted just as GOD foretold

Israel's Egyptian Captivity and Exodus: Archaeological and Historical Evidence 



GENESIS 15:16
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full
.

The LORD realized what was in store for Jacob and his sons, during the days of famine in Canaan, and how Jacob sent his sons into Egypt to get some food – all the while, at that time, none of them realized that Joseph (whom his brothers betrayed and sold him into bondage, whom Jacob believed to be dead) reigned in Egypt second only to Pharaoh; further, GOD knew that while the Hebrews lived in Goshen, there would eventually rise up a Pharaoh “that knew not Joseph” (EXOD 1:8) and would begin to oppress, enslave and eventually sought to exterminate the Hebrews.

That GOD’s people would cry out to Him for deliverance – and realize their utter need for the LORD, who would hear their cries for Abraham’s sake and the promise He made to him in this 15th chapter of GENESIS. Their time in Egypt would also allow those who dwelled in Canaan – these Amorites whose ungodly ways and child sacrifice to their pagan gods to repent: 400 years plus, GOD waited for them, and they refused.

So, judgment came in the form of GOD’s sanctioning Israel’s migration into Canaan land, with Divine orders to wipe out whole populations of the people of Canaan: men, women and children, even babies. No exceptions! We do well to remember the holiness of GOD, and His absolute intolerance towards sin, Who understood that babies grow up to become adults, proliferate and may become a numerous population, who learning of what was done to their people, would seek vengeance.

Getting back to this ritual of blood covenant: it was customary that once the sacrificial animals were slain and cleft in half, each half laid opposite the other, leaving a path between the two, the two parties would walk through the path of these few animals, reciting the terms of the covenant – but what do we see here? Abram is fast asleep, and the presence of the LORD in the form of this “smoking furnace” and “a burning lamp” passed through the pieces, but He does so alone, without Abram passing through along with Him.

GENESIS 15:17
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces
.

What does this tell us? That the promise GOD made to Abraham regarding the land is an unconditional one for Israel; that GOD obligates Himself alone to uphold the terms of this covenant agreement!

There are those who believe that because Israel was unfaithful to the LORD, especially in the fact that they rejected their Messiah, that they are no longer eligible to keep the land – but this covenant to the land was never based on Israel’s faithfulness to GOD, but on GOD’s faithfulness to Israel. Israel couldn’t break this covenant if they tried!

Now, you might say, wait a minute! My Bible says in DEUT 28 and DEUT 29 that GOD expected Israel to be faithful in keeping His Law containing ordinances, rituals, sacrifices and feasts and if they didn’t, the LORD would expel them from the land! And Israel did rebel and GOD did expel them!

True! If they were guilty of misconduct, in sinning against the LORD and didn’t repent, there would be the penalty of being expelled. But everywhere in the Old Testament, it speaks of GOD returning Israel back into the land, “never to depart from there again
 (ISAIAH 60:19-21; JER 32:37-40; EZEK 37:21,24-25). So being expelled is a punitive action, a disciplinary action by GOD, but was never permanent (when you discipline your child, you send them to their room, not throw them out of the house because they are family, and restricting them to their room is only temporary). 

Considering what the Scriptures say, which address this issue of Israel’s promised land, and associates it with the Millennial Reign of Christ; Israel’s ultimate and permanent blessing! 
This is the Abrahamic Covenant – the unconditional and absolute, unbreakable promise of the LORD to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his true children forever. Not merely the physical descendants of Abraham – but those who were truly his children by expressing the same faith in GOD that their father did! Remember what John the Baptist and the LORD Jesus called the religious leaders of Israel? “…generation of vipers” (MATT 3:7; 12:34; 23:33).

The Baptist puts a fine point on his accusation of Israel’s leadership and how they couldn’t count on their genealogy back to Abraham to gain favor with GOD:

MATTHEW 3:7-10
...O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire
.

The LORD Jesus was even more explicit:

JOHN 8:44
...Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do
.

The apostle Paul elaborates on this as well:

ROMANS 2:28-29
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God
.

Those Jews whose hearts are circumcised, that is, who have been truly touched by the Spirit of GOD and are considered saints of GOD, these will inherit the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant! GOD will be faithful to fulfill this promise to Israel and that should be greatly encouraging to us, the church – because just as we see the LORD bringing Israel together in these last days, and while most of Israel’s people are either agnostic or into any number of religions, and don’t regard (in the majority) the GOD of the Bible, GOD will fulfill His Word to His people in His time!

And so, we can count on the faithfulness of the LORD for us, the church as well!
The Jews claim that this land belongs to them, the Muslims claim that the land is their own, the nations of the world meddle with this land, thinking it’s theirs to do with as they like, “trodding it down” as the Scriptures state (LUKE 21:24), being the times of the Gentiles (when Israel is “without a king or prince, without a sacrifice or an ephod” which is present day; HOS 3:4). But they are all wrong! The land belongs to none of them!
The land belongs to GOD Himself: and He gave stewardship of this land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants!

JOEL 3:2
I will also gather all nations and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for My people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted My land
.

All the Earth belongs to the LORD (PSALM 24:1), but it’s this land of Israel that He establishes His Name, and His kingdom (ISAIAH 18:7; PSALM 2) and He has determined the borders of the kingdom which He will inaugurate when He returns to rule in the Millennium.

GENESIS 15:18-21
18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites

And just as GOD made this covenant, the Abrahamic covenant with the father of the faith in regards to the land of Israel and his descendants being the rightful heirs to the land, He also made a covenant with David (Davidic Covenant) in 2 SAMUEL in regards to “the house of David in another unconditional promise regarding the kingdom of Israel and the Messiah:

2 SAMUEL 7:10-13
10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever
.

GENESIS 15:18b
…Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

This is the entirety of the land that GOD intends Israel to possess: far, far more than they do today or ever did possess in all her history! And we as the saints of GOD will witness this glorious Messianic Kingdom!

For more on the covenant, oath and promise of GOD to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel, consider PSALM 105 and this commentary by pastor John of Calvary Chapel Fargo: GOD IS FAITHFUL, FAITHFULLY BELIEVE HIM: 




For more on this, see this TTUF two-part article:





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