God’s Promise to Abraham

3. God’s Promise to Abraham

(Gen 22:16-18) By myself have I sworn, said the LORD, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.

This is an exact record about God’s blessing Abraham. Although it is brief in words, it is quite rich in content. It contains the reason, background, and content of God’s blessing Abraham. And it also embodies God’s pleasure and excitement in His saying these words and God’s eagerness in “His hoping to gain those who can listen to His word.” Here, we see God’s treasuring and cherishing of those who listen to His word and obey His command, also see the price God has paid for gaining man and God’s thoughtful kind intention, and even more see the bitterness and suffering God has borne alone behind this work of management plan, which are clearly shown in the scripture “By myself have I sworn.” This is a passage of words worth pondering and also a passage of words which has extraordinary significance and far-reaching influence on later generations.

Man Receives God’s Blessing Because of His True Heart and His Obedience

Was God’s blessing to Abraham great, as seen from here? How great was it? Here a crucial word “And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” can show that Abraham received the blessing which no one had ever received and which no one would receive. When Abraham returned his only son—his beloved only son—to God (Note: Here we cannot say “offered” but should say “returned” to God) according to God’s requirement, God not only did not let Abraham offer up Isaac but instead would bless him. What promise did God bless him with? He would multiply his descendants. To what extent would He multiply them? The scriptures record as follows: “…as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Against what background did God say these words? In other words, how did Abraham receive the blessing from God? Just as God said in the scripture “because you have obeyed my voice.” That is, because Abraham obeyed God’s command and without any complaints did as God said, required, and commanded, God gave him such a promise. In this promise, there is a crucial word that concerns God’s mind at that time. Have you seen this crucial word? Maybe you have not noticed it. God said, “By myself have I sworn.” This word means that when God said those words, He swore by Himself. By what do people generally swear? They all swear by heaven, that is, swear to God, speak an oath to God. As to this “phenomenon” that God swore by Himself, you may not understand it. But when I give you a correct explanation, you will understand it. Facing a man who could only hear His word but could not understand His heart, God once again felt lonely and “at a loss.” “In a moment of anxiousness” or “subconsciously,” God made a very natural action; that is, He put His hand over His heart and said to Himself that He would give Abraham such a promise. Thus, men heard this word of God “By myself have I sworn.” From this action of God, you may associate it with yourself. When you speak to yourself with your hand over your heart, don’t you know very clearly what you are saying? Isn’t your attitude very sincere? Aren’t you saying what you say very earnestly with your heart? So, we see here that God’s attitude was sincere and genuine when He spoke to Abraham. When God spoke to Abraham and gave him the promise, He was also speaking to Himself. He was telling Himself: I will bless Abraham and multiply his descendants as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand on the sea shore, because he has obeyed My word and he is the man I have chosen. When God said the word “By myself have I sworn,” He had determined to produce His chosen people in Israel from Abraham and then lead these chosen people to go forward in step with His work. In other words, God would let the descendants of Abraham undertake God’s management work. He would start His work and His expression from Abraham and continue them on the descendants of Abraham and thereby fulfill His wish of saving man. Do you think it is a blessed thing? For mankind, there is no greater blessing than this, and it can be said to be the most blessed thing. The “blessing” Abraham received did not lie in that his descendants would multiply, but that God would accomplish His management, His commission, and His work on the descendants of Abraham. This means that the blessing Abraham received was not temporary but would go on with the advancement of God’s management plan. When God said this word, when God swore by Himself, He had made the decision. Isn’t the course of God’s making the decision very real? Isn’t it very practical? God decided that from that moment on, He would give His painstaking effort, His price, what He has and is, His everything, and even His life to Abraham and his descendants, and He also decided to start revealing His deeds on this portion of people, letting man see His wisdom, His authority, and His power.

Gaining Those Who Know God and Can Testify God Is God’s Never-changing Will

Although God, when speaking to Himself, was also speaking to Abraham, could he understand God’s true will in all God’s words at that moment apart from hearing the blessing God gave him? No. So, at that time, when God swore by Himself, His heart was still lonely and still sorrowful. There was still no man who could understand or comprehend what He intended to do and what He planned. At that time, still no man, including Abraham, could talk with Him heart to heart, much less could anyone cooperate with Him to do the work He wanted to do. Outwardly, God gained Abraham and gained a man who could obey His word. Actually, his knowledge of God was almost zero. Although God blessed Abraham, God’s heart was still not satisfied. What does His “not satisfied” mean? It means that His management just began and means that the people whom He wanted to gain, whom He hoped to see, and whom He loved were still far away from Him, and that He needed time, needed to wait, and needed to be patient. For at that time, no one except God Himself knew what He needed, what He wanted to gain, and what He hoped for. So, when God felt very excited, He also felt very heavy. Yet He did not stop His footsteps and was still planning for the next step of work He would do.

What do you see from the matter of God’s promise to Abraham? Merely because Abraham obeyed God’s word, God gave him so great a blessing. Although outwardly it seems very normal and is also a natural thing, we see God’s heart from it: God greatly treasures man’s obedience to Him and values man’s understanding and sincerity toward Him. To what extent does God value such sincerity? You may not know to what extent God values it, and maybe no one can understand it. God bestowed to Abraham a son, and when the son grew up, God asked Abraham to offer up his son to Him. Abraham did exactly as God told him. He obeyed God’s word. His sincerity moved God and was also treasured by God. To what extent did God treasure it? For what reason did God treasure it? In the age when no one could understand what God said and no one could know God’s heart, Abraham did an “earth-shaking” thing, which made God feel unprecedented satisfaction and also made God feel the joy of gaining a man who could obey His word. The “satisfaction” and “joy” were from a created being God created with His own hands, and this was also the first most precious “offering” in God’s eyes which was offered by man to God since the creation of mankind. God had waited for such “offering” for so long. He took this “offering” as the first most important gift from the created mankind. From it, God saw the first fruit gained by His painstaking effort and price and also saw hope on mankind. After that, God’s heart expected more eagerly that there would be a group of such people accompanying Him and treating Him and caring for Him with a true heart. And God even wished that Abraham could live forever, because He hoped that such a heart could accompany Him, accompanying Him while He continued His management. No matter what God thought, it was just a wish and just a thought, because Abraham was only a man who could obey Him but who did not understand or know Him in the slightest. He fell far short of God’s required standard for man—knowing God, being able to testify God, and being of one heart and one mind with God, so he could not possibly walk with God. In the matter of Abraham’s offering up Isaac, God saw his true heart and his obedience and also saw that he withstood God’s test to him. Although God accepted his true heart and his obedience, he was still inadequate to be God’s confidant and to be a man who knows God, comprehends God, and understands God’s disposition, and he was also far from being of one heart and one mind with God and carrying out God’s will. So God’s heart was still lonely and still anxious. The more lonely and anxious God was, the more He needed to continue His management as quickly as possible and choose and gain a group of people as quickly as possible to accomplish His management plan and fulfill His will. This is God’s eager desire that has never changed from the beginning until now. Since the beginning when God created mankind, God has been expecting eagerly that there will be a group of overcomers, a group of people who can understand, comprehend, and know God’s disposition, walking with Him. This desire of God has never changed. No matter how long God still has to wait, how hard the journey ahead is, and how far the goal He hopes for is, His expectation of mankind has never been changed or given up. Now as I say these, do you have some understanding of God’s desire? You may not have a deep understanding of it. Take time to understand it.

from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself (II)

in A Continuation of The Word Appears in the Flesh

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