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 unabridged account of God’s blessing to Abraham. Though brief, its content is rich: It includes the reason for, and background to, God’s gift to Abraham, and what it was that He gave to Abraham. It is also imbued with the joy and excitement with which God uttered these words, as well as the urgency of His longing to gain those who are able to listen to His words. In this, we see God’s cherishment of, and tenderness toward, those who obey His words and follow His commands. So, too, do we see the price He pays to gain people, and the care and thought He puts into gaining them. Moreover, the passage, which contains the words “By myself have I sworn,” gives us a powerful sense of the bitterness and pain borne by God, and God alone, behind the scenes of this work of His management plan. It is a thought-provoking passage, and one that held especial significance for, and had a far-reaching impact upon those who came after.
Man Gains God’s Blessings Because of His Sincerity and Obedience
Was the blessing given to Abraham by God that we read of here great? Just how great? There is one key sentence here: “And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” which shows that Abraham received blessings not given to any who came before or after. When, as asked by God, Abraham returned his only son—his beloved only son—to God (note: Here we cannot use the word “offered”; we should say he returned his son to God), not only did God not allow Abraham to offer Isaac, but He also blessed him. With what promise did He bless Abraham? The promise to multiply his offspring. And by how many were they to be multiplied? The Scriptures provide the following record: “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.” What was the context in which God uttered these words? Which is to say, how did Abraham receive God’s blessings? He received them just as God says in the Scriptures: “because you have obeyed my voice.” That is, because Abraham had followed God’s command, because he had done everything that God had said, asked and commanded without the slightest complaint, thus God made such a promise to him. There is one crucial sentence in this promise that touches upon God’s thoughts at the time. Have you seen it? You may not have paid much attention to s that “By myself have I sworn.” What they mean is that, when God uttered these words, He was swearing by Himself. What do people swear by when they make an oath? They swear by Heaven, which is to say, they make an oath to God and swear by God. People might not have much of an understanding of the phenomenon by which God swore by Himself, but you’ll be able to understand when I provide you with the correct explanation. Being faced with a man who could only hear His words but not understand His heart once more made God feel lonely and at a loss. In desperation—and, it can be said, subconsciously—God did something very natural: God put His hand on His heart and spoke the promise of a gift to Abraham to Himself, and from this man heard God say “By myself have I sworn.” Through God’s actions, you may think of yourself. When you put your hand on your heart and speak to yourself, do you have a clear idea of what you’re saying? Is your attitude sincere? Do you speak candidly, with your heart? Thus, we see here that when God spoke to Abraham, He was earnest and sincere. At the same time as speaking to and blessing Abraham, God was also speaking to Himself. He was telling Himself: I will bless Abraham, and make his progeny as numerous as the stars of heaven, and as plentiful as the sand on the sea shore, because he obeyed My words and he is the one I choose. When God said “By myself have I sworn,” God resolved that in Abraham He would produce the chosen people of Israel, after which He would lead these people forward apace with His work. That is, God would make Abraham’s descendants bear the work of God’s management, and the work of God and that expressed by God would begin with Abraham, and would continue in Abraham’s descendants, thus realizing God’s wish to save man. What say you, is this not a blessed thing? For man, there is no greater blessing than this; this, it can be said, is the most blessed thing. The blessing gained by Abraham was not the multiplication of his offspring, but God’s achievement of His management, His commission, and His work in the descendants of Abraham. This means that the blessings gained by Abraham were not temporary, but continued on as God’s management plan progressed. When God spoke, when God swore by Himself, He had already made a resolution. Was the process of this resolution true? Was it real? God resolved that, from then onward, His efforts, the price He paid, what He has and is, His everything, and even His life would be given to Abraham and the descendants of Abraham. So too did God resolve that, starting from this group of people, He would make manifest His deeds, and allow man to see His wisdom, authority, and power.