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The Blessing of Abraham. Advent 2 Midweek.


Jesu juvaabraham isaac and jacob

Advent 2 Wednesday Matins/Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3

December 12, 2012

“The Blessing of Abraham and his Seed”—taken from Stoeckhardt

(preached at matins)

 

In the name of Jesus.

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God set the promise of the seed of the woman, the trampler of the serpent, before the eyes of Adam and Eve immediately after the fall into sin.  But not all human beings received the promise.  Cain and his offspring despised the promise, despised Christ.  They multiplied violence on the earth.

 

Also Seth’s seed rejected the promise and intermarried with the enemies of God.  So God destroyed the earth with the flood.  It was not because of their sins, but because of their unbelief—that they refused to believe the promise of the seed of the woman, Christ.  But God preserved believing Noah in the ark.  And Noah carried the promise with him into the new world—because it was true of him as well as those who died in the flood: “every thought of man’s heart is evil continually from his youth.” 

 

Noah further clarified the promise, enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  He praised “the God of Shem.”  He indicated that the seed of the woman would be born from Seth’s offspring, and that this seed would be God and man.

 

Finally, God called Abraham and gave the promise we read. 

 

The promise and blessing of Abraham is of great importance to Christians.  You cannot read the passages of the new testament that talk about our salvation, about how we are justified before God, without mention being made of Abraham.  So we need to know the promise to Abraham and His seed.

 

The blessing of Abraham and His seed:

  1. 1.       What is the blessing?
  2. 2.      Who is Abraham’s seed or offspring?

 

Abraham given great promises. 

 

The essence of God’s Word to Abraham—I will bless you.

 

Yet Abraham and the other patriarchs suffered as did other men.  Perhaps more.  They were aliens and strangers on earth.  They wandered; they were in danger.  Their neighbors mistreated them.  Isaac no sooner dug wells than the Philistines filled them up with rocks.  Jacob was ripped off by Laban his uncle, who had him work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage and then gave him Leah and made him work another 7 for Rachel.  Then he changed his wages 7 times as Jacob kept his flocks and as God blessed Laban for Jacob’s sake.

 

 They had their loved ones torn away from them.  Grief and anguish of heart afflicted them in their own families.  They were tested by God and He seemed to be against them—as when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, or when Jacob returned to face Esau, fearing death, and wrestled with the angel of the Lord until morning. 

 

Yet they were the blessed of the Lord.  God defended them from their enemies, gave them victory in battle, prospered the work of their hands, enriched them.  The princes of the unbelieving people that surrounded them had to acknowledge that they were the anointed of God, His prophets and chosen ones, as when Abraham had to pray for Abimelech, king of the Philistines.

 

Now we follow in the footsteps of the patriarchs.  We too are aliens and wanderers on the earth.  We have here no abiding city.  The Church was persecuted in its early days. Even in the last 2 centuries in supposedly Christian lands the Church has fled persecution.  Our fathers in the Missouri Synod came to the United States in large part because of the hostility and difficulty faced by “Old Lutherans” in Germany in the 1800s.  Now in the United States, in which it was once possible to be a good American and a confessing Lutheran, not only Lutherans but Christians of any communion that does not want to revise the ten commandments find themselves, increasingly, to be aliens and strangers.  We have it forced upon our awareness, painfully, that we have no abiding city on earth, but we look to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11).

 

We too live under the same curse as all of Adam’s children.  Our life is filled with toil and sweat and tears.  We are grieved and suffer at the hands of unbelieving neighbors; we experience anguish of heart from members of our own family who wander from the Lord.  There are those in our congregation and our synod who are supposed to be our brothers but who cause us more pain than our open enemies.  Those who are dearest to us are ripped away from us, leaving our hearts torn open—children and spouses who die or who are turned against us and Christ by the seduction of the world and the devil.  Most painful of all, we are led by God in ways where it appears to us that He is against us or that He has forsaken us in His wrath, or when God seems to contradict all He has told us in His Word.  Like Abraham when commanded to sacrifice Isaac, we live through spiritual affliction.  We are tempted to depart from the Word of God alone as our trust when it seems as though it is not working and we must have gotten it wrong. 

 

Yet despite all this, like Abraham and the patriarchs, we are the blessed of the Lord.  The Lord goes with us with His blessing.  He defends us against our enemies.  He makes our crosses serve His ends of blessing us, His chosen.  Through them He uncovers and puts to death through forgiveness our sinful nature.  He provides for us.  He allows no evil to come to us that does not serve us in making us attain to everlasting blessedness.  His word to Abraham, the man of faith, is also His word to us, who are children of Abraham and walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham: I will bless you.

And God keeps His Word.

 

But these blessings are only the prelude and prologue to the great blessing which He planned for Abraham and for us.  The real blessing is Abraham’s seed.  I will bless you, God says to Abraham and to us.  But He says again to Abraham, I will make you a blessing…and all the ends of the earth will be blessed in you.

 

God who blesses Abraham will make him into a source of blessing to the whole earth.  That is because God gives and blesses richly without finding fault.  He is the God of blessing.  He created us out of nothing out of sheer goodness, out of the desire to bless.  In response to Adam’s sin He promises that Satan, the serpent’s head, will be crushed by the woman’s seed.

 

God, the fountain and source of all blessings and every good and perfect gift, makes Abraham into a blessing to all nations of the earth, because Abraham’s seed is God.  God and man.  That is how blessing is to flow from Abraham to all nations living under the curse of Adam.  That is how the seed of the woman is able to crush not only the head of a snake but the head of the ancient serpent, the devil.

 

Through Abraham’s seed all nations will be blessed.  The German uses the word “blessed” where we use the word “saved.”  And the German use reflects the sense of the Hebrew of the OT.  All nations on the earth will receive earthly blessing and heavenly blessing, salvation in soul and body, through Abraham’s seed.  In the manger we see the fulfillment of this.  “Abraham’s promised great reward,” as the hymn put it, is laid there.  Abraham’s reward, the glory of God’s people Israel, and the blessing and salvation of us Gentiles, is Jesus, God and man, born from the line of Abraham, the offspring of the womb of a virgin.  In Him all the glory of God is joined to human nature.  In Him and by faith in Him our fallen and corrupt nature is healed.

 

Abraham’s seed is one.  Not all of Abraham’s physical descendants are His offspring.  Galatians says that the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed—singular.  Jesus is the seed of Abraham in which all the promises spoken to Abraham are fulfilled.  When Jesus appeared to the people of Israel this point had to be driven home to them by both John the Baptist and Jesus.  John told the Jews, “Bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance.  And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We are Abraham’s seed.’  I tell you, God is able to raise up from these stones children for Abraham.”  Not all of Abraham’s offspring have the promise.  It is not the children of his flesh that are promised all the blessings of Abraham.  Otherwise Ishmael was also a descendant of Abraham and would have received his blessings.  But it is the children of promise who are the seed of Abraham.   First of all that means Jesus, who was not born by the will of man but conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.  Jesus’ ancestor was Abraham’s son Isaac, a miracle child born to Sarah and Abraham when they were past the age for children.  Isaac was born because God had promised him.  But Jesus is the one seed of Abraham to whom all the promises were given.  And the great nation that would come from Abraham refers to those who are blessed in Abraham’s seed, Jesus, and like Jesus, born not of the flesh or human will, but born of God’s promise.

 

The great blessing brought by this seed is the forgiveness of sins, and along with forgiveness, life and salvation.  The patriarchs were in need of the forgiveness of sins, because, despite their mighty works of faith, they too often thought according to the flesh.  But through the seed they clung to the promised forgiveness of sins and were counted righteous through this faith. 

 

This promised seed, true God and man, brings blessing to the whole earth.  In His incarnation He has united Himself with all men.  In His death He won blessing and salvation for all men.  He became a curse for us.  As Paul tells us in Galatians, the law of Moses declared that all who died, being lifted up on a tree, were cut off from God and under His curse.  Jesus received the curse—damnation and condemnation—for our sakes, so that we, together with Abraham, might receive the blessing of the forgiveness of sins through Him. 

 

“You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise,” St. Paul says.  Baptized into Christ and believing that God receives us as His sons and sons of believing Abraham, we are heirs of God’s blessing, just like Abraham.  I will bless you, God told Abraham.  He was speaking of the Messiah, Jesus.  Abraham received God’s promise the only way it can be received—by faith; believing it, just as Mary received God’s promise that she would have a baby, Christ the Lord, while she was still a virgin, saying, I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be to me according to your word.  God’s word to us is also  I will bless you, except that now we see the blessing, born for us and laid in the manger, crucified for us on Calvary, risen and ascended for us.

 

God’s blessing is also righteousness and eternal life.  God did not promise only earthly Canaan to Abraham.  He promised the whole earth in the new creation, in the resurrection of the dead.  Abraham went to offer Isaac in the faith that God was able to raise the dead (Hebrews 11).  “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4), trusting in the God “who raises the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).  To kill Isaac would seem to have been to end all hope of God’s promise being fulfilled—yet Abraham went in obedient faith, hoping against hope.  In the same way, we have the promise of life everlasting.  We hope against hope because we see sin and death at work in us.  Yet God has given us the promise that He will give us not an earthly plot of ground—since, like Abraham, we have here no abiding city but are aliens and strangers on earth.  Instead He will give us the whole earth in life everlasting.

 

Finally, Abraham was promised that all nations would be blessed through Him and that He would be a great nation.  This promise is fulfilled in the Holy Christian Church, in which people from every tribe and language and nation are called by the Lord’s name and receive His blessing.

 

But although the promises were spoken to Abraham and his one seed, Jesus, the Lord makes further promises that Abraham’s seed will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Who are these seed of Abraham?

 

God said, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”  God’s protection of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and finally the people of Israel was not for their own sake, but for the sake of the promised seed.  God will bless those who bless Christ and curse those who curse Christ.  That’s why the people of Israel, who had formerly been blessed and defended by God despite their sins, became accursed and cut off when Jesus the seed of Abraham appeared.  Those who refused Him and cursed Him and made Him die a cursed death received God’s curse.

 

But it was not all of Israel that was cursed.  God’s curse, His wrath and damnation, come on those who reject and curse the seed of Abraham.  That was the reason the flood came on the world—not because of the people’s sins, but because they despised and rejected the seed of the woman who was to come.  So those Israelites who did not repent and believe in Christ were cut off and put under God’s curse of eternal death.  So too, unbelieving Gentiles are cursed and damned, whether they are ignorant of the name of Christ or have rejected it, or whether they claim the name of Christ, saying, “Lord, Lord” with their lips but rejecting and cursing Him with heart and deeds.

 

But those who believe in Christ, call Him blessed, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the one who makes them blessed—God blesses them with forgiveness of sins, eternal life and eternal blessedness. 

 

It is not that we feel this blessedness, or see it.  Against hope Abraham in hope believed.  We also believe against hope.  We feel the curse of Adam, the power of sin, the grief of death and the fear of death.  Yet faith in Christ holds fast God’s promise, even in the terrors of hell, in fear and doubt.  God has promised to bless and save all who call Jesus blessed, who believe that He delivers from hell and death and gives justification, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.  God does not fail in His promises, just as He kept His promises to Abraham.  I will bless you, He said.  In your seed all the earth will be blessed. 

 

Now He has shown us the seed of Abraham in which all nations are promised eternal salvation and blessedness.  It is Jesus, true God and man, who trampled the serpent’s head, becoming the antidote for the poison the devil’s fangs injected into us.  He took the poison and the suffering and death and condemnation that come from it, drinking it by dying on the cross under God’s wrath. Then He rose from the dead in the body.  From His death on the cross and His resurrection comes the antidote for the poison of original sin.  Through His death God’s wrath is taken away and the dominion of sin is broken, since the flesh has been crucified in Christ through Baptism.  Through His resurrection life and justification and blessedness is given, and we have become this new man, Christ risen from the dead , in Baptism. 

 

You are blessed in the seed of Abraham.  The Lord will guard you and lead you on the days of your pilgrimage and fulfill His promise to you, just as He did for Abraham.  He will come again soon and give us His kingdom.

 

Amen.

 

The peace of God….

Soli Deo Gloria

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