God Exceeds His Promises to Abraham
Today’s blog is based on the reading from Thursday’s lectionary, Gen. 17:3-9, when God made a covenant with Abraham for him to be "the ancestor of a multitude of nations." God also tells Abraham that his children will inherit "all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding" and that He will "be their God."
In these verses, God is foreshadowing Israel’s founding, which becomes established with the law of Moses later on in Exodus, and Israel’s journey to the promised Land. He promises that Abraham will become the patriarch of Israel and that Canaan will be Israel’s forever.
But does God follow through with His promises here? The New Testament reading for Thursday allows us to see these promises fulfilled in ways greater than we can imagine; not only does Abraham become the patriarch of Israel, but he also becomes the “ancestor of a multitude of nations” when God makes the new covenant with the world through Jesus.
Indeed, Jesus Himself claims in the reading that “[Israel’s] ancestor Abraham, rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” What does He mean here? The “day” that Jesus is referring to is the day when the invitation to join God’s family is extended to the gentiles throughout the world. Abraham doesn't simply become the patriarch of Israel anymore; he becomes the patriarch of the world. Abraham's family becomes exponentially bigger than what he could've imagined.
The New Testament, therefore, allows us to see God’s greater plan. He does not simply fulfill His promises; He exceeds them.
But what about the Promised Land of Canaan? Does God keep His promise that the land of Canaan will be held as Israel’s own forever? Wasn’t Israel kicked out of their own land during the Babylonian exile?
Just as Israel was, for Abraham, "shadow of things to come," a microcosm of the universal family of God found in the Church, so, too, was Canaan a shadow of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God to be established on earth in the end.
So while Israel suffered exile in expectation of being restored to their land, God had greater plans of setting up a more permanent home for all who believe in Him to dwell in. All of us are invited to that Promised Land.
God is faithful to His promises. Even if there are seasons of drought, God does not break what He vows to do. And when God delivers on His promises, they are always greater and more imaginative, exceeding our expectations and all that we ask. This is grace, and it is something that we must learn to accept.