The Second Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2020
The Amazing Season of Lent—
God’s Amazing Blessings!
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (NIV84)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” That is how our sermon text for last Sunday ended. It ended on a very sad note. It ended on a very negative note. Adam and Eve had sinned. As soon as they sinned they realized that they had a problem. That problem first presented itself with the sudden realization that they were now ashamed to be naked in front of each other. How could the problem be solved? Adam and Eve decided that they had to do something— and quick! So we are told that they took some fig leaves, sewed them together and “made coverings for themselves.” Now the problem was solved, right? Not at all! The problem was simply “covered up”!
Mankind’s problem became even more apparent and even more acute when the Lord God came down to “walk in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). The Lord exposed man’s real problem when He asked Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11). Now Adam and Eve were brought to the full realization of the fact that their real problem was that they had openly rebelled against their loving Creator. Was there anything Adam and Eve could do to solve this problem— a problem which they themselves had created? They most certainly tried, didn’t they! As we look at Genesis 3 we see that Adam and Eve had already tried to solve their problem by hiding from God! That did not work out too well. Then we see that they tried to solve their problem by blaming someone else for what they had done! That did not work out too well either. Since there was nothing that mankind could do to solve the problem of sin, God in His amazing grace promised to provide mankind with the Solution to the problem of sin. In Genesis 3:15 God promised that He would send someone into this world— Someone who would be a direct descendant of Adam and Eve, Someone who would have the ability to completely crush the power of Satan and at the same time be willing to endure the punishment that mankind deserved for his sin— the punishment of death.
Our sermon text for today takes place thousands of years after God gave that first Gospel promise recorded for us in Genesis 3:15. Today as we continue our sermon series entitled The Amazing Season of Lent I would like to try and build a bridge from last week’s sermon text to this week’s sermon text. Last week we look at God’s Amazing Grace. This week we will focus our attention on a man by the name of Abraham. Let’s see how God’s Amazing Grace led Him to bestow on father Abraham: God’s Amazing Blessings!
We get the impression from Scripture that for about 16 centuries the believers among mankind lived in the light of that Gospel promise first spoken by the Lord in the Garden of Eden. While today 1600 years seems like an awful long time we do need to factor into that equation the realization that Adam lived 930 years, his son Seth lived 912 years and Methuselah lived 969 years! Noah was born perhaps 1000 years after the creation of the world. It was during the days of Noah, of course, that the world learned about both the justice of God and the grace of God first hand.
A number of centuries after the flood (we don’t know how many for sure) the incident recorded here in our text took place. In the Garden of Eden the Lord God had promised that one of Adam and Eve’s descendants would one day crush Satan’s power. Now God takes that glorious yet general promise and He gave it a great deal more “focus,” we might say. In His amazing grace God gave to father Abraham a truly amazing blessing. Look at the opening verses of our text. Moses writes, “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abram was 75 years old when the Lord appeared to him and told him to go to a yet undisclosed land. And the reason the Lord was calling Abraham to do this is spelled out in this amazing blessing that the Lord now gives to him! God promised Abram that He— the “LORD”— would make Abram into a “great nation.” Now how old was Abram at this time? He was 75 years old! How many children did Abram and his wife have at the time God made this promise? That’s right! They had no children! The amazing blessing that God gave to Abram here was then based purely on God’s amazing grace, wasn’t it! Skip ahead from Genesis chapter 12 to Exodus chapter 38 and you will see that over the course of the next 600 years the descendants of Abraham did indeed become a “great nation” numbering around 2 million people! (See Exodus 38:26)
As God’s amazing blessing to Abram continues we hear the Lord promise that His divine protection would serve like an umbrella for Abram. God Himself would “bless” those who bless Abram. God Himself would “curse” those who curse Abram. But the greatest most amazing part of the blessing which God gave to Abram is found at the end of verse three: “…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The most amazing part of God’s blessing to Abraham is that the Savior promised in the Garden of Eden would be a direct descendant of Abraham. That’s why Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with father Abraham. (See Matthew 1:2) That’s why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes back through Abraham (Luke 3:33) to Adam! (See Luke 3:37)
What an amazing blessing, my friends! God promised a 75 year old man who had no children with his wife Sarai that one of his descendants would be the Savior of the world and that everyone who believes in this descendant of Abraham would be “blessed” by the God of heaven Himself. Of course, from our vantage point as New Testament Christians we know that this “blessing” includes the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation! Our text for today then is a good example of why in my mind God’s amazing grace and God’s amazing blessings go hand-in-hand!
While we know from other portions of Scripture that Abraham was indeed a man of faith (See Genesis 15:6; Hebrews 11:8) God’s amazing blessing to Abraham also included something visual, something very tangible for Abraham to hold onto. Look at verse 7 of our text. God led Abram from “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Genesis 11:28) which we think was in southern Iraq to the land of Canaan in modern-day Israel. Then God gave this amazing blessing to Abram, “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” Some 600 years later the descendants of Abraham under the leadership of Joshua were indeed given the Promised Land of Canaan— in fulfillment of the promise the Lord made to Abraham here in our text.
It is certainly not hard for us to see, my friends, that the blessings which the Lord bestowed on Abraham are indeed nothing short of amazing. What was Abraham’s response to God’s amazing blessings? Look at verses 7 & 8 of our text. We’re told that Abram built an altar to the Lord and “called on the name of the LORD.” The Hebrew word that is translated here in our text as “called on” carries with it two emphases. First, this Hebrew word can be translated as “worship.” Abraham’s response to God’s amazing blessings was to “worship” his Lord and Savior! Secondly, that same Hebrew word can be translated as “proclaim.” Abraham’s response to God’s amazing blessing was also to “proclaim the name of the LORD” to the Canaanites. Think about it, my friends. Abraham openly proclaimed to the unbelieving peoples round him who the Lord is and what the Lord had promised! Why? Because Abraham understood what the Lord meant when He said, “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Abraham knew that the Savior whom God had promised in the Garden of Eden, Abraham knew that the Savior whom God had now revealed would be one of Abraham’s descendants would indeed be the Savior for all mankind! That amazing blessing led Abraham to “worship” his God. That amazing blessing led Abraham to “proclaim” his God to the people around him!
While you might think that we could simply end right here there is one more extremely important point that I need to share with you today. That point is this: You are also recipients of God’s amazing blessings, my friends. First and foremost God in His amazing grace has made you a true descendant, a true child of father Abraham! In Romans 9 Paul writes, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8)
God’s amazing blessing to you, my friends, centers in the fact that purely out of God’s amazing grace God has created in your heart the gift of saving faith. This precious gift of faith was created in your heart when God the Holy Spirit brought you to faith in Jesus as your Savior either through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism or through the power of God’s holy Word. This precious gift of faith is what makes you a true child of father Abraham. This precious gift of faith guarantees that you are numbered among God’s “Chosen People”! (See 1 Peter 2:9) This precious gift of faith means that God was thinking of you when He said in His blessing to Abraham, “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Since you are a true child of Abraham does that mean that you can lay claim to God’s amazing blessing of the Promised Land? Absolutely! What we need to remember, however, is that the earthly Promised Land of Canaan was but a picture, a shadow, of the ultimate Promised Land to which you and I do lay claim. It is the Promised Land of heaven! (See Hebrews 8:5; 11:8-16)
In reality, my friends, God’s amazing blessings to you are far more numerous than we could ever recount here today. Perhaps a good way to wrap up this sermon then is to encourage you to follow the example that father Abraham gives to us here in our text for today. When you stop to consider all of God’s amazing blessings to you— blessings that are yours through faith in what God’s Son has accomplished for you on the cross (Pointing to the cross) — how will you respond? I pray that like father Abraham your response to God’s amazing blessings will center on both worshiping the Lord your God as well as proclaiming His Name to others!
To God be the glory!