Daily Distinctives, April 9, 2018 – By No Greater Name

The truth is there is no greater name in heaven or on earth by which a promise can be made than that of the LORD. Technically, the only One who has the right to swear by such a name is the name-bearer Himself. That is because He is the only one capable of absolutely keeping all of His promises. Even the most well-meaning among us are fallible and can intentionally or unintentionally break a promise. But the LORD is perfect in all of His ways and cannot break His promises because it is against His nature to do so. That is what makes this devotional today so interesting. For here we have the LORD Jesus Himself speaking to Abraham in a Christophany, and swearing by Himself to bless Abraham.

[Gen 22:15 NKJV] Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven,

Here, again, we see the use of the term, “Angel of the LORD,” which in Scripture is a Christophany or pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ. And here we see Him calling out from heaven to Abraham. In my previous devotional, the last time the LORD spoke to Abraham was to prevent his hand from slaying his son. Abraham, acting in obedience to the LORD did not withhold from offering up his son but was intent upon carrying out the act as commanded by the LORD. I imagine Abraham thinking to himself, I was actually going to go through with it. That must have been an affirmation to himself of his dedication to the LORD. I know I have come to a point in my own life where I feel that kind of faith to some degree. Of course, I suppose that the only way to know if you have the kind of faith Abraham had is to have that faith tested and that is not the kind of test you want to have if you don’t have to. I mean, you want to have tests like these because you know that they bring you closer to the LORD, but on the same token, you don’t want to be tested by God because testing usually involves some degree of pain or sorrow. Still, the joy in the midst of trials is something that every believer can count on in all “circumstances.”

[Gen 22:16 NKJV] and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only [son]–

Now this passage is extremely important to consider because here we have the LORD swearing by Himself. It would be one thing to swear by something in creation. But to do so would not be complete as the world and everything in it has been infected by sin. But to swear by Himself is the highest possible thing to swear by. When you swear by perfection you are held to an absolutely perfect standard. You see when a promise is made, the promise is only as good as the promise maker. I can promise my kids that I will take them out for ice cream Friday night, but I don’t even know if I will be alive long enough to finish this sentence. Whew…what a relief…I finished that sentence. But you get my point. I do not have the luxury of omniscience, and so I don’t know what will happen between now and Friday. I can promise with the intent to do it, and then make every effort to fulfill my promise, but I am humanly incapable of guaranteeing it. Whereas, God can make a promise and guarantee it.

This idea of swearing by something is futile unless it is sworn with the intent that God should be a witness to it. That is why I believe Jesus tells us to simply let our yes be yes and our no be no. I believe that people swear by things, objects and people because of the value that they place on those things, objects and people. If someone where to say, “I swear on my sweet mothers grave,” you would get the idea that their mother was someone they valued and would not want to see any shame come upon her name and therefore because that oath was made under those conditions, the oath maker is showing how serious they are by swearing to the degree in which they made the oath.

Surprisingly, the commentaries that I read seem to gloss over this verse, but I think it is quite significant that the LORD swears by Himself. But why does He swear by Himself? Well, the balance of the verse tells us the answer. It was because of Abrahams show of great faith that the LORD reiterates this promise to Abraham. This is a confirmation that because Abraham did not withhold his son but was willing to follow through with the command of God that Jesus now confirms the promise to Abraham again.

Notice too that again the author takes care to mention Isaac being Abrahams only son. Of course, we know that Ishmael was a son of Abraham, but Isaac was the son of promise that God said Abraham would be blessed through.

[Gen 22:17 NKJV] “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which [is] on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

Some of the languages of the Bible can be confusing if read casually, I get that. So I kind of had an idea of what was meant by the first part of this verse “blessings I will bless you…” It is a pleonasm of sorts to emphasize multiple blessings. I like what Gill says concerning the language:

“…That in blessing I will bless thee,…. With temporal and spiritual blessings; with the Spirit and all his graces; with Christ and redemption, justification, and salvation by him; and with eternal life, as the gift of God, through him:”

The exponential blessings of Christ who can swear by none higher promises eternal blessings to Abraham and ratifies the promise of Abrahams legacy. Notice the same use of repetition here as the LORD declares, “multiplying I will multiply your descendants…” Earlier the promise was that Abraham’s descendants would outnumber the stars in the heaven’s but Jesus adds to that that the sands of the seashore. Sure there is a finite number of stars and sand (some estimate 10 to the 25th power), but the actual number is irrelevant as is it is meant to convey the endless blessings that the LORD would bestow upon Abraham through his offspring.

Notice too that He promises that Abrahams descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. What this means is that Abraham and his descendants would never lack influence and authority over their enemies. When you consider the analogy used here you can understand why this is such a powerful promise. You see, most cities or large towns in those days were surrounded by some kind of wall which was built to defend the city from attackers. Usually, the gate was the only way in and out of the city making it an important place for all kinds of activity. The city gates were where the city elders would congregate to hear matters of grave importance and to settle disputes. It was at the city gates that many of the policies of the city were imposed. It was at the city gates that public announcements would be made. And it was at the city gates that conquerors must prevail in order to take a city. And so to promise that Abraham and his descendants would possess the gate of their enemies was to say that they would have enormous influence even in places where they were despised.

[Gen 22:18 NKJV] “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Now, we have much to thank Abraham for in his obedience. This promise, in particular, is the one that impacts you and I the most. For in this promise we find our salvation. Jesus promises that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. Had Jesus excluded the other nations and made this promise solely to the Jewish nation, He would have been righteous in doing so, but to our exclusion. Those of us who are not direct descendants of Abraham would not be fit for the blessing. But God in His wisdom, not willing that any should perish, extends this blessing outward so that all nations would be the beneficiaries of Abraham’s faithfulness. That is, through his seed would come the Messiah and through the vicarious and atoning work of Jesus upon the cross, all men would have the right to take hold of the gift of salvation which comes from Christ, and Christ alone.

[Gen 22:19 NKJV] So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

We get the idea from this verse that the voice of Jesus came to Abraham while he was still on the mountain with Isaac. In fact, the ram which God provided for the substitute was likely still on fire when Jesus spoke to Abraham. And so we see here in this verse that Abraham returned to his young men and they went back to Beersheba and dwelt.

[Gen 22:20 NKJV] Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, “Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor:

It comes to pass, how long after we are not told, but we understand that sometime after the events on the mountain that word comes to Abraham that his brother has also had some children. Nahor, not to be confused with his grandfather of the same name married his niece Milcah and sometime later had children, but what I love about the way the Bible flows is that it mentions names and family lines based on their proximity to the birth of Jesus. You will notice at least one very familiar name as you read this short genealogy. It would be through this close relative of Abraham that Rebekah would come. And, of course, we know that Rebekah would become the wife of Isaac.

[Gen 22:21 NKJV] “Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram,
[Gen 22:22 NKJV] “Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.”
[Gen 22:23 NKJV] And Bethuel begot Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
[Gen 22:24 NKJV] His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.

Now some of the commentaries hone in on the fact that this is the first mention of the word “concubine” in the Bible. While I don’t yet see the significance I can imagine that, similar to Hagar, concubines, though considered “lesser-wives” will play remarkable roles in future stories as we continue together in my devotional through the Bible.

Prayer: LORD Jesus, I do thank You that Your promise to Abraham has extended to me and my family. I am grateful for the example of obedience that Abraham has set for us. I see Your promise played out today in our own culture as godly men and women have influence in all major matters of politics and leadership in our nation and in nations around the world. I lift these godly men and women up to You now and ask that today You would let them feel Your presence. That in matters of life and the pursuit of You and Your will, that they would be inspired to stand up and lift their voices to honor You and to see that their constituents are cared for according to Your will. Finally, LORD, I pray that today You would protect my children and bless every hair upon their heads. That You would keep them safe and show them who You are today. I ask these things in Your name, the name above all names. –Amen


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