Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-6: Faith Receives What God Wants to Give

Germinating Seed (610x350)To plant a seed, you make a small hole in the ground, put the seed in it, and cover it with soil. But then you have to wait until the seed germinates, for until then, there’s nothing that you can see. And so a planted seed gives us a beautiful picture of faith.

Waiting for the seed to sprout is a time of waiting, in faith. After all, you can’t see what you can’t see: The seed is in the ground. You can’t even see the progress and growth of the germinating seed until it sprouts. But just because you can’t see the seed that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Under the soil, enlivened by water, the seed germinates and begins to take root in the ground.

In a similar way, God planted the Seed of His Family Tree, His seed of promise. And then came the time of waiting, in faith. We heard about that last week, about how God planted the Seed of His Savior to rescue us after we fell into sin. This Seed would crush the serpent’s head and bring life and forgiveness to people. But once planted, the Seed of God’s Family Tree remained hidden, just like a seed not yet sprouted.

Today, we move from the promised Seed to the promised Tree. To do this, we jump from the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Abraham. During that time, the tree of humanity grew and flourished. Genesis tells us: “the number of people started to increase throughout the earth” (Genesis 6:1). But that tree was diseased because “every inclination of their thoughts was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Man’s disposition since the fall was away from God.

But if our fallen disposition was contrary to God, even when we thought that it wasn’t, then we were without hope. And God knew that. So, despite the seed of evil infecting our every inclination of thought, God’s promised Seed of a Savior remained planted.

God always preserved a faithful remnant who trusted and proclaimed the promise of the coming Savior. Then came Abraham. About 20 centuries before Christ, God called Abraham to faith in the promised Savior. God told Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing…. through you, all the people of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).

But don’t think that Abraham found it easy to trust God’s promise. He was 75 years old when God gave him the gift of faith. Before that, he and his family had served false gods. You can read about that in the Old Testament book of Joshua (24:2-3). Even after Abraham believed in the promised Messiah, that God would bring into the world through him, he still found it hard to believe that he would have a son.

Once, Abraham despaired so deeply that he cried out to God that his servant, Eliezer, would be his heir. So, God again spoke His promise to Abraham: “This man will not be your heir. The child who will be born to you will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4).

Abraham’s not alone. Like him, we also have trouble trusting in God’s promises. God plants His promise of a Savior, but we often don’t see proof of that. We don’t see visible, tangible evidence that God works in our lives.

Abraham was getting older. He wasn’t even sure he could father a child any longer, let alone his wife bearing one. He couldn’t see any fruit, any proof, of God’s promise to give him a son. When we look at our lives, we see struggles, doubts, failures, and frustrations. Like Abraham, we don’t see the fruit, the proof, of God’s redeeming work through His Son, Jesus. And we also doubt.

When you lose your job, or your retirement nest egg takes a huge hit, you struggle to believe that God provides for your every need. When the doctor says that you have cancer, or a one of your children dies, you struggle to believe that God gives life to you in His Son, Jesus Christ. When you struggle with the same old sin and temptation, you struggle to believe that God the Holy Spirit gives you faith and makes you holy.

So, what do you do? You could mimic Abraham, but he didn’t always live out the Faith. He and Sarah decided, on their own, to speed up God’s promise. Sarah wasn’t pregnant—maybe God needed a boost to do what He had promised to do.

And so Abraham slept with his wife’s maidservant, Hagar. And guess what? They had a son, whom they named, Ishmael (Genesis 16). But our self-made solutions always fall short in fulfilling God’s gracious promises. As Psalm 146 says, “Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save” (Psalm 146:3).

This word of censure includes you and me! For God warns us not to trust in our ways of fulfilling His promises of salvation! God promised to give Abraham a son of promise, not a son of a servant. So, God renewed His promise to Abraham once more, as if Abraham was getting forgetful: “I will make my covenant between you and me, and I will give you a multitude of descendants” (Genesis 17:2).

It wasn’t forgetfulness on Abraham’s part; it was that he doubted what God said. And, yet, despite his many doubts and troubles trusting God’s promise, Abraham is still a great example of faith. “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

What makes Abraham a great example of faith? It wasn’t his perfect life because he wasn’t perfect. Before trusting in the promised Messiah, he worshiped false gods. It wasn’t Abraham’s spotless record in dealing with others. He lied to the civil authorities—twice—that his wife was his sister. Abraham was afraid, so he invented a lie to save his skin. Abraham’s great faith wasn’t because he always fully trusted God. We just heard how Abraham despaired and tried to fulfill God’s promise on his own.

So then, what makes Abraham a great example of faith? It was this: He simply received God’s mercy and clung to the promise that God would send the Seed of a Savior. Faith receives what God wants to give. And that Abraham did!

Abraham received God’s blessing. Abraham and his family tree would become part of God’s Family Tree. But that promise was like a seed hidden in the ground. Abraham couldn’t see its growth or progress. He had to believe it in faith. Even if you were a fly on the wall, you couldn’t see or detect God’s promise, to see if it was taking place.

So, what then happened? When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah, his wife, was 90, God’s Family Tree began to poke through the soil and show itself. One hundred-years-old and 90—no wonder they thought that God needed their help.

Who can have children at that age? Not only were they old, but this was before the days of fertility medications and other medicines to help in that area. It would take a miracle for Abraham and Sarah to have a child!

And that’s what happened—a miracle. Isaac was born. And Isaac grew up and had two sons: Jacob and Esau. Jacob then had 12 sons, the patriarchs of Israel. God’s Family Tree began to sprout and grow for all to see.

And then during a time of famine, God’s people moved to Egypt, all hoping to get food to eat. And after about 400 years, God led His people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. God then replanted His Family Tree in the Promised Land.

With all its ups and downs, God’s Family Tree flourished and grew, first during the time of the judges, and even when kings began to rule in Israel. But God’s people were still to live in faith, trusting that God would send the Seed of a Savior.

But God’s people wanted foreign gods and ways, and they wound up living in exile, in Babylon. As strangers in a strange land, they could no longer see God’s Family Tree. They would have to follow father Abraham and live by faith, even when they could not see any results. For faith receives what God wants to give.

And God did deliver on His promise to send a Savior, Jesus the Messiah, born of the Virgin Mary. When you read the New-Testament genealogies of Jesus, you see that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and his family. Those descendants lived in hope, looking ahead to what God had promised. But for us, it’s different. We look back in time and see the full bloom of God’s Family Tree—Jesus crucified and risen.

In John 15, Jesus used imagery similar to a tree and called Himself “the true vine” (John 15:1). As Jesus said, connected to Him, you have life and produce fruit, especially the fruit of trusting God’s promises.

The same is true when you see Jesus as God’s tree of life. Jesus put on the robe of our human flesh, even to die on the wood of the cross. When He hangs from that cross, you see God’s Family Tree, ready to germinate once more in His resurrection.

But it doesn’t end there. For God still has to connect you to His Family Tree. So, God connects you to Himself and Jesus’ cross-won forgiveness and life through Baptism (Romans 6:3-5). And through His body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus keeps you grafted into eternal life with God, even now. That’s in His Supper. But all this is to make real your germination from the ground. That’s when Jesus will call forth your body when He returns on the Last Day.

As you make your way in this world, you get to exercise the faith of Abraham, the faith that receives what God wants to give you in Christ Jesus. And when you have trouble trusting God’s promise of forgiveness and life in Him, remember how God kept comforting Abraham with the promised Seed of a Savior.

God will also comfort you. He does that now by giving you the Messiah, Jesus, whom He promised, especially in Word and Sacrament. And that Messiah will come again as promised. That means the seed of your faith will also germinate into its fullness at the resurrection, just like Jesus. Amen.