There was nothing particularly special about Abraham. He was chosen not because of his goodness but because of God’s grace alone. There are three main elements to the promises he received: people, land and blessing.
Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation that will be God’s own people. This is later underlined when God says, ‘I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you’ (Genesis 17:7). The promise is frequently repeated throughout the Old Testament in the covenant refrain, ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.’
Abraham is commanded to leave his homeland and to go to another land that God will show him. This is Canaan, the promised land. God says to Abraham, ‘The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you’ (17:8).
Abraham’s descendants will be blessed, and through them ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed’. The curse of the fall would be replaced by the blessing of salvation. Right from the very start God’s plan of salvation was universal; it encompassed all nations. This fact was underlined when God changed the patriarch’s name from Abram (which means ‘exalted father’) to Abraham (‘father of a multitude’) (17:5).
This great covenant came with a sign. Every male Israelite child was to be circumcised (17:10-11). They thus bore in their own bodies a mark that signified the special relationship established between God and his people.
Taken from God's Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. Copyright(c) 2002 by Vaughan Roberts. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515
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