Transition From Promise to Provision
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Galatians 3:15-25
Sunday 21st August 2016
We continue the series ‘The Sufficiency of Grace’ that we began two weeks ago, with today’s message titled ‘Transition from Promise to Provision’.
Let’s read Galatians 3:15-25. ‘Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ. This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian’ (NLT).
The scripture above began like a legal discussion referring to an everyday occurrence, of which when an agreement is reached and signed, it usually remains binding. God made a promise to Abraham and his progeny – it was an irrevocable one. This is a true reflection of God’s nature; He always keeps His promises. Although Abraham was still without the promised son, God’s spoken word remained intact. God had a future for Abraham’s beyond the prevailing circumstance of that time. In the same way, God has a future for each of us beyond our present circumstances. To define our lives by our present circumstances is simply undermining our God-given possibilities. The future God has for each of us is glorious and delightful.
The situation of things may not look cosy or admirable presently, but there is hope in our future. Here is the reason why we cannot give up or throw in the towel. People around us may see the present, but God sees us in our future. He sees what could be, and not what currently is. No one has the look of their tomorrow, by their appearance today. Today’s situation cannot explain what would happen tomorrow – God has hidden our tomorrow in His promises to us. In effect, when we embrace God’s promises for our lives, we are embracing the future that He has pre-planned for us.
God’s promise to Abraham included Jesus, the Messiah. Unbeknown to him, within Abraham was the promise for all humanity. Conversely, within each of us is the solution to the problems of our generation, the answer to the questions of the next generation – Hence, the reason why we cannot afford to look down on ourselves. This discourse between God and Abraham is a template for receiving and activating the promises that God has given us. As we all have a promise given to us by God which is the picture of the future of our lives, we must fully understand how this template unlocks those promises.
Again, let me reiterate this truth: God promises to us aren’t subject to our present circumstances – our background, socioeconomic level, status and qualifications, our experience or performances.
The law was introduced some generations after, by God – 430 years afterwards. This was simply to reveal to humanity that our capability to obtain the promise cannot be done through our human efforts. Christ was essential in fulfilling the promise given to Abraham. In the same way, although God has given us a promise, we would still need His involvement all the way to its fulfilment.
Taking a look once more at the story of Abraham, Genesis 15 unfolds God’s reassurance to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-3) at which point Abraham had already begun to lose hope. Genesis 16 confirms this as Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, after Abraham and Sarah decided to find a solution to their situation within their reasoning. Here is Galatians 4:23 which read: ‘The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfilment of his promise’ (NLT). This led to a 13-year silence from God.
Graciously, God visited Abraham once more when he was 99 years old. This is to remind us that God always gives another chance irrespective of how things may have turned in our lives, especially when we have compromised on His standards. God was happy to wait for another 13 years before speaking to Abraham to ensure that his effort had been reduced to the barest minimum. Here was a perfect picture of what our foundation scripture for this series reveals: in our weaknesses, God’s strength is made perfect. And during our weaknesses, God’s gets our full attention to make this clear: His grace is sufficient for us.
Genesis 17 unfolds God’s reiteration of His covenant with Abraham: ‘When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-21).
Romans 4 reveal Abraham’s response to God’s promise, from St. Paul’s perspective: ‘Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb'.
In Genesis 21, the promise that God gave to Abraham eventually came to pass – Isaac was born. God has a promise for each of us, and it is to be received by faith. The promise cannot be obtained by human effort; our strength cannot bring God’s word to pass in our lives. Let these words be always on our hearts: ‘God is able, God is faithful to keep His promises’. Even when it seems that all hopes are gone, we must always be found in the arena of faith. So while you wait, celebrate. God’s season of laughter will soon be here!
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