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Monday, 11 April 2022
And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. Acts 7:5
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
The previous verse referred to the coming of Abraham from Haran to Canaan after the death of his father. Despite being called to Canaan, Stephen’s words continue by saying, “And God gave him no inheritance in it.”
The statement is given to show that Abraham, despite being promised the inheritance, would only receive it through his offspring. As such it is an inheritance based on faith. This is clearly attested to in Hebrews –
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham heard the word, accepted it, and lived by it in faith. He was obedient to God, anticipating the promise while living as a sojourner. Understanding this, Stephen continues, saying, “not even enough to set his foot on.”
The Greek more literally reads, “not even the step of a foot.” The word “step” is the noun béma. It signifies a step, a raised place, or a platform that is walked up to in order to receive judgment. The idea is that one spot where the step of a foot is made was more than Abraham actually received as an inheritance in his life. This same idea was expressed in Deuteronomy concerning the land of Edom as Israel passed through it –
“And command the people, saying, ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. 5 Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.’” Deuteronomy 2:4, 5
It is an expression then that signifies a total exclusion of any possession at all. Despite this, Abraham did make a purchase of land while dwelling in Canaan. That is recorded in Genesis 23 when he bought a field and cave for the burial of Sarah (and later for himself and other family members). In this, there is nothing contradictory to what is said by Stephen. This was not an inheritance, but a purchase. Further, it was not for the living, but for the dead. It was an act of faith in hope of the resurrection and the true land of promise that Canaan only typified.
Continuing on, Stephen next says, “But even when Abraham had no child.” This refers to the state of Sarah’s barren womb, even at an advanced age. Abraham remained childless, but God had promised that he would possess the land through his own child, as Stephen notes, “He promised to give it to him for a possession.”
This would be considered problematic. Abraham has been given a promise, he has not personally been allowed any of what the promise signifies, and so the promise would have to be through a child, and yet he had no child. This conundrum is seen in the words of Genesis 15 –
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’
2 But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ 3 Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’” Genesis 15:1-3
With that understood, the Lord confirmed His promise to Abraham. Stephen notes this with the words, “and to his descendants after him.”
Despite being old and without an heir, the Lord spoke to Abraham that the promise stood and would come to pass –
“Andbehold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ 5 Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
7 Then He said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’” Genesis 15:4-7
Abraham, by faith, accepted the word of the Lord. He dwelt in tents, he remained confident that the Lord’s word was true, and he did not doubt or resist what was spoken to him. Stephen’s words about Abraham are making a point for the leaders of Israel to consider if they will simply pay heed.
Life application: Abraham heard the word of the Lord and accepted it by faith. When given a promise that seemed absolutely incredible, even impossible by any stretch of the imagination, he believed the Lord’s word.
In the Bible, there are claims made, and great and rich promises given to the people of God. Some of the things that are said are incredible. The Bible tells us that Jesus died for our sins, but that He was also raised again. Such a thing, meaning a man coming back to life after being crucified, would seem impossible by any stretch of the imagination, and yet God asks us to believe that it is true.
If one cannot believe that, then the other promises of God will never apply to him. What is presented is given for us to accept by faith. As faith is exclusive of works, then to work for what is promised is an offense to the One who promises.
Be steadfast in your faith that the word of God is true, that what it conveys will come to pass, and that your faith in what it says is all you need in order to appropriate what is promised. This is what will be pleasing to God, not your attempts to buy Him off through the observance of certain rites or rituals. God has done the work. Just believe! That is what He asks of you.
Heavenly Father, if we truly believe that You are God and that the Bible is Your word, then we should have no problem accepting that what it says is true. Help us in our lack of faith. Give us the ability to understand those things that are incredible and to accept them as they are written. May we faithfully trust in Your word as we await the fulfillment of the promises that You have spoken out. Amen.