Hebrews 11:12

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. Hebrews 11:12

The word, “Therefore,” is based upon what has been said since verse 8, and which spoke of both Abraham and Sarah. However, this now goes beyond only Abraham and Sarah, though it is still fulfilled in Abraham and Sarah together as well (see Deuteronomy 1:10, for example). The author says, based on those previous thoughts, that “from one man,” meaning Abraham, something rather amazing would come about. This begins to be seen in, “and him as good as dead.”

The words here speak of what is probably based on his relationship with Sarah, not on his inability to sire children. This is certain because when Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant Hagar, she bore with no problem. This is more certain because, after Sarah’s death, Abraham bore other children through another wife, Keturah, as well as concubines (see Genesis 25:1-4). However, before these things came to pass, it looked as if there was only a dead end to any descendants for him from Sarah. Despite this, and through Sarah (as well as those others), there “were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude.”

The Greek word is “heaven,” and it fits better here. The stars in the sky at any given time aren’t a jillionth of those in heaven. In fact, one might not see any stars in the sky depending on conditions. However, heaven is filled with them, regardless of the condition of those visible in the sky. This is what the offspring of Abraham are equated to. And then again, another superlative is used in the words, “innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”

In the original promise of a son to be born to Abraham, a part of this same thought was conveyed –

“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.’” Genesis 15:5

After Abraham was tested with sacrificing Isaac, that was expanded upon, and it is what is being referred to now by the author of Hebrews where both of the terms were used in Genesis 22 –

“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 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.” Genesis 22:16, 17

Understanding these promises, it is certain that there is both a literal and a spiritual fulfillment of them. The literal fulfillment is that Abraham’s descendants of the flesh fill the world. This includes those of Sarah, her maidservant, and his later wife and concubines. But the promise also extends spiritually to those who are of the faith. This is made explicit by Paul in Galatians 3 –

“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7

And again –

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

In both a literal sense and in a spiritual sense, the promise to Abraham, because of his faith in the word of the Lord, was exactingly fulfilled.

Life application: Though literally fulfilled in physical descendants, the promise made to Abraham is also fulfilled in a spiritual sense in those who are of faith in the word of the Lord. This is not only in faithful Jews looking forward to the Messiah, but also in all – Jew and Gentile alike – who look back on the work of the Messiah. When you read about this great promise to Abraham, understand that you are included in the innumerable host of God’s children, all because of your faith in the Messiah, our Lord Jesus.

What a gift! We are children of God and sons of Abraham by faith in Jesus! What more could we ask for when we realize the magnitude of this concept. All our sins are forgiven and eternal life has been bestowed upon us by grace through faith. Glory to God for His immeasurable gift of love! Amen.

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