After God spoke His promise to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3), some time later He deemed it fit to repeat His promise: “…Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So, he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him” (Genesis 12:6-7).
Then, as if it weren’t already clear, some time later God repeats His promise again: “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.’ So, Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:14-18).
Why would God repeat Himself to Abram multiple times? Perhaps it’s because He knows how forgetful His human creatures are. This past Sunday (July 25, 2021), the text being Genesis 9:8-17, I preached on what it means for God to “remember.” Thanks to my colleague’s theological work, Rev. Andrew Belt at Christ Lutheran Church in Marshfield, Wisconsin, I contrasted our remembering with God’s remembering.
We remember because we forget and need to recall information. God’s “remembering,” on the other hand, is not a mental action due to forgetfulness but is His purposeful act of salvation, such as with the rainbow as the sign of His covenant between all flesh and every living thing on Earth that He would not destroy the Earth by flood again. Thus, whenever we see a rainbow, God is preventing the destruction of the Earth by flood and should cause us to praise Him for His mercy. For more on what it means that God remembers, you can read my sermon by clicking here.
The point is that God, being omniscient, does not forget, but we certainly do. Despite God’s reminders to Abram here, Abraham would literally fall on his face and laugh when God later tells him he would have a son with his wife, Sarah (17:16-17). Have you ever laughed so hard that you’ve fallen on the floor? Apparently, God’s promise was hilarious to Abraham. Clearly, then, Abraham needed a lot of reminding. Therefore, God’s reminding could never be done too often.
But what about us? We certainly need constant reminding of God’s promise to us as well. Is there somewhere we can go, like Abram’s altars by the oaks of Moreh and Mamre, that we can remember God’s promise to us? There is! It’s a little 6-lettered word called church. If you go to church regularly, you can probably recall your pastor calling you to remember your Baptism, and hopefully you receive the Lord’s Supper regularly as well.
Having your baptismal promise and receiving that promise repeatedly in the Eucharist can never be done too often. God’s promise always bears worth repeating, for we are forgetful creatures. To quote from my sermon mentioned above:
How often have you forgotten that you’re forgiven? I know I have. Or how often do you sin that you are so prideful that you forget God is God and you are not, thinking you get to define sin and tell God He’s wrong? I do this too.
This is why we gather every Sabbath, so that you and I remember our Baptism and are given the Eucharist not only as God’s particular attention to you as His saving act in Christ Jesus, but also that these signs may cause you to remember the holy life He has called you to live from Monday through Sunday as well as the promise He has already given you in Christ your Saviour.Rev. Garrick Sinclair Beckett, Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, 2021
The Lord repeated His promise to Abram multiple times by the oaks at Moreh and Mamre, who then built altars at each location to praise God and remember His promise. Thanks be to God that He has given us places, too, where we can go and remember, receive, and trust in His promise. This place is your local church, within which is the altar—the Lord’s Table—where Christ Himself delivers His promise to you in His very body and blood so that you can never be in doubt.