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It probably goes without saying that when God speaks, he means what he says. He doesn’t speak idle words. So when he described for Adam and Eve what he wanted for them and their descendants, he really was describing what he intended to have happen through them and through their lives. In those words, recorded for us in Genesis 1:28, we find a four-fold charge:

Be fruitful and multiply–increase in number

Fill the earth–spread out across the planet and inhabit it

Subdue it–exercise appropriate rule over the inhabited world

Rule over creatures–have mastery over all other living things

In previous posts, we have noticed how God repeatedly steps in to ensure what he wanted to happen would happen in spite of how people fell short of fulfilling his call. He ensures man’s rule over other living things. He undertakes the appropriate exercise of human authority over the inhabited world. And he makes sure that the earth becomes filled through the spreading out of people throughout the earth.

From Adam and Eve and the Fall through the fall of the Tower of Babel, we can watch God implementing his intentions for his plan for mankind to be carried out . . . whether people respond in full obedience or not. And then we get to God’s call to Abraham, we find another fascinating piece of the plan.

The initial call comes in Genesis 12.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

Further details of this plan of God are reported a few chapters later.

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.” Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:1-8)

What is so fascinating about this language is how it echoes God’s original instructions to Adam and Eve. Notice God’s part in all of this.

God is going to make Abraham exceedingly fruitful and will exceedingly multiply him. God is going to ensure he has descendants. God is going to make nations comes from Abraham to fill the earth. God is going to bless the world through Abraham.

God’s promises to Abraham are the final step in God’s active undertaken to ensure that his instructions to Adam and Eve will be carried out. And the rest of the Scriptures unfold how it is that God works out this plan to fill the planet with descendants of Adam and Eve and how, through one particular “seed” of Adam and Eve, one specific descendant of Abraham, God brings his intentions to fulfillment.

People will be fruitful and multiply. The earth will be filled. The inhabited world will be rightly subdued. And every living thing will be justly ruled. All through the descendants of Adam and Eve–enabled by one particular descendant, Jesus–just as God intended from the start.

We don’t get through half the first book of the Bible before we see God working in grace to bring about his intended ends for mankind. This is the God of grace. This is the God we meet in Jesus. This is the God who fills the Old Testament.


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