From the shadowy pages of ancient history comes a man from a family of moon worshipers who believed in the one true God. Listen to this lesson to learn how God made a covenant with him that promised him a specific land, many descendants, and that he would be a blessing to all peoples. See how Abraham never owned the land during his lifetime but that this unconditional, irreversible promise will be fulfilled in the future. Realize that when you see the Jewish nation today it reveals how God is still working out His plans to bless mankind through Abraham.
Please note that the beginning of this video is incorrectly labeled as Lesson #8.
The Age of Israel: Patriarchs and Law
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #09
May 13, 2013
"Father, we are thankful for this opportunity to come together this evening to focus upon Your Word because we know that in Your Word we have hope. Hope is not some uncertain optimism but it is a certain confident expectation that You have redeemed us and there is a future destiny for us with You in heaven and on earth. Father, we know that our lives have been redeemed. They have been bought with a price; therefore, we are to live in a way that honors and glorifies You and as such, as citizens of this great nation we need to be involved as good citizens. We need to be civically minded and we need to be involved in these issues and let our voice, our opinions be heard, and expressing our views in a wise manner that wins and influences people. Father, we pray for this ordinance; that it will not be voted on tomorrow; will not be approved tomorrow; that it will be voted down. We pray for wisdom, true wisdom, biblical wisdom that will influence the thinking of the people on the city council. Father, we pray for us tonight; that no matter which way this election or this vote goes tomorrow that we recognize that our hope is in You and our trust is not in man; but our trust is in You and that we look to You for our real hope and security and stability, not to government and not to human institutions. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
We are continuing our study on dispensations, a very important topic, a very important doctrine in Scripture. One that is not taught that much today. I had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to have lunch with a man that I have known of for many years. His name is Dr. Ken Hanna. He is somewhat retired now, partially retired now. He has been the president of several different Bible colleges, academic dean I believer, or administrative vice-president at Moody Bible Institute. He is the president of Winnipeg Bible College, Bryan College, and he retired in the late 1990s from teaching and was teaching part-time at Dallas seminary when they called him out of retirement to come up and head up the Dallas seminary campus here in Houston. He got his Masters of Theology (ThM) in 1961 and his doctorate from Dallas in 1963, and as he put it, he is definitely old school Dallas, which is very good. I have been looking for someone who I can use as a substitute on Sunday mornings. I had been aware of him and been thinking about him for a while; so I gave him a call and we had lunch together today. He goes to First Baptist Katy and the pastor there is Randy White, who I also know. We were discussing some other pastors and churches in Houston as we were going through his background. He said that the funny thing is that I am going out there to the First Baptist Katy and the pastor there, who is Southern Baptist, is a lot more dispensational than some of these Dallas seminary graduates and pastors today. Sadly that is true.
My point in that illustration is first of all to let you know that probably in the Fall, when I am gone to Israel, Dr. Hanna will come over and teach for a couple of Sundays and he'll be excellent. He's a good teacher. You will enjoy him. And secondly, is to make the point that dispensationalism isn't taught and it should be. It breaks down the Scripture so we understand that there is a structure to God's revelation. He did not just plot down revelation. You compare the Bible to the Koran or Bhagavad-Gita or Joseph's Smith's Book of Mormon or these things. They are all written by one person at one time. The Bible is written by over forty different authors over a period covering at least 2,000 years, probably 2,200 years on three different continents, five or six different countries, by men who came from all different levels of society, kings, shepherds, farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, a converted Pharisee, Paul, and yet they spoke with one voice. They didn't contradict each other. They express the same opinion on everything without distinction, which is remarkable. You couldn't take all of us in this room as closely as many of us think like each other and come up with the kind of unity that you have in the Scriptures. That is because the real Author and ultimate Author is God the Holy Spirit Who worked in and through them. And so these ages, the structure of history that is revealed in Scripture is the outgrowth of that progress of revelation. I think that over the last few years, in my own thinking, probing deeper understandings of just the significance of that progress of revelation is important. That is so critical as part of our understanding of the Scriptures.
Now we have been looking at the covenants. In the Bible we have biblical covenants, not the theological covenants of Covenant Theology or Reformed Theology. Those covenants are called the covenant of works, the covenants of grace, and the covenant of redemption. You will not find those anywhere in the Bible. They are theologically deduced and imposed on the Scripture from a theological system that is not grounded deductively in Scripture. I make that point because you can also derive certain things inductively from Scripture and then you can deduce things from that; but your primary premises are from the Scripture. Then you put those together and deduce conclusions from that. That is the difference between a biblically deductive theology and what I would call something that is more of a philosophically driven deduction of theology. So we have looked at these covenants because the covenants are from God. He is revealing new information, new responsibilities to the human race in these covenants. Through those covenants He structures how He is governing the human race and holding the human race accountable. The Gentile Covenants at the top (see slide #3) are eternal. You have the Creation Covenant that gets modified because of the Fall and that becomes known by the name the Adamic Covenant. Then the human race deteriorates into such evil that God destroys it in judgment in a worldwide flood and then He re-establishes the covenant with some revisions, which we studied last time in Genesis 9:1-7 and that is the Noahic Covenant and it is still in effect today. When we see a rainbow it is the sign of that covenant and it is still in effect today.
Now we got that far last time and starting tonight we are going to go back and cover a couple of more things related to the Age of the Gentiles at the beginning. But then we are going to get into the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the foundational covenant for the rest of the Bible. You have to understand the Abrahamic Covenant to understand everything from the rest of Genesis to the Prophets in the Old Testament (OT) to the gospel message all the way into the Epistles. Everything flows out of the Abrahamic Covenant, which is then expanded on, the three main elements of the Abrahamic Covenant: land, seed and blessing. Those are expanded on:
1. The Land Covenant in Deuteronomy 30
2. The Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7
3. The New Covenant in Jeremiah 31
There is one temporary covenant in the OT designed to be temporary and that is the Mosaic Covenant covered in Exodus 20-40.
We looked at this chart on The Ages of Civilization (see slide #4). The first age is the Age of the Gentiles. We have covered that now; we have finished that except that I have one thing left that I want to go back and wrap-up. That is the last part of Divine Institutions, which we had introduced two or three lessons back. Tonight we will begin with the Call of Abraham in Genesis 12 and the two dispensations that make-up the Age of Israel:
1. The Dispensation of the Patriarchs or Promise
2. The Dispensation of the Law.
This is going to conclude with a hinge dispensation, which we will look at next time related to the period of the incarnation, the Messianic arrival of the Messiah on the earth; and His rejection at the First Coming of Christ; and then we have the Cross and then this will be followed by the Church Age, which is the age in which we are now. It is distinct from the Age of Israel and Church Age believers are distinct from Jewish believers. There are different administrations and we will cover that. Then this will be the end of the Church Age; the end of the Church Age has a seven year, the last seven years, actually the Age of Israel, which is called the Great Tribulation, which precedes the Second Coming of Christ. The Church Age ends with the Rapture of the Church and this is followed, not immediately, there is a transition period. We don't know how many years before the Tribulation actually begins. That is always surprising! Every time I say that there is always somebody that there is a little light that goes off and the say, "Really?" Yes, the Rapture is the Church Age, but the Tribulation doesn't begin with the Rapture. The Tribulation begins when the Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel; and that is what kicks off the fulfillment of the prophesy in Daniel 9 related to Daniel's 70th Week. Then that ends with the Second Coming of Christ, the destruction of the armies of the Antichrist, and the judgment on Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet; and then Jesus Christ establishes His earthly kingdom for 1,000 years, which is called the Millennium and that is the Messianic Age; and then the present heavens and earth are destroyed. God creates a New Heavens and New Earth and we go into Eternity Future.
Now several lessons back when we were going through the initial dispensation and the Dispensation of Innocence; that was the first part of the Age of the Gentiles. I introduced a term the Divine Institutions. This is a term that has been used by Christians to speak of these absolute social structures that God established and embedded within human society from the beginning of Creation. They are for the entire human race and they are designed for the stability of the human race to protect it and to provide for its perpetuation. And so these institutions were created by God; they came from God; they were not the result of human beings who came along and said, you know, it would work better if we'd do it this way. That would be a convention. Last week because I was ill on Thursday night with bronchitis we showed the video from when I covered this as part of the two messages that I gave at Cornerstone Bible Church in Lubbock. I went over this. In covering this I make a distinction between an institution, which is something God establishes, which is an absolute versus relative convention. For example, some people may think that in Texas Friday night high school football is an institution, especially if you are from a smaller town in Texas. It used to be, when I was growing up, that the Dallas Cowboys might be thought of as an institution. But if you are from New England you don't care about those things. See it doesn't transfer necessarily across culture, even sub-culture. So that is a convention; it is not an institution. We are talking about institutions which are absolutes that are for every human being in every single society. There are five of these (see slide #6):
1. God creates man to be responsible and accountable for his actions. This is the issue related to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were accountable and because they failed there was a penalty.
2. Secondly, God established marriage. Marriage in the Garden is between Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve. It is not between the two men; it is not between two women. God specifically created them male and female. This doesn't refer to their physical make-up but also relates to their psychological make-up; that there are distinctions. That doesn't mean that one is superior over the other because both are created in the image of God and both are equally given the responsibility of carrying out the Creation Covenant and the creation mandate to multiply and fill the earth and to subdue the earth. We are still in that process of subduing the earth even though it is now become corrupt because of the Fall.
3. The third Divine institution is family. God established family for the perpetuation of the human race.
When you have homosexuality, since that is an issue related to the law today; when you have homosexuality, homosexuals never propagated anything because they are incapable. If everybody became homosexual there would not be a next generation. Any society that has idealized homosexuality finds itself going out of existence. This is not God's design; neither is this the basis for personal animosity or hatred for anybody. Homosexuality is just as much an attack on marriage and the family as adultery or fornication or any number of other sexual sins. There is a host of sins that are destructive of a nation. This is no different from any other sin. One of the mistakes, I think, that a lot of churches and a lot of Christians have made is they isolate this as some sort of super sin and it is not. It is just another sin. But it is an attack on the bedrock of what provides for any kind of national security.
4. Government comes into existence later, as we saw last time in Genesis 9 in the Noahic Covenant. Then with the Tower of Babel (see slide #7), the collapse there, their arrogant attempt to build a tower against God. God brought judgment upon them and scattered the languages. This led to the development of nations. So that what we see is the first three Divine institutions were established before the Fall and they are designed to promote productivity and to advance civilization. They were given in a world where there was no sin. So they are given to man before there is ever any sin to promote his development, his advance, and productivity. After sin has entered into human history then it has to be restrained. We saw no restraint on the development of sin in the antediluvian period; the period before the Noahic Flood.
5. So the institution of government and the institution of nations were given by God, authorized by God, as we have studied in Romans 13 on Thursday night; all authority is delegated from God and so government is delegated by God through the Noahic Covenant and the authorization of capital punishment for murder. And then, subsequent to that the rebellion of Nimrod and the inhabitants of Babel in building the Tower of Babel; they are attempting to rebel against God. The Tower of Babel wasn't just an architectural project. It was a theologically motivated project, but they were shaking their fists against God. They were thinking that if God judged us and destroyed the earth by water then we are going to build this tower to heaven; we are going to show how we are united against God and we are going to build it so high to heaven that the flood waters can't judge us.
So this was the arrogance of man in Genesis 11 and we still see that same arrogance today. Here is a picture of the Translation Building for the European Union in Brussels (slide #8). This is intentionally designed by the architect to reflect the Tower of Babel. So it is pictured as an unfinished building like the Tower of Babel from the picture we saw just before (in slide #7). This is man's attempt to try to unify to solve his problems apart from God. We have many examples: The League of Nations is one example; that morphed into the United Nations. And so we see this picture, which I took outside the entry to the United Nations building in New York, which is a quote from Isaiah 2:4 (see slide #9). "They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." This is the purpose statement, as it were, for the United Nations (UN). That they are going to end war. Yet, if you read Isaiah 2, this is a Messianic statement. This is what the Messiah of Israel is going to do when He comes. He is going to end war. That is why He is called the Prince of Peace. He will end all war when He comes to establish His kingdom. Isaiah 2-3 focuses on that promised future kingdom that the Messiah will bring. And so in violation of the understanding of the fifth Divine institution, which is nations, you have these organizations like the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) and others who are asserting that they can do what God says in the Bible only He can do because only God can solve that problem.
Acts in the New Testament (NT), in the (see slide #10) Book of Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul says, "and He," that is God, "made from one man every nation of mankind." This clearly states that God made the nations. They are not a product of human convention or human ideas, but that God made "every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." God has established the boundaries of the nations both physically in terms of geography but also temporally in terms of when they begin and when they end. Now as you saw in the talk I gave the other night, there has been a lot of discussion among a number of pastors over the years as to whether or not Israel is a divine institution? I am not sure if we want to use the term Divine institution, but if we go back and think about the term Divine institution or the definition of Divine institution, that this is for every human being something God has established and embedded within the social structure of the human race; that whether you are a believer or an unbeliever; whether you are a Christian or non-Christian; how you handle these institutions depends upon whether you succeed or fail as a people. And so there are aspects of that that fit with Israel because in the Abrahamic Covenant, as we will see in Genesis 12:2, God establishes a universal principle that applies to everyone, Christian, non-Christian, believer, unbeliever, male, female, American, Chinese, Russian, Indian, whatever you are; those who bless Israel God will bless; those who curse Israel God will curse. It is the same kind of principle that if you honor marriage and marriage becomes the foundation to the family and the family becomes the training ground for the future generations of a nation; then that is a nation that will be productive and will succeed. And whether they are believers or unbelievers; if they have a strong marriage value and a strong family value then they will provide stability for the future of that nation.
If a nation honors Israel and blesses Israel rather than curses Israel, then God will in turn bless that nation. We see this in the Abrahamic Covenant. So this takes us to our next covenant. We have looked at the three covenants that are actually part of the Creation Covenant:
1. The Creation or Edenic Covenant
2. The Adamic Covenant
3. The Noahic Covenant
And now God, because of the Tower of Babel, is no longer going to work through the entirety of the human race, but is going to call out one individual and work through that one individual and his descendants. And so He calls out Abraham in Genesis 12 and gives him a distinct mission (see slides #11-15). That mission is because Abraham is from a family of sun and moon worshipers in their background. He is in Ur of the Chaldees, which is in the southern part of modern Iraq. And God calls him out and tells him to leave his country, lekhlkah, Genesis 12:1, get our of your country from your family and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. So God is calling him on a mission. Here we go. I am going to go through several things in Genesis. I thought I would just go over to my Logos software here and put this up on the screen. God is telling him to get out of his country, to leave and to separate, to be distinct. That idea of being separate or distinct is inherent in the word kadosh (noun) or kadash (verb) that is translated "holy." It means to be separate or distinct or unique. God is going to call a "holy" people who are separate and distinct to Him and it is through them that God is going to bless the human race.
Genesis 12:2 gives us His promise to Abraham. "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." See there is a contrast here. If you do not read the context of all of Genesis you miss it. In Genesis 11 Nimrod and his followers who built the Tower of Babel said, we're going to make a name for ourselves and we are going to oppose God. And in contrast, after God has brought judgment on them, God calls out Abraham and says, "I will make your name great." But Abraham is called to a position of obedience. He is already a believer in God and a worshiper of God, but now God is rewarding Him with additional blessing. This is at the core of the Abrahamic Covenant. This is really sort of a foreshadowing of the Covenant. Genesis 12:2 "I will make you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing." Now that doesn't sound right; that almost sounds like a conclusion the way it is translated in English. It is really a command. As a result of God's calling Abraham He says, you are to be a blessing to the world. So that was a mandate there to Abraham. It is an imperative form in the Hebrew.
Genesis 12:3 God says, "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 shall be blessed." The point that God is making here is that He is the Sovereign who controls history and He is the Sovereign Protector of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants. And those who curse him; the word there for "curse" in Hebrew is a word that means:
1. The first word for "curse" is a word that indicates to treat with disrespect.
2. The second word is to judge harshly.
So what God is saying is, the one who treats you lightly; the one who treats you with disrespect I will judge harshly. And so this becomes a principle of God's governance in history. That He has called out the Jewish people and this is an eternal covenant that is not reversed. It is not dependent upon Abraham or his descendants' response to God. God is unconditionally and unequivocally bestowing this blessing upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And it doesn't stop here. You will see that I have highlighted certain verses related to the Covenant. He reiterates this in relation to the land in Genesis 12:7 where he promises to Abraham, "I will give this land." And later in Genesis 13 He will tell him to walk the land and He will describe the land later in Genesis 13. He will have him walk the land. This is talking about a physical piece of real estate. And guess what? How much real estate did Abraham own in this Promised Land? He never owned anything more than the burial site at the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. That is it. That is all he ever owned was a plot to bury his wife Sarah and for himself and later his sons Isaac and grandson Jacob were also buried there with their wives. Jacob's wife Leah is buried there and Rachel is buried at Bethlehem. Isaac and Rebecca are buried there as well. And so this is a sign. You can go there today and see at least a monument building that Herod built that is over their graves. They are buried down in the cave down underneath the ground. You can't go down there. That is the only land they had. So God promises land to Abraham. Now since Abraham never owned it either God is a liar or God is going to raise Abraham from the dead in the future and give him ownership of the land. That was exactly the argument that Jesus used against the Sadducees because the Sadducees didn't believe in resurrection. They did not believe in a future life. That is why they were "sad, you see."
So, you have God calling out Abraham, making this promise; He reiterates it again in Genesis 13:14-16 (see slide #15). He has Abraham in Genesis 13:14-15, "Now lift your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward for all the land which you see, I give to you and your descendants forever." Not just for a while but forever. This is an eternal unconditional contract that God made with Abraham. He gives the title deed to the land to Abraham. Now the Israelite people have not always enjoyed the privilege of living there. That is because God said that you can't enjoy the privilege of your ownership unless you are obedient. In fact, when we get into the next chapter that we will look at in Genesis 15, God tells Abraham that he is going to take them out of the land for over 400 years before he brings them back. So there was a purpose for that as we will see. So he reiterates the Land Promise, "all the land which you see, I will give it to you and your descendants forever." He reiterates the Seed Promise. Genesis 13:16, "I will make your descendants as dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered." And then He says, Genesis 13:17, "Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you." This is an unconditional, irreversible gift.
Then we will skip down to Genesis 15. In Genesis 15 Abraham is concerned because he still hasn't had a child and so he thinks that his heir is going to be a servant, Eliezer, and God says, no, let Me correct that. It is not going to be Eliezer; it is going to be a child from your own body in Genesis 15:4. And then God took him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them." And God said to him, "So shall your descendants be." That is a promise again, a reiteration of the Seed Promise. And at this point we are told, reminded actually, because the verb tense in the Hebrew for "belief" here is a perfect tense indicating that he had already "believed." See otherwise, some people think well this is what Abraham believed. But if Abraham believed here then he is not a believer and God is already blessing him with all these blessings as an unbeliever. He was already a believer. In fact, Jewish tradition says that he became a worshiper of Yahweh when he was around fifty years of age." He believed in the LORD and He counted it to him as righteousness," Genesis 15:6. God said, "I am the LORD who brought you out of the Ur of Chaldees to give you this land to inherit it," Genesis 15:7 Again, a repetition of this Land Promise; it is not just one time. The land of Israel and more than what we think of as the land for Israel has been given for eternity to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is to Jewish people, not Abraham and Ishmael, Abraham, Isaac and Esau, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is what distinguishes a Jew from other descendants of Abraham.
Then we are told at the end of the chapter, Genesis 15, that this is part of the Covenant. On the same day that God made these promises He made a covenant with Abram saying, "To your descendants I have given this land," Genesis 15:18. How many times have we heard this now? This is like the fifth time we have heard a reiteration of this Land Promise. "I have given this land, from the river of Egypt"; there is a debate over just over just exactly what that is; whether it is the Nile or the Wadi El Arish, which is down in the Sinai Peninsula. I think that there is a stronger case for that for a lot of technical reasons; to the great river, the River Euphrates, which is all the way over into part of modern Iraq. It would include all of the territory of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan all the way over to Iraq and up into Syria. And so that is all the land that God has given to them. Then we have another reiteration of the promise in Genesis 17. This is when the Covenant is actually cut. God comes and appears before Abraham and promises, Genesis 17:4, "I will make My covenant between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly." That is the Seed Promise. In Genesis 17:6-8, "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you and their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. Also, I give you and your descendants after you, the land in which you are a stranger, all of the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
Now, what part of that is not understandable? All of the land, not some of the land; it wasn't given to the Arabs or the descendants of the Arabs. It was given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants forever. God did not go back on His Word just because the Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah. It is an everlasting covenant. It is still in effect today. Genesis 17:10, "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you; every male child shall be circumcised." This was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which was circumcision. Then in Genesis 17:19 He says, "But God said to Abraham, "Your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Yitzchak (Isaac); and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant." And this is what happened; as you go through Genesis God reconfirms several times the covenant to Yitzchak (Isaac) and then several more times He confirms the covenant with Jacob, Yaakov. So in Genesis 17:21, "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year." Just a little note: is that a prophetic statement from God? Yes. How do we understand it? Is that allegorical? No. That is one of those great promises. God said, you will have a son, a literal son, a literal name; timing was still within the year. When Scripture interprets itself we see that Scripture interprets itself always on the basis of a literal hermeneutic.
Then we go though as God reconfirms His covenant with Abraham one more time in Genesis 22. So that covers the Scripture part. So as we look at the Abrahamic Covenant now, we see that there are these three basic elements, land, seed and blessing, which will later be developed in the Land Covenant, Deuteronomy 30; the Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7; the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. Now we have already looked at these verses; so I am going to skip these slides and we are going to look at; okay, let's look at the Scripture. We have looked at the Scripture. The second thing in terms of the outline; this next slide is going to start with 'C', so 'B' is the persons involved with the Covenant. That is God, the party of the first part. Remember, your mortgage statement or like your credit card, God is the party of the first part and He is contracting with Abraham. But Abraham has no stipulations or obligations for the fulfillment of the contract. It is all God. In Genesis 15 when God actually cuts the covenant with Abraham and when there is a sacrifice and they take this sacrifice, the animals for the sacrifice, and kill them and cut them in half and lay them on each side. Typically, if two people were binding themselves to this covenant they would walk together between the animals. But God causes a deep sleep to fall on Abraham so that God alone passes through the animals indicating that this is a unilateral covenant. Unilateral means that it is one-sided. God is bound to it. There is no stipulation on Abraham's part for the ownership of the land. As I said, the title deed is given but God doesn't let them move in because God owns, actually, He is the ultimate landowner of all land. God doesn't let them enjoy the privilege of ownership unless they are obedient.
So the second aspect is the persons of the covenant. And the third aspect deals with the provisions. I have thirteen different provisions that are in the covenant (see slides #16-18):
1. First of all He promises to develop a great nation from Abraham. Look at how many different times that is mentioned: Genesis 12:2, Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 17:1-2; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 22:17.
2. Second, He promises land, an actual piece of real estate in the Middle East that is demarcated by specific boundaries. These are identified in: Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 13:17; Genesis 15:7-21; Genesis 17:8.
3. Abraham himself is to be blessed and this went into effect immediately and he is to bless others. And we see that; that he is a blessing to his neighbors. When you have the Kedorlaomer alliance come through from Mesopotamia and conquer all the various cities of the plains, down around what has become known since then as the Dead Sea, and take all of these hostages and head off to Syria with all these hostages and all the plunder. It is Abraham and his servants that take off after them and defeat that army and free the slaves, free the ones who are captured, and retrieve all of the plunder from the armies of Kedorlaomer. And that is one example of the ways in which Abraham functioned as a blessing to those around him. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 15:6; Genesis 22:15-17.
4. God promised that Abraham's name will be great, and his name is great. He has been revered by his descendants, the Jewish people. He is also revered by other descendants, those who descended through him in terms of the Arab nations through Ishmael and through Esau, Genesis 12:2.
5. He is promised by God that those who bless him will be blessed. This has nothing to do with what he is like. It has nothing to do with his personality or the personality of any Jewish person. It doesn't have anything to do with whether they are good or whether they are bad; whether they are likeable or not likeable; whether they are liberal or whether they are conservative; whether they are democrat, republican, Marxist, or whatever. It doesn't matter. There is not anyone who blesses the Jewish people. They will be blessed by God. This is the foundational verse against any form of anti-Semitism. And Christian anti-Semitism is one of the worst things that ever happened within the history of Christianity. And it was the result of a failure to interpret the Bible literally because they interpreted allegorically where Israel didn't mean Israel; Israel meant the church. The church didn't mean the church; the church meant Israel. Words lost their absolute meaning and as a result of that they found ways to justify their hatred for the Jewish people, Genesis 12:3.
6. And so God promised that those who curse him (Abraham) will be cursed, be judged, Genesis 12:3.
7. And that in Abraham all nations will be blessed. This is as Paul says in Galatians that this is ultimately fulfilled in the Seed that is Jesus Christ, Who is the Redeemer of all peoples, Who paid the penalty for sin, Who died on the Cross and paid the penalty for all peoples of all times so that by simply trusting in Him for salvation we can have eternal life. It is not based on works; it is not based on ethnicity; it is not based on economics; it is based on one thing that any human being can do and that is believe. Believe Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins and you will be blessed with eternal salvation. And so it is through Abraham, because Jesus was a Jew. That sort of surprises some people. I have seen pictures of Jesus in almost every kind of ethnic background that you can imagine. But Jesus was Jewish; He didn't look like a Renaissance Italian; He didn't look like a Black African; He didn't look Chinese or Japanese; He didn't look Hispanic; He looked like a Middle Easterner of the first century. He was Jewish and it is through Him, as a descendant of Abraham, that all nations are blessed, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18.
8. Sarah would have a son. It wouldn't come through some substitute; it wouldn't come through the slave girl, Hagar, or anything else, Genesis 15:1-4; Genesis 17:15-21.
9. God also prophesied in Genesis 15:13-15 of the Egyptian bondage, that they would be taken to Egypt and that they would be in Egypt for over 400 years. So God clearly was showing that there was a reason for that, as we will see, because of their disobedience to God. God had to discipline them and remove them from the nation. That sort of foreshadows the numerous times that God has had to remove the Jewish people from the land because of their disobedience to God's command.
10. Other nations will come from Abraham, which is fulfilled in the various Arabic descents and Arabic tribes, Genesis 17:3-6.
11. There is a change from his name, Abram, which meant "exalted father" to Abraham, meaning "father of a multitude," Genesis 17:5.
12. Sarai, which means "contentious" is changed to Sarah "princess", Genesis 17:15.
13. Circumcision is the token of the covenant and that was to set the Jewish people apart. They were not the only ones in the ancient world that practiced circumcision, but that became one of the things that distinguished them from all other nations; that and the observance of Shabbat, Genesis 17:9-14. You can imagine what a conflict that that created later on when they are taken over by the Assyrians and they are taken into the Assyrian Empire. They are destroyed. The southern kingdom was destroyed in 586 BC and they are taken into the Babylonian kingdom and all of a sudden it comes Friday evening and they are saying, we are not working tomorrow. We don't work on Saturday. Nobody else in the ancient world took a day off. But the Jews say not only do we not work, but we are circumcised. We have got a lot of different things that distinguish us. And so all of this goes back to the Abrahamic Covenant.
Dispensation 4: Patriarchs (Promise); the outline follows the slides (#19-20):
A. Now the Abrahamic Covenant sets up a new dispensation because there are new responsibilities given, new blessings, and this sets things up for the next dispensation. First of all, the next dispensation God is now changing the way He is administering human history and this next Dispensation of the Patriarchs, sometimes it is called Promise. But this next dispensation is covered in Genesis 12:1-Exodus 18:27. Then God is going to give the Law at Mt. Sinai and that changes the administration again.
B. The central person is Abraham.
C. The name, Patriarchs, recognizes that the governing factor here, the administrator of the dispensation would be the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph. And then, it is also called the Dispensation of Promise because it focuses on the promise that God has made to Abraham that he will be a blessing to all people and that God would give him the land and make his name great, Romans 4:1-20; Galatians 3:15-19; Hebrews 6:13-15; Hebrews 11:9.
D. There is a responsibility given in this covenant; and that is that they were responsible to the obedience to the covenant. To keep the seed, that is the seed of Abraham isolated from the surrounding pagan environment. They were not to mix and mingle. Now, they are going to fail as we will see, but the failure was that they began to assimilate. This has always been a problem in Jewish culture. Every time they get to a danger point in assimilation something radical has happened in history and they have been kept distinct. Now, of course, with the existence of the modern state of Israel, they have distinct culture and a place to go for safety when there is anti-Semitism dominating in other countries, Genesis 24:3; Genesis 28:1 compared with Genesis 28:6-9; Genesis 38.
E. The test was whether or not they would remain separate from the Canaanites; and they failed to do that. By the time you get to Jacob and his twelve sons their acting more pagan and more immoral and more radical then the surrounding Canaanites. There are several stories that are given that exemplify that failure. They are intermarrying with the Canaanites. This is described in Genesis 38.
So the failure is that if another generation or two had gone by they wouldn't be distinguishable from the Canaanite culture. And so God is going to work through His Sovereignty to remove them from the land of promise and to take them someplace where they will be in an enforced isolation; and that will be in Egypt. That is the purpose for what happened with the whole episode with Joseph. God uses Joseph to first take Joseph out of the land to take him down to Egypt. He goes as a slave. He is then falsely accused by his owner Potiphar; by his owner's wife, and she accuses him of attempted rape and so Joseph is thrown in prison. God is going to teach him some lessons in leadership and humility comes first. A leader must first be a follower. He is going to learn a few things. He is going to learn some humility and grace orientation. Then God will bring him out and elevate him to the number two position in Egypt. Then God is going to bring judgment on the Middle East in the form of a famine. And then the famine is going to force his family to seek aid from Egypt under Joseph's wise leadership.
God forewarned Joseph through the dreams of the Pharaoh that this famine was coming; that they would have seven years of plenty. That was a time for them to store up, a time for them to prepare for this time of famine. And then seven years of famine; and so during those seven years of plenty Joseph was placed in charge of all of the storehouses of the Pharaoh and he oversaw all of the production and all of the harvesting and everything and the storing up of the grain for the future. And so when the famine came, and it became severe, and Jacob and the family are still back in Canaan; they know that there is grain, there is food, in Egypt. And so Jacob will send his sons down there to get grain. And lo and behold, they have a meeting with Joseph; and we are all familiar with that story. Joseph doesn't reveal himself to them at first. Joseph sends them back because they didn't bring the youngest brother, Benjamin. They didn't bring their father, so they go back and they bring Benjamin. They go through this whole charade and then finally Joseph reveals himself to them. When he does so he then tells them to go and bring their father. So this brings the whole family down into Egypt. But the Egyptians hated and despised the Semites. They had a degree of racial prejudice that would have exceeded that of any Ku Klux Klansman in the south towards African Americans. You can imagine. So they wouldn't even eat in the same room. They would not take Hebrew women for wives. They just couldn't stand to be with them at all. And so this protected the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so that over the next 400 years they could grow from approximately 70 people to a nation of approximately 3 million. That is the time when God in His Sovereignty determined to bring them out of Egypt at the time of the exodus.
F. So their failure was that they intermarried and assimilated with the Canaanites and this threatened the security and autonomy of the Abrahamic line, Genesis 38.
G. God's judgment was to take them to Egypt to enforce separation until the nation was large enough to survive.
H. But God was gracious, even with the judgment, in preserving the nation ethically and spiritually, and they prospered even in the environment of horrible, horrible slavery.
Now this brings us to the next major episode, which is the Mosaic Covenant, which is the only temporary conditional covenant in the OT. We will start there next time to cover the remainder of the Age of Israel and then we will address the question: what about the time of Christ? Is that a separate dispensation or not? We will look at that next time.
"Father, we thank You for this opportunity to look at these things this evening to be able to reflect upon Your Sovereign working in history and that You have a plan and purpose; and that you are taking the human race in a direction and that that direction ultimately involves our salvation and our glorification with Christ and His return to the earth to establish His Kingdom. And as such, we know that there is a purpose for our lives; it has to do with this eternal destiny, and that we should be living today in light of that destiny. Living today in preparation for our future destiny as the bride of Christ to rule and reign with Him during His Kingdom. Father, we pray that You would challenge us with an understanding of these principles and make this even more appreciative of the salvation that we have; that we did nothing to earn it or deserve it. It is simply by faith alone in Christ alone. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."