The Children Of The Promise
His daughter was looking forward to her first piano lessons, she has been anticipating this day for some time and her dad made her a promise that he would finish work early to take her.
Good to his word he did manage to finish work early because he asked his boss a week before to do so.
He packed his briefcase, got down to the station and jumped on the train.
Looked at his watch, had plenty of time.
The train however was not traveling at its usual speed because the day was hot and trains need to go much slower on the rails during hot days.
“im not really in control of the weather” he thought and just relaxed. Looked at his watch.
I till got time he says.
The train pulled in at one of its stops and the announcement came that it would be delayed for some time because an overheated car just got stuck on the train line ahead.
“I’m not in control of cars overheating” he thought, but he realised he need to get other transport else he’d be. A bus will take too long, so he calls for a Taxi.
The cab pulls up, he gives the address and off they go again.
“I still got time” he says to himself as he imagines his little girls joy at her first day leaning to play a piano.
His daughter, at home, quietly confident her dads promise is sure.
As the cab however begins to slow and pulls to a stop behind a line of traffic that shouldn’t be there. A bunch of unemployed climate activists have blocked the road by gluing themselves to the tarmac.
This has happened before he says to himself, but doesn’t happen that often anymore because emergency services no longer work to free them, so they are left there until there friends come.
The traffic is just directed to alternative routes.
‘I’m not in control of people and traffic’ he thinks to himself.
By now he realises he is not going to make it home in time, all the while his daughter waits thinking his promise is sure and he will get there, until the time for her piano lesson comes and goes.
There is a reason why the Bible tells us not to promise, not to swear we will do anything at all, just let your yes be yes and your no be no.
This dad was not in control of the weather, or people, situations or events. For a promise to be a promise, you must be.
God does not want man to promise anything because that word is only truly able to be fulfilled by the one who IS IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING.
We will see how God kept his promise through a people that, by all historical understanding, should not be here. And we’ll line that up with his promise of eternal life to you and I.
The Promise Kept Through The Word of God
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.
Last week we saw the intensity of the burden of Paul toward those who are ‘kinsmen according to the flesh’, that is, related to Paul by descent.
Paul was a Jew, of the nation of Israel, a descendant from the tribe of Benjamin. He refers to himself even as a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. He was greatly burdened for the salvation of those he loved.
He knew that their rejection of the Messiah promised to come through the Old Testament scriptures, have now left them largely blinded in the reading of the Bible, so much so that they cannot see Christ in them any longer.
We look at passages such as Isaiah 53 and see such an incredible description of the promised Christ written 700 years before he came, and we wonder how it can be possible that it is not recognized.
Last week we just glanced at a number of the ancient scriptures in the Bible that promised his first coming in incredible detail. Over 300 of them have been counted that promised of his first coming, and all of them have been fulfilled exactly as it was written and are available in your Bibles to compare.
You must understand that the Bible is a collation of 66 books, written over a period of over 1500 years, it was penned by approximately forty different penmen from backgrounds as diverse as Slaves and Sovereigns, Peasants to Physicians, Farmers and Fisherman, to Princes and Prime ministers.
It was written in three original languages with origins on three separate continents.
Yet it tells of one incredible account without contradiction.
For Israel to have rejected the incredible clues and details God have given them concerning the one that was promised to relieve them of their sin, is an unbelievable error.
Yet regarding Israel, Romans 11:11 tells us;
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
The fall of the Jews has opened a way for the gentiles (you and i) to have sin washed away through Christ.
Nevertheless, The Promise to Israel is Kept through the Word of God regarding them;
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.
God had made promises to the nation of Israel.
Some of them are unilateral, in other words, some are one sided promises. God making a promise to the nation based only on his word, and completely unconditional.
Turn to Genesis 15:12
From verse 7 God has given instruction to Abram to slay and lay out pieces of the animals in an order; in verse 12
12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. 18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
The making of this covenant was unilateral (One sided). God had given Abram (Abraham) specific instructions to make with him a ‘blood covenant’.
Traditionally such a covenant has the pieces laid out in a manner apart, and the parties exchanging the promises will walk through the pieces as in a figure eight type pattern, and announce the terms of the promise. We are told the implication of such a promise was life and death on its fulfilment.
How did God manifest his end of the bargain in verse 17?
What was Abram doing in verse 12?
This was a promise for the land now inhabited by the descendants of Abraham (here, Abram). A unilateral promise made by God for this land over 4000 years ago.
There were certainly conditional promises made, promises of Blessing for faithfulness and cursing for unfaithfulness.
But with regard to their preservation and salvation, which is what Paul is speaking to, The Promise is Kept Through The Word of God regarding them; Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.
Gods care and protection of Israel is identified in passage such as Zech 2:8, referring to Israel and saying “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye”
“Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep”Psalm 121:4
God goes on to promise that he will bless them that bless Israel and curse them that curseth Israel (Gen 12:3)
And he blesses them by promising Israel he will make the deserts bloom for them; “…for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water:…” (Isa 35:6-7)
All around the land of Israel, they are lucky to obtain even an inch of rain every year, yet on the edge of a desert Bible says “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” (Isa 27:6).
A few years ago Israel was reported to have exported 1/3rd of the worlds Roses.
Agriculture is the largest industry in Israel. Europe buys over 60% of Israel’s Fruit and Veg despite Europe having almost 8 times the amount of farmland per capita than Israel!
No, The Promise Has Certainly been kept through the word of God,
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.
If this is evidently true concerning the promise to a nation that had rejected the Saviour of the world when he first came specifically for them (John 1:11), how much more for those who have believed?
The Promise Seen Through The Children of God
(NB: Longest point)
For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
The realisation of the truth of the promise of Gods words, is made clear through the Children of the promise, that is, Israel.
But they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, (Paul explains this further in the following chapters so I won’t deal with it today), Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
The nations of Arabia, and most particularly those who refer to themselves as Arabs ethnically, or more clearly, Moslems religiously, believe themselves also to be descended from Abraham.
We recall that Abraham had many Children, his first born was Ishmael before he had Isaac. It is Ishmael that most Arabic Moslems believe themselves to be descendants of.
These are the Semitic peoples of the world.
I am sure you have referred to the term Anti-Semitism? It is usually used against the Jews, but it also refers to all of the descendants of Abraham known as the Semites. It is a phrase that has its origin in Shem, one of the three sons of Noah,
(it’s interesting how many things of our sayings in history go back to the Bible!).
These too are the seed of Abraham.
Abraham was originally named Abram.
When he believed Gods promise to him for many Children, even though he was over ninety years Old and childless, God changed his name to Abraham, which means ‘Father of many’.
God had promised him children that would number as the stars in the heavens for multitude.
Abraham did not only have Ishmael and Isaac, but he took another wife after the death of Sarah named Keturah, through her he had;
Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
But they too had sons;
3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. (Gen 25:2-4).
But the text tells us he had other concubines and children with them also.
From Ishmael came
“Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, 14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: 16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations” (Gen 25:13-16).
From Isaac came Esau and his brother Jacob, each of these had twelve sons; each of Esau’s became princes and kings of tribes and nations, and each of Jacobs became heads of tribes too.
It was 70 of them that went into Egypt and four hundred years later over two million of them come out of Egypt.
They went in as a family and came out as a nation!
And that does not includes the descendants of the other sons I mentioned.
So you can see that Abraham did indeed become a “father of many”.
It is frequently told that there are few people in the world that don’t have some of Abrahams blood in their veins. And not without reason it seems!
But our text tells of a separate lot, ‘The Children of the Promise’
For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
The claim in this point is that the Promise of God is Manifest, or made evident, though the children of God.
The detailed promise is in Genesis 17, its worth turning there.
Turn to Genesis 17:1-8
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Gen 17:1-8)
It was in chapter 15 that God had promised a Childless Abram a son that would be heir to all he had. At the time it was only Sarah in his life and the promise was through her. But both were well past age.
In Chapter 16 Sarah had offered to her husband her servant, that perhaps God meant him to father a child through her.
This child would come to be known as “the son of the flesh” and not the promise. As God made the promise through Sarah
Now here in chapter 17 that we just read, God clarifies it further, even to name the son of the promise, Isaac.
Through Isaac, and specifically through Jacob, (who will later be named Israel from which the nation gets its name), would come a nation that defies all the odds of history.
A people group that is singularly identified through their records as being over 4000 years old, and direct descendants of Abraham.
Unlike the Arabs, the Jews kept detailed records of their history and none more compelling that the Bible itself.
There are nations of people that ruled the known world that no longer exist today.
The Egyptian Empire
The Hittite Empire
The Assyrian Empire
The Babylonian Empire
The Medo / Persian Empire
There are indeed people that inhabit the lands where these nations are, but historically they are a mixed multitude coming from many diverse regions of the East.
Abrahams children predates them all, and Israel, as a single people, identified themselves as one from their birth to this very day.
Not even their Captivities under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires would God lose track of them.
But the greatest dispersion of all was yet to come!
Turn to Luke 19:41
Jesus has made his appearance as he came toward Jerusalem, in both the timing and the manner the Bible foretold.
Many people rejoiced to see him and cried out “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”.
But not all. The leaders of the nation rejected him, and would soon have him crucified.
As a result, we have this record;
41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:41-44).
Jesus spoke of that which would come upon the Jewish nation, and tells us the reason for it, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
They had all the information they needed respecting the promise of his coming, and they had long experienced that when God makes a promise it is kept because he has the power to keep it!
The Great Diaspora
Jesus words would have its literal fulfilment about thirty years later in an event known historically as “The Great Diaspora”, or the great displacement. When, in 70ad Titus Vespasian together with his Roman Legions laid the city waste.
But Jesus was not the first to speak of the great diaspora of the Jews, it was a literal fulfilment of Deuteronomy 28:64 written by Moses 1500 years earlier, “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other”.
In the first century, the historian Josephus records that the city of Jerusalem and the Temple was as if it never existed. And that the Jews had been scattered across the globe.
12oo years after the Great Diaspora, a Rabbi from Spain by the name of Nachmanides who came to
“Many are Israel’s forsaken places, and great is the desecration. The more sacred the place, the greater the devastation it has suffered. Jerusalem is the most desolate place of all.”
More than 600 years later;
In 1869 Mark Twain, the famous writer, riding on horseback from Galilee says of Israel,
“Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.”
But the Bible says Israel will be drawn together from all over the world, Ezekiel wrote of the return of the people like the scattered dry bones in the dessert coming together as one body.
In 1897, a journalist by the name of Theodor Herzl began a movement with a small group of men that came to be known as Zionism, the return to the Jews to their homeland.
Twenty years later, In 1917, in the midst of the 1st World War, the Balfour Declaration was written in the U.K. announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
Finally, on the 14th of May, 1948, just after the 2nd World War, David Ben Gurion declared Israel an independent and sovereign state. A nation created in a day in accord with the prophet Isaiah’s own words (Isa 66:8), written more than 2500 years earlier.
Every detail concerning the scattering and the re-establishment of Israel was written in the Bible centuries, and even millennia, before it happened.
And Gods promise is made evident to us by the very existence of Israel today.
A country the size of one fifth of the state of Victoria, at its narrowest point it is less than the distance from Sunbury to Gisborne. A country INSIGNIFICANT in the secular scheme of things, who should simply not exist, yet there they are!
If you are wanting to see God continuing his work, then keep watching Israel.
There are many more prophecies concerning them written about in the Bible that have not yet been fulfilled, do you want to know one to watch out for?
Turn to Zech 12:2-3
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. 3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
This tiny nation is rarely out of the News these days.
There will be a time that all the world will come to hate Israel, and it has already well begun.
BUT, there’s more.
There is the war of Psalm 83 war where the near neighbours plan to “Cut them off from being a nation”
There is the war of Ezekiel 38, where nations as far as Russia and Iran, and Turkey will come against Israel with the plan to simply annihilate them.
These two things have not happened yet historically. But they will.
What has that got to do with me today?
The Promise Assured Through The Sovereignty of God
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
We have already looked at the detail concerning the original promise.
Sarah was past the age of bearing a child; even though those where the years of relatively long life spans, Sarah at ninety years of age (Gen 17:17), was considered well past bearing years.
But beloved, the promise was never based on her ability, the promise was based on Gods sovereignty.
It is because God made the promise that its fulfillment can be assured.
It is because God is the ONLY person able to do that which he promises to do, that it can assuredly be done.
It never was man’s ability that would assure him of anything.
The Bible says we cannot make a single thread of hair white or back (other than superficially), neither make ourselves an inch taller, but God can raise the dead!
It would be through this Son of Sarah, that the promise of the Saviour of the world would come.
It was God’s love for the world, that he made a way for everlasting hope.
When Jesus spoke in John 3 about the love of God toward the world, how he desires that not a single person on earth would die in their sin, but be forgiven, he made an eternal promise that man can be saved from their sin, and Israel is the foreshadowing of it.
Israel itself is evidence that God keeps his promises, and though Israel is set aside for a time, God is not finished with her.
Meanwhile, being a child of the promise has one, and only one condition.
Paul in chapter four likened it to how Abraham himself was declared righteous;
Turn there with me as we consider that condition to be a Child of the Promise, ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE!
Let’s read from John 3:14 to ensure we get the context;
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
How much does God love the world?
So much so that he gave his only begotten Son for their sin.
And what is the ONLY Condition he has put in place?
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We know that that is the ONLY condition because the passage goes on to say in verse 18, that He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, (Why?) because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Now if this is God’s promise, and the only condition that he sets forth for the safety of your eternal soul is to believe it, then what is stopping you?
God has removed ALL THE BARRIERS that you have put in the way of your eternal hope.
All of your sin, all of it, is taken from you and nailed to the Cross of Jesus Christ, what other barrier is left?
There is only one. Faith. Will you believe it?
Will you take God at his promise and believe Jesus died for you?
Will you become a Child of the promise?
The Children Of The Promise
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Only if God is Sovereign can his promises be fulfilled.
The passage before us is itself filled with what can often be thought of as an astounding claim.
Verse 11 says the children were not yet born, neither having done any good or evil. It is clear, in this verse there is nothing vague, there is no hope of being able to attribute any endearing or condemning attribute to either of the twins Jacob and Esau.
Paul does not shy away from the sovereignty of God, in fact he brings it out in its fullness in this passage and the balance of chapter 9.
He explains the purpose of his claim, saying, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;
The purpose made clear that it is God’s sovereign choice and election that is to stand and not their works.
When it comes to you personally, you must know that it is not because God see’s anything good in you that he offers you hope of eternal life. He simply calls you.
that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;
God did not look at my life and say… “whoa, hey, this Edi might make a good Christian!!”.
No, he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
He called, I finally responded and decided I will believe.
I was 17 years old when I first identified that call.
Don’t get me wrong, I wondered about the truth of God all my life. I did not have a Christian home, I was not brought up believing anything about God.
My parents never even mentioned anything about God. Yet, if I were to be honest, I had thought of it often.
I had thoughts about death when I was little.
I loved to dream and I dreamed vivid dreams. I remember thinking that it would be good that, when I die, I could still dream, because it would be like I was still alive.
I would have been no older than ten years of age.
We lived in a 12 square home in West Melton. (yeh, I was even in the west of a western suburb). I got up one morning still wearing my pajamas and I asked mum if she knew.
I said “mum, when we die, can we still dream?”.
Perhaps if she said yes, I wouldn’t have worried much about death anymore.
But it was when I was 17 years old that I first heard the Gospel and I lived 12 years of debauchery after that, and at any time I could have lost my life, and there were a multitude of near misses.
If I died in unbelief during those years, I would find myself accounting for my own sins before a holy, righteous God. And I’d be condemned.
God is sovereign, and he is no respecter of persons.
But this passage concludes with these two verses;
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Neither had done any good or any evil, yet Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
The passage here does not explain how this works. How can God love or hate yet no good or evil is done?
There is an explanation to it and much more later in this incredible chapter, so I will save my preaching on that aspect of this passage for then.
But there is something else worth considering that presents itself here.
Dr Griffin Thomas was an Anglican Scholar and Theologian. He was Co-Founder of Dallas Theological Seminary with Lewis Sperry Chafer.
He was asked by one of his students concerning this verse, verse 13 of Romans 9.
The student “was having trouble with this passage because he could not understand why God hated Esau.
Dr.Thomas answered, “I am having a problem with that passage too, but mine is different. I do not understand why God loved Jacob.”
Well that’s fair enough. Any of you who have read the Bible would also possibly ask the same question.
I look at this world and the people in it and I wonder how or why God could so love it that he would be willing to die to save it.
I considered my life before he saved me and would wonder why on earth he would do so. Sometimes I still ask that question!
Imagine now if God had made the promise to the little girls father that he would get there in time to take his little girl to her first piano lessen.
All that was needed was the weather to be right, and the train would have run on time.
God is 100 % sovereign and he has removed every obstacle that might have blocked your path to an eternal joy and comfort in death. He promised you life eternal, the only obstacle left is if you believe him?
Jesus died for you and took your sin upon himself that you may be free, will you believe it?
Will you be a Child of the promise?