Blog Archives

The Seed and the God of the Millennia

“And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Our sister, you shall become like countless thousands and may your seed inhabit the gates of those who hate him.’”

(Genesis 24:60)

 

“I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies.”

(Genesis 22:17)

 

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed — it does not say, ‘To the seeds…’ as if to many, but as if to one. ‘And to your seed,’ which is Christ.”

(Galatians 3:16)

 

It is hard not to make a connection between this blessing and to the Messianic promises that are to come. It could be legitimately pointed out that the term oår‰z (zera), or “seed,” is a collective singular (a singular term that refers to a group or a set of like things or persons) and thus nothing of great significance should be made of the language here. At the same time, given the covenantal significance of this event, a second look should be taken at what is being pronounced for even Nahor’s line understands that Abraham and his line has been singled out by God for a special purpose and, just as God did through the lips of Balaam, God sometimes speaks great truths through the lips even of non-believers.

It will be through Rebekah that the promised seed of Abraham will continue to descend that will ultimately culminate in the Great and true Seed: Jesus Christ. Note too, the similarity of this language to the language that God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 22. In part, of course, this will be fulfilled as the nation of Israel grows and then conquers Canaan. In full, this promise will find its completion in Jesus Christ — for it is in the church that True Israel will find its fullness, that the children of Abraham will be numbered like the sands of the sea, and that the gates of hell will find their demise (Matthew 16:18). Surely this promise, whether the family of Rebekah recognized it in full or not, is a promise that speaks of the coming of the Messiah through the line of Rebekah and Isaac.

How wonderful is the scope and plan of God. How puny our plans quickly become when placed alongside of God’s design. Isn’t if fascinating that we get so caught up in the moment — our successes and failures — our plans — our particular church’s rises and falls in attendance or fiscal numbers when God’s sovereign plan covers the scope of millennia. And why do we worry and fret? Why do we lose sleep over things that are meaningless in the scope of eternity? Friends, God is sovereign and he is the ruler of all of his creation. And he has a plan and a design for his church and kingdom of which he has graciously made us a part. Rejoice! Revel in that truth! And when faced with difficulties and opposition, trust in the wisdom and grace of God. Though men are not; God is good … and he is good all of the time — even in the midst of our trials and difficulties. What is it that God would lead you into doing and what is holding you back?

 

The Continual Blessing of God

“And it came to pass that Abraham was old, toward the end of his days, and Yahweh had continually blessed Abraham in everything.”

(Genesis 24:1)

 

What a wonderful way in which for a life to be marked: “And Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things…” How often we feel as if God has withheld the blessings we desire; yet if we look at life in this fashion, we miss the point that is being made here at the end of Abraham’s life. By human standards, there is no question that God had withheld the blessings that Abraham desired. Abraham had to wait until he was very old to see children and never saw his grandchildren. He never had an estate or a piece of property in the promised land that God had promised him, save for a plot of ground into which he buried his wife, Sarah. And, he had to leave behind his kinsmen when he traveled from Ur to Canaan to be in the land that God had promised him. He never established even a city after his own name and after his death his family would continue to be wanderers and eventually become refugees (and later slaves) in Egypt.

Yet, when we remove ourselves from the earthly way of measuring things and look to heavenly blessings, we see a different picture. God walked with Abraham. In fact, the Bible remembers Abraham as being called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Abraham got to witness and participate in mighty miracles, from the routing of armies to the humbling of kings. God provided for his every need, gave him the wealth of the nations, and even preserved his nephew from the judgment that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham received the covenant of God and the promise to make his children like the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore is still being fulfilled today as more and more people come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Galatians 3:29). There is but one people of God (those who come to him in faith) and we all partake of the inheritance that God gave to Abraham.

Ultimately, God blessed Abraham with his presence. The promises would be partially fulfilled in Abraham’s life though the fullness of the promise was to come, but the greatest and most wonderful of all blessings is found in his presence with Abraham. How nearsighted we often become when we only think of God’s blessings in terms of our personal comfort. God blesses us first and foremost with himself and that makes us blessed by God in all things. Anything else that God may bring into our life and experience is secondary to this great truth. Thus, when God gives to Aaron the great benediction to be pronounced on the lives of his people, these are the words that he is to say:

May Yahweh bless you and may he keep you;

May Yahweh make his face to shine like a light upon you and may he be gracious to you;

May Yahweh turn his countenance (his presence) toward you and bring you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26)

Notice, the language is all about God’s presence with you and covering for you. There is not one word about worldly riches or comforts mentioned. Funny how quickly we can mix that up.

Swearing an Oath

“And Abraham said, ‘I swear.’”

(Genesis 21:24)

 

My mother always told me that it wasn’t nice to swear… Of course, she was talking about something a little different than what Abraham is doing at the moment. In this case, Abraham is taking an oath and promising an alliance between himself and Abimelek. Yet, doesn’t Jesus also say that we ought not take oaths (Matthew 5:34-37)? What shall we make of this action? Can we say that Abraham is sinning here and be done with the discussion? No, for in the very next chapter, we find God swearing an oath (Genesis 22:16, Hebrews 6:13), and we certainly don’t want to accuse God of sin, confusion, or otherwise making a mistake. So what do we do with this apparent contradiction?

The first thing that we must affirm is that Abraham is swearing an oath to a pagan leader. And, as we mentioned before, this is a mark of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham (that the world will find their blessing in Abraham and in his seed). And along with that affirmation, then, we must conclude that what Abraham is doing is a good thing and indeed scripture never condemns him for this.

So what about Jesus’ statement that we should not swear an oath at all, but simply let our word be “yes” or “no”? The answer is found in the context of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has been intensifying the Law of God so that we can begin to get a handle on how we are intended to live that lies behind the Moral Law and as to just how sinful we are. In verse 33, Jesus begins a section of his sermon that focuses not only on the 9th Commandment, but also the 3rd Commandment. Both of these commandments deal with a kind of false witness — one toward our fellow man and the other toward heaven, and both typically for personal gain. Often, people use the name of God as a way of getting others to believe that a contract will be fulfilled or that a promise will not be broken, and the 3rd Commandment says that this is sin. Jesus says, don’t do this, but let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

Yet, in the case with Abraham, we do not find him swearing for his own gain — the same is true for the scripture that speaks of God swearing an oath. Neither God nor Abraham benefit, but the oath is designed to bless those who would hear the oath, those who would draw assurance from the fact that an oath was stated, not just a “yes” or “no,” but with the emphasis of an oath. Thus, in application, when we are debating where an oath might be permissible, the same principle holds true. Who will benefit from the oath? If you are the one who will benefit, then you are using God’s name for your own gain. But if others will benefit (as happens when you swear an oath to tell “the truth and only the truth” on the witness stand), then it does not stand out of accord with the teaching of Jesus and with the teaching of the rest of scripture.

Bottom line is that Abraham is choosing to bless Abimelek and in this blessing we find a partial fulfillment of God’s promise that the nations will find their blessing through Abraham and through Abraham’s children. As Christians, we are the descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:9,29). The question that we must pose to ourselves is whether or not those who live in the midst of the Church would believe that we are a blessing to them. Would unbelievers say, “I never have any interest in becoming a Christian, but I am glad that the Christian Church is there because their presence is a blessing to me and to my community.” Sadly, my concern is that so many Christian churches have become inwardly focused and self-serving that this is not the case. May indeed we repent of our selfishness and live in such a way (individually and corporately) that unbelievers will come to us, as Abimelek did with Abraham, and ask for our blessings.

A Proverb in a Song, part 14

“For his soul will bless his life,

and he will praise you when you are good to yourself;

he will enter into the generation of his fathers,

he will not see light eternally.”

(Psalm 49:19-20 {Psalm 49:18-19 in English Bibles})

 

Darkness.  Darkness was over the face of the deep before God revealed his Shekinah Glory over creation.  After the fall of man, darkness was in the world until God revealed his Shekinah Glory in his Son.  Indeed, God has shown light in various places and at various times, revealing himself in his Word to us through the prophets who wrote the Old Testament, but the fullness of his revelation had to wait until the coming of his Son—the fullness of God revealed in flesh. Apart from God and apart from his presence there is no light in the world—there can be.  And those who reject God in this life—those who seek after idols of their own making and never submit to God’s Son as their Lord and Savior—are destined for a place of darkness and gloom (Jude 13) where the fire is never quenched, the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), and the torture does not end (Matthew 19:34-35).  It is a place filled with the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28).  Oh, beloved, eternal damnation awaits those who flee from God.

Yet, while the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth form the song of Hell, the sound of tens of thousands of angels and all creation form the background to the song of praise that will fill eternal glory.  Oh , what a contrast there is.  We may not receive the accolades that the pagans receive in this life, but how wonderful is the promise that we have been given for eternity.  And, oh, beloved, how much longer eternity is than even hundreds of years on this earth.  What a wonderful thing we have been promised and that we have to look forward to!

But how is it that we know whether that person walking down the street is really an person destined for damnation or just a life in whom God has yet to work?  And how is it that you can tell whether it is you that God intends to use to witness to this person?  That is—until you share the gospel with them—until you try and tell them of all the wonders of God—until you, like this psalmist, share the truth with all who would hear?  Oh, dear friends, so often we assume that God will work through someone else.  The question that you should be asking God every day is, “why not me, Lord, why not work through me?”

A willing spirit, a thankful heart,

Dear Lord, to me will you impart,

That the truth of Jesus I may share,

To those who walk this world without a care.


 

Shekinah is derived from the Hebrew word !k;v’ (shakan), which means “to dwell”—it is the glory of God dwelling with his people, symbolized by the tabernacle and the temple and made perfect in the coming of Christ.