Turn with me please to Genesis, chapter 17. Four thousand years ago God appeared to a man named Abram and made a covenant with him. God changed his name from Abram to Abraham and He told Abraham that He would establish His covenant between Himself and Abraham and his descendants.
He told Abraham
that it was an everlasting covenant and He said, “I will give to you and
to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the
Much of the Christian world has misunderstood what God is saying in His covenant promise to Abraham. They keep asking the question, “When is God going to fulfill His promise to Abraham and give back to the Jews all of their
They are not
hearing what God was telling Abraham. God told Abraham that His covenant
was an everlasting covenant between Him and Abraham and his descendants after
him and it included giving them the
If God meant what He said, then there is a problem. This earth is not everlasting and there are no everlasting Canaans on this earth. Not only that, God promised to give that land to both Abraham and to his descendants and Abraham never received that land.
Not only did God not give it to Abraham, his descendants will not enter that land and take possession of it for more than six hundred years after the promise was made.
By the time that Joshua will lead God’s people in to take possession of that land, tens of thousands of Abraham’s descendants will have lived and died having never seen that land. What about God’s promise to them, as well as to Abraham?
The reason why God never gave Abraham that
writer confirms that in chapter 11 of his book. He speaks of Abraham and
of that land of promise and said, “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of
promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow
heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has
foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (verses
If scripture says that Abraham was living as an alien in that land but he was looking for a heavenly city, then Abraham knew that the true promise was never for the earthly
When we read about that covenant promise in
Genesis, chapter 17, most modern translations say that God’s promise was to
Abraham and to His descendants after him but the Hebrew wording actually means
seed, referring to the Christ to come.
God’s true covenant promise to Abraham was the promise of giving that everlasting
The promise was only to Christ but we can also obtain that promise by having become one with Him. We do that when we become clothed with Him (Galatians -29). If we have been clothed with Him, we will belong to Him and we will become descendants of Abraham and heirs to the promise.
In fact, God gave Abraham both the old covenant and the new covenant promises at the same time. God was promising the earthly land to Abraham’s earthly descendants and He was promising the spiritual land to his spiritual descendants. That old covenant, however, was a faulty covenant.
The Hebrew writer tells us that old covenant was faulty when he wrote, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second” (Hebrews 8:7). He tells us why in the next few words, saying, “For finding fault with them”.
It was a faulty covenant because man is
faulty. Man must be made perfect to have an everlasting home with God (An
If that old earthly covenant was a faulty
covenant when the Hebrew writer wrote those words in the first century it was
faulty when God made it with His people.
That being true, why did God ever bring into being that old
covenant? Was it done to help Abraham’s spiritual descendants (His
descendants by faith) to obtain their everlasting spiritual
In that old story, God’s people were in
bondage in the
God had previously told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go. It was only after God’s great power was displayed with signs and wonders that Pharaoh would let them go free.
Moses led God’s people out of Egyptian bondage and he led them through the sea, on dry ground. When the Egyptian army pursued after them, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters returned to their place. The entire Egyptian army was drowned in the sea.
God’s people had been brought out of slavery but they find themselves in the wilderness. They will be required to faithfully follow the LORD and His servant, Moses, all the way there in order to receive the promise. They must travel through the wilderness to that land and be willing to fight for it. It will not happen for most of them. Most of them will be disobedient and rebellious and God will strike them down in that wilderness.
Remember when they sent the twelve spies in to spy out the land? Ten of them came back and gave a bad report. They told how it was truly a land of milk and honey but they also said it was inhabited by strong nations and giants. Only Joshua and Caleb gave a good report and encouraged the people to enter and take possession of that land. That nation had been saved from slavery and the land of promise was before them but they wanted to return to slavery, instead.
What happened that day was the last straw. God told them that their corpses would fall in that wilderness (Numbers ). Not one of those of their numbered men would enter that land except for Joshua and Caleb. God’s army consisted of all men twenty years old and older who were able to go to war (Excepting the priestly tribe). Of God’s army, only Joshua and Caleb would enter that land because they had followed the LORD fully. God also told them that their children would enter.
In Deuteronomy, chapter 1, Moses recounts to the next generation what had happened. Forty years had passed and the rebels had all died in the wilderness. Moses repeated God’s promise of how none would enter except Joshua and Caleb and adds, “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it”.
Their little ones would enter that land because they had no knowledge of good or evil. They were under the age of accountability. Everyone in God’s army, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness.
That was their story. Now we will look at our story. Just as Moses was sent to bring God’s earthly chosen people out of bondage, Jesus has been sent to bring God’s spiritual chosen people out of spiritual bondage.
Just before he died Moses had foretold how, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15) Christ was the only prophet who would be like Moses in leading God’s people out of slavery. Christ told His people about that when He came.
In John, chapter 8, Jesus spoke to the Jews, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John ). He will then tell them, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”.
When Jesus said that all sinners were slaves of sin, He included all mankind. Every person on earth (Who has reached the age of accountability) is guilty of sin and is in bondage to sin. To be set free from slavery to sin, we must follow Jesus out of that slavery.
Just as they were led through the sea to that wilderness, we have been brought through the waters into our spiritual wilderness. We have not yet, however, received our land. We must follow Jesus through our wilderness to receive our land. Unlike that old army, God’s spiritual army includes both men and women, everyone who has been baptized into Christ (And made one with Him).
Just as with that old story, only those who follow the Lord fully will receive that land. They will receive it, along with the little ones who do not know good from evil. It sounds like God created that earthly story as a copy of our spiritual story.
We need to look at how God does His creation work. In the first verses of his gospel John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.
A few verses later he tells us how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ was the Word of God from the beginning and He is the creator of all things. When we read scriptures that tell us how God spoke the creation into existance we can now see how it happened through Christ, before He became flesh.
Paul spoke of the creation works of Christ in his Colossian letter. After writing that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”, he says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
If He has created all things, then nothing is excluded that has been created. If Christ’s creation works include rulers and thrones and authorities, then His creation work is still under way and it includes who is in power and over what. It includes every ruler since Adam and it included the Pharaoh that led his army into the sea in pursuit of God’s people.
When the scriptures speak of the creation works of Christ, we are seeing both the old creation and God’s new creation. His first creation was completed in the garden when He created man in the image of God. Scripture tells us that work was very good.
It was very good until man sinned and messed
it all up. From that time on, Christ has been working on God’s new
creation, a creation that will create man in the image of God by creating him
in the image of God’s Son. We have just seen where He is the image of the
invisible God, so if we are created in His image we will have been
created in the image of God.
If Jesus is placing all rulers and authorities into their positions of power does He direct the decisions they make? Remember how that old salvation story began? When Moses was sent to bring God’s people out of slavery God told him before-hand that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let His people go.
God caused that story to begin to happen the way it did when He caused Pharaoh's heart to be hard, which caused him to refuse to let God's people go free.
Paul spoke of that Pharaoh, saying, “the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH” (Romans 9:17).
Christ was the creator and He put Pharaoh into his position and then He make that old story begin to happen as it did when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He did it to demonstrate His power and that His name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. Wow! What does that mean?
Was the Creator causing an earthly copy to come about to show what was to come in the spiritual new covenant? Was it done to demonstrate Christ’s power to save in the gospel message?
Paul said that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) We have been commanded to proclaim that gospel message in the name of Jesus Christ to all nations.
It sounds like the creation works of Christ include his causing things to happen in this world so as to bring about true life stories. Is He really creating true life stories? Did He cause that old Hebrew story to happen as an earthly copy of our story for our instruction? That almost sounds like Christ speaking in parables except the story is true.
We heard Paul tell us how the scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH”? The next verse tells us that He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
This is the same chapter that speaks of the potter and the clay and of the potter making some vessels for honorable use and others of common use. Jesus is the creator so He is the potter and we are the clay. Paul asks the question, "Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?"
He has mercy on some and He hardens others, as He desires. That almost sounds like God decides what kind of vessel we will become and He creates our life story according to His will.
After Paul spoke of how God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires he addressed an obvious question. Paul will ask that question for us. He writes, “You will say to me then, Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” He also asks how we can answer back to God because the thing molded can not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?”
How can this the true when we know that God has given us free choice. How can it be our choice to believe and obey the gospel or reject it if God makes that decision for us? Do we have a choice or not?
Paul, you asked the question for us. Can you answer it for us? How can He find fault if He makes us into the vessel of His choosing?
Paul had already answered that question. We can see that if we back up just a few verses. Paul began to speak of how Christ does His creation work in our lives in the previous chapter (Chapter 8, of Romans). He will speak of how God causes things to happen in our lives but, remember, Christ is actually doing God's creation work.
God causes good things to happen if we
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
It sounds as if His new creation work includes having mercy on those who are to be created in the image of Christ Jesus and hardening the hearts of others. As Christ is doing His new creation work He is causing all things to work together for good in the lives of those who love Him so as to mould them into the image of Him-self. He is the potter working with the clay to make vessels of honor of those who make the choice to love Him.
That is how we have input into the kind of vessel that we will become. We must make the choice to love Him. For those who make that choice, He foreknew them and He predestined them to become children of God. The Potter will create them as vessels meant for glory.
Remember, God is not limited in time. He is in all time now and He was in all time in the beginning. The Psalmist (David) tells us about that when he says, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." (Psalms 139:16)
Every day of his life had been determined and recorded in God’s book before he was born. God knew him and recorded his life beforehand because God had foreseen him as a man after God's own heart.
Just as God foresaw every day of David’s life before he was born, He also foresaw every day of our life before we were born and based on what He foreknew about us, He predestined our future. The Potter knew what kind of vessel that He would create from the clay before He started His work.
When Paul said that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, he is speaking of a good spiritual story, not a good earthly story. Paul wrote this scripture and he did not have a good earthly story. He had a very bad earthly story but he had a good spiritual story. That is what God is promising to us.
We are involved in the creation of our life story when we pray for God to make things happen for us. When we pray and God answers our prayers, we have input in the creation of our life story. Paul says it will happen for those that God foreknew (As loving Him) and that have been predestined to become sons of God (The brethren of Jesus).
Did God hear our prayers before we were born and did He include His answers to our prayers in His plans for our life? We know that God hears our prayers before we pray from something else that David said in Psalms, chapter 139. David writes, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.” (Psalms 139:4)
Regarding God's promise of our being created in the image of His Son if we love Him, Jesus tells us who it is that loves God in John . He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”.
He makes sure we get the message when says it two more times in that chapter. He tells us, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me” (verses 23-24).
Having an abode with God is the covenant promise. Only those who choose to love the Lord with obedience to His word will have that heavenly home with Him. Only those who follow Him fully, like Joshua and Caleb will receive that land. The Father will love those who choose to love His Son and who show it with obedience and the Son will love those that the Father loves.
We heard Paul tell us how God will cause all things to work together for good in our lives if we love Him and then he later speaks of how the Potter is working with the clay to create vessels of His choosing. We said that shows how we have a choice of what we become by our making the choice to love God.
We can hear Paul confirm that to be true when he writes to Timothy and speaks of those who name the name of the Lord and how they are to abstain from wickedness. He then speaks of how there are vessels to honor and some vessels to dishonor in any large house. He says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21).
We are seeing the Potter's work and the vessels of honor and vessels for common use that Paul spoke of in Romans, chapter 9. Paul says that if anyone cleanses himself he will become a vessel of honor. We must make that choice for ourselves.
Remember, the promise has been made to those who love God and only those who obey Him really love Him. They are the ones who make the choice to obey Him and abstain from wickedness. God foresaw which ones would make that choice and He is helping them to overcome.
Just as Christ is creating our life story today, He created the events that brought into being the old covenant story. We saw how He caused that story to begin to come about like it did when He hardened Pharaoh's heart. When He hardened his heart that last time, God brought about the event that washed the Egyptian army away in the sea.
After the death of the
firstborn, the Egyptians let
Think about what God caused to happen in that
old story. If God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart that last time, God’s
people would have continued their journey without that
God caused the event to happen that destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the sea to create a parallel of our spiritual journey. When the Israelite nation went through the sea, their Egyptian slave-masters tried to overtake them to bring them back into slavery but they were washed away in the sea. Scripture says that not even one of them remained (Exodus ).
Was that not a copy of how we are brought out of slavery to sin? Were not our slave-masters (Our sins?) all washed away in the sea of baptism? When Paul was told to, "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts ), was that not foretold in the old earthly copy? Is Christ washing our sins away in the sea of baptism when we obey the gospel?
God tells us more about our salvation story in
that old earthly copy in what happened next.
After the Israelites saw what God had done, scripture records, “When
Notice, they were a nation of saved believers that had been saved from slavery. They have the promise of a land of milk and honey but they have not yet received that land. They have been saved out of slavery but they must travel through the wilderness to that land and be willing to fight for it. They will be required to faithfully follow the LORD and His servant, Moses, all the way there in order to receive the promise.
It will not happen for most of them. Most of them will be disobedient and rebellious and God will strike them down in that wilderness. They had believed in the LORD when they saw what happened to the Egyptians but their belief will become unbelief in the wilderness.
Did God really cause that old story to happen as a copy of what is taking place in our spiritual story? Did Christ make it happen for our instruction?
Paul is telling us that in his letter of 1 Corinthians, when he speaks of that old salvation story and says that what happened to them happened as examples for us. He tells us, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5).
After reminding them of that old covenant story and how those people had been brought through the sea and into the wilderness to be led to their land and how God struck them down because He was not pleased with them, he tells us, “Now these things happened as examples for us”.
Beginning in verse 11, he repeats that statement, saying, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall”.
Paul wrote exactly what the Spirit told him to write. We need to listen to what God is telling us in that old earthly story. What happened to that earthly nation, happened as our example and God had it recorded by Moses for our instruction. He says that we need to take heed lest we fall in our wilderness (This ungodly world) like they fell in their wilderness.
The Hebrew writer referred to that same story and he says the same thing about it that Paul said. He tells us (Chapter 3) how that nation could not enter their land of rest because of their hard hearts. He tells us, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS”.
He tells us to, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end”.
Are we hearing Christ speak to us? Do we really believe in Jesus? He is speaking through the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is telling us to look at that old story and get the message. He is telling us to look at their story and be careful not to let happen to us what happened to them. They had an evil unbelieving heart and they fell away.
Remember, they believed in the Lord when they came through the sea. They believed when they were just standing by and watching the Lord do His awesome work but when their journey became difficult, they fell away. We will have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast in our faith (“the beginning of our assurance”) firm until the end.
The Spirit is speaking and, in chapter 4 He tells us, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience”. He is giving us their example of disobedience and He says that we can fall if we follow their example.
That is the same thing that Paul said in 1
Corinthians, chapter 10. He said that
what happened to them happened as our example.
Paul is telling us what the Hebrew writer tells us. We must look
carefully at their example of disobedience and not be like them or we will
fall like they fell.
Just as they were a nation of saved believers (After their slave masters were washed away), we are also a nation of saved believers after we have been brought through the waters of baptism and our slave masters have been washed away. We must, however, be like Joshua and Caleb and be faithful until the end.
We must faithfully follow our LORD through our spiritual wilderness to receive our spiritual land. The others who will receive that land are the little ones who do not know good from evil. It appears that those little ones who will not have reached the age of accountability when they pass from this life will enter that land.
Christ caused that old story to come about as
it did for our instruction. He is speaking as if in an earthly parable
(But a true story) to us to let us know that, if we become unfaithful like that
old Hebrew nation, we will never reach our land. We need to hear Jesus and take heed
lest we fall.
If you have come through those waters but have been rebellious toward God, you need to repent or else your body will fall in this wilderness and you will not reach that land. If you have never left the land of slavery and your slave masters have not been washed away, you will die in that land of slavery.
Either way, if you are not following in our spiritual wilderness like Joshua and Caleb followed in that earthly wilderness, you need to look at that old story because the example tells us, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience”. The promise is only to those who choose to love God and that only includes those who choose to keep His commandments.
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