Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The Covenant to Isaac - Lent Mid-week 3 - February 27, 2013 - Text: Gen. 26:1-5
Our text for this evening is Genesis 26:1-5: “1Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” This is our text.
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. Last week we continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. This week we move ahead to God’s reiterating His promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac.
As we said, God chose Abram and changed his name to Abraham. God chose Abram, not because of any innate goodness within him, but simply because God chose him. By God’s grace He chose Abram. Out of all the people in the world, God chose Abram. And remember, Abram was not a perfect person. He had his flaws, even suffering from the sin of idolatry as he had to put away his own household idols. But God chose him and called him to be the one through whom He would keep His promise of sending a Messiah.
God chose Abram and promised him that He would make his name great, he would be a great nation and all nations of the world would be blessed through him, through the fact that the Savior of the world would be born through his line of descendants. It took God many years to begin to fulfill His promise, especially of children, Abraham and Sarah did have a child, Isaac. And even though after Sarah died and Abraham remarried and even though he had other children, Isaac was considered his only son.
Abraham’s son Isaac was the son of the covenant. You might recall, that when God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, that God called him his only son, even though Ishamel was already born. God chose Abraham and God chose Isaac to be the one’s through whom He would keep His promise of sending a Messiah.
After Abraham had passed away, God reiterated His promise to Isaac. “1Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2And the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws’” (Gen. 26:1-5).
Let me point out, again, the parts of the threefold promise that God made to Abraham and reiterated to Isaac. First, He promised Abraham and now Isaac that He would give them the land, that is the promised land, the land that would, at least for a while, be known as Israel.
Second, God reiterated the promise He made to Abraham and now to Isaac that He would multiply his offspring. In other words, from Isaac, the son of Abraham, a great nation of people would come. Here again, this nation was and is the nation of Israel. And even though Israel had a rough history, a history that included idolatry and all forms of disobedience and even though the family of Israel had been divided into the tribes of Judah and the tribes of Israel, they were and are a great number of people. But, I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that this great nation was simply a great nation by genetics. I have to mention this because God’s promise of a great nation was never simply a promise of a great physical nation, but always was in reference to an eternal, spiritual promise. We know this fact to be true, because Jesus reminds us that God can raise up children of Abraham from stones. The true nation of Israel is not the physical nation we know of today, but is the nation of all believers in Jesus. So, even if one is genetically a child of Abraham, unless s/he believes in Jesus, s/he is not a part of the true Israel.
Finally, the third part of the promise was that through your offspring all nations of the earth will be blessed. In other words, this was a reiteration of the promise of the Messiah being born through the line of Abraham and now Isaac. All nations, all people, past, present and future would be blessed with forgiveness earned by the Savior, born through the family line of Abraham, Isaac, and later Israel.
So, lest we get confused and begin to think there was more than one covenant, let us review what we have been hearing and seeing so far. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God stepped in and promised that He would take care of their sin, that He would send a Savior for all people, all nations. This first covenant was given in Eden, to Adam and Eve, before there were any other nations or cultures on the earth, before there was a Jew and a Gentile.
After a while, after the earth began to be populated, after the tower of Babel and the nations and cultures were scattered throughout the earth, God remembered His promise. So, God chose Abram, whose name He changed to Abraham and reiterated and narrowed the covenant He had made with Adam and Eve. God remembered His promise and would keep His promise and He would keep that promise by sending the Savior of all nations, of all peoples, of the world, through the line of Abraham.
And now, this evening we are reminded that God continued to remember and reiterate His one covenant as He now promises Isaac, that the line of the Messiah would also be through his family. Notice, not a new covenant, but a reiteration and a narrowing of the fulfillment of the one and only one covenant.
Again, I want to make sure we get this right, so here are the covenant facts, if you will. First, there was and is only one covenant. God did not give two covenants, one for Israel and one for the rest of the world. God gave one covenant.
The one covenant God gave was a covenant for all people, of all places, of all time. His covenant was first given to Adam and Eve, before there were all the nations and cultures we have today. The covenant was reiterated and its fulfillment narrowed through the line of Abraham.
Jesus came and fulfilled the covenant so that those who reject Jesus also reject the covenant. In other words, even if a person is born of the physical, genetic line of descent from Abraham, if that person rejects Jesus, that person is no longer considered a child of the covenant. God’s covenant is a covenant of grace, not genetics. It is by grace that we enjoy forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Again, by faith in Jesus, faith given to us, we are children of Abraham, not by birth, not by genetics or DNA, but by grace. All nations are saved, are children of Abraham, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus alone. All people who reject Jesus, reject His covenant and reject forgiveness and life.
Thus, we are the new Israel. We are the heavenly and eternal Israel. The property over in the Middle East has nothing to do with the property of heaven. Being born of a certain genetic, DNA line means nothing. Being born again of water and God’s name means being born into the eternal family of heaven.
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we will ultimately be given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.