BIBLE STUDY SERIES: #4-5

24 November, 1991

THE PROMISES CONTINUE

by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In this series of talks, we are providing a brief outline of the Biblical promises given by The Almighty God to a specific chosen family of mankind and the historical verification of His faithfulness in their subsequent unfolding. It is through that specifically chosen line of mankind's descent, that of the ancient Patriarch Abraham, that this process is being carried out, and it is by this inter-action of God with mankind that God has moved to institute His plan to bring in His Kingdom upon the Earth.

The plan required a Saviour-Redeemer to accomplish what sinful mankind could not, and also a national setting within which the process of inter-action between God and mankind could be facilitated. God desired to build a kingdom and such a kingdom required not only a king, but also qualified citizens and a national structure which included a system of law.

Divine Laws are necessary, for nature is law-structured, and mankind must make choices consistent with those laws if he is to live free of disaster. In love, God had to provide His divine wisdom to His creatures, in order to allow them to live in agreement with the true circumstances, the reality, which surrounded them.

It was within God's Kingdom Nation, descended from Abraham, that God was to raise up prophets to whom He would impart His holy words of prophecy and of understanding, and to whom He would give His Laws. By obeying that law code, humanity would experience perfect freedom. Psalm 119:165 says "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." The marginal rendering of the phrase "nothing shall offend them", is "they shall have no stumblingblock."

The Creation involved a Creator, and man, the creature, must live at peace with both his God and his God-provided habitat. Law, given in love, is that means of instruction, required to adjust man's free-will choices to accord with that reality, that circumstance of all-prevailing truth.

On our last programme, we saw how Abraham and his beautiful wife, Sarah, had received the miracle of a promised child in their old age. This child, Isaac, was then made the focus of a great test of Abraham's faith when God required that he be offered as a burnt offering on the mount called Moriah. When the test had been successfully passed by the aged Abraham, and Isaac had been symbolically dedicated to God on that altar, at the last second the ram, caught by its horns in the nearby thicket had replaced Isaac on the altar as the actual sacrifice. By this test, God had, in fact, caused something of very great importance to be done, for in thus dedicating Isaac, Abraham had dedicated the whole race, the whole "seed" which was to spring from Isaac, as holy to The LORD. This included the line of descent to Jesus Christ who would become the full, final and sufficient sacrifice to substitute for all of sinful mankind who would be willing to partake of this offer of salvation by His substitutionary death on the Cross. Following Abraham's obedience God further re-inforced certain magnificent promises to him regarding his progeny.

We must not forget that Sarah was also a participant in the receiving of those promises. Centuries later, God speaks to the descendants of this couple in Isaiah 51:1-5, where He says:

1. Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
2. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
3. For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
4. Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
5. My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

We see here in the book of the Prophet Isaiah the word of God to those of Abraham's descendants who will, in time to come, be living in a location described as "the isles." These are addressed in terms which reveal to us that God regards them as "my people", a people who know the law of God and who "follow after righteousness" and who "seek the LORD." Further, they will be marked by this characteristic: They will be a people expressing great rejoicing and thanksgiving over their salvation through melody, that is to say, these are people whose religious services will be noteworthy for being filled with praise and thanksgiving to God through music.

The grand multiplicity of hymns and psalms produced among the Anglo-Celto-Saxon peoples gives witness to this characteristic as the Gospel has been carried throughout the world in song and hymn by these same descendants of Isaac's son Jacob whom God re-named Israel. For the Christian, I doubt that we could find more soul-satisfying music than, for example, that heard in the great Hallelujah Chorus of The 'Messiah' by George Friedrich Handel.

Curiously, however, these same people are evidently a people who must be instructed to look back into their past, to their forefather Abraham and to Sarah. Now why would God be concerned to tell these descendants to do this? They are, it seems, ignoring a vital aspect in all this worship and praise. They are not considering the vital link between themselves and their physical ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. In all their praise to Almighty God for His salvation, in all their acknowledgment of God as their God, they do not seem to realise that they are directly connected by lineal descent to the ancient patriarch! They are not, apparently, aware that there is even further truth for which they ought to offer praise to God.

Surely that further truth is that they ought to be giving glory to His name by recognising the fact that the LORD has fulfilled his pledges to Abraham regarding themselves. They are those same people who, in their very existence have become the fulfilment of the covenants we have begun to examine on this series of programmes. Their existence is the product of that covenant which God made to Abraham regarding the multiplicity and characteristics of the descendants whom God would bring of the loins of Abraham and Sarah!

Let us return to the Book of Genesis, to pick up that account. Genesis 24 gives us that beautiful and touching story of the manner in which the aged and concerned Abraham, after Sarah's death, sent his servant back to his own people in the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, to find a wife for Isaac. We should, if time permitted us, delight to trace the details of that wonderful God-guided intervention which brought Rebekah to give the drink of water to Abraham's servant and to his camels; that tiny act of kindness in an ancient land so long ago which changed the course of history and defined the Biblical stream of mankind for all time. Thus she distinguished herself as God's choice, and thus does God act in the lives of each of us if we are willing to accept His guidance.

However that will have to rest for another day, as our present study leads us towards the details of those covenanted promises of Almighty God to the line of patriarchs from whom we are derived. In Genesis 25:16, we are assured that God did manifest His power to do what He has promised in that Ishmael is attested in this passage to have fathered those promised twelve princes, according to their nations.

The next promise which God is recorded to have made comes, not to Isaac, but to Rebekah, Isaac's wife. Genesis 25:21-23 says:

21. And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
22. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.
23. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

Here we see that God is preparing a physical demonstration for what has been taken as a prophetic theme. What was the manner of that birth? Genesis 25:24-28 says:

24. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
26. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
27. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
28. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

The name "Jacob" is interpreted as "following after" or "supplanter." Strong's Concordance traces the name to a prime root and onward, making reference to the heel, and thus to tracking or following. In the Apocryphal Book of II Esdras, 6:9, and making reference to the manner by which Esau and Jacob were born, we read a passage which says: "For Esau is the end of the world, and Jacob is the beginning of it that followeth." Thus we see that a prophetic demonstration was signified in this manner of delivery of the twins.

Our time has gone for this week. We shall continue with our studies on our next programme.

1 December, 1991

THE PROMISES REPEATED

by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In this series of talks, we are examining the Biblical promises given by Almighty God to the specific chosen family of mankind which God covenanted to develop out of the loins of the ancient Patriarch, Abraham. The line of descent we are following is that which is traced through Abraham's son, Isaac, for, as God said in Genesis 17:19: "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him", and in Genesis 21:12, God confirms "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." It is through the out-working of these promises that we shall find the verification of God's faithfulness. This is seen in the subsequent unfolding of history. It is through that specifically chosen line of mankind's descent, that the work of the LORD is being carried forward.

The plan involves the establishment of God's Kingdom, here on the earth, for in The Lord's Prayer, He told His disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven... ." This is a plan which provides for the Salvation of mankind through the voluntary sacrifice made by Jesus Christ our Great High Priest, on Calvary. Christ has promised to return again to be the King of that kingdom, and thus the great plan requires that God bring in His Kingdom upon the Earth.

We had seen the various covenanted promises by which, among other things, Almighty God promised that Abraham's seed would be countless as the stars and as the sand of the sea shore in number, and be granted ownership of the Holy Land.

To Isaac and Rebekah twins had been born, named Esau and Jacob, and these had struggeled for mastery, even in the womb. Making reference to this separation of two manner of peoples, St. Paul says in Romans 9:13 "As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated." We shall see as we trace the history of these two streams diverging from this family, that God has made certain promises to Jacob.

The Biblical record continues the story of these two brothers in Genesis 25:29-34, wherein Esau, returning faint from the hunt finds Jacob preparing some pottage, and, dismissing his birthright as a thing of no particular value, sells it to Jacob for food and drink. God did not so regard the transaction, as we shall see.

However we should not move ahead of ourselves. In the next chapter, Isaac himself received confirmation of the great theme covenant, made with his father. In Genesis 26:3-6, at a time of famine, God says to Isaac:

3. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
4. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
5. Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws.
6. And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

Those promises simply confirm what we have previously found. They do, however, have a purpose. First, this shows that God was, indeed, moving to channel the Abrahamic covenant onto one line of Abraham's descendants, as He promised. We shall observe this repeated as we come to the matter of the two sons of Isaac. Also, we might note that this accords with the law of witness which establishes a matter by repetition at the mouth of more than one witness (Deuteronomy 19:15), for God's word to Abraham is here repeated to Isaac, being thus a second witness. Another confirmation is given by God in Genesis 26:24.

There follows the experience of Isaac and his wife which parallels the experience of Abraham and Sarah. In Egypt, Pharaoh had desired to have the extremely beautiful Sarah as Genesis 12:13 shows us. In Genesis 20:2 Abimelech, King of Gerar, also had desired this extremely beautiful woman. In both instances the extremely fair beauty of Sarah caused Abraham to call Sarah his sister for fear he would be killed, and she taken.

Now another daughter of the same close-knit family is desired for her fair beauty by Abimelech, king of the Philistines, and Isaac, perhaps mindful of his father's stratagem, calls Rebekah his sister in Genesis 26:7, which leads to a somewhat similar outcome. Abimelech, the King, is displeased when the matter is revealed. Probably Abraham and Isaac, being of this same closely knit tribal strain and genetically related, would also be of very fair countenance. Esau is called Edom or "red" because he bought red pottage, as Genesis 25:30 shows, not necessarily because of his red hairy appearance at birth.

The women of this family must have been of quite distinctly beautiful appearance and as we shall see, the line of descent which God continues to bless is that which does not intermarry with other peoples and tribes. Rather, they very clearly sought to maintain their tribal distinctiveness in choosing mates. Jacob later follows the same pattern by returning to the tribe of his mother for a mate, while Esau, marrying Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 26:34-35) displeases his parents and is set aside from the genetic line which God preserves for His purposes. In the next generation, Jacob's only daughter, the beautiful Dinah, will be desired and taken by a neighbouring prince, bringing down a fearful vengeance upon his city.

God certainly blessed these unions among closely related members of this one tribe, as we see, and He continued to do so in the later marriages of Jacob and his descendants throughout the tribal history of the Old Testament. Where outsiders are drawn into the main stream the infusions generally caused disruption and disturbance among the people of God, as with the multiple marriages which Solomon made with what the Bible calls "many strange women" (I Kings 11:1). Perhaps we might find a lesson for our own times in there somewhere.

But we must return to our main theme. The well known story follows in Genesis 27, in which Rebekah, hearing that Isaac intends to pass God's blessing to Esau, and remembering what the Lord had said to her at the birth of the twins, commands Jacob to feign himself to be his brother, and thus obtain the blessing while Esau is absent.

Rebekah and Jacob are often described in a very poor light over this matter, but we ought to remember that Isaac was in all probability well aware of the LORD's words to his wife, recorded in Genesis 25:23, wherein God had said: "the elder shall serve the younger." And let us not forget those fate-filled words of God recorded by St. Paul, "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated." It is very plain that Isaac had every intention of allowing his favouritism towards Esau to over-ride that pronouncement, as the words of his blessing show.

Isaac's blindness must have become an increasing problem for him as the years passed, and perhaps, as it might happen with any one of us, he wondered why God was allowing it to happen. It seems, however, that there was a very necessary purpose in it. The purposes of God would have been diverted and thwarted by Isaac, had his sight remained. Rebekah makes the required meal of savoury meat for Jacob to present to Isaac, and dresses Jacob in the skins of the two kids and some of Esau's raiment to fool Isaac in his blindness. But for her part in this important subterfuge, Rebekah must afterwards see her son depart from her. She is destined never again to see her favourite son, Jacob, to the day of her death.

What are those fateful blessings which Isaac was to pass to his son Jacob who was wearing the hairy skin of the kids and Esau's raiment? Let us read them in Genesis 27:26-29:

26. And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
27. And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:
28. Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
29. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

Upon discovery of this substitution, Isaac can only give paltry blessings to Esau. These are: "Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." It has been said that whereas Jacob feigned himself to be Esau to gain God's blessings, Esau now feigns himself to be Jacob to retrieve them! Time will tell!

Those blessings must be seen to appear in connection with God's chosen people, the descendants of Israel at some point prior to the Second Advent. We of the British-Israel-World Federation see the basically Anglo-Celto-Saxon peoples of the British Isles, the related peoples of Europe, and their widely scattered descendants in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and other kindred related countries of the world as the descendants of Israel in the modern world for a variety of reasons. One is the fulfilment of God's blessings we have just been reviewing, which were passed down by the Patriarchs to these descendants.

As our time has gone we shall have to leave further considerations until next week.

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