dispensationalism hermeneutics history

Keeping Promises To Abraham In The OT

Look, I don’t plan to go into explicit detail on this post; there’s just too much: at least fifteen posts worth (that I really don’t want to write). I just want to paint in with broad strokes the way God’s Covenant to Abraham works out historically approaching the Incarnation. I’ll introduce some of these broad strokes with how it ties to a promise and from there give some general information on the connection. On some of these sections I might use the word “blossom” and I would want you to take notice of that since it directly correlates with a point I will make in a later post. So, for a moment, hold up the palette of covenantal colors that God used in Genesis 12-17 and prepare to paint a vibrant picture of God’s word caused to stand:

Ishmael (Gen 16, 21; Gen 37:25-28; 1 Chr 1:28-31)
The Promise: Abraham’s descendants would be blessed. Ishmael is not to be the means of implementing God’s promises, but he is blessed from his attachment to Abraham; Ishmael would be made fruitful, father of a nation, be blessed. Even though Ishmael gets kicked out of the house, God tells Hagar (twice) that her son will have a future history (Gen 16:11-12; Gen 21:18) and goes about recording his successful beginnings by saying He was with him (Gen 21:20). Indeed, he’s called the father of twelve kings, a fact which the Chronicler goes on to record (1 Chr 1:28-31).

Isaac (Gen 24-26)
The Promise: Abraham’s descendants would be blessed; those who curse Abraham would be cursed. Isaac, directly being the Son of Promise reveals a blossoming of the promises of God that it is not to be fulfilled only in physical terms but directly correlated to the establishing word and power of God. God’s covenants would come through direct ancestry and by miraculous orchestration of events and circumstances. Isaac’s wife is taken by Abimelech (mentioned in another post) and Abimelech winds up cursed. Isaac lives in the land most of his life not as a sojourner but as one awaiting the promises of God.

Joseph (Gen 37, 39-45)
The Promise: The Nations would be blessed through Abraham, Abraham’s descendants would be great, Abraham would be a blessing. Joseph’s story is directly connected to Jacob’s story for it is the means that God uses to bring about God’s promises to Abraham in light of the  nations. Joseph, rejected by the sons of Jacob (and sold into the hands of the Sons of Abraham via Ishmael), winds up being the savior of the nations and the savior of the sons of Jacob on account of his position and familial relationship. God plans it that way, a fact that Joseph brings up, while becoming what Noah was to all of creation.

Esau (Gen 28, 33; Num 20; Jud 11; 2 Kings 8; 1 Chron 18:13; 2 Chr 21:10; Jer 49; Oba 1, Mal 1 Luke 23)
The Promise: those who curse the Sons of Abraham would be cursed. This one is interesting. The promise was made that the Elder would serve the Younger, that Esau would bow down to Jacob and yet in Jacob’s lifetime Esau never bowed down to Jacob: indeed, Jacob bows down to Esau! The one time in the history of Edom that there was any bowing down was when the Edomites were made subject to David—but that didn’t last long. Some years later, Jesus would stand before a Son of Esau (Herod the Idumean), reigning in Israel (of all places!) demanding that the Jesus perform tricks. Jesus didn’t respond for the Lord had already spoken to Edom as we recall the many prophecies regarding Edom, how he would be wiped away, how he would be subject to the Younger. Edom as a whole suffers the curse of God while Esau remains quite fine with Jacob.

Jacob/Israel (Gen 27 – 50)
The Promise: The Nations would be blessed through Abraham, the descendants of Abraham would be great. The promises of God are established through Jacob, and yet Jacob’s life is an interplay of cursing that is actually blessing. He cheats his brother out of his inheritance and has to run from the land he was promised, yet he returns richer than before. He gets a bum deal with a wife but that deal winds up being the means God uses to bring to fruition the covenant to Abraham. He has a couple of sons through his favorite wife and winds up  losing Joseph, fully expects to lose Benjamin, and if Joseph wasn’t really Joseph and some random angry Pharaoh assistant, he would have lost Judah too. But in the end he winds up with an even bigger family, being the means of blessing for the nations, being a blessing to all his children, and personally blessing a gentile ruler. Even his son Judah winds up being one to whom the scepter properly belongs, taking a child under his wings (His and Tamar’s) and standing in Benjamin’s place.

The Sons of Israel in Egypt (Exo 1 – 12)
The Promise: Those who curse Abraham would be cursed. Joseph is forgotten, so Exodus says, and the children of Israel are oppressed as they curse the Israelites with slavery. God rescues them performing wonders that are greater than those that were performed with another Pharaoh, two Abimelechs, and one Laben. They are rescued with miraculous signs, God’s provision of salvation, and even rescued through the waters of the Red Sea. The promises to Abraham seemed to blossom before their eyes as they stand at the foot of Sinai and are told that they will find blessing in the Land as long as they keep the covenant to be a kingdom of priests, but would be cursed in the Land if they abused the covenant at Sinai.

The Sons of Israel in the Wilderness (Leviticus; Deuteronomy; Numbers)
The Promise: Those who curse Abraham would be cursed; the seed of Abraham would multiply; they would inherit the Land that God showed to Abraham. The Seed of Abraham are tested in the wilderness but are also oppressed. Edom refuses to let them through and they are cursed. Moab winds up being cursed. Canaan is allowed to momentarily defeat the Israelites as chastisement, but the people of Abraham’s loin are not cut off. For a moment, God says he plans to restart the promises of Abraham by establishing His covenant with Moses—to which Moses refuses saying he would rather die with the rest of the Sons of Israel. In the end, the first generation dies out and it is the second generation that makes it into the land, covenanting with each other to ensure that the Land is conquered.

The Sons of Israel in Canaan (Joshua; Judges; 1 Sam)
The Promise: Those who curse Abraham would be cursed; the descendants would inherit a Land. The Children of Israel are often victorious as they fight in the land. They find curses when they actively reject the covenant they have entered into in Sinai. Joshua ends stating that all the promises to the Forefathers were fulfilled and yet, we see that the entire land is not conquered (Joshua 21:45). What the writer is saying is that every single one of the promises God made was blossoming before his eyes, a sentiment which is repeated (Jos 23:14). And yet in the book of Judges we see the Israelites suffering under the oppression they’ve faced in the past. They wind up oppressed by the Gentiles/Canaanites (Judges 4, 5), the Moabites (Judges 2), the Midianites (Judges 7) and even each other. It’s a pitiful time where they are given over to idolatry—yet their enemies are still repeatedly cursed.

The Nation Receives A King (Gen 38; Ruth; 2 Sam 7; Psalm 2; Psalm 89)
The Promise: The nation would be a Kingdom; the descendants would be a blessing to the nations; those who curse Abraham would be cursed. The nation eventually asks for their own King, ahead of time, which God provides and uses to castigate the people but eventually the promises to Abraham blossom to reveal that a King was part of the plan and David’s house is established carrying forth the Covenant to Abraham. David, surprised, realizes the breadth of this thing where God does better than men while submitting to promises and keeping them in such an extravagantly gracious way.

The Nation is Sacked (Esther; Daniel):
The Promise: The descendants will inherit the Land; God will bless them; God will curse those who curse them; they will be a blessing to the nations. The nation, repeatedly standing in opposition against God’s covenant at Sinai finds the curses in the Land increasing as they curse the Land by refusing to give it it’s Sabbath rest. The Land is eventually sacked first by the Assyrians (in the North) then the Babylonians (in the South) but even while out of their land, Jews (like Daniel or Esther) wind up being a blessing to those around them, being a means of salvation and blessing for their people and holding onto the promises of God to return to the Land. Daniel is so confident about the thing that he reads the prophecies of Jeremiah, does the math (talk about being literal!) and realizes that he should be praying harder. God indeed confirms his prayers and tells him that for now he will “go to sleep” but one day he will come back to his plot—his inheritance.

A New Covenant Promised (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, Joel, Ezekiel):
The Promise: The promise to Abraham is an eternal covenant; Abraham will be a blessing to the nations. God tells the Israelites that he will make a new covenant which is not like the covenant that was made at Sinai. The problem with Sinai is that it demanded a lot of action by the recipients to secure the benefits of the covenant—a problem that was not inherent in the promise to Abraham. This Covenant blossoms out from Abraham’s covenant pulling in elements from the Mosaic Covenant in such a way that God personally does the work in the people. The Nations find blessing via Israel, the Spirit of God is poured out because of Israel, the bones are given new life because of God’s outpoured spirit, Israel no longer has to tell her neighbors “Know the Lord” because all will know the Lord, all will have God’s mandates written on their heart because they are empowered by God, and they will find blessing in the land as they offer up their sacrifices in thanksgiving and appreciation in such a way that has never been done before. We discover that this Covenant, tied to the Spirit of God, is tied to the Day of the Lord, tied to the Last Days, tied to the revelation of a prophet-priest and to a king-priest who is the Son of David.

It’s plain as day; the concluding observations are unnecessary. Although God would cast away the Sons of Israel as an adulterous wife (on account of transgressing her covenant with God at Sinai), they still are regarded as his wife on account of the Covenant with Abraham.

I don’t normally do this at the end of a blog post, but I can’t help it: oh the wonder of it! The incalculable riches and wisdom and mercy and love of God! The God who would do above and beyond what any man would expect but gets down at the level of men, not only to make promises but to ensure that those promises come to be by ensuring he keeps to them in time!

This tells me that God has kept his promises to His elect (Isaiah 45:4) and will keep His promises, to the uttermost! That although people (in this case, the Israelites) have seriously screwed up, that God in His goodness and mercy and condescension remains faithful. If they’ve been slaughtered, they haven’t been wiped out; if they were made captives, they haven’t disappeared; if they were punished, it wasn’t to wipe them out; if they have stumbled, it wasn’t to fall. God made promises to Abraham and he has kept them and, if past activity is any measure of activity, he will continue to keep them.

Thank you blessed God for when you speak to me for salvation, you speak clearly and honestly: me, a sinner, that by believing on you and the One whom you have sent I am given eternal life, am seated in heavenly places, will reign with your Son for all eternity, and will be an administrator of some sort—I know that you mean it and am astounded! You have spoken clearly to the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you have continued to keep your promises to them with their children! Thank you God because it’s not by my steam, or my strength but by your word that your promises stand! Thank you Lord! Thank you, O’ God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—and now Rey! Thank you!

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