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November 5, 2020 12:01 am
Some people have lost hope in Christ's promises because they were spoken 2,000 years ago. Today, R.C. Sproul reminds us of another promise of God that found its fulfillment two millennia later.
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God made a covenant with Abraham, a promise that is being fulfilled. Even today, God is not simply bless him as an individual for his own benefit, but Abraham is blessed so that he might be a vehicle of blessing to manifest multitudes of people who come after him promised three things to a land that he would receive land that he would have innumerable descendents, and that through him all of the nations would be blessed. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday it would take 2000 years to understand what that third promise really meant.
But as Dr. RC Sproul shows us today, God is always true to his word and never linked I think were living in a very interesting time. It's a time of crisis were in a period of history that is somewhat unusual where were in that time were making a transition not only from year to year or even in terms of the turn of the century, but rather the time of the turn of the millennium, and of course any time you have the transition from millennium to millennium all of the historians of the sociologist of the prognosticators of the future. Talk about the significance of this moment in history. Well historians of our day had described our time as the post Christian era of time where the teaching of Christianity has been deemed increasingly irrelevant.
A time when the church is seen as a museum, outdated, outmoded, it's been reduced in certain places of Europe to the role of the mausoleum.
Indeed, the gravesite for those who have declared the death of God and yet there remains in this world today a pulsating group of believing Christian people who still live at this point in time, trusting in promises that were made to thousand years ago 2000 years is a long time and there's some irony in this and that we are at that point now where just about 2000 years have elapsed since the birth of Jesus, but on the occasion of the birth of Jesus. As you recall, the angel Gabriel came to this young girl and announced that she would give birth to a baby whose name would be a manual in this young maiden under the influence of the Holy Spirit 2000 years ago sang a song we all know the song we love the song. It's called the Magnificat in which Mary under the power of the spirit sang out my soul doth magnify the Lord in my spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior.
And if we look through the text of the Magnificat and come to the very end of that song. Here are the words that came from Mary.
She said he has helped his servant Israel as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever now.
Shortly after this song of praise inspired by the Holy Spirit from the lips of Mary. Another song appears in Scripture and this is the song that is sung by the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias, and in the midst of his song.
He said this, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.
The oath which he swore to our father Abraham.
Now here's the irony.
We are standing on the threshold of a change of a millennium where standing in that point in history being 2000 years distantly removed from the promises of Christ and some people are having a hard time believing them because so much time has elapsed. So much time and yet Mary and Zacharias. Ironically, were in virtually the same situation because they were looking back to millennia. They were looking back for 2000 years and blessing God for remembering a promise that he had made to somebody else. 2000 years before they lift. And so in a very real sense, Mary and Zacharias represent a similar situation to what we are facing today and both of these people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit celebrated that God remembered something. God remembered his promise.
He remembered a promise that was a promise to give mercy and of course that promise was the promise that he had made 2000 years earlier to the patriarch Abraham, but we've already said that the Old Testament in a certain sense is the autobiography of God that his chief character is God the father, as his character is revealed in every word that is spoken in the Old Testament text every deed that is recorded every relationship that is remembered from a human perspective from the plane of human history we could come at it in a different way we could say well the whole record of the Old Testament is a history of the descendents of Adam and Eve, but of course all history is a history of the descendents of Adam and Eve because they're the parents of all people who have ever lived in a more narrow and specialized sense the whole scope of Old Testament history is the history chiefly of the descendents of one man. In fact, if it were soap opera the day would probably be called something like this one man's family and the man whose family history is recorded throughout the Old Testament literature is Abraham.
Of course, one of the points of crisis in our time, where the spirit of skepticism that the éclairs that were living in the post-Christian era is manifested is in this skeptical attitude towards the historical reliability of the Old Testament, and particularly the earlier chapters of the Old Testament and in the corridors of biblical scholars and those who indulge in what's called higher criticism. There has been in the last hundred and 50 years. A massive attack against the historical character of Abraham.
Abraham has been regarded as a mythological character merely a legend whose life gives us some kind of parabolic lesson but apart from the moral lessons that we can learn from this saga.
There is no real historical substance to it and of course in the 19th century.
These assumptions were considered to be assured results of scholarly research, but something has happened many things have happened in the in the 20th century to bring a dramatic change to that spirit of skepticism.
The late William Foxwell Albright before he died, made us sharp rebuke of biblical scholars for ignoring the hard evidence of archaeological research and allowing philosophical speculation to bring an undue spirit of cynicism and skepticism to the Old Testament text at the heart of this is the story of Abraham illicitly mentioned in passing a few things that have happened in the 20th century were very important to our understanding of Old Testament history in 1929. There was a discovery in Ross from raw that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that writing had been developed as early as the second millennium BC in the Middle East because the skeptics of the 19th century said there wasn't even any writing in the world at this time and that the record of Abraham must've come significantly later because writing hadn't even been developed in this part of the world.
In 1935 the Mari tablets were discovered which indicated our historical record of customs and behavioral patterns that exactly mirrored and duplicated the customs that are recorded in the account of the life of Abraham. Also in the 30s. Another dramatic discovery was made with the new zoo tablets which did the same thing, gave us a wealth of information of Old Testament times and showed a correspondence of customs and behavioral patterns, legal documents, that sort of thing and then more recently, the E block discovery which there demonstrates the existence of cities peoples, even names that occur in the Bible, all of which has demonstrated that it seems like every time an archaeologist turns over us shovel full of dirt. Another aspect of this record is verified for its authenticity.
So what were going to say here at the beginning is that when we look at the story of Abraham. We ought not to look at the story of Abraham as an exercise in mythology, but rather as an announcement that comes to us in the sacred Scriptures of something that takes place in real history in real space in real time were a real God calls a real individual out of a land of paganism speaks to him, consecrate him, and makes a promise to him the changes the entire course of history. Let's look at that record as we find it in the 12th chapter of the book of Genesis we read the very beginning of chapter 12 of Genesis. This account now the Lord had said to Abram, get out of your country from your family and from your father's house to a land that I will show you and I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing and I will bless those who bless you some of you will remember the Old Testament survey that was produced by some Lutherans called the Bethel Bible series and that particular introductory survey of the Old Testament uses interesting graphics with each segment of the period that is being studied and the way in which this segment of the life of Abraham is captioned is by the words blessed to be a blessing and I thought that was a marvelous method of succinctly and personally capturing the very essence of what is going on here in terms of the historical significance of this man, Abraham, God is not simply bless him as an individual for his own benefit, but Abraham is blessed so that he might be a vehicle of blessing to manifest multitudes of people who come after him. He was blessed to be a blessing and that motif is carried on throughout the whole Old Testament.
And even into the New Testament. When God blesses us. He blesses us that we might become a blessing to those who are around us, but if we look now at the elements of this promise.
We see first of all, that what is going on here is the making of a covenant, a covenant that is announced here in chapter 12 and ratified in an amazing way in chapter 15 of Genesis that I commend you to study carefully because they're in chapter 15 of Genesis, God answers the questions of Abraham.
When Abraham said how will I know that these promises that you're making to me will come to pass, and God in the context of that chapter seals his promise with an oath and in that oath. God is saying to Abraham. Abraham, if I don't keep every word that I have promised to you. May I be cut asunder that God backs up his promise by swearing not by his mother's grave. He has no mother, not by the earth.
That's his own footstool whereby the heavens, his dwelling place, but rather God swears by his own holy character and his own divine nature. Now, again, one of the terms of this covenant promise that God makes to Abraham and how does a impact the rest of biblical history and how are they relevant to us and what is it about them that would cause Mary to sing the Magnificat and Zacharias's song will if you notice what I read here. There are three elements to this promise. The first one is, there is the promise of land. God says Abraham. Abraham I want you in your old age to get up from your father's land from all of the familiar surroundings that you have and I want you to move and I'm going to take you to a land we don't know where you're going and you're not going to know where you're going until you get there and I am going to give this land to you. So the first promise has to do with land and will talk about that more and the second the second is I will make you the father of a great nation, and later on that is spelled out more specifically when God says to Abraham look at the midnight sky and if you can try to number the stars that are in the sky view ever been out of the clear night in the summer and gazed toward the heaven poured the Milky Way and on a clear night.
The Milky Way appears as a dense cloud in the sky but it's not a cloud. It appears as a dense cloud because it is made up of millions and billions of individual stars and God said to Abraham look at that night sky count the stars and their egos.
23 professors. He could've stood there from the day God asked him to count the stars to today and he would still be counting if he were counting as fast as he possibly could and then he took him to the seashore. And he said look at the grains of sand along the shore and count them, number them if you can, because so will be the number of your descendents of this is a man who had just God said to him, Abraham, I am your great reward. What reward do I have when I'm childless and my air is my servant Eliezer of Damascus. I'm too old. My wife is too old to have any children.
God said not only going to have descendents but they're going to be like the stars of the sky and the sand by the sea. You were going to be the father of a multitude of people. So we have the second part is the promise of descendents and thirdly is the promise that through Abraham and his seed, a blessing will come upon the nation's that through this action.
The whole world will receive a magnificent blessing. So herein are the three aspects of this covenant promise that God makes to Abraham know what really happens. If we look through the rest of the.
And we look to the rest of the history of these promises how much land that Abraham own and possess the only parcel of real estate. He lived to possess was Machpelah which was his burial site that was the extent of his ownership and what about his descendents will we know the story of how God promised to bless him, make him the father of a great nation and so he expected to have a son but no son was given and even when the promise was given to Abraham in his old age, one year passes to year passes five year past years upon years passed and his wife is still barren and following a custom that is incidentally demonstrated to be part of the ancient ritual through these tablet discoveries that I mentioned earlier in the 20th century. His wife Sarah gave her servant slave to Abraham that she might be a surrogate mother so that the promise of God would be fulfilled and so Abraham unites with Hagar and they have a baby and his name is Ishmael and now Abraham says son and the promises of God can now take place and maybe I will have descendents like the stars and legacy. But the promise of God was not through issue. It was through Isaac that the seed of Abraham was to be fulfilled. Abraham tried to make it happen in an artificial way. But it's not what God had in mind. Until then God supernaturally works to make the womb of Sarah fertile and the true son of Abram and Sarah is born in his name as we know is called Isaac, which in Hebrew means laughter because when Abraham told his wife that she was going to have a baby. According the promise of God. She thought that was the funniest thing she ever hurt. She does report say that we have a baby or cause name laughter and then Isaac is born, but he did realize what happened with the promise of land. Abraham waited and waited and waited and he was put to the test. Time and again to trust the truthfulness of that divine promise as I said he never inherited the promise of land other than his gray now as he rejoices in the birth of Isaac, God comes to them and puts them to the supreme test in Genesis 22 when he says to Abraham. Now take your son, your only son, the son, whom thou love us. Isaac and go to Mount Moriah, and their give him to me sacrifice him to me killed and the supreme test came upon Abraham when he made that dreadful journey to Mount Moriah, which tradition says is located on the exact spot that later in history is called Mount Calvary were God took his son, his own Lisa, the son, whom he loved Jesus and went through with the sacrifice and took his life as a substitute for us and for Isaac because Abraham passed the test and Isaac was spared so that Isaac could have a son and that Isaac son could have a son. And so, through this descendents. See the promises of the covenant would come to pass. And through this heritage through this line is the apostle Paul said through the seed of Abraham.
All of the nations of the world are now given the benefits of exposure of the work of Christ. Abraham's greatest son, but this was not without testing and the point is, it didn't take place immediately. That blessing that was promised to Abraham had to take 2000 years before it was realized until this little girl heard the announcement of Gabriel and she is saying he remember he remembered the mercy he remembered the promise that he gave to Abraham and is the spirit announced to Zacharias that his son would be the forerunner, the herald of the coming Messiah under the same Holy Spirit, Zachariah said he remember and the whole history of redemption is the working of that event for the housing years. God always keeps his promises may not be in our preferred timing, but as people of faith, we know that he's trustworthy.
Dr. RC Sproul has been our teacher today on Renewing Your Mind this week were listening to the opening lessons of RC's biblical overview of series we call dust to glory in 57 messages. He helps us see how the Old Testament relates to the new E helps us that really connect the dots of Scripture.
It's a great place to start for anyone new to the faith or a helpful refresher course will be happy to send you the special edition DVD set of dust to glory. That's eight DVDs plus a bonus disc containing the study guides for each lesson. This request them when you give a donation of any about follicular ministries. You can find us online at Renewing Your Mind.Ward or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343, more than ever we need to be equipped to answer questions about what we believe and why we believe it MS were asked Ligon here comes in. Maybe you've come across a passage of Scripture. And you're not quite sure what it means.
You can reach one of my Ligon your colleagues who is well-versed in theology and in what the Bible teaches 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday and you can reach email@example.com will tomorrow. RC addresses of vital aspect of Abraham's blessing when Abraham was giving his inheritance to his descendents, they had to be concerned about how many pens they got and how many cattle they God of all the rest of that thing. But the chief importance of Abraham's inheritance. In the book of Genesis is the question. Parents is Friday here on Renewing Your Mind