In Genesis chapter 49, Jacob gives his final blessings to his sons. When he comes to the fourth son, the blessing is significant. And then we jump ahead to the dawning of the New Testament. The shepherds of Bethlehem and whatever animals were present that holy night gazed upon the Lion of Judah, the promised newborn king.
Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul shows how the promised blessings of the Gospel were passed down and fulfilled in that lowly babe in the manger. As we continue in our preparation for Advent, we are looking at the promises of the Gospel that we find in the Old Testament. We've seen already the first Gospel, the proto-Evangel, the promise that God made to Adam and Eve of the future seed, the future descendant that would come and crush the head of Satan. We have also seen the promises that God made to Abraham after He called Abraham out of a pagan land and promised him that he would be the father of a great nation and that through him all of the nations of the world would be blessed. And we have seen how God confirmed that promise to Abraham through a ritual by which God made the promise and swore by Himself that He would never break that promise. Now when we look at the Old Testament, we speak of these promises that are contained in the form of a covenant, a contract, a promissory agreement that God makes with Abraham and his descendants. We see this structure of the covenant blessing passed on from generation to generation. And sometimes we call that covenant that is passed on from generation to generation the patriarchal blessing of the Old Testament. Now what's a patriarch? A patriarch is a venerable male who is the head of his house or of his tribe or of his clan. He is the father.
The mother of such a group is called the matriarch. But now we're dealing with the patriarchal blessing that is given to Abraham. And when Abraham grows old, what does he do? He transfers that promise to his son Isaac. And so this covenant promise, this patriarchal blessing is passed from father to son. Well in the case of Isaac, Isaac had two sons that were twins. Now normally the patriarchal blessing was inherited by the elder son, by the firstborn. Again if you read the pages of the Old Testament, you see how much weight is given to the significance of the firstborn, not only among children born in a family, but even with the livestock and in the sacrifices that are made. The best of the livestock that is to be used is the firstborn. Well in the case of the sons of Isaac, the twin sons Jacob and Esau, which one is born first? Which one is the elder of the two?
Well obviously it was Esau. But here God intrudes into this natural human idea of dynastic succession, of biological inheritance, and said, no, the way we're going to transmit this is by virtue not of simple biology, but by divine promise. The New Testament speaks of Isaac as the child of promise. He was not the firstborn son of Abraham. Ishmael was the firstborn, but Ishmael was not born from Sarah. And so it's really Abraham's second born who receives the promise.
And now in the case of Jacob and Esau, it is not Esau who receives the covenant blessing, but Jacob. And you look at that story in the Old Testament and take the time to do it. It reads like a contemporary novel.
It's so filled with intrigue and crime and sin. It reminds me of a statement that Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher, once made. He said in the nineteenth century, he said, my complaint is not that my age is wicked. My complaint is that it is paltry.
It lacks passion. And he said, whenever I'm discouraged by this, I go back and I read the pages of the Old Testament where people are real. They lie, they cheat, they kill, they commit adultery, and it's all there where God paints the picture of His people, warts and all.
There's no idealized representation of the history of redemption. And if there ever was a scoundrel in the Old Testament, it was Jacob. And yet who receives the blessing? Not Esau, the first born, but Jacob. And Paul rehearses that for us in Romans in the New Testament when he says of God, Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated. Before either of them was born, before either of them had done any good or evil from all eternity that the purposes of God in His grace and in His mercy might stand, God decreed that Jacob should receive the inheritance. And so it passes from Isaac to Jacob. And then now Jacob has all of his sons, all of the tribes of Israel.
And when he grows old and is approaching his own death, when he's on his deathbed, he assembles all of these sons. And the occasion now is for the Father to announce His last will and testament. In our culture, we read the will and the testament after someone has passed on. And sometimes the children will gather in the attorney's office and the attorney will read the terms of the will, and that usually starts a family feud.
But in Israel, the terms of the will are read before the person dies whenever possible. And so towards the end of the book of Genesis, in the forty-ninth chapter, we have a record of Jacob's last will and testament. This is the occasion where the promise of God is being transmitted to the next generation. The covenant blessing itself is being passed on.
So let's take a look at this. Beginning in verse 1 of chapter 49 of Genesis, we read these words. And Jacob called his sons and said, Gather together that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days. Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn. Imagine being there at the bedside of Jacob. The sons are gathered around, and the venerable Jacob, whose name is now Israel, looks at his firstborn son.
And you could sense the poignancy of the moment, all of the emotion, all of the feelings, all of the filial love and expectation that is poured into the firstborn child is now being expressed. Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength. Can you see the chest of Reuben beginning to expand as he hears these fatherly words coming to him? The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Reuben is sitting there basking in this, Oh Father, keep talking.
This is wonderful. Say it again. Excellency of power, dignity, my might, my beginning of strength, the next words, unstable as water, you shall not excel because you went up to your father's bed. Then you defiled it. He went up to my couch. Reuben, Reuben, I had such great hope for you, such wonderful expectations. You were my might. You were my strength. You had power. You had excellency, but you could not be trusted.
You were unstable as water. You committed the ultimate atrocity against me. Simeon and Levi, these are the next eldest, are brothers. Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their counsel. Let not my honor be united to their assembly, for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce in their wrath, for it is cruel. I will divide them in Jacob. I will scatter them in Israel. What about my next two sons? My firstborn son Reuben let me down, and the next two were men of cruelty, of fierce violence and anger.
That's not how I want my inheritance to go. Judah, the fourth born, Judah you are he whom your brothers shall praise. Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies. Your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp.
From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down. He lies down as a lion, and as a lion who shall rouse him? For the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the people, binding his donkey to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine. He washed his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine and his teeth whiter than milk. Judah, you are the ones before whom your brothers will bow down. Judah, I'm giving to you the promise of the covenant.
Judah, my son, the patriarchal blessing that was given to Abraham and then to Isaac and then to me is now in your hands. And you will be remembered by this symbol, by this metaphor. You are the lion. The lion is the one who rules.
The lion is the symbol of authority and of power. One of the great memories of my life was in January of 1965, I believe, I went to London, traveled there with some friends from Amsterdam and the Netherlands where I was going to school, and the occasion for that visit was the burial, the funeral service of Sir Winston Churchill. It's one of those events you never forget because the funeral procession had this long cortege that went from St. Paul's Cathedral to Westminster Avenue. And there was a parade on the streets of London that lasted over a mile, and I stood there on the sidewalk, and I watched all of the great leaders of the world march right past me. Charles de Gaulle, I could reach out and touch him. Maurice Shambi before he was assassinated. King Constantine of Spain. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.
They were all there. Lady Churchill. I saw Queen Elizabeth and the royal family. But in all of his magnificent splendor and attire, the one figure that captivated me was His Imperial Majesty, often known simply by the acronym of his initials, HIM. His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, walked right past me.
I could have reached over and grabbed him on the shore. And because my best friend in college and seminary had been a missionary in Ethiopia and had been a friend of the royal family and had regaled me with inside stories about the benevolence and the wisdom of Haile Selassie, my friend had such enormous respect for the emperor that when he stood there right before me, I was all excited, and I thought, this is truly a great man. Now, he may be royal, and he may be majestic, but one of the titles that was given to Haile Selassie was His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Ethiopia, the Lion of Judah.
And that day I thought to myself, Mr. Selassie, you are a marvelous man, an extraordinary character, and you're worthy of all of these accolades, but one title does not belong to you, the Lion of Judah. There is another one who receives that title, who is a descendant of the son of Jacob, Judah. Judah was given the royal house of Israel. The kings of Israel would come from the tribe of Judah. The kingdom of God was given to Judah. The priesthood was given to Levi, but kingship was given to Judah. David was the great king of Judah.
He traced his ancestry back to this man who received this inheritance on that day. But it was only a hint of the greater son who was to come, who would be both David's son and David's Lord, the one who would ultimately fulfill this promise of the kingship that would not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes. Do you see the symbol of this transaction was the scepter? The scepter shall not depart from Judah. The scepter was the sign of the authority of the king. Do you remember when Esther walked into the presence of the king, fearing his wrath, looking to see what he would do with the scepter?
Would he indicate that she was to be executed by one motion of the scepter, or would he indicate that she was welcome? The scepter was the king's sign and seal of royal authority, and the scepter is given to Judah. And the promise of the gospel unfolds even here, that the gospel promise includes not only a future savior who would crush the head of the serpent, but the future of the promise of God was of a coming king who would fulfill the destiny of Judah. From Judah's royal house comes the son of David, even Jesus Christ.
Let's look at this again. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the people. The whole transaction, the patriarchal blessing, the promise of the covenant is to be given to the descendants of Judah, whose great son and royal king, to whom God the Father gives the promised blessing of kingship is Jesus. Jesus, his advent celebrates the coming of his kingdom. At Christmas, we look to the fulfillment of the promise, a promise that took place in Jacob's bedroom thousands of years ago.
Incredible isn't it? When God says He will accomplish something, it will be accomplished. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday. We're glad you could be with us as we approach the day we celebrate this fulfilled promise. Our series this week is called Promises.
In it, Dr. R.C. Sproul shows us God's promise-keeping nature through several Old Testament saints, including Eve, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. We'd like to provide you a digital download of this five-part series for your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. We'll add the messages to your learning library online, allowing you to stream it right away. We'll also send you the two-DVD set of Dr. Sproul's series, The Promised Keeper, God of the Covenants. Request both resources when you call us at 800-435-4343.
If you prefer, you can go online to make your request at renewingyourmind.org. We sense that people here and around the world are hungry for biblical truth. We estimate that we will have reached 50 million people this year alone, double the number we reached last year. So we continue to lean forward here at Ligonier Ministries. Here's our president and CEO, Chris Larson. A few years before he went home to be with the Lord, Dr. Sproul looked to the future. Here's what he told me. He said, if Ligonier is faithful to its foundations—and he went on to say he believed that it would be—we should have ourselves in the middle of a worldwide renewal of the Reformed faith that we can't even begin to anticipate from this perspective today.
R.C. 's vision is happening, and I believe that we're beginning to see the Spirit of God at work at home and among the nations to bring such an awakening. New doors of gospel opportunity are opening, and Ligonier is uniquely positioned to bolster the courage of Christians around the globe as we seek to provide the mind-renewing, life-transforming truth of God's Word to billions of people.
We are building the largest library of Christian discipleship resources in the Reformed tradition in history. And this is where we are heading, and you can help us to get there faster. Your year-end gift at this vital moment will enable us to end the year strong and move confidently into 2022. Our goal is to reach more people in the next five years than we have over the past five decades.
And so, this is no time to slow down. Every gift, no matter the size, counts. Please continue in this gospel partnership with us, and enter the next 50 years of ministry trusting God together. Thank you for your generosity and for your forward-thinking faithfulness. If you would like to join us in this worldwide effort, you can give your year-end gift at Ligonier.org slash donate. Thank you for joining us today, and let's close our time together with this Coram Dale thought from Dr. Sproul. Again, as we anticipate our annual celebration of the Advent season, let us remember this year the promise that God made through His servant, Jacob, of a kingdom that someday would come, that a kingdom that would last forever, that a king would be given a scepter he would never lose, he would never drop, he would never betray, he would never dishonor. At Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of our king, the son of Judah, the lion of Judah, the law giver of Judah, the king of kings.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-06 16:04:11 / 2023-07-06 16:11:45 / 8