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The Origin of the Jewish People & Living By Faith - Genesis Part 20

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
February 21, 2022 7:00 am

The Origin of the Jewish People & Living By Faith - Genesis Part 20

So What? / Lon Solomon

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You know, maybe you heard the story about the third grade teacher who offered five dollars to anyone in her class who could correctly answer the following question, and her question was, who was the greatest man to ever live? Well, one of the students said, Abraham Lincoln, and another student said, George Washington, and another student said, Abraham in the Bible.

And she said, no, no, those are all good answers, but they're not the correct answer. And finally, a young Jewish boy named Bernie raised his hand and said, teacher, it was Jesus Christ. And she said, that's right, she said, but Bernie, out of all the people in the class, I would have expected you to say Abraham. And he said, well, teacher, he said, I need to tell you that I really do think the right answer is Abraham, but business is business. Oh, yeah, the Jewish people, there's nothing like them, friends.

And you know, there really shouldn't be because out of all the nations on the face of the earth, God chose these people in a very special way. Well, this is what we want to talk about today. We want to talk about who are these people and how did they begin and why do they exist? So we're going to go back into the book of Genesis, back to our series on Genesis chapter 12. And this is what we're going to talk about as we look at the life of the great man of God, Abraham. And then we're going to bring all of that forward and we're going to talk about, okay, so what difference does that make for you and me? So are you ready? Here we go.

A little bit of review, though, because it's been a couple of weeks since we've been here. So if you remember, we said a couple of weeks ago that here in Genesis chapter 12 we enter a whole new phase in God's dealing with the human race. Up to this point, God has been dealing with the human race as a whole, but now God changes His approach. And instead He singles out a special man to establish a special race of people with whom He will deal in a special way based on a series of special covenants that He will make with these people. Now, this special man, well, of course, he's our friend Abraham, and this special race of people, well, of course, they're the Jewish race. And so with that little bit of background, let's dig in and see how this happened, Genesis chapter 12, and we're going to start with verse 1.

Here we go. Now the Lord said to Abraham, leave your country and your relatives and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. At this time Abraham was living in the city of Haran in north Mesopotamia, northern Mesopotamia. It was a very rich city.

It was a very wealthy and prosperous city. He was living there with his wife Sarah, with his nephew Lot, and with his entire extended family. And God suddenly appears to him and says, Abraham, I want you to leave all of this, and I want you to come and follow me to a new land. And I'm sure that Abraham has some questions like, okay, God, where are we going? Well, you don't really need to know that right now, Abraham. I'll tell you later. Well, how long is it going to take to get there? A while. Well, how many people am I going to know in this new land, Lord?

Nobody. You see, God said, hey, Abraham, I am not going to explain to you everything about this ahead of time. You need to step out by faith and do what I'm asking you to do without understanding everything related to this. But here's what I will do, Abraham. If you will step out by faith and obey me, I will do this. Verse 2, I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great. Through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Those who bless you, I will bless.

And those who curse you, I will curse. And to your descendants, I will give this land. Friends, these six promises all found right here in Genesis chapter 12 comprise what we call today the Abrahamic covenant. And it's very important we understand that the only thing Abraham had to do in order to inaugurate this covenant and activate this covenant is obey God and leave Haran and follow God to a new land. Once he did that, this became an unconditional and eternal commitment by God to Abraham and the Jewish people. Now, we read it all very quickly, but let's go back and let's analyze these six provisions, these six promises that belong to the Abrahamic covenant. Are you ready? Here we go.

We're doing one by one. Promise number one, God says, Abraham, I will make of you a great nation. Today there are 14 million Jewish people in the world, but I think we all realize that they wield an influence that far exceeds their actual population numbers. Well, isn't this exactly what God told Abraham he was going to do? Promise number two, God says, and Abraham, I will bless you personally, individually. Genesis 13 verse 2 says, Now Abraham became very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. In fact, Abraham became one of the wealthiest people in the entire ancient Near East during his day. But, you know, God wasn't talking here just about material blessings.

No, no. He was talking about spiritual blessings he was going to give Abraham too. Remember, God gave Abraham a miraculous son, Isaac.

And then God knit this miraculous son's heart to the Lord all the days of his life. And then God gave Abraham a godly daughter-in-law who married this miraculous son named Rebekah. And then God gave Abraham a godly grandson named Jacob and a spiritual giant of a great-grandson named Joseph. The point is that everywhere this man Abraham went, folks, the blessing of God dripped off of this man.

But that's exactly what God promised him, didn't he? Number 3, promise number 3, God says, Abraham, I will make your name great. Today, billions of people, Jewish people, Muslim people, Christian people, billions of people around the world all name the name of Abraham.

His name has become a household word all around the world. Hey, isn't that exactly what God promised him, that he would make his name great? Promise number 4, through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed, Abraham. Many commentators understand this to mean the earthly blessings that the Jewish people have brought in the areas of medicine and art and science and technology and philanthropy. And surely, that's probably part of this, but on a far more serious level, God is talking here not about earthly blessings that he would use the Jewish people to give the human race, but spiritual blessings.

And the Bible mentions three of them. Number 1, God used the Jewish people to give the world the written Word of God, except for Luke, all written by Jews. Number 2, he used the Jewish people to give the world the knowledge of the one true authentic God. And number 3, finally, God used the Jewish people to give the world the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. My gosh, the written Word of God, the knowledge of the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ. How much more blessing could God use one race of people to give mankind?

But isn't that exactly what God said he would do? Promise number 5, to your descendants, God said to Abraham, I will give this land. You say, what land? Well, the land of Canaan, the land where God was taking Abraham, modern day Israel. And you know, for 1900 years, this promise looked like it was impossible to come true. The Jewish people were scattered all over the world. They were living in ghettos. They had no political power. They had no financial power of any kind. But then all of a sudden in 1948, whammo, it happened.

Why did it happen? Well, because that's exactly what God promised Abraham was going to happen. And finally, number 6, promise number 6, God said to Abraham, those who bless you, I will bless.

And those who curse you, I will curse. And the rest of the Bible makes it clear, and it's critical that we get this, we understand this, that this promise is not just limited to Abraham as an individual, but rather it extends to the entire Jewish race. And if you don't believe it, let's go through history just a little bit real quick and see if God hasn't indeed done this down through the ages for the Jewish race. Let's start with Pharaoh. Hey, he cursed the Jews in Moses' day, refused to let them go, made their life miserable, and it cost him his oldest son and all of his chariots in the Red Sea. But then there was the Persian king Cyrus the Great and his successors who were generous to the Jews. They allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and to rebuild their city and to rebuild the first temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. And historians tell us that the Persian Empire was one of the most stable and long-lived empires in the history of the world. Why?

Those who bless you, I will bless. Remember Haman? He was a Persian official, however, who decided that he wanted to try to wipe the Jews out.

What happened to him? Well, they hung him on the very gallows that he had built to hang Jews on. And Alexander the Great, when he moved through the Middle East, he was going to destroy Jerusalem. But the high priest came out to meet him when he surrounded the city, opened the book of Daniel, showed him where he was in the book of Daniel, also showed him this promise from Genesis chapter 12 about blessing and cursing. And Alexander the Great decided to spare the city of Jerusalem and went on to conquer the world. The Romans, however, they destroyed the city of Jerusalem twice. 70 A.D. when they tore the temple down and again in 135 A.D. after which they spread salt all over the city of Jerusalem so nothing would grow there and made it a capital offense for any Jew to be found in the city limits of Jerusalem. This was during the reign of Hadrian. And you know what? Historians will tell us that Hadrian's reign, 135 A.D., represents the apex of the Roman Empire after that it was all downhill until several centuries later when the Roman Empire fell.

Why? Those who curse you, I will curse. How about Spain during the Middle Ages? Spain had one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

The Jewish people there were leaders in every area of society in medicine, in science, in the arts. And then all of that changed in 1492. You say 1492, that's the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Yeah, it is. It's also the year that Isabella and Ferdinand started the Inquisition when they brought Jews in and they tortured them and they killed them for not changing their religion and giving up their faith. And after that, they expelled every Jew from Spain but confiscated all of their belongings and all of their property.

And if you look carefully, you'll see that in the 500 years since 1492, Spain has never regained the position of power that it held before it cursed Abraham's descendants. And finally, America. America became a safe place for Jewish people during the 19th century. We treated them with kindness. We were the very first country to ever recognize the modern state of Israel. We have been Israel's greatest friend and ally for the last 50 years.

Nobody has been a friend of the Jewish people like America has been. And you know, when you look at all of the unbiblical behavior going on in America today and all the sin going on in America today, sometimes you'll hear people say things like, you know, if God doesn't judge America, He's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. So it does raise an interesting question, which is how come God hasn't judged America? Why has God been so good still to this day to America?

Well, I can't give you a definitive answer that I'm sure is right, but I will say this. I think a big part of it is Genesis 12, 3, those who bless the Jewish people. I will bless, says the Lord.

So let's summarize. God asked Abraham to follow God to a new land so God could start a new race of people that He could use in a new way. And God promised Abraham, if Abraham would step out in faith and leave Koran and follow God, God would make a marvelous covenant with him that had six promises attached.

Here they are. Number one, Abraham, I will make you into a great nation. Abraham, number two, I will bless you personally, Abraham. Number three, Abraham, I will make your name great. Number four, through you, Abraham, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Number five, to your descendants, I will give the land of Canaan. And finally, Abraham, those who bless you and your descendants, I will bless.

And those who curse you and your descendants, I will curse. OK, so this was the deal that God offered Abraham. What did Abraham do? Well, let's look. Verse four, so Abraham went forth as the Lord had told him.

You say, wait a minute, Lon. You think Abraham had like any misgivings? You think maybe he had any struggle on this at all? Was there any kind of back and forth going on in Abraham's heart about obeying God, do you think?

Well, I don't know. The Bible doesn't say. I suspect there might have been that he, you know, he had to think about this. I bet there was. But, you know, the really important thing is not whether he struggled about whether to obey God.

Friends, we all do that from time to time. The important thing is when the chips were down, Abraham obeyed God. So Abraham went forth as the Lord had told him and Lot went with him.

Abraham was 75 years old when he departed from Haran. And Abraham took Sarah, his wife, and Lot, his nephew, and set out and thus they came to the land of Canaan. And Abraham passed through the land as far as Shechem to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanites were occupying the land at this time.

Why tell us that? Abraham didn't come into a land that was unoccupied. He didn't come into a land and take it over and suddenly it was his land as God had promised. Uh-uh.

No, no. There were people there who owned that land when he arrived. And the Lord appeared to Abraham and said to your descendants, I will give this land. So Abraham built an altar there to the Lord who would appear to him. Then Abraham proceeded from there to the mountains on the east of Bethel and pitched a tent there.

And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Friends, I hope we realize Abraham spent the rest of his life in the land of Canaan. But except for the cave of Machpelah where he bought it to bury his wife Sarah, except for that, I hope you understand Abraham never owned one square foot of the Promised Land.

He simply lived there by faith, building altars and worshiping God and believing the promise of God that one day this land would belong to his descendants even though he, Abraham, never got to see that with his own human eyes. I love what Hebrews 11 says. Verse 9, it says, by faith Abraham lived as an alien in the land of promise and so did Isaac and Jacob who were also heirs with Abraham of God's same promise.

I'm going to give you the land. Verse 13, all these people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, died in faith. Watch this, not having received the things God had promised. Hey, when Abraham died, he wasn't a great nation. When Abraham died, his name wasn't great. When Abraham died, the Messiah hadn't been born to bring blessings to all the families of the earth. When Abraham died, and Isaac and Jacob, their descendants didn't own the Promised Land. They died not having received the things God had promised but they were convinced of them anyway and they embraced what God had promised them from afar, say the next two words, by faith. There you go. Wow, what a heart this man Abraham had.

Huh? A heart of faith. A heart that believed God's promise no matter how impossible it looked. A heart that believed God's promises even though he never saw the fulfillment of them with his own eyes. Is it any wonder then that three times in the Bible, God calls Abraham, my friend.

Isn't that interesting? And let me tell you why. God didn't call him that capriciously. He just didn't say, ooh, I think I need to pick out a few friends. Alright, let's draw some names out of the hat, Gabriel, for who my friends are going to be. No, no, no, friends.

God doesn't do that. Abraham achieved the status of being called a friend of God. How would you like to get there? Susie, my friend.

Bernie, my friend. Man, how would you like God to call you his friend? You know how you get there? You live like Abraham did.

That's how you get there. God loves these people. That's why Abraham's in the Bible and millions of people aren't. Because of the way he lived.

He lived by faith. Now, that's as far as we want to go in our passage because we want to stop now and we want to ask our most important questions. So, ready? One, two, three. Oh my gosh, that was unbelievable.

That was awesome. You say, Lon, alright, so what? Say, yeah, okay, that is our question. So what? As followers of Christ, what practical issues, what practical lesson do we see for our lives here in what we've studied today? You say, well, Lon, I know what lesson I see in all of this. The lesson I see is be really nice to every Jewish person you meet. That's the lesson I got out of this. Well, that's not altogether wrong, I might add.

But that's not what we want to talk about today. There's another lesson here, a deeper lesson, a spiritual lesson. And it all grows out of the example of Abraham. It's all about living by faith. You know the Bible says that as followers of Christ, we are to live by faith and not by sight. Okay, so what does that mean if we're going to be able to do that? Well, we've got one of the greatest examples in the world of that principle right here in front of us.

Let's talk about him. Hebrews 11, I want you to see how many times God describes Abraham's life with the same two words, by faith. Here we go, Hebrews 11, 8. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place that he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went out not even knowing where he was going. Verse 9, by faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. Verse 11, by faith Abraham, even though he was far past age, was unable to become a father because he considered him, God, faithful who had promised. In fact, verse 13 of Hebrews 11 says that Abraham was still living by faith even when he died. You say, all right, Lon, I got it. Abraham lived by faith.

I got it. But, you know, my problem is I'm not a Bible character. My name's not in the Bible.

You know, I'm just a normal, everyday, ride the metro, get in the car, drive on the beltway, drive the carpool person. So this is a Bible guy. So I need to know how I, as just a normal person, live by faith. If that's what the Lord wants me to do as a follower of Christ, how do I do that?

Good question. Say, Lon, can you put some handles on it for me? Love to. Ready? Ready?

Okay. Here's a promise God made Abraham. Genesis 18, 14.

God said, I will return to you this time next year and Sarah will have a son. That's a promise. Yes? Yes? Okay. Now, may I remind you, Abraham, when God made him this promise, was 99 years old.

Sarah was 90. Yes, yes, yes. But here we have God making them a promise. Remember our question? Our question was practically what does it mean to live by faith? Our answer is found right here. The answer is it's all about how we respond to the promises God makes us.

All right. Here we have a promise. How did Abraham respond? Romans 4, verse 18. Against all hope, Abraham did not grow weak in faith even though his body was as good as dead and Sarah's womb was also dead. The odds were not good.

Yes? All right. Verse 20. In spite of that, God made him a promise. In spite of that, Abraham did not waver in unbelief regarding God's promise but grew strong in, what's the next word? Faith. And what does that mean? It means being fully convinced.

I love this. Being fully convinced that what God had, what's the next word? Promised. Promised God was able to perform.

Wow, wow, wow. Do you see what living by faith is all about? It's being fully convinced that what God has promised us, God is able to perform.

I don't care what the odds look like. I don't care how crazy or unable to understand it we may be. It means taking God at His word and believing what He promises us so deeply that we're willing to rest on it. We're willing to rely on it no matter how impossible it looks or how unable we are to figure out what God's up to. This is what it means to live by faith. The problem with most of us as followers of Christ is that we're all from Missouri. That's our problem. And we all say, you know, God, I need you to show me first. I do.

I need to understand. Abraham could have said, Lord, I'm not budging from Haran till you show me where I'm going. I'm not budging from this city till you tell me how long it's going to take me to get there. I'm not budging from this city till you explain to me how I'm going to stay alive in this crazy land, how I'm going to feed my family. I'm not going anywhere. See, this is like being from Missouri. This is what we're talking about.

This is us. We go, no, Lord, I want to understand it. I want to know it. I want you to explain it all to me. I want you to diagram it on the board for me.

I want to understand every little piece of it. Frankly, some of the stuff you do and I don't like and some of the stuff you do and I'm not in favor of and I don't see how it can ever work out and I'm not going anywhere. And so you know what? If Abraham had taken that approach, my friends, he'd still be in Haran to this day. That isn't how Abraham lived. Abraham said, okay, God, I've got six promises from you. I don't see how in the world you're going to make them come true. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what I'm going to do when I get there. Lord, but if this is what you're asking and you've given me these promises, I'm going to respond to these promises by believing them and I'm going.

This is what it means to live by faith, folks. You know, a few years ago we had a gentleman coming to McLean Bible Church who was a naval officer. He was a captain in the navy. But he was a real up and comer. I mean he's not only a wonderful naval officer, he's a wonderful follower of Christ.

I knew him well. And he was like on the fast track. And he had already been selected for admiral and was still out at sea finishing the command that he had as the captain commanding his ship. And with only a few weeks left to go before he would return and accept his commission to being a flag rank, he had to refuel his ship at sea.

And so as the tanker was pulled up alongside of his ship, he was there on the bridge commanding. And he had to go to the bathroom. And he really had to go to the bathroom. And then he really, really, really had to go to the bathroom. And finally, when he just couldn't make it any longer because you're really not supposed to do this while you're refueling your ship but he just couldn't make it, he said I'm going to run to the head real quick. He left another officer in charge.

He said I'll be right back. And you know what happened next. While he was in the head, somebody made a mistake on the bridge and the two ships collided at sea. Now, if you're in the navy, this is a bad thing.

You're not supposed to let two ships run into each other. And so he was relieved of command and never did get a star on his flag, on his boards, shoulder boards. And when I heard about it, I was – I mean I was just sick for the poor man.

I mean all of these years of faithful work, all of these years of faithful study, all of these hours of sea duty away from his family, all those long days and long nights on those ships, all gone, poof, like that. So when he got back to shore, I called him up to encourage him. And he said – I said how are you doing? And he said I'm doing really okay. He said honestly, I don't understand why God let this happen. He said but I have a promise from God, Romans 8 28, that all things work together for good to those who love God. He said I thought God wanted me to be an admiral and that would have been fine. He said but obviously God wants me to go in some other direction with my life and that's fine too. He said so, Lon, I'm good. And I felt like saying to him, excuse me, is your first name Abraham?

Because this is how he was acting. Friends, I'd like to close today by saying if you're here and you're a follower of Jesus Christ, is your first name Abraham? I mean do you live like Abraham lived? Do you interpret every circumstance in life through the lens of the promises of God? Friends, God has made you and me a promise for every circumstance in life.

I don't care what it is. So when things happen, good things, bad things, in between things, do we believe those promises God has made us? And do we rely on those promises God has made us even though the path ahead seems very unclear like it did for this naval officer? When things happen, he pulled a promise of God out and said I'm going to believe it and I'm relying on this.

That's what I'm doing. This is walking by faith. To put it another way, do you and I go through every day believing God or doubting God? Because those are the only two options, friends. When things happen, we either believe God's promise or we don't.

What do you do? Hey, let me close by saying Abraham didn't even know where he was going when he left Koran. I mean he didn't even know where to tell him to forward his mail, for goodness sake. But what he did know is that God had promised to go before him and God had promised to hold his hand the whole way. And that's all Abraham needed to know. Folks, if you're a follower of Jesus here today, God has promised to go before you all the way. God has promised to hold your hand all the way. God has promised to take care of you and protect you just like he took care of Abraham and protected him.

And you know what? What he wants you and me to stop doing is to stop analyzing him and stop arguing with him and stop debating with him and stop questioning him. And just step out and trust him like Abraham did. I hope you'll do that. Let's pray together.

Lord Jesus, you know every one of us here has circumstances in our life like Abraham faced, like this naval officer faced. Things that suddenly come and just rock our apple cart. We weren't expecting them. We don't understand them. We don't even like them or want them.

They completely push us out of our comfort zone. But Lord Jesus, that's when we find out whether we're walking by faith or not. Because it's in those moments where we have to decide are we going to trust God and all of the promises he makes us or are we going to doubt him? Forgive us, Lord Jesus. Forgive us, all of us, for so often doubting you, arguing with you, debating with you, sparring with you, even resisting you. Bring us to the place, Lord Jesus, where we can embrace your promises whether we understand or not. Whether we agree or not.

Whether we can see how it's going to work out or not. But we believe that he who promised is faithful. And we are fully convinced that what you promise us you are able, you are able to perform. So in that confidence, help us live by faith that we might be called the friends of God like Abraham. Lord, change our lives because we were here today. Help us surrender some circumstances to you and turn them over to you, Lord, after we've been fighting you for who knows how long. And bring peace to our hearts as we turn loose of these things and just walk by faith. And we pray all of this in Jesus' name. And God's people said? Amen. What did you say? Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-02 11:31:30 / 2023-06-02 11:44:11 / 13

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