Ecclesiology 014Genesis 15:18-21 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 18, 2018 • Ecclesiology
2-18-18 Lesson 14 177-189
Father, we’re grateful for another day, another day to worship You, serve You, learn of You. I do pray, Father, that You’ll comfort the families and loved ones of those that were killed, massacred in this latest uprising and I just pray for protection and provision for Your flock all over this country, including here. But I do pray that the God of all comfort would make Himself very real to those that are grieving very real losses today. And I just pray that Your Spirit would somehow use this to draw people to what’s important, which is the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. I pray that You will be with us in Sunday School as we look at the doctrine of the church and in the main service that follows as we continue through the Book of Daniel. And I do pray for the illumination of the Spirit, that the Spirit would be alive and at work in our lives as we study today and fellowship together. And I do ask, Father, that we would leave here changed people, either folks would get saved if they’re not already or they would sort of leave here with sort of a reinvigorated understanding and energy to serve You and walk with You this week under Your resources. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Let’s turn in our Bibles if we could to the Book of Genesis, chapter 15, and as you all know we’ve been moving through a subject n systematic theology that’s called Ecclesiology, and don’t let that word scare you, it just means the doctrine of the church. What does the Scripture reveal about the church. And we’ve looked at the definition of the church, the difference between the universal and the local church. We’ve looked at when the church started, Acts 2. And the last several Sundays we’ve been talking about differences between Israel and the church and we went through about twenty-four of those.
We competed Roman numeral V last time and now it’s new concept time so we’re here in Roman numeral VI, and I want you to introduce you to an idea that I think is a terrific description of the church. It’s a word that most people look at, they don’t recognize it because it’s hardly mentioned more but it’s a word that describes what I think is the uniqueness of the church in the plan and program of God. As I’ll be showing you I didn’t make this word up, I got it from one of my favorite theologians, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, and he describes the church as such a unique concept in the program of God that he calls it an intercalation. So we’ll be talking about what an intercalation is and what that means. In other words, the church is so unique it’s not just an extension of what God has done in and through Israel in Old Testament times and it’s not just an extension of what God will do in and through Israel in the future. The unique age of time that we’re in now, the only to really describe it is what he called an intercalation.
So we’re going to be developing that and you guys know me well enough by now that we can’t just get into that, we’ve got to lay a foundation, right. So to appreciate the intercalation idea we’re going to walk through this ten part outline. [Prolegomena – Introduction, Theology – Study of God, Christology – Study of Christ, Pneumatology – Study of the Holy Spirit, Anthropology – Study of Man, Hamartiology – Study of sin, Soteriology – Study of salvation, Angelology – Study of angels, Ecclesiology – Study of the Church, Eschatology – Study of the end]
We may not…, in fact I don’t think we’ll finish it today. But this foundation is sort of necessary to figure out exactly what the work of God today is because people recognize God has been working in this age for 2,000 years, they just have a very difficult time explaining it. And if you can’t really explain the church as a unique work of God you really don’t appreciate our age, which is unique to anything that’s ever happened in redemptive history.
So to get us going here, number 1 on my list is you first have to recognize God has an unconditional program with Israel. There isn’t a more foundational part of the Bible than Genesis 15 that explains that. So what I’m going to the first part of our study today I’m just going to read to you Genesis 15, it’s only 21 verses, and notice the commitments that God has made to Israel. And if you can understand Genesis 15 you can understand where history is moving. If you don’t understand Genesis 15 then the things that God is going to do in the future are kind of… has done in the past and is going to do in the future are kind of a blur. So Genesis 15 is foundational and there’s a reason why God revealed this early on; it’s the foundation of what we call the Abrahamic Covenant.
So notice Genesis 15:1, it says: “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.’  Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, ‘Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.’  Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.’  And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  Then he believed in the LORD; and He” that’s God, “reckoned it to him as righteousness.  And He said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.’  He said, ‘O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?’ Verse 9, “So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”’  Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.  The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.  Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.  God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.  As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.  Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.”  And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.  On that day the LORD made a covenant” and you’re an underliner or a circler in your Bible you should have that word “covenant’ circled, because that’s the key to the whole thing. Back to verse 18, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river” watch the language very carefully, not the border of Egypt, “the river” of Egypt, you say well who cares? It’ll become a big deal in just a little bit. “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:  the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite  and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim  and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”
So here obviously we’re not talking about the church; I’m sort of laying the foundation for the fact that the church is something unique to this age and yet you really can’t appreciate the church as something unique to this age until you understand the commitments that God has made to the nation of Israel. This is the beginning of God’s whole work with the nation of Israel; it’s what’s called the Abrahamic Covenant.
And one of the things I want to communicate to you about this covenant is that it is unconditional. What does unconditional mean? Basically it means that God is obligating Himself to act based on the promises that He has made regardless of what Abram and his descendants do. That’s what we mean by unconditional. Conditional is if I do X, Y and Z then God is able to do something in return. So that’s what we call a conditional covenant, conditional promise, it’s bilateral. This is not conditional at all; it’s unconditional, it’s unilateral, it’s God obligating Himself to act in history in a particular way regardless of what Abram or his descendants do.
Now why would we say that this covenant is unconditional? I’ve got five reasons here. The first reason is because of what is called, those words, ANE that I’ve got capitalized there, don’t let that frighten you, that just means Ancient Near East. ANE, Ancient Near East covenant ratification ceremony… when God entered into a covenant with Abram and his descendants in the time period of Abraham, which was about 2,000 B.C. and we know this from every piece of archology that we’ve ever unearthed from that time period, when parties entered into a covenant they entered into a covenant in a particular way. And basically what happened is they took animals and they killed the animals and cut the animals in two and they put the two… they put these severed animal parts in two parallel rows and then the parties to the covenant passed through these severed animal pieces. And that’s what you see happening here.
And when you entered into a covenant of this nature it was very solemn; the Book of Hebrews says you were as good as dead when you entered into it because your life was no longer your own, you lived for the purpose of fulfilling what you have obligated yourself to do according to the covenant or contract terms. So what you see here is the covenant ratification ceremony but I hope you notice something very peculiar—Abram never passed through the animal pieces. Did you notice that? He was put to sleep, just like God put Adam to sleep in Genesis 2 and brought forth from his side woman, so in the same way God put Abram to sleep. Abram never passed through the animal pieces, God alone as represented by the oven and the torch (which are common metaphors to describe God in the Scripture), God alone is represented by the oven and the torch passing through the animal pieces.
Now if the covenant was not unconditional but conditional Abram would have passed through along with God. God would be saying to Abraham you do your part and I’ll do My part. And that is NOT what’s happening here at all. God is saying I’m going to do My part, period, regardless of what you do! And that’s what’s represented by Abram being asleep and God alone passing through these animal pieces. So that’s the first reason why we believe that this covenant is unilateral or unconditional.
Number two, there are no stated conditions anywhere for Abram to perform. God doesn’t say hey Abram, if you and your lineage do this and this and this then I’ll do that. That would be a condition but there is no condition here. If it was a conditional covenant, and there are conditional covenants elsewhere in the Bible, there would be some kind of testimony or resemblance of what one of the contracting parties has to do. That doesn’t appear here in Genesis 15.
The third reason why this covenant is unconditional is because it is called an eternal covenant. And if you just flip two chapters to the right and look at Genesis 17, which is also referring back to the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15, you’ll see the word “eternal” or “everlasting” used over and over again. For example, in Genesis 17:7 it says, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, [to be God to you and to your descendants after you.]” You’ll find, we won’t read all these but you can read these on your own, verse 13 you’ll see the same thing, and verse 19.
[Genesis 17:13, “A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Genesis 17:19, “But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”]
Now the Hebrew word for everlasting is olam, and that is a word used to describe God Himself in many places. Psalm 90:2 would be an example. [Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”] So in order for this covenant to be eternal it has to rest completely on the performance of an eternal God. Do you see that? It cannot rest in any sense on a human instrument because as human instruments tainted by original sin we can all be, to put it in modern vernacular, very flaky can’t we? And as you look at Abram’s performance throughout his life the guy is sort of up and down a lot, kind of like us when you think about it. I mean, he on one of the stick has this great moment of faith, Genesis 22 where God says sacrifice Isaac and he’s willing to do that. But in the very next chapter he kind of falls into fear and he says Sarah is his what? His sister, and he’s already done that prior times because he’s kind of trying to get himself out of hot water. So Abram is up and down, up and down. There is no way a covenant like this can rest on Abram, but if it’s eternal it makes sense if it rests on God.
And number four this covenant over in Hebrews 6, you might want to jot that down, verses 13-18, it’s called immutable. [Hebrews 6:13-18, “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,  saying, “I WILL SURELY BLESS YOU AND I WILL SURELY MULTIPLY YOU.”  And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.  For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.  In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,  so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”]
What does immutable mean? It means changeless, and if it’s changeless the only thing it could rest upon for its fulfillment is a changeless God. Only God is changeless, right? Malachi 3:6 God says I change not. [Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change…”] And thank God for that, right? God said I change not; if God changed He could say well, yesterday you had salvation but today I’m taking it back. Kind of like how we treat each other, today I like you, today I don’t like you kind of thing. Fortunately God is not like us, He is immutable and there’s only one way this covenant could be immutable is to rest for its fulfillment completely on the shoulders of God.
And then finally my fifth reason why I think this covenant is immutable is no matter how wicked Abram’s, whose name would be changed to Abraham, no matter how wicked his descendants became, and they were doing some pretty bad stuff, God keeps reaffirming the covenant to them. And you’ll notice that when Abram says well, Sarah is my sister, and lies about it to the Egyptian king, God right in that context reaffirms the covenant. And when Jacob, whose name means deceiver, cheats his brother out of the birthright, later on in Genesis, God comes… you see this interesting, no matter what they do God right in that same context will reaffirm the covenant. And in fact, the nation of Israel got so bad, if you can believe this, that just before the Babylonian deportation they were taking their own children and putting them into a fire to satisfy a god named Molech. Now you can’t get lower than that can you! The God of prosperity, I don’t mean to get too far off on these social type issues but that basically is modern day abortion. It’s where, you know, I can’t afford this kid so I’m going to have this kid killed in my womb because, you know, I don’t want the financial drain.
The spirit of Molech, we see it today in Roe vs. Wade, abortion, and all these kinds of things. The spirit of Molech is as old as the Scripture; it’s basically what the children of Israel were doing. And that’s why God sent them into the deportation for seventy years, to get this purged from their land. And you’ll notice that right as the children of Israel are doing this, an unspeakable sin, the prophet Jeremiah comes along in chapter 31, verses 35-37 and says, “Thus says the LORD who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:  ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.’  Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.”
What have they done? They’re sacrificing their children to Molech just prior to the discipline of the Babylonian deportation. And in the midst of that horrific, horrendous sin God comes along and says as long as there’s the fixed order, sun, moon and stars, Israel will always be a nation before Me. And if the Abrahamic Covenant was conditional, believe me, it would have been cancelled at that point, it would have been cancelled at a lot of points in Israel’s history.
And this is why no matter how hard people try you can’t get rid of Israel from your theology. Now listen to me very carefully, even the Jewish rejection of Jesus, can you get much worse than that? Even that in and of itself does not cancel the Abrahamic Covenant. I’m not arguing that people can get to heaven without Christ, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is God is going to work in history to fulfill this covenant despite what the nation of Israel did to Jesus Christ back in the first century. That’s what I’m saying. And the reason that is so is because of the Abrahamic Covenant and it’s unconditional nature. If you miss the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant you will be confused as to what the rest of the Bible in essence is saying.
So the first thing to understand about this Abrahamic Covenant is that it is Unconditional, with a capital U. Let me give you another word that begins with the letter U; the second thing to understand about the Abrahamic Covenant is that it is unfulfilled. As we speak, in the year 2018, everything that God said He would do in and through the Jewish people has not been accomplished yet. He’s done a few things but there are greater things to come if you take the text literally and at face value.
Now let me take you to some Scriptures; you can jot down Joshua 11:23 because it says the same thing as Joshua 21, but let’s go for a minute to Joshua 21:43-45, because there are a plethora of theological voices on the horizon saying God already did what He said He would do in the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled. In fact, just to show you how this is ingrained in the way we think, when Donald Trump moved recently our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a lot of evangelicals, myself included, were very happy with that and as you look on social media I started seeing comments like what are these, by fellow Christians, what are these evangelicals happy about that for, don’t they know that God has fulfilled His promises in the Abrahamic Covenant. And what do they all start quoting? They all start quoting Joshua 21:43-45.
So what do those verses say? Joshua 21:43-45, “So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.  And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and none of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand.  Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”
So people look at a verse like that and they say there it is right there in your Bible, the Abrahamic Covenant has been completely and totally fulfilled; it was fulfilled in the days of Joshua. And they use a similar sounding verse, Joshua 11:23 to teach the exact same doctrine. [Joshua 11:23, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.”]
And just to get the point across they don’t stop there because they think if you don’t buy that argument here’s my secondary argument. They go over to 1 Kings 4:21, which is the days of Solomon, about four centuries later, and they quote this one, it says, “Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.” So they say if you don’t believe the Joshua passage then there’s the Solomonic passage; the Abrahamic Covenant and all of its land dimensions has already been fulfilled so you Christians, you don’t have to worry about a future land for Israel, a future millennial kingdom and so forth.
Now what I want to show you is that context is king, right? The three rules of real estate are location, location, location. The three rules of Bible study are context, context, context because Joshua 11, which I didn’t read, says the same thing as Joshua 21. Joshua 11 is followed by Joshua 13; you guys agree with me on that? Chapter 13 comes after chapter 11. And this is the age of time we live in where people cherry pick a verse or two out of the Bible to support some preexisting belief and they don’t tell you what the whole context is. So if you just travel from Joshua 11 to Joshua 13 it says, during the days of the conquest, [Joshua 13:1] “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the LORD said to him, ‘You are old and advanced in years,” I hope when I get old and advanced in years the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t remind me that I’m old and advanced in years. And look at this, “ and very much of the land remains to be possessed.” So obviously Joshua 11 is not talking about a total conquest of everything that God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. It says it right there, they went into the land, as I’ll be showing you in a second, they got a sliver of it, but they never got the whole enchilada, they never got everything from the Nile to the Euphrates, which is what God promised to Abraham’s descendants.
Now Joshua 21, the verse we did read, what book follows the Book of Joshua? The Book of Judges. So take a look at Judges 1:19. See on all these social media wars that I monitor I’ve never seen anybody quoting any of these verses that I’m sharing with you. They just cherry pick their favorite verses. Joshua 1:19, “Now the LORD was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.”
If you go down to verse 21, “But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.” [Judges 1:27] Verse 27, “But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of [Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.”] And then there are these names to pronounce which I’m not going to mangle in the process. So the Canaanites persisted living in the land. Does this sound like a complete conquest at all?
If you drop down to verses 29-36 it says this over and over again. [Judges 1:29] “Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.” [Judges 1:30], “Zebulon did not drive out the inhabitants of Kidron.” Verse 32, “So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites.” Verse 33, “Naphtali” a Jewish tribe, “did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh,.”
So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that when you put the Joshua verses back into their context it’s very clear that the Joshua verses do not… they read like they communicate a total conquest but contextually that’s not possible. So when God said He did everything He had promised to do for Israel, in Joshua 21, God is not saying I just fulfilled the Abrahamic Covenant. What He is saying is I’ve done everything I promised to do for your generation Joshua.
Beyond that, see that blue area there that’s dark? That’s what the Joshua generation got. You see that lighter blue area there? That’s what God promised to Abraham. And even this map, I wish I were more of an artist, I would adjust it because it starts the dimensions of the land given to Abraham from a little river called the Wadi-El-Arish, and a lot of people have tried to convince me that’s what it’s talking about but I just don’t believe, like I used to, that that’s the great river of Egypt. I think the great river of Egypt is the Nile so this should extend, looking at this map it should actually extend further east. What God promised to Abram is a chunk of real estate that the nation of Israel has never acquired in totality. Even today as I speak the nation of Israel has but a small sliver of everything God promised to Abraham, because what’s everybody fighting about today? The West Bank, when are the Jews going to give back the West Bank and if I’m understanding my Bible correctly I want to know when the Muslims are going to give back to the Jews the East Bank because that’s what God promised. Now say that on social media today and see what kind of reaction you get from people.
But the reality of the situation is the real estate that God promised to Abraham starts all the way from modern day Egypt and it goes all the way up to modern day Iraq and it’s a chunk of real estate from the Nile to the Euphrates. And as much as people try to make it sound like this has already been fulfilled you just look at a map and take a basic geography lesson and there’s no way this has ever been fulfilled.
Beyond that did you know that the nation of Israel didn’t even get Jerusalem in the days of Joshua. We saw a reference to that, did we not, in Judges 1. But look for a second at Joshua 15 and take a look at verse 63. It says, “Now as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of” what? “Jerusalem, the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.” So all the way back in 1400 B.C. when the conquest under Joshua took place they didn’t even have control of Jerusalem yet. Jerusalem was a Jebusite city and it would not fall into Jewish hands until which king? Anybody know off the top of their head? King David, which would be about four centuries later. In 2 Samuel 5, 4th century, that’s a long time, that’s almost the length of the duration of the United States of America times two, roughly. Two United States of America’s later, 400 years later, four centuries later, finally the nation of Israel gets control of the city of Jerusalem.
So how can anybody with a straight face say that the land promises were fulfilled in the days of Joshua. It’s impossible if you care about context. If you want to cherry pick the Bible and pick a few things here and there out of context, yeah, you can weave the case together, but if context is king it’s an impossible case to make.
Well, if they didn’t get the territory in the days of Joshua surely they got it in the days of Solomon. Right? Solomon was the last king of the united kingdom so the first king of the united kingdom was Saul, and he wasn’t a very good choice, was he, by the Jews. He was coming from the wrong tribe, first of all. The kings are supposed to come from which tribe? Judah. Saul came from which tribe? Benjamin, so they weren’t really paying close attention to what God said. But Saul was followed by David; Saul reigned forty years, David reigned forty years, and then David was followed by Solomon who reigned about forty years and if you write down 971-931 B.C. that’s the generally accepted time period of Solomon’s reign.
Solomon was the last king of the united kingdom because once he left the throne the kingdom was divided between north and south; ten tribes in the north, two tribes in the south, Benjamin and Judah. The northern tribes were headquartered in Samaria and they took on the name Israel. The two southern tribes were headquartered in Jerusalem, taking on the name Judah. So what you have to understand is the empire of Israel grew to its greatest degree geographically in the reign of Solomon, the last king of the United Kingdom. And the nations of Israel enjoyed probably more prosperity than it’s ever enjoyed under the reign of Solomon, the last king of the united kingdom. Once Solomon leaves the throne everything begins to disintegrate pretty quickly.
So what people do is they’re always running off to the Solomonic era to find a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant so we would become convinced that the Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled and we really wouldn’t care any more about Israel’s future. And so their favorite verse is 1 Kings 4:21, which you read it at first glance it looks like the dimensions were fulfilled in the Solomonic reign but the devil’s in the what? The details. “Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines,” now I think the river there is probably the Euphrates, “from the river to the land of the Philistines, to the,” what’s the key word, “border of Egypt.” Whoops, “they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.” Well, God didn’t promise the nation of Israel territory to the border of Egypt; He promised the nation of Israel territory to the what? The river of Egypt. So with the Solomonic reign I would “close but no cigar.” I mean close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right. It doesn’t count with the fulfillment or prophecy. When God fulfills His Word He fulfills it very literally as we’ve been studying.
And beyond that, look at that last clause there, “they brought” what? “tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.” What was happening in the Solomonic empire is these surrounding nations were under his authority in a tributary sense, meaning he taxed them and they submitted to his taxes but, and study the Old Testament very carefully, these surrounding nations were never annexed, if you will, into the borders of Israel. When Solomon left the throne what happened to all those tributary nations? They quickly left. So as much as people try to make this work I don’t think the Abrahamic Covenant was ever fulfilled in the days of Joshua nor the days of Solomon.
And there’s another problem with all of that. How long would the nation possess the land? In the Abrahamic Covenant it’s very clear that they would possess it forever, when God was sort of priming Abraham for this covenant that he was about to receive, He said, all the way back in Genesis 13:15, actually let’s back up and read verse 14, “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;  “for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants” what’s the next word…for a few centuries? It doesn’t say that does it, it says “forever.” They would eternally possess this is what it’s saying. And when you understand what is promised compared to what was gained under Joshua and Solomon you very quickly see that Israel has never possessed that land forever.
In fact, as I mentioned before, when Solomon left the throne the kingdom was divided between the north and the south; the ten northern tribes were swept away and pushed out of their land by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. You can read about that in 2 Kings 17, leaving how many tribes? Just two, and they were removed from their land by the Babylonians for at least seventy years in 586 B.C. You can read about that in 2 Kings 25. And as you know from postexilic history the nation of Israel migrated back into their land after the captivity and rebuilt their temple.
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah talk about that, about four centuries pass and Jesus Christ shows up and He offers them the kingdom on a silver platter, which they turned down. And Jesus told them because you’ve done this the cycle of discipline in the Mosaic Covenant, not the Abrahamic but the Mosaic is about to start up again and you’re going to be kicked out of your land again. And that happened when? A.D. 70 under the Romans. And at that point the nation of Israel is pushed into what’s called the diaspora, which is just a fancy word that means the dispersion, the global dispersion, something Moses predicted would happen when God gave him the covenant at Sinai, which I haven’t spent any time really talking about; I’ve been focusing on the Abrahamic Covenant. But it’s obvious that Israel has possessed parts of the land at different junctures but she has never possessed the land forever.
So Andy, what are you trying to get at? I’m trying to communicate two words relative to God’s program for Israel. Number 1, unconditional; number 2, unfulfilled. Here we are in 2018 and I can boldly use those two words—unconditional, no strings attached, and number 2, everything God said He would do has never been completely and totally fulfilled.
Now you say well, Andy, I think you’re taking these too literally. Well let me just sort of explain something; let me explain why I take it literally. My background is a legal background and I spent some time in private practice in California, practicing contract law. A covenant from God, the Hebrew word berith, Genesis 15, is the equivalent of a contract in modern day business. A contract by definition has to be construed according to ordinary usage of terms. Why is that? Because how in the world could you tell if one party is in breach of the contract or not. If you don’t have literal terms in a contract there’s absolutely no way to ascertain compliance with the contract. Right? That is the basic definition of the contract. That’s the basic nature of a contract. And so what God is doing in the rest of the Old Testament is He’s determining compliance and that’s why this language from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates, that’s why you have to take those in a literal sense, because God has revealed Himself to Israel and bound Himself to Israel in contractual form.
And so if it’s a contract that, by definition makes it having to be construed according to its normal or literal terms. That’s why the system of theology that we promote here, dispensationalism, is an easy system to understand for people with a legal background. That’s why when you get into the past and you look at people like C. I. Scofield, legal background! John Nelson Darby, who retrieved pretribulationalism from the pages of Scripture, legal background, because a lawyer is trained basically in the art of contract law and God, you start to see very quickly, made a contract, unconditional, with the nation of Israel. So it has to be literal. See that? So that’s why I’m saying what I’m saying in terms of close but no cigar. God has done things in Israel’s past but they’ve never measured up to what He’s promised.
So because Israel’s program is unconditional and unfulfilled Israel has a future because we’re taking the contract literally. What God said regarding the land promises have to be literal. As you look at this it says… we read this earlier, Genesis 13:14, “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes” doesn’t’ that kind of look literal, he’s looking at something, look at what, the angels strumming harps in the clouds? No, “look” see how earthly this is, look to the north, look to the south, look to the east, look to the west,  “for all the land” what land? The land he’s looking at as he’s standing there in the land of Canaan, “for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.” And if that weren’t enough he says walk around it. Verse 17, “Arise, walk about the land,” see how literal this is through its length, and it’s breadth, “for I will give it to you.”
Look at this,  “Then Abram moved his tent” doesn’t that sound like geographical movement there, “and came and dwelt” see these geographical places, “by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, [and there he built an altar to the LORD.] So because Abram was told to actually walk around the land that he and his descendants would one day possess, the language of the text makes this very literal. And you wouldn’t believe what theologians do with this; they wave a wand and they try to make this heaven or the afterlife, or something like that. And you can’t do that, well you can do it I guess, if you don’t care what the passage says. The passage is very, very literal.
So how do we understand Israel’s program? The first letter beginning with you, unconditional. The second letter beginning with you, which is what? Unfulfilled. The third letter, I couldn’t make “you” out of some of these, I don’t have the creativity, maybe some of you guys can put these all into you, I don’t know. Now when I say that people will be working on it all sermon, so don’t put too much sweat into that.
The third letter is literal, the program for the nation of Israel is literal. The fourth concept related to Israel is the program is truthful. God’s veracity and God’s character is on the line. Why do I say that? Because, you know, philosophers ask this question: can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it, and I would say the answer is no, God is always sovereign over His creation. There are certain things God cannot do; He cannot make a rock so big that He can’t lift it. One of the other things that God cannot do is to what? To lie, it’s impossible for Him to lie. In fact, jot these verses down; Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, [Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”] Titus 1:2, it’s impossible for God to lie. [Titus 1:2, “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”] And I think Hebrews 6:18 says the same thing, it is impossible for God to lie. [Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”]
So when God speaks… and thank God that’s true, right? Or else He could say well, that salvation that you have and that eternal life that I promised you, I really didn’t mean what I said. I mean, we ought to rejoice, as fallen human beings saved by the grace of God, that God doesn’t lie. In fact, that’s the only thing I really have going for me at the end of the day. I have the promise of God and because they come from God’s mouth they have to be true. If the promises weren’t true it would be a denial of who God’s character is. Amen.
So Israel’s program is truthful; once God obligates Himself to certain things He will move heaven and earth to make sure that everything He said will be fulfilled. You can just take it right to the bank, that’s how God is. In fact, that is how we should understand the Book of Exodus, where the nation of Israel was liberated from Egyptian bondage after 400 years. Why did God liberate Israel through the Exodus and the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, arguably other than Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, probably the greatest redemptive event in the history of mankind was the Exodus.
So why did God do that? Did God feel sorry for His people because they were in Egyptian bondage? I’m sure He did, but when you look at Exodus 2:24 you see why God did what He did. [Exodus 2:24] “So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with” who? “with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” because one of the provisos of the Abrahamic Covenant… and you probably picked up on this as I read the chapter earlier, you’re going to go into a foreign land and you’re going to come back into this land with great possessions, speaking of the sojourn into Egypt and their return back from Egypt, ultimately into the Promised Land, it took a couple generations once they came out of Egypt to execute that but it finally got executed. Why did God set the whole chain in motion? Because God remembered His covenant.
Probably one of the greatest things, a lot of wonderful things have happened in my life, but one of the greatest is studying under J. Dwight Pentecost (who’s now with the Lord) at Dallas Seminary because he just jammed this principle into our heads, mine in particular, that the covenant is everything. And he taught a whole class called Kingdom and Covenants, and it was just unbelievable the way he taught it and explained it. God moves His hand in history based on His prior covenantal obligations. And that’s why J. Dwight Pentecost called Genesis 15 the most important chapter in the whole Bible.
Ask your average Christian what is the most important chapter in the whole Bible; think of the answers we would come up with. John 3:16, maybe we would come up with that. We would think about Jesus’ death on the cross, “It is finished!” But no, the most important chapter in the whole Bible is Genesis 15 because that’s where God lays out the conditions of the unilateral covenant. And if you can understand Genesis 15 then you start understanding why God is moving His hand in history, at certain junctures, to fulfill what He has promised in Genesis 15, including the Exodus.
Most Christians understand the greatness of the Exodus, we learned about it in Sunday School; what we don’t understand is why the Exodus happened. It’s all connected to the Abrahamic Covenant. And you can do this, I think, with every major thing in the Bible that ever happens; God is moving His hand in history to fulfill His covenantal obligations which are unconditional, unfulfilled, literal, and truthful.
Now what about Ezekiel 36:22. Now we studied this passage all the time, it’s the great regathering of the nation of Israel, from the four corners of the earth in the end times. And most people skip right over Ezekiel 36:22 which is answering, not the what question but the why question. Just like Exodus 2:24 answers not the what question but the why question. What does Ezekiel 36:22 do? It doesn’t answer the what question but the why question. Why is this end time gathering going to occur? It says this: Ezekiel 36:22, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,” look at this, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy names sake, which you” Israel, “have profaned among the nations where you went.”
I’m not doing this for you, you guys are complete foul-ups; I’m doing this because of me, because if I don’t do what I said I would do then I’ve violated My nature. See that? And that’s really how to understand your salvation; every phase of your salvation has to be executed, not because of what you do or what you don’t do. Now we should serve the Lord out of gratitude but my performance doesn’t keep me saved. Do we understand that? My performance didn’t get me saved. I know that much. And based on some of the ways we can act in our fallenness my salvation sure doesn’t keep me saved. Well what keeps me saved? The promises of God.
So by way of analogy why is God going to do what He’s going to do for Israel? Because of a covenantal obligation He made all the way back in the Abrahamic Covenant, which has never been fulfilled. So this means that Israel has a future that cannot be cancelled. You read Ezekiel 36:24-28 it’s obvious that has never happened in totality. God said He’s going to regather them from the lands and bring them back into their own land and then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean and I will put a new spirit within you.
[Ezekiel 36:24-28, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.  You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.”]
Now has that ever happened to the Jewish people? Three’s rumblings of it now as they’ve been regathered in unbelief to part of their land but it’s quite obvious that they’re not in faith right now. Remember the valley of the dry bones? Ezekiel saw that skeleton coming together and he saw skin, first muscles and skin forming over the body, and what does it say there? “but there was no breath in them,” the body. [Ezekiel 37:8, “And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.”]
What’s the breathe? In Hebrew it’s the ruah, which means spirit. Oh, they might make a nice country but they don’t have the ruah, the Holy Spirit inside of them. So “I prophesied as He commanded me,” now I like how this chapter starts, God asks Ezekiel can these bones live? I love Ezekiel’s answer, “Lord, You know. I have no idea but You know.” Verse 10, “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath” the ruah, the Holy Spirit, “came into them, and they came to life [and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army].”
And I heard one preacher, when I was coming of age as a Christian, preach through this passage and he said these bones are the church on the day of Pentecost. And I thought… I didn’t say anything, I wanted to, I thought I wish he would read verse 11, because verse 11 says these bones are First Baptist Church of Houston….Or Sugar Land Bible Church, or whatever. It’s very clear, I mean, how do we miss this, these bones are the whole house of Israel. [Ezekiel 37:11, “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’”]
Now has that ever happened? Has anything like this ever happened? Obviously Israel has a future. So we’re going to stop here and just by way of review Israel’s program is unconditional, unfulfilled, literal, truthful and it’s a future reality. And all of this is groundwork for understanding the insertion of the church, which is us, an intercalation into the plan and program of God. So why don’t we stop talking now and I talked too long, what else is new, so I’ll try to save some time for Q & A next week. So happy intermission.