THE PROMISE

BY:  JAN A. ANTONSSON

DECEMBER 6, 2014

 

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The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

 

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:39, NIV)

 

Like many others, I doubt Christ was actually born on December 25th, but the date is not the thing we celebrate.  Our hosannas and “Hallelujah” choruses are for the long awaited incarnation of God’s promise to Abraham.  It fills me with joy and hope that God appeared to Abram in UR of the Chaldees, a man whom the Lord filled with the faith to believe in God’s promise to him, that in his seed, would all nations be blessed (Gen. 12:1-2)  My heros in the Bible were unqualified men whom God seemingly picked at random to do His work and inherit His blessings.  Abram was undoubtedly an idol worshipper, but God does not look upon nor choose anyone based upon outward appearances, but rather upon what He sees in the heart of a man.  Where we see lack and insufficiency, God sees opportunity to take a lump of coal and make it into a nugget of pure gold. Paul described God’s encounter with Abram as “preaching the Gospel to him.”  And what was the substance of that gospel?  It was God’s Promise, that in Abraham’s seed, all nations would be blessed (Gal. 3:8).  Paul identified the seed as Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16).

 

In a lengthy discussion by phone last Saturday, my dear friend Harry Fox, fine tuned the difference between covenant and promise.  The confusion for most of us comes because the Bible speaks of covenants and promises.  They are not the same.  The Law, which Paul said was given through angels (agents or messengers), was a bilateral covenant, meaning two parties involved:  God and Israel.  The Law was never given to Gentiles, something that many faithful church goers have completely overlooked or have never known.  The Law was given to Abraham’s progeny, his sons and grandsons, all who carried his physical DNA.

 

The Blood Covenant, which came before the Law (Genesis 15), was another two party Covenant.  In this contractual agreement, two parties (in this case God and Abram), walked through the blood of animals, to symbolize what would happen to whomever violated the covenant.  The Old Testament is full of horrific accounts of God punishing them by spilling their blood because they broke His covenant.  Many people get riled up, angry, confused, and defiant by all this slaughter.  The blood of Law breakers runs through the entirety of the Old Testament, and it sickens some people to the point that they decide, “If that’s who God is, I want no part of Him.”  They try to get their spiritual nourishment in Buddhism or Hinduism, or whatever else they turn to, anything to get rid of this blood thirsty god who threatens to throw them into the flames for any infraction of morals, ethics, or religious dogma. 

 

I myself was terrified of God, afraid I could not keep the rules, though I gave it a REALLY good try.  Each time I failed, I went down for the count, thinking I might be bound for hell.  Trying to love a being who might fry you to a cinder for any disobedience, is a quick trip into schizophrenia. It describes the Pharisees who, harolded  how righteous they were on the street corners, but inwardly, were full of dead men’s bones.  A generation of vipers always results when men try to keep the law, because they cannot.  The Law was about external behavior, for the most part, and had no power to change the hearts and minds of men (Deut. 38, Heb. 7:19).

 

That is precisely why God, who cannot fail,  unilaterally gave His Promise to Abraham.  Additionally, He also gifted him the faith to believe the promise, and because of that faith, God reckoned Abraham righteous. (Rom. 4:3)  There are those who say faith is a work we must do to be saved, but Paul totally refuted this.  He proclaimed that we are “saved by grace through faith,” which is a “gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast, (Eph. 2:8-9)

 

Paul made it clear that if a man works, “his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom. 4:4-5, NIV)  It seems to me that only a hypocrite would seek to be justified by his works.  When we realize that our works are only a reflection of God’s works, which were finished before the foundation of the world (Heb. 4:3), we understand that God alone is worthy of glory.  Like Christ, we can only say what the Father gives us to say and do what He does through us. (John 14:24; 5:19)

 

Because no one can keep the Law, God’s promise to Abraham, was a unilateral (ONE party) covenant, depending only upon Himself!  Abraham had not known God back in UR of the Chaldees, so he had no credits to apply toward his inheritance, and neither do we, which is why we rejoice that our status in Christ depends only upon God’s promise to Abraham, not upon our works!

 

Twenty five years is a loooooooong time to wait for a Promise to be fulfilled, and soon enough, Abraham doubted God’s ability to revitalize his aging body and Sarah’s infertile womb.  You know the story: he and Sarah cooked up a plan to help God out of this impossible bind He seemed to be in.  Abraham impregnated Hagar, Sarah’s maid (with her blessing, by the way), with a seed, a son named Ishmael.  This child was seed of Abraham, but it was NOT THE SEED God had promised.

 

Abraham was exceedingly wealthy, with gold and silver, men servants and maid servants, sheep, goats, asses, and camels.  He saw God’s hand in blessing him materially, but why did Isaac have to take so long?

 

The old saying is “Good things come to them who wait,” but that’s not very satisfactory to the heart aching and longing to have a child, or whatever else the heart desires.  “When we wait upon the Lord, we will run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint.  Help me Lord, oh help me Lord to wait” are the words of Isaiah and a chorus we sang at church. (Isa. 40:31)

 

Paul explained the difference between the Law and the Promise.  The Law came through mediators; the Promise came through one: God Himself.  The Promise came first; the Law, 430 Years later, but it did NOT make the Promise null and void (Gal. 3:17).  “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise, but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Gal. 3:18)  The Law, written on stone, simply could not impart life. Christ came to deliver us from the captivity created by the Law (Gal. 3:23, 25).

 

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29) Still, countless millions continue to struggle with trying to keep the Law, which no one can do.  My point here is to emphasize the truth God gave Isaiah so long ago: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. (Isa. 65:1, NIV)

 

Some preachers have suggested that the Bible is a “legal contract” by which we can get God to do our bidding.  What hubris, what folly is this?  God is our Father.  We are His children.  He loves us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world! (Eph. 1:4).  What use do we have for legally binding contracts to try to coerce God to do what He has already done for us in Christ?

 

Do your children have to remind you of your contractual obligation to feed them, clothe them, love them, and care for them?  If they do, they are in big trouble.  But we have a Father who said we are engraved on the palm of His hands and we are ever before Him. (Isa. 49:16)  Since His hand laid the foundation of the earth and His right hand spread out the heavens (Isa. 48:13), it’s a safe place to be.

 

Beloved children of the Most High, let us leave behind contracts and covenants and cling to the Promise given to Abraham, for we are heirs of that promise, which when in the fullness of time came to pass, was Christ Himself.  How do we know?  Because He could sware by no greater, God swore by Himself (Heb. 6:13), and that is a promise He continues to keep, until all men and women eventually will come to live in fellowship with Him.  

 

Father, how wondrous that we are your inheritance (Eph. 1:18), and heirs of Your Promise.  We rest in the palm of Your hand, where no man can remove us.  Only You are worthy of praise and honor, and glory, now and forever.  Truly, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth and in Him is our strength.  Amen   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PROMISE [Jan A. Antonsson] 12-06-14          3

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