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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Happy New Year!
Welcome to Home Bible Study and thank you for choosing to take time out of your busy schedules to be with us today. In case you looked for us and missed us, we took some time off from our study of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome while we celebrated the Christmas holiday with family and friends.
The year 2015 has arrived and the tradition linked with it where people attempt to make a “new start” by making changes to their lifestyle. I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions but if you’re one of those people could I suggest adding Bible study to that list this year. Bible study is encouraging, inspirational, and reassuring; in addition a person actually grows closer to God while engaged in it. It’s rewarding in many ways.
Since we’ve been away from our lessons for some time, I think a brief review is in order before we start anew. Before the break we reviewed eight matters which Paul had listed in verses 4-5 that belonged solely to the nation of Israel, and still belong to them today.
However, in spite of these great privileges the Israelites were not realizing the blessings.
And now it appeared to some that God had forsaken His chosen people and reneged on His promises. This is why we find Paul addressing the concerns of his brethren in the next three parenthetical chapters. In chapter 9 Paul is dealing with Israel’s past and he references the Old Testament again and again in order to make his point, much like a skillful attorney stating his case before judge and jury.
Although it’s not explicitly stated in Paul’s opening remarks, Israel’s spiritual problem is “national unbelief.” Their rejection of the LORD God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and then their rejection of God the Holy Spirit at the stoning of Stephen, in that order, is the reason for their failure to receive God’s blessings at that time.
(1 Samuel: 8:7; Luke 20: 9-19; John 1:11, 19:15; Acts 7; Hebrews 11:6)
Jesus’ cursing of the Fig Tree as recorded in Matthew 21:18-19 and in Mark 11:12-14, 20-25, serve as a perfect “visual aid” or an important teaching lesson for His disciples and us. Centuries earlier, the LORD God separated His chosen nation from the pagan peoples of the earth to serve in a special role; they were Jehovah’s “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22).
Across the centuries, however, the Israelites frequently rebelled against their Creator. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, (Isaiah 1:3, 5)
God would punish His people for idolatry, there would be periods of spiritual revival amongst them, but the tragic reality is the nation of Israel remained on the slippery slope to apostasy that would culminate with their blood-thirsty cry, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Luke 23:20-21). Jesus’ brethren influenced the Roman authorities to kill their Messiah; the very One they had been waiting centuries for (Matthew 21:22-44).
Now I think we’re ready to start today’s lesson. Please open your Bible at Romans 9:6.
6: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
7: nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”
8: That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
9: For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
10: And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
11: for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to choice (election) would (do what) stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
12: it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
13: Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
But it is not as though the word of God has failed…
Why did Paul write these words? God’s sovereignty had been challenged.
It’s human nature to doubt God. Even Believers, at times, doubt God. But doubt, left unattended, leads to depression, despair, frustration, low self-esteem, insecurity, and fear. Obviously some of these Israelites questioned God’s faithfulness which is why we have this statement from Paul above.
Of course, God’s word hadn’t failed. The nation of Israel failed God.
However, this doesn’t mean God has forsaken them, as some people believe and teach. The Bible says otherwise (Psalms 94:14; Luke 21:24; Romans 11:1).
You may have heard this declaration once or twice in your life, “You can bank on it!”
It means to be so sure of something that you can trust it as one might trust a bank with one’s money: “I will be there on time. You can bank on it.” In its time, this statement and a handshake sealed the deal.
Our Apostle Paul uses the Old Testament (God’s Word) to remind his brethren of what God had said and when God says He’s going to do something not only can “you bank on it,” it’s as good as done (Deuteronomy 7:9).
For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendents, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDENTS WILL BE NAMED” (Genesis 21:12).
We need to go back further in time to understand what Paul is saying.
The LORD God promised Abram, who was about 75 years old, an heir “from his own body” (Genesis 15:1-4). Time passed. Since Sarai was barren, and it appeared to her that the LORD God was late on His promise, she suggested that Abram take Hagar, her Egyptian maid, as his wife and maybe then the LORD would give them a child. Abram listened and eventually agreed to this plan. From this union a child was born named Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-4). This was not God’s plan, however, conflict would develop.
In Genesis 18, the LORD appeared to Abraham, who is now 99 years old, and repeats His promise to give them a son in one year’s time – the LORD named him Isaac – meaning “laughter” because Sarah laughed to herself when the LORD promised to give her a son in her advanced age; and then she lied about it. In truth she doubted (v12-13).
The LORD establishes His covenant with Isaac and not with Ishmael, as was the custom, who was the firstborn. God’s covenant with Issac is an everlasting covenant. This means it includes all his descendants after him. The LORD addressed Abraham’s concerns regarding Ishmael too. God blessed him. He became the father of 12 princes, and he too became a great nation. Ishmael was the father of the Ishmaelites, a nomadic nation which lived in northern Arabia. Modern-day Arabs claim descent from Ishmael, and the religion of Islam is his legacy. (Genesis 25:12-18).
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were “Shemites” and not Jews. They were descendants of Noah’s son Shem. The term Hebrew is derived from Shem’s descendant Eber who was also a Shemite and the first Hebrew but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet. Shem is found in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:36).
Isaac had two sons Esau and Jacob (the deceiver). The birthright passed from Esau to Jacob (Genesis 25:24-33).
The LORD changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). Thus all Jacob’s sons became known as “the sons of Israel,” and the resulting nation became the nation of Israel.
Israelites are the descendants of Isaac’s son Jacob, who the LORD God renamed Israel and from Jacob’s son, Judah; it is from these two names that we arrive at the terms Jew and Jewish.
The twelve sons of Israel (Jacob) were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher (Genesis 35:23-26). These families became large and were known as the twelve tribes of “Israel.” Moses later brought these Israelite tribes out of slavery in Egypt under the LORD’s direction.
However, Joseph had two sons named Ephraim and Manasseh that added two tribes (Genesis 48:9-16). Thus there were thirteen total tribes of Israel.
The tribe of Judah sprang from one man – Judah, who was only one of Israel’s children. They were later called Jews. The Jewish people are only 1/13 of the tribes of Israel. This can get confusing because most Jews live in the country of Israel and in various countries around the globe since the dispersion (Leviticus 26:33), however, we can see that all Jews are Israelites but not all Jews are Jewish!
The tribe of Levi became the Levitical priesthood, it was scattered among all the tribes, and is not counted as a tribal nation (Leviticus 1:47-50). Thus, although there were actually thirteen tribes, there are only twelve tribal nations.
A vitally important fact in understanding Bible prophecy is that while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. All are Hebrews, but only the descendants of Judah are Jews. The term Jew is not used until about a thousand years after Abraham. It appears for the first time in 2 Kings 16:6. It's unscriptural to call all Israelites “Jews.” That would be like calling all Americans “Californians.”
By the way, Jesus Christ is a Jew; He’s from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
Believe me when I say that was the condensed version of the Israelites history. But again, it will serve to enlighten those who are not as familiar with the Old Testament as some others and perhaps the faithful followers of HBS found an item or two that was both fresh and interesting as well.
Now, let’s look at these words from Jehovah which our Apostle Paul wants his brethren to remember: but (but = behold the underlying truth): “THROUGH ISAAC (Abraham’s son) YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”
Abraham’s blessing rested in his “seed.” Abraham’s blessing required an offspring.
If there was to be a “seed,” they must have a son! (Genesis 17:7)
Please turn to Genesis, chapter 17. We’ll start at verse 19.
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.
20: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes (the nation of Israel has twelve tribes, by the way), and I will make him a great nation.
21: “But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”
Now, let’s return to Romans 9:6 – Not all the children of Abraham ARE the children of the LORD’s PROMISE. Only those that came through the “seed” of Isaac and then Jacob are the true children of promise. So, there is not only something special about Isaac and Jacob there is something that sets them apart from the others from God’s point of view. We get a hint of this from the back section of verse six.
6b: For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
Just because you were born into an Israelite family, learned the Mosaic Law, and tried your best to fulfill all its demands throughout your life doesn’t mean you’re saved.
The error in the Israelites assumption that God’s faithfulness is questionable as it concerns their present and future state is actually two-fold:
First of all, the Scriptures never promised God’s blessing to every physical descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Second, the basis of God’s blessing is not to be found in one’s physical relationships but rather in one’s spiritual relationship to God through faith (alone) - Romans 4.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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