The Child of Promise
No religious book or set of books, no so-called sacred texts for any religion or cult on earth compares to The Book, the very Word of God … The Bible. None of these non-Biblical writings including the Koran, contains the incredible meticulous details of people, places, and events found in the Bible. Not one offers a sweeping plan of salvation that reconciles man to God and, thereby, rescues man from both the permanency of physical death and the ensuing eternal separation from his Creator and Savior.
None claims to predict the future, because they can’t. Only the God of the Bible dares to declare the end from the beginning, resulting not in just one or two, but hundreds of prophecies. And not predictions that merely have a 50% chance of fulfillment, but historically fulfilled prophecies of people not yet born, kingdoms not yet formed, buildings and monuments not yet built, battles won or lost not yet fought, events thought impossible at the time, and the Messiah who would come at a precise date set by Scripture. These astounding prophecies included the place of Messiah’s birth, the means of his birth, the kind of miracles he would perform, the method and details of his execution, and the amazing announcement of his resurrection before he arose from the grave.
God’s Word is eternal. According to Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, NASB).
Jesus said that: “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is a direct quote from the Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy 8:3.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16, NASB).
All Scripture is beneficial, which means even the genealogies. Genealogies? Yes, even those seemingly tedious lists of who begat whom bear much more truth and insight than we might suspect. Granted, even for the most ardent reader of Scripture, it’s an imposing task to read every name in a genealogy such as listed in the Book of Numbers or I Chronicles and other Old Testament passages, or even the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. For example the genealogies in Matthew and Luke trace the lineage of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man back to Abraham and as the Son of God back to Adam, respectively.
When I read these ancestral records, I am utterly amazed at the detail … how generation after generation of God’s people methodically preserved this information first by verbal then by written records. And these are just a small portion of the dozens of ancestral or tribal leaders or other facts and figures of Israel’s (and many Gentile Nations) history, as precisely recorded in the Bible. Just read the book of Numbers to see what I mean.
Genealogy is making a comeback, especially since the advent of the computer. Lately, we seem to be bombarded with TV and Internet commercials from such sources as Ancestry.com.
Many are enthusiastically searching for 3rd, 4th, 5th (and beyond) generation ancestors to see if they really are Italian, or German, or Spanish, or English, or Irish, or all of the above. They want to know just how authentic they really are! Heritage is suddenly important. Where did I come from? Who am I? What is my place in the world? Legacy and birthright and culture does matter.
Years ago, before the advent of computerized ancestry charts and sources, I discovered that there was royal blood in my family! Apparently I belong to some sort of nobility, by virtue of my great-aunt to the 6th or 7th generation removed reigning as the Queen of Holland … I think it was on my mother’s side. I mean shouldn’t that entitle me to a discount on a dam that I’d like to build near some land I own in a remote part of northeast Arizona! You remember don’t you … the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in a dike and saved his town from drowning should the dam have ruptured?
“So what!” you say. And, I agree. For all I don’t know, my blood-line Queen of Holland could have been the wicked witch of the west. When someone else proudly tells us about their ancestry, we normally will respond with something like, “That’s nice.” But when we tell someone about our heritage (with all the embellishments we can get away with) such as “Daniel Boone was my great, great, great, great-uncle, we expect them to reply, “Wow! that’s impressive.” Such is human nature.
Yet, there is one genealogy that universally transcends all other ancestral heritage, one that has supernaturally impacted the human race by altering the past, present, and future of every person on this earth who has recognized the royal lineage that brought us the first child of promise, and then accepted as personal Savior the Divine second child of promise.
The First Child of Promise
The Book of Genesis gives us a detailed account of the life of Abraham, beginning with God instructing him (at the age of seventy-five) to abruptly, “…Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 1-3). Then, God said, “I will give this land to your descendants” (verse 7). Actually, the story of Abraham begins with a genealogy that starts with Adam’s son, Seth, all the way to Abraham’s father, Terah. (See Genesis 11: 10-26)
Later, despite more assurances from the Lord, Abram (God changed his name to Abraham which means, “father of many”), expressed apprehension bordering on doubt as to just how God’s promise could possibly come about. “But Abram replied, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son … You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir’” (Genesis 15: 2-4).
Next, comes one of the most astounding declarations ever made by God, who is well-known for an abundance of amazing announcements throughout Scripture! “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6, italics for emphasis).
That is incomprehensible. For one thing, it goes against the grain of every religious principle or precept or even non-religious self-conceived notions of what it takes to find favor with the true and living God or some other man-made god—that good works and right conduct is the ticket to eternal salvation.
It says, “Abram believed the Lord.” And then what happened … what did God do in return? The text is crystal clear. It says that: God declared Abraham righteous (which throughout Scripture means forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God for eternity) simply because Abraham trusted God’s promise … that Abraham would father a child of this unique promise. This child of promise would be the progenitor and prototype of the second child of promise, who would be the very source and fulfillment of all the blessings promised to Israel and the Gentile nations. Hebrews 12:2 confirms this prophecy by stating that, “Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.”
This very same faith (in the second child of promise) is what makes you and I right before God. No ritual keeping of spiritual or ceremonial laws, no performance of good deeds that hopefully outweigh the wrong things we’ve done, no observance of all the man-made requirements of so many religions that seek to merit God’s favor and pardon. None of these … only simple child-like faith that says, “I believe you Lord.” Amazing!
Well, many of us know what happened next. Still no child of promise as Abraham approached the age of eighty-five; and his wife, Sarah, was nearing seventy-five years of age (past child-bearing). Sarah persuaded her husband to do what was totally accepted and customary in those days if a couple could not bear children: to conceive a child with Sarah’s Egyptian servant, Hagar.
Was this a decision not based in faith and trust? Yes, it was, which demonstrates that even the giants of faith (Abraham) sometimes take matters into their own hands and help God along with his plans! That’s another astonishing feature of the Bible. It records dozens of examples of men and woman of God who, through moments of weakness and doubt, made mistakes and failed to fully trust the Lord their God. You won’t find this in other religious writings, such as the Koran. You will find only the exemplary things that their prophets or religious leaders do, or should I say, a pretentious portrayal that they essentially can do nothing wrong. That they are the most noble of men or woman.
And so, Ishmael was born. Would he, therefore, be the child of promise? What do you think Abraham and Sarah thought about Ishmael? Well, for another twelve years or so, we don’t know for sure. But there’s no indication in the Genesis account that Abraham or Sarah didn’t think that Ishmael was the answer to God’s promised child. For one thing, it was already an established practice that the firstborn would be given the main birthright inheritance (a double portion) by his father. This in no way reflected a greater love for the firstborn over his siblings or parents playing favorites. Rather, it was a legal, positional, and traditional heritage given to the firstborn.
However, the birthright blessings of the firstborn was not an automatic divinely guaranteed inheritance, particularly if God (through his foreknowledge of what would happen) had selected another child to carry out his plan(s). We see two monumental examples of this with Esau and Reuben. Esau and Jacob were twins, but Esau was born first, which entitled him to the first and most prominent blessing. But we know he forfeited that right. Rueben was the oldest of Jacob’s twelve sons, but he also forfeited his firstborn rights by some very wicked behavior. Thus, God chose Jacob over Esau and Judah over Reuben as the direct ancestors of the second child of promise.
Subsequently, it was necessary for God to once again remind Abraham that this first child of promise would be borne not by a handmaiden, but by Sarah herself. By the time of this reminder, Abraham was almost one hundred years old and Sarah ninety years of age. Most students of Scripture remember the remarkable story of this renewed promise that also included the Lord’s disclosure that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
Three men suddenly appeared at Abraham’s dwelling (tent). It’s clear from this encounter and from the following account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, that two of these men were angels and the third was the Lord, himself. Whenever we read in the Old Testament of “The Lord” appearing to someone, it is none other than the pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, himself. The Bible is clear that no man has ever seen God the Father. Instead, he is seen (all of his glorious attributes and personage) through his very Son, who is also God the Son.
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). “So the Word became human, and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14). Jesus also said, “For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me” (John 12:45). He, of course, was referring to God the Father.
After Abraham and Sarah had fed the three men, they were told, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” (Genesis 18:10). Do you recall what happened next? Of course, you do. Sarah laughed at such a promise. “Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’” (Genesis 18:13-14).
God said it … case closed. “…The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does” (Psalms 145:13). “He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever” (Psalms 146:6). The very author of the universe and of life, itself, had no problem opening the barren womb of a ninety-year old woman, from whom the child of promise would be borne. Would you agree?
Yet, how supernaturally ironic! Prior to this remarkable visible encounter with the Lord, himself, Abraham had been told that he would, indeed, be given a son through Sarah, and the son was to be called Isaac, which means “laughter” or “he laughs.” Not in the facetious, doubting, questioning, or even sarcastic sense, but in the full positive connotation of the laughter of joy.
What most of us forget is that before the supernatural pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ to Abraham and Sarah, God had previously spoken just to Abraham about Isaac.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai—God Almighty … This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! … I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! I will confirm my covenant you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation … I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God’” (Genesis 17: 1-8).
Then beginning in verse fifteen God said to Abraham, “…Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name with be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
And what was Abraham’s response? Well, it was a godly physical display of reverence encased in an all too human shell of uncertainty. Read with me:
“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’ So Abraham said to God, ‘May Ishmael live under your special blessing!’ But God replied, ‘No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants … But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year’” (Genesis 17: 17-21, italics for emphasis).
So, all you men out there who would scold Sarah for laughing at the Lord’s renewed promise that she would bear THE child of promise, we need to remember that Abraham was the first to laugh! But his and Sarah’s laughter of skepticism would soon turn to sheer laughter of delight, upon the birth of Isaac. Once and for all, Isaac and only Isaac would be the child of promise.
World-Wide Repercussions of These Promises
By far, the most incredible feature of this just quoted passage is the beginning of a family tree that set in motion a genealogical prophetic heritage which would forever alter the course of human history, with its repercussions unfolding right before our eyes in the 21st-century. It has steadfastly transformed the eternal spiritual destiny of both Jew and Gentile (all who believe in Messiah Jesus), as well as tangibly predetermined who has the eternal right to the Promised Land of Israel.
It is the fact that the first child of promise, Isaac, would be the direct ancestor of the second Child of Promise, who is none other than Messiah Jesus. We will continue that premise in next week’s article, Child of Promise (Part II).
This week’s article emphasizes that God’s covenant with Israel would forever belong to the Jews, confirmed through Isaac, not Ishmael. This is extraordinarily important to grasp especially in light of the perpetual disagreement over birthright inheritance of the Promised Land … Israel. A dispute that is once again manifesting itself through the tenacious terrorism and abhorrent anti- Semitism waged against Israel in particular and world-wide Jewry in general.
Arabs and Muslims claim exclusive right to Israel mostly because they have fraudulently changed the historical record. They accurately claim Abraham as their original ancestor, but then presumptuously substitute Isaac with Ishmael as the lawful, rightful descendant of Abraham. This is a blatant contradiction of God’s promise thousands of years before Mohammed introduced a whole new religion to the Arabs, Islam. The original promise was rejected and replaced with a false claim that Ishmael inherited Abraham’s birthright which included ownership of the Promised Land, simply because Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn.
Never mind that God later corrected and clarified Abraham and Sarah, by stipulating that it was indeed, Sarah’s own child that was the Child of Promise. That was the original covenant promise with Abraham, and would not be changed, especially by an act of (temporary) disobedience in which Sarah gave her servant to Abraham to bear a child.
Things to Ponder
This unilateral Abrahamic covenant—meaning God would unconditionally keep this covenant with Abraham specifically carried on though Isaac, not Ishmael—was to be the very God-given promise that the Jews would inherit the Promised Land, but that they also would be a light to the Gentile Nations. This especially included the descendants of Ishmael, who have indeed been blessed (as God also promised) with a huge number of descendants, far outnumbering the Jews. But God did not intend that this promise would grant Israel’s land rights to Arabs, Palestinians, or Muslims. Furthermore, the Light to the nations would be illuminated and shine brilliant in none other than the appointed Messiah, because salvation was destined to “come through the Jews” (John 4:22).
As Messiah, Jesus rightfully proclaimed: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12). In that same passage, Jesus, in no uncertain terms claimed that he was the Messiah when he said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he…” (Verse 20). The “I AM” part of that astounding declaration was none other than the sacred name of God, himself … Yahweh. Later in that same discourse with the Jewish religious leaders, he again made the amazingly bold statement, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (John 8:58).
The very fact that Jesus arose from the dead fully validates his claim of who he is and what he will do upon his glorious reappearance.
Read with me the last two verses of the entire Bible:
“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen, Come Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people” (Revelation 22: 20-21).