Abraham 1980 AM – 2155 AM
Key precept: The meaning of “Father of a nation.”
Part of the problem with understanding the Bible, I’m sorry to say, is that the church experience typically isolates and sequences Old Testament “Bible stories” in Sunday School – “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden”, ‘Noah and the Ark”, “The Tower of Babel”, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah”, “Abraham Offers Isaac”, and so on. If we take everything recorded in the Bible as a coherent whole story we will understand so much more of God’s entire message to us.
Apparently I need to work through the parts of Genesis chapters 10-11 we generally skip over because of awkwardly pronounced names and the lack of an interesting narrative. It is a valuable database bridging the “stories” from Noah to Abraham. The record appears to jump randomly from one topic to another, but only if we fail to connect them with the over-riding theme of the Bible – the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent to win total control of the kingdom of heaven and earth. Then the scattered puzzle pieces fit into place and we see the big picture.
The timeline provided by the dates in the genealogical record from Shem to Abram informs us that everyone listed in this program was alive and active at the same time, and the backdrop to Abraham’s significance falls into place.
The following chart gives the Anno Mundi dates in the Jewish system that calculates from the beginning of the world, set at 3761 BC, and matches them to the BC Before Christ / BCE Before Christian Era dates used by historians. Doubtless the dates are not 100% accurate but they are in the ballpark of conservative biblical scholarship (minus ~250 years for Bishop Ussher’s calculation of 4004 BC for Creation) and serve our purpose of putting key players and events into chronological order. When we look at the numbers as well as the names we get panoramic vision.
AM BC Births Deaths
1556 2448 Shem lived 602 yrs
1656 2348 The Flood
1658 2346 Arphaxad lived 438 yrs
1693 2311 Salah lived 433 yrs
1723 2281 Eber lived 464 yrs – last of the long-lived ancestors
1757 2247 Peleg lived 239 yrs – shorter lives after Babel
1786 2218 Nimrod same generation as Salah, lived 500 yrs
1787 2217 Reu lived 239 yrs
1819 2185 Serug lived 230 yrs
1849 2155 Nahor lived 228 yrs
1878 2126 Terah lived 205 yrs
1996 2008 Peleg – 1st ancient dies
2008 1996 Abram lived 175 yrs
2026 1978 Reu
2049 1955 Serug
2077 1927 Nahor
2083 1921 Terah
2096 1908 Arphaxad
2108 1896 Isaac lived 180 yrs
2126 1878 Salah
2158 1846 Shem
2168 1836 Jacob & Esau lived 147 yrs
2183 1821 Abraham
2187 1817 Eber 2200 ——————————————————————————-
~2200 ~1800 Sons of Jacob live from 110-137 yrs
~2286 ~1718 Nimrod by Esau per Jasher 2288 1716 Isaac 2300 ——————————————————————————-
2315 1689 Jacob 2400 ——————————————————————————- 2433 1571 Moses lived 120 yrs
When the narrative resumes “stories”, the spotlight is on Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, seed of the serpent, leader of the rebellion against God. While he is obviously a highly significant individual, we shouldn’t let him distract us from the presentation of the main character – God’s Anointed Son, seed of the woman in the order of Melchizedek, leader of those who are faithfully obedient to God. It is subtle, even offhand, as if God is expressing through grammar that he is not impressed with the terrifying army assembled against his small group of faithful subjects. (Understand that I am using this famous event only to visualize this spiritual concept, not to impute righteousness to the British Empire. More on that later.)
After listing all the fierce and giant peoples, without pausing for a breath we read “Unto Shem also…” The order of Melchizedek always stands in opposition to the man of sin and his host of evil ones. Look closer at Genesis 10 with this concept in mind.
“And the sons of Ham;
- Cush begat
- Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth…And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth [i.e. partnership was severed in order to establish his own kingdom] Asshur [a son of Shem and brother to Arphaxad/Sargon, listed here as a powerful rival to Nimrod, as we know from the rise and fall of their empires], and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.
- Mizraim begat
- Casluhim (out of whom came Philistim,) and
- Sidon his first born
and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad…These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations. Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.” (Gen 10:6-21)
Think I am exaggerating the significance of the paragraph structure? Fair enough. Look closer at Genesis 11, where once again we see the narrative contrasts the rebel nations with the order of Melchizedek without missing a beat.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do…So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. These are the generations of Shem..:” (Gen 11:6-10)
Shem is listed as the progenitor of all his physical descendants, and so are his brothers Japheth and Ham. “Now these are the gene(s)-rations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth…” (Gen 10:1) These three divisions constitute what came to be known as the Yellow, Black and White races. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are not, however, considered the fathers/heads of families/nations of all their descendants. “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations…” (Gen 10:32) This is because not all their descendants identified with them. This concept is absolutely key to understanding our standing with God as Christians who identify with the Messiah/ Promised Seed. More on this as we proceed in this study on “father” Abraham.
Follow me closely through the haze of ancient history. Not every ancient father became a patriarch, “a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family.” But all peoples on the earth were identified with – joined with – one or another of the patriarchs present at the scattering into nations at the Tower of Babel.
“These are the families of the [grand]sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” (Gen 10:32)
As is still the case with citizenship in today’s nations, citizenship in the early nations was obtained not only by genetic descendants but also through
- via emancipation from slavery, converting the non-person into a person (as recently as the 19th century in America),
- and – pertinent to our study – as a privilege bestowed on those who eagerly sought the benefits of belonging to that nation.
The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” (Act 22:24-29)
As we study the development of the early nations through the lens of the Bible, bear in mind the historical/biblical means by which individuals came out from among one nation to become citizens of another.
Citizenship was accomplished by adoption as sons into a family.
This is what was being attempted in changing the names identifying Dani-el and his Jewish compatriots as sons of the nation of the God of Isra-el to new names identifying them as adopted sons of the nation of the Babylonian gods.
This is what was understood as the Gentiles read the gospels of John – “He came unto his own [the ruling tribe/clan of Judah], and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (Joh 1:11-12).
This is what was understood as the Gentile new converts read the letters of Paul – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Eph 1:3-5, 2:18-19)
Paul did not construct a new religion of Christianity on the rubble of Judaism. At that time and in that culture everyone knew exactly what he was talking about. This is why followers of Jesus Christ threatened the stability of Rome in the same way Moslems threaten the stability of America. Devout Moslems’ first loyalty is to Muhammed, his writings, and their clan, not to the President and the American constitution. First century believers’ first loyalty was to the Christ, the ancient scion of the king of heaven and earth, not Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire. And by the way, “Caesar” is a family name that each successor, then each claimant, took as the adopted son of the previous ruler as part of establishing their legitimacy to the throne.
What John and Paul proclaimed was that anyone from any nation on earth – Egypt, Greece, Persia, India, etc. – was eligible to be adopted into God’s nation along with the “saints” from ages past – Adam, Noah, King David, Daniel, etc. Just like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated their higher allegiance to God by refusing to worship the Babylonian gods represented by their son Nebuchadnezzar, so believers in Jesus Christ as God’s son refused to worship the Roman gods represented by Caesar.
It is evident from our casual treatment of God our Father that Westerners don’t understand the extreme depths and heights of our relationship as sons of God our Father and our responsibilities and citizenship requirements in his nation. Our American “nation under God” is not a biblical nation based on a patriarchal family system. Our society is an outgrowth of Rome, where law, which has been defined as the “Art of Social Control”, reigns supreme and supercedes both God and family.
But even under ancient Roman law a “citizen” was defined as anyone who had been accepted into a Roman tribe by birth, adoption, emancipation, or governmental grant. And still today in the Middle East where the Bible originated, society is run by the male heads of clans, and survival depends on living by the clan laws.
Clans pose a challenge to state development in ways that are often difficult for Westerners to appreciate. Part of the challenge is cultural. Members of clans are united by powerful feelings of solidarity that impede or erode the overarching national identity essential for democratic citizenship. But more important, throughout history, from medieval Iceland and Scotland to modern-day Libya and Yemen, where clans function as basic units of social organization, they claim to have the legitimate authority to administer justice for their members by using their own force.
From resolving disputes over land [think Abraham and Lot] and arranging marriage settlements [think Jacob and Hamor] to exacting revenge within the context of the blood feud [think Simeon and Levi], clans exert legal powers that are independent from those of the state [think Peter and John as member of God’s clan declining to obey the Jewish rulers]
…It also weakens a core liberal value: individual rights. [Think the early church.] Under the rule of the clan, people are afforded protection not as individuals per se, but rather as members of the lineage groups to which they belong. Law is conceived on collective terms. Thus an injury to a clan member [is an injury to all clan members, think “I am crucified with Christ, Gal 2:20” and] not only demands a response from all members of the clan of the victim [think Stephen’s rebuke to the Jewish rulers], but also can be exacted against any member of the clan of the perpetrator [think Saul’s persecution of the church]. This collective principle diminishes the dignity of the individual by weakening public life [think “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters” (II Cor 6:16=18)]
In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi put clan loyalty at the heart of his revolutionary ideology, seeking to forge a stateless state, guarded by his leadership but organized around decentralized local institutions and clans, which he viewed as the natural basis of the social order. [As did Jesus when he forged his New Testament church.]
In Yemen, the Saleh regime’s highest priority has been to buy at any price the loyalty of the more powerful clans.
In the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat implemented a series of policies in the wake of the Oslo Accords that took power away from the university-educated leaders of the first intifada and strengthened the power of clan elders, which he could control directly through patronage. [As did Jesus in the wake of the new covenant, where the nation that lost power is not the entire group of Israelites, but the ruling Judah clan and the new nation/clan is the group that identifies with him and he empowers with his Spirit, the Christ-ians.]
When during the second intifada Israel destroyed numerous local government institutions, such as police stations and courts, the clans Arafat had strengthened rushed to fill the vacuum. [As did churches after 9/11. This should be our response to men’s hearts failing for fear.]
These cases are part of a more general dynamic, which varies in intensity throughout the region. The 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls it “clannism.”
How can modern democracies be built in the face of push-back from clans?…in addition to encouraging trade and economic development [think “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I Joh 2:15-16)], the United States should do what it can to help reformers in the region strengthen the identity and power of the intellectual and professional classes, among whom personal identity is most powerfully peeled away from the social core of kinship. [Think “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (I Cor 1:26-27)]
Now that we understand that (non-democratic) nationhood is bound to family/clan identity, let’s look at the reasons why individuals and families transfer their citizenship, i.e. support and civic duties, from one nation to another.
Migration is prompted by “push” factors driving people out of their homeland and “pull” factors luring people to go to the trouble of resettling in a strange land. These usually come into play during periods of internal social or external military conflicts. This is reflected in the graph showing historic peak migrations to America. Understand that, along with war as presented in the introductory post, these same factors were active in the earliest stages of history. We just need to change the names and the cultural identifiers.
- Famine. In Ireland during the mid-1800’s a potato blight causing mass starvation and disease prompted mass emigration. It is estimated that in just four years at its worst one million people died, one million emigrated, and others became nation-less refugees resulting in an immediate population drop of 20-25% out of a population of nine million, with a continuing population decline for a century. The destruction of the Irish people is attributed to England, which ruled Ireland from 1801-1922 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and which permitted for the benefit of the wealthy landowners “a mass of poverty, disaffection, and degradation without a parallel in the world.” Although Ireland produced twice as much food needed to feed the entire Irish population, the British refused to lift the strict export rules on the foods to divert them to home use so as not to lose profits for, therefore political support from, the wealthy merchant class. The British also refused to send basic food supplies into the country stating, and I quote, “the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.”
Sound vaguely familiar?
“And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food…They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come…for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” (Gen 43:1-2, 47:1-6)
- Subjugation. Government policies in 18th century Germany turned many of its people into virtual serfs/slaves. German laws of primogeniture permitted only the eldest sons in families to inherit all of a fathers’ land. Heavy taxation prevented accumulation of capital for investment into private ventures, and constant warfare cut short the lives of generations of young men. From the 1700’s through the 1800’s millions of Germans emigrated to America, many of them as farmers developing America into the top exporter of food to the world, with Johann Jakob Astor demonstrating German Americans’ success in business by becoming America’s first multimillionaire. Given their love for personal freedom it should come as no surprise that German Americans opposed slavery, not only because it provided most of the farm labor in the southern U.S. states but because some of the German immigrants were political refugees from the many failed revolutions of 1848 in Europe who came to the United States filled with ideals and continued to fight for freedom as leaders in the American abolitionist movement. In the Civil War nearly one-quarter of all Union Army troops were German Americans, about half of whom had been born in Europe.
Illustration of the most famous scene from the expose Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, in which the slave Eliza has to cross a treacherous body of water to reach freedom from the slavers pursuing her and most importantly, to save her son.
Seem vaguely familiar?
“the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field…And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river…And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows…Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt…But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea…And the LORD said unto Moses…speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward…And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground...(Ex 1:13-22, 3:1-10, 14:9-22)
- Class struggle by laborers against capitalists. The 19th century was marked by an endless series of wars, with the British emerging as the victors, defeating both the Napoleonic and the Hapsburg Empires to become the largest empire in history, controlling the fourth part of the world’s population and landmass including much of Asia and almost all of Africa under colonial rule. The Pax Britannica (updated Pax Romana) ushered in unprecedented globalization and economic integration. In combination with the Second Industrial Revolution this resulted in skyrocketing profits and power accruing exponentially to the upper classes who built gorgeous mansions and filled them with treasures from around the world, but in plummeting standards of living for the vast majority of people on whose labor the rich were getting richer. This was due in large part to a massive population shift from farms to urbanization. Outright slavery was abolished but factory and mine workers were treated no better than slaves and often even worse. Widespread unemployment of able bodied men destroyed families as factory and mine owners increasing their profits by preferentially employing women and children who were paid less per hour. Children as young as 6 years old worked up to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Diseases swept through the crowded and unsanitary cities but the newly established governments had neither the medical knowledge nor administrative will to combat them. Increasingly desperate people found it more and more difficult to find a reason to stay home. At the turn of the 20th century Italian immigrants made up 10% of the foreign immigrants. At the same time, Russian discriminatory policies imposing poverty through relocation to desolate areas spurred millions of Jews to emigrate.
Seem somewhat familiar?
“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life…For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely…And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was 30,000 men. And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy. And Solomon had 70,000 that bare burdens, and 80,000 hewers in the mountains; Beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, 3,300, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work…And the 1) house which king Solomon built for the LORD…when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither…And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house...seven years in building it. But Solomon was 2) building his own house thirteen years…He 3) built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…Solomon 4) made also an house for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had taken to wife…
All these were of costly stones…stones of ten cubits [which I calculated to be at least 15 feet square, or roughly the size of one end of the largest quarried stones known, at Baalbek, Lebanon, and if cubed I calculated to be about 2,500 pounds or 1 1/4 tons each] , and stones of eight cubits…and cedars…two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about…And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were exceeding many: neither was the weight of the brass found out. And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, And the candlesticks of pure gold..And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD….Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country...And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon’s servant…even he lifted up his hand against the king…And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he [had] made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph...And [when] Solomon slept with his fathers…Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee…And king Rehoboam consulted with the young men that were grown up with him…thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So…the king answered the people roughly…So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house[hold], David. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day…there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.” (I Ki 4-12)
- Benefiting future generations: In 2015 Mexican immigrants accounted for more than 1/4 of all US immigrants. What is seldom expressed in the polarized and inflammatory political discourse is that many Mexicans feel forced to leave their native country. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) displaced more than five million agricultural workers from their land. Many Mexican immigrants who would prefer to stay home come to the US so that they can provide a better future for their children and future generations.
“…And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me…And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying…arise, get thee out from this land…And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.” (Gen 27:41-45, 31:4-16)
Now that we have realigned our Sunday School flannelgraph and coloring book images with the reality of human nature, let’s examine the nations that came into existence in the line of Shem. Which one did Abr(ah)am join, and why?
Arphaxad was only 350 years old when Abram, his descendant, i.e. younger clan member who would have been subject to his rule, was born in his territory. Arphaxad lived until Abram was 88 years old. Even though he lost his position as Sargon over other tribes in the incessant warfare of that time and place (as realistically portrayed in the Mad Max series), he would still have been, like Jehoiachin, retained as a knowledgeable and sought-out advisor by the conqueror, an influential chieftain over his tribe/nation, and a high priest in the Akkadian’s polytheistic religious practices, which, like Rome’s Universal Church during the Reformation, was the prototype for all subsequent national religions.
“And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood [mighty river, the Euphrates] in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods…Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Josh 24:2-15)
Obviously Arphaxad was not a righteous clan leader/father figure for Abraham. As long as Abraham was in the land of the Chaldeans, like Bible believers in 16th century England or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon, he would have been subject to its laws.
“Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?…if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.” (Dan 3:14-20)
And here is where God’s Melchizedek / Seed of the Woman / Chosen One / Messiah / Christ most evidently opposes the Seed of the Serpent / Man of Sin / Antichrist. Unlike Arphaxad and Salah, Eber and his people rejected Antichrist Nimrod and his earthly promises and terrorist threats and submitted to Melchizedek Shem’s rule in God’s spiritual kingdom.
This is why Shem is called “the father of the children of Eber/the Hebrew” rather than “the father of the children of Arphaxad”. Eber was the first scion who could be acknowledged by Shem as being in his likeness and capable of carrying out his righteous legacy. Remember, “a child became a son or daughter not primarily by the fact of physical generation but rather through acknowledgement or election by the father...The perfect son then is the incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character, and he points to his father, not to himself.”
Understanding this gives us to realize that “Hebrew” encompasses, but is not synonymous with, “Jew” (descendant of Judah) or even Israelite (descendant of Israel/Jacob). Names are meaningful. We shouldn’t be careless with them. Long before there was a nation of Israel the Hebrews are defined as the people of the LORD God.
Jews from Judah who belong to larger group of
Israelites from Israel/Jacob who belong to larger group of
Hebrews from Eber
“And Joseph said unto him…think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:” (Gen 40:12-15)
In context here while Joseph is including his family as Hebrews, he is not defining his family as the only Hebrews. His family of Israel became a subset of the nation of the Hebrews, just like the twelve tribes were subsets of the nation of Israel. But when Joseph was in Egypt, before Jacob/Israel’s sons coalesced into a unit, but rather were falling apart (Gen 34, 37, 38, 49), the Egyptians were interacting with Hebrews who were not part of Israel’s family. This is demonstrated by the description of long-established religious practices by the Egyptians towards the Hebrews before the Egyptians knew they were interacting with Joseph’s family.
“And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.” (Gen 43:32)
With this in mind we should be able to notice how the one who becomes the God of the nation of Israel identifies himself as the one is already the God of the existing nation of Hebrews. This has far more significance than just historical as we shall discover.
“…when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.” (Ex 2:11)
“God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you…And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. ” (Ex 3:15-9:1)
“And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel…Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (19:3-6)
As a kingdom of priests the nation of Israel was given a complex system of rules and daily sacrifices defined by the Mosaic law. These behaviors sanctified, set apart the people of Israel “that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” (Ex 28:41) They did not alter God’s way of salvation from sin. That had been established with the first Adam at the beginning of time and carried forward after the flood by the Hebrew nation – faith in the promised Seed, the Redeemer / the Chosen One / Christ. Paul did not create a new religion when he wrote the letter to the Romans. He simply analyzed the existing way of salvation and shared his “aha!” understanding.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Yahweh’s Savior the Promised Seed unto all and upon all them that believe…[which is] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” (Ro 3:20-30)
Job’s address as “the land of Uz” (Job 1:1) referencing one of Shem’s grandsons, his herding lifestyle in what soon became a heavily urbanized area, his experience with the pre-urbanized raiding Chaldeans, and his long lifespan estimated at about 200 years dates him as living during the formative stages of post-flood civilization. He was not an Israelite. He would have been an Hebrew. He documents for us that the way of salvation in ancient times was the exactly the same as that known to us under the terms of the New Covenant – repentance and profession of faith in the promised Redeemer.
“Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! [As a sure testimony in the day of judgment.] That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! [As was Cyrus the Great’s last words.] For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God [resurrection]: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me…Then Job answered the LORD and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 19:23-27)
Paul’s claim to be a Hebrew confirms that there is a religious significance to this identification, which precedes and is separate from the Israelite national identification, and is important enough for Paul to brag about.
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.” (II Cor 11:22)
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phili 3:5-6)
Now that we understand Abraham’s cultural background, especially his Hebrew heritage, we are ready to study our father’s life.
The book of Jasher, which is referenced twice in scripture thus confirming its reliability as a source, gives historical details of Abram’s early life and the culture from which he was sent out. Though not described in the Bible, these details are credible, and more trustworthy than my imagination. The timeline documented in Genesis 11 places Abram’s early years smack in the middle of Nimrod’s violent and idolatrous culture so this much is verified in scripture. Other details match historical events involving other Spirit-empowered men of God so are valid. One thing is certain, Abram didn’t just go through a daily routine of making a living, and if his biography isn’t exactly as recorded by Jasher it would be close to it.
Nimrod was born about 300 years after the flood, late in his father’s lifetime. Jasher reports a workforce on the Tower of Babel of about 600,000 men plus women and children, for a total population of a few million people (Jasher 9:23) This is consistent with the population growth calculation referenced above.
And Cush the son of Ham, the son of Noah, took a wife in those days in his old age, [being in the same generation as Arphaxad, Cush would have lived until about 2100 AM] and she bare a son, [according to ancient sources about the year 1927 AM, when Terah was about 50 years old] and they called his name Nimrod…At that time the sons of men again began to rebel and transgress against God, and the child grew up, and his father loved him exceedingly, for he was the son of his old age…
And Nimrod strengthened himself, and he rose up from amongst his brethren, and he fought the battles of his brethren against all their enemies round about…And when Nimrod was forty years old, at that time there was a war between his brethren and the children of Japheth, so that they were in the power of their enemies. And Nimrod went forth at that time, and he assembled all the sons of Cush and their families, about four hundred and sixty men, and he hired also from some of his friends and acquaintances about eighty men, and be gave them their hire, and he went with them to battle, and when he was on the road, Nimrod strengthened the hearts of the people that went with him…
And all the men that went were about five hundred, and they fought against their enemies, and they destroyed them, and subdued them, and Nimrod placed standing officers over them in their respective places. And he took some of their children as security, and they were all servants to Nimrod and to his brethren, and Nimrod and all the people that were with him turned homeward.
And when Nimrod had joyfully returned from battle, after having conquered his enemies, all his brethren, together with those who knew him before, assembled to make him king over them, and they placed the regal crown upon his head. [Since Nimrod becomes the new king he must have rebelled against Sargon/Arphaxad.] And he set over his subjects and people, princes, judges, and rulers, as is the custom amongst kings. And he placed Terah the son of Nahor the prince of his host, and he dignified him and elevated him above all his princes… [Check the timeline above. As a direct descendant of Arphaxad, Terah would have been a prince, trained in warfare and government. It makes perfect sense that Nimrod elevated a defeated Chaldean to the highest level of his government, just like Nebuchadnezzar did with Daniel.]…and Nimrod reigned in the earth over all the sons of Noah, and they were all under his power and counsel.
And all the earth was of one tongue and words of union, but Nimrod did not go in the ways of the Lord, and he was more wicked than all the men that were before him, from the days of the flood until those days. And he made gods of wood and stone [to lure the unclean spirits of the dead Nephilim into these inviting host bodies as his honored guests in hopes of accessing their power] and he bowed down to them, and he rebelled against the Lord, and taught all his subjects and the people of the earth his wicked ways; and Mardon his son was more wicked than his father…And Terah the son of Nahor, prince of Nimrod’s host, was in those days very great in the sight of the king and his subjects, and the king and princes loved him, and they elevated him very high.” (Jasher 7:34-47)
And it was in the night that Abram was born [when Nimrod was about 50 years old] that all the servants of Terah, and all the wise men of Nimrod, and his conjurors came and ate and drank in the house of Terah, and they rejoiced with him on that night. And when all the wise men and conjurors went out from the house of Terah, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven that night to look at the stars, and they saw, and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens, and he swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of the heavens. And all the wise men of the king and his conjurors were astonished at the sight, and the sages understood this matter, and they knew its import
…and they all went to the king and bowed down to him to the ground, and they said, May the king live, may the king live…a son was born to Terah the son of Nahor, the prince of thy host, and…and knew by our wisdom…the child that is born to Terah, who will grow up and multiply greatly, and become powerful, and kill all the kings of the earth, and inherit all their lands, he and his seed forever. And now our lord and king, behold we have truly acquainted thee with what we have seen concerning this child. If it seemeth good to the king to give his father value for this child, we will slay him before he shall grow up and increase in the land, and his evil increase against us, that we and our children perish through his evil.
And the king heard their words and they seemed good in his sight, and he sent and called for Terah, and Terah came before the king. And the king said to Terah, I have been told that a son was yesternight born to thee, and after this manner was observed in the heavens at his birth. And now therefore give me the child, that we may slay him before his evil springs up against us...And Terah hastened, (as the thing was urgent from the king), and he took a child from one of his servants, which his handmaid had born to him that day, and Terah brought the child to the king and received value for him. And the Lord was with Terah in this matter, that Nimrod might not cause Abram’s death, and the king took the child from Terah and with all his might dashed his head to the ground, for he thought it had been Abram; and this was concealed from him from that day, and it was forgotten by the king, as it was the will of Providence not to suffer Abram’s death. And Terah took Abram his son secretly, together with his mother and nurse, and he concealed them in a cave, and he brought them their provisions monthly. And the Lord was with Abram in the cave and he grew up, and Abram was in the cave ten years, and the king and his princes, soothsayers and sages, thought that the king had killed Abram…
And when Abram came out from the cave, he went to Noah and his son Shem, and he remained with them to learn the instruction of the Lord and his ways, and no man knew where Abram was, and Abram served Noah and Shem his son for a long time. And Abram was in Noah’s house thirty-nine years, and Abram knew the Lord from three years old, and he went in the ways of the Lord until the day of his death, as Noah and his son Shem had taught him; and all the sons of the earth in those days greatly transgressed against the Lord, and they rebelled against him and they served other gods, and they forgot the Lord who had created them in the earth; and the inhabitants of the earth made unto themselves, at that time, every man his god; gods of wood and stone which could neither speak, hear, nor deliver, and the sons of men served them and they became their gods.
And the king and all his servants, and Terah with all his household were then the first of those that served gods of wood and stone. And Terah had twelve gods of large size, made of wood and stone, after the twelve months of the year, and he served each one monthly, and every month Terah would bring his meat offering and drink offering to his gods; thus did Terah all the days. And all that generation were wicked in the sight of the Lord, and they thus made every man his god, but they forsook the Lord who had created them.
And there was not a man found in those days in the whole earth, who knew the Lord (for they served each man his own God) [the oldest living religion Hinduism, acknowledges at least 33 million gods] except Noah and his household, and all those who were under his counsel knew the Lord in those days. And Abram the son of Terah was waxing great in those days in the house of Noah, and no man knew it, and the Lord was with him. And the Lord gave Abram an understanding heart, and he knew all the works of that generation were vain, and that all their gods were vain and were of no avail…
And in the fiftieth year of the life of Abram son of Terah, Abram came forth from the house of Noah, and went to his father’s house. And Abram knew the Lord, and he went in his ways and instructions, and the Lord his God was with him. And Terah his father was in those days, still captain of the host of king Nimrod, and he still followed strange gods…
And when Abram saw all these things his anger was kindled against his father, and he hastened and took a hatchet in his hand, and came unto the chamber of the gods, and he broke all his father’s gods.
And the king said to the princes and sages, Have you heard what Abram, the son of Terah, has done to his father? Thus has he done to him, and I ordered him to be brought before me, and thus has he spoken; his heart did not misgive him, neither did he stir in my presence, and behold now he is confined in the prison. And therefore decide what judgment is due to this man who reviled the king; who spake and did all the things that you heard.
And they all answered the king saying, The man who revileth the king should be hanged upon a tree; but having done all the things that he said, and having despised our gods, he must therefore be burned to death, for this is the law in this matter.
If it pleaseth the king to do this, let him order his servants to kindle a fire both night and day in thy brick furnace, and then we will cast this man into it. And the king did so, and he commanded his servants that they should prepare a fire for three days and three nights in the king’s furnace, that is in Casdim; and the king ordered them to take Abram from prison and bring him out to be burned.
And all the king’s servants, princes, lords, governors, and judges, and all the inhabitants of the land, about nine hundred thousand men, stood opposite the furnace to see Abram. And all the women and little ones crowded upon the roofs and towers to see what was doing with Abram, and they all stood together at a distance; and there was not a man left that did not come on that day to behold the scene. [What a public testimony!]
…And the Lord loved Abram and he had compassion over him, and the Lord came down and delivered Abram from the fire and he was not burned. But all the cords with which they bound him were burned, while Abram remained and walked about in the fire…three days and three nights, and all the servants of the king saw him walking in the fire, and they came and told the king, saying, Behold we have seen Abram walking about in the midst of the fire, and even the lower garments which are upon him are not burned, but the cord with which he was bound is burned.
And the king ordered Abram to be taken out from the fire; and his servants approached to take him out and they could not, for the fire was round about and the flame ascending toward them from the furnace. And the king’s servants fled from it, and the king rebuked them, saying, Make haste and bring Abram out of the fire that you shall not die. And the servants of the king again approached to bring Abram out, and the flames came upon them and burned their faces so that eight of them died.
And when the king saw that his servants could not approach the fire lest they should be burned, the king called to Abram, O servant of the God who is in heaven, go forth from amidst the fire and come hither before me; and Abram hearkened to the voice of the king, and he went forth from the fire and came and stood before the king.
And the king said to Abram, How is it that thou wast not burned in the fire? And Abram said to the king, The God of heaven and earth in whom I trust and who has all in his power, he delivered me from the fire into which thou didst cast me…And the king, princes, and inhabitants of the land, seeing that Abram was delivered from the fire, they came and bowed down to Abram.
And Abram said to them, Do not bow down to me, but bow down to the God of the world who made you, and serve him, and go in his ways for it is he who delivered me from out of this fire, and it is he who created the souls and spirits of all men, and formed man in his mother’s womb, and brought him forth into the world, and it is he who will deliver those who trust in him from all pain.
And Abram went forth from the king [Nimrod, in the land of Chaldea when the Lord called him out]…and many of the king’s servants followed him, and about three hundred men joined him. And…Abram served the Lord his God all the days of his life, and he walked in his ways and followed his law. And from that day forward Abram inclined the hearts of the sons of men to serve the Lord…
Do you recognize what is going on here? These men are following Abram to leave one nation and join another.
And Abram said to his father, Dost thou not know that the king thinketh to slay me, and to annihilate my name from the earth by the advice of his wicked counsellors? [Sound familiar? Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.” Matt 26:3-4] Now whom hast thou here…Now therefore hearken to my voice, and let us arise and go to the land of Canaan, out of the reach of injury from Nimrod; and serve thou the Lord who created thee in the earth and it will be well with thee; and cast away all the vain things which thou pursuest…And Terah hearkened to the voice of his son Abram, and Terah did all that Abram said, for this was from the Lord, that the king should not cause Abram’s death.” (Jasher 12)
Why would Abram choose to go to Canaan? Recall that in ancient times the head of a tribe or nation was both political and religious authority. “Historically, a patriarch has often been the logical choice to act as ethnarch identified with his religious confession within a state or empire of a different creed (such as Christians within the Ottoman Empire).”
Apparently Eber led a band of believers to the land of Canaan prior to Abram’s arrival, as evidenced by a number of men mentioned in scripture.
“And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech /My Father is King] king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man [i.e. impotent, unable to beget children Heb 11:12], for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? [And that’s what you get for looking like unbelievers.] And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake…And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.” (Gen 20)
“And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest: Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned. And Abraham said, I will swear.” (Gen 21:22-24)
Did you catch Abimelech’s personal relationship with God? He doesn’t say “your” God. In addition, his lifestyle proved his relationship to Yaweh by Abraham’s definition – to “fear God,” hundreds of years before there was the Levitical priesthood to guide the way. But the record shows that The Way was known.
“Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 25:17)
The evidence shows that the following New Covenant instructions were followed by Abimelech, and more perfectly than by most contemporary believers we have to admit. How did Abimelech know about the true God and how to worship him? Why should we assume the written word of God started with Moses, and men like Abimelech had none to guide them to salvation? The following passage written by the Apostle Peter is based on Isaiah’s writings because they were as applicable to the believers suffering oppression under the Roman empire in the 1st century AD as it was to believers being crushed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. This is God’s timeless truth. Just as we accept them as applicable to 21st century believers we can see that they apply to the 19th century BC believers.
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture , Behold, I lay in Sion https://biblehub.com/str/greek/4622.htm [in Abimelech’s time the mountain held by Shem Melchizedek] a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded /put to utter confusion and shame.” (I Pet 2:6, also Romans 9:33)
Envision the city of Ur as Abram undoubtedly did when he first saw Mount Zion, which probably had nothing more than a natural stone altar as its “chief corner stone”. The great cities with their fabulous temples could have seemed to prove that the other gods were more worthy of praise than Yaweh. Have you never, as a believer in the God of the Bible, felt confounded, doubting your faith in God’s promise of things to come?
“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood [that describes Abimelech as well as Abraham], an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Having your conversation honest [that describes Abimelech as well as Abraham] among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Pet 2:12-17)
“Fearing God” identifies believers throughout the ages. And don’t overlook “honour the king”. The king that believers were to honour in Peter’s day was wicked Caesar, and in Abimelech and Abraham’s day was a series of conquerors including Chedolaomer, king of Elam, as we shall see later in this post. When we get there don’t overlook the fact that Abraham was not among the people who were attacked. Why not? If Abraham was following God’s code, which was not newly devised for Christians, then he was paying his taxes. He didn’t rebel again Chedolaomer until he needed to rescue his family.
Very interesting that, consistent with Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech, the land of Gerar is not mentioned in the list of Israelite conquests in Joshua 15. Located in what came to be Philistine territory, but not named as one of the Philistine cities, Gerar would have been rescued from the Philistines by first Samson, then Saul, and finally King David. Ultimately it would have been absorbed through a peaceful alliance into Judah, like so many of Israel’s neighbors under King David and King Solomon.
We can deduce that when Abraham was sent out of Arphaxad’s pagan Chaldea he joined the only nation/clan reported to worship the one true God, his [grand]father Eber’s small band of Hebrews. And sure enough, we find documentation of “Abram the Hebrew.” (Gen 14:13)
Hold on! retort those readers who are familiar with Genesis. The pertinent quote is that “the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee…and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” (Gen 12:1-6)
Good point. Whenever there seems to be a contradiction I’ve found that this is the place to dig around for a gem of truth. This is true in my practice as a psychiatric provider trying to determine truth from a patient who is hiding the truth, and it is true in scripture. We can either jump to the conclusion that the Bible is full of contradictions and therefore can be tossed aside, or we can “seek” to know truth with at least the effort we put into developing relationships with humans we care about. Hmm, maybe a generalized lack of interest is the fundamental problem? Never mind.
At the time that Abraham entered the land of the Hebrews, it was populated with the patriarch Canaan and his people. “And Canaan begat Sidon his first born, and Heth, And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha. (Gen 10:15-19)
But don’t forget that the Melchizedek Shem, “priest of the most high God” (Gen 14:18) was also there, and that here is a link between Canaan and Shem. “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” (Gen 9:26)
“…the Hivites…said unto Joshua, We are thy servants…thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live…but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation.” (Josh 9:7-21)
We should expect to find a tribe of Hebrews under the leadership of Shem and Eber in the same land populated by the Canaanites. Why? To challenge the enemy for possession! And in the process we should expect to find Abraham and his household assembling themselves together with their own kind for a number of reasons.
1) When Abram and his followers left their kindred/nation to become refugees they lost the considerable resources and protections provided by the tribe they left. They were under great pressure to recant their faith in an unseen God and return to physical security as members of a worldly group. Believers of every age face the same pressures and need the same encouragement to endure trials and tribulations.
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord…Look unto Abraham your father…for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” (Isa 51:1-2)
“Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name [Savior!] : therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak [through the prophet in the assembly] : behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: [battle scarred]” (Isa 52:5-15)
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” (Heb 10:23-25)
2) We also need to assemble together as believers because our God judges his children who fall away to avoid persecution.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day [of judgment] approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” (Heb 10:25-33
3) Last, and probably least to tell the truth, our Adversary as a roaring lion picks off the strays, the weak individuals who straggle and allow themselves to get separated from the flock in the foolish belief that they can avoid being attacked by the enemy if they are not easily identified as a member of the flock.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory [Peter is referring to his impending martyrdom] that shall be revealed [spiritual power over physical suffering]: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock…Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Pet 5:1-9)
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles [notice, believers are no longer identified with the Gentiles]…deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (I Cor 5)
Those who don’t understand the absolute necessity of belonging to a nation/state haven’t grasped the dire consequences of not belonging to a state. “Hannah Arendt is considered one of the most important modern thinkers. She spent her entire life critically discussing statelessness as a core concern of human rights and international politics…Her book The Origins of Totalitarianism is a fundamental reference…” The pogroms by medieval European states were possible because the Jews were not citizens., therefore not under the protection of the state. The Holocaust of 6 million Jews occurred because they were stateless, unprotected by Germany’s laws, and unable to obtain access to another country’s protection through immigration.
“We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement…nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution….”
(Christian Armenians on a death march during the Islamic Ottoman genocide.)
We know about the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Christians are being persecuted in record numbers today. Can we apply that understanding to the believers in the Seed of the Woman under Nimrod’s Empire? One man standing alone couldn’t last long. The need to belong to a nation of believers is basic and imperative, and emphasized as such in scripture. God works through social order in families, nations, and assemblies / congregations / churches of worshippers, not just in the New Testament or the nation of Israel but since the beginning of time.
“And God said, Let us make man…and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…and [the woman’s] seed [a partnership between God and mankind]…shall bruise [smash] thy [Serpent’s] head…” (Gen 1:26-28, 3:15)
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:” (Letter to the Hebrews 2:3-7)
Part of the great salvation we should not neglect is the protection and resources available though membership in a nation whose prime directive is to “…provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….” This is why it is so important to understand the details on the nations that God bothered to give us in Genesis 10-11 as the background to Abraham’s significance. Abraham doesn’t just show up, like Superman, out of the blue, to save the world single handedly. Yes, he has the royal Melchizedekian ancestry with legal documents to prove his legitimacy and the right to be the next patriarch in line to lead the Hebrew people – but he also has the Hebrew people to back him up!
Think I am inflating the importance of this concept? Neither does Jesus show up to save the world single handedly! He waits for the collaboration of all his chosen people to whom he has delegated responsibility. All the following verses link together, like an email or text message string.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [refers to the nation’s leadership, like “Washington” for America] thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Mat 23:27-39)
“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time [i.e. death] no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said…Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings…the holy city shall they [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth…And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified…And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven…And the seventh [last] angel sounded [his trumpet]; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 10:5-11, 11:12-15)
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory…thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor 15:51-57)
“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God…And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Rev 19:11-14)
Abraham didn’t just sit back and relax on the back pew once he joined his congregation of Hebrews. He went to work fulfilling the marching orders in God’s kingdom. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” with LIFE. Do we not recognize the walking dead when we see them? Or do we just not care, at least not enough to save them from their ultimate destruction?
Isn’t it interesting that Abraham’s journeys covered the entire Cradle of Civilization during the renaissance of the godless pre-flood civilization.
This is like Paul’s missionary journeys through the apogee of that same pagan civilization some thousands of years later, during which he impressed upon his Gentile converts that all believers in the Promised Seed/ Messiah/ Christ, not just the physical descendants, are the children of Abraham. Note that the following passage is from the letter to the Romans, which is specifically addressed to Gentiles.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness…Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered…How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:” (Ro 4:1-10)
Is it incredible to think that Paul was following in the footsteps of Abraham when he became a missionary? Or is your embedded impression from Sunday School that Abraham just hung out raising sheep and cattle all his life? Don’t we get the message that Abraham was a witness? There is much more to Abraham’s life than the few incidents recorded in scripture, but those are certainly international, and you can be sure that word of Abraham’s amazingly powerful God spread like wildfire!
And [after the fiasco at the tower of Babel] Nimrod son of Cush was still in the land of Shinar, and he reigned over it and dwelt there, and he built cities in the land of Shinar. [Remember, cities are built for war.] And these are the names of the four cities which he built, and he called their names after the occurrences that happened to them in the building of the tower. And he called the first Babel, saying, Because the Lord there confounded the language of the whole earth; and the name of the second he called Erech, because from there God dispersed them. And the third he called Eched, saying there was a great battle at that place; and the fourth he called Calnah, because his princes and mighty men were consumed there, and they vexed the Lord, they rebelled and transgressed against him. And when Nimrod had built these cities in the land of Shinar, he placed in them the remainder of his people, his princes and his mighty men that were left in his kingdom. And Nimrod dwelt in Babel, and he there renewed his reign over the rest of his subjects, and he reigned securely, and the subjects and princes of Nimrod called his name Amraphel, saying that at the tower his princes and men fell through his means. And notwithstanding this, Nimrod did not return to the Lord, and he continued in wickedness and teaching wickedness to the sons of men; and Mardon, his son, was worse than his father, and continued to add to the abominations of his father…At that time there was war between the families of the children of Ham, as they were dwelling in the cities which they had built [for that purpose].
And Chedorlaomer, [a title] king of Elam [a Semite], went away from the families of the children of Ham [i.e. he severed his alliance with Nimrod], and he fought with them and he subdued them, and he went to the five cities of the plain [in Canaan, i.e. also children of Ham]and he fought against them and he subdued them, and they were under his control. And they served him twelve years, and they gave him a yearly tax…And in the fiftieth year of the life of Abram son of Terah, Abram came forth from the house of Noah, and went to his father’s house.” (Jasher 11:1-13)
“Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim,
- the Zuzims in Ham, [use of personal name as place name may indicate the place Ham established residence] and
- the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
- the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of
- the Amalekites, and also
- the Amorites, [also giants] that dwelt in Hazezontamar…
- And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew…And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. (Genesis 14)
We see from the account of this battle that Abraham was living in the midst of dangerous and warring peoples. He was prepared for this battle because he had already armed and trained his household. They did not live at ease, even before they were attacked by foreign enemies they were on constant alert against the enemies that surrounded them. Anyone who presumes to be a son/child of Abraham, i.e. “the incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character” must expect to do the same. Membership in a family/nation has its privileges and responsibilities.
“Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Eph 6:10-18)
“And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation…For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me…” (Gen 18:18-21)
Do we make a backwards assumption in a superficial reading of this passage? Did Abraham have the responsibility to ensure that all his existing household keep the way of the LORD, or did Abraham have the responsibility to limit his household to only those who kept the way of the LORD? In brief, what comes first – being a member of Abraham’s household or keeping the way of the LORD?
The context of the statement, in which the LORD warns Abraham of his plan to destroy the city where Lot lives, clues us in that keeping the way of the LORD precedes becoming a member of Abraham’s household. The reason God told Abraham in advance of the impending catastrophe was to warn him not to bail Lot out of the mess he had created for himself. What we call tough love.
This is significant because Abraham was Lot’s father in the legal sense when Abraham accepted him as a member of his household on the death of the family patriarch Terah. I have heard pastors condemn Abraham for not abandoning all his relatives on God’s orders to leave his kindred, but that just doesn’t fit with Abraham’s biblical responsibilities, first as a son to submit to and care for his aging and vulnerable father, and secondly on Terah’s death to assume responsibilities as the new head of the family for any dependents. This is logically the reason why the record of Abraham’s delayed emigration to Canaan is annotated with family dynamics.
“Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees…And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there…and Terah died in Haran. Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing…So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. (Gen 11:27-32, 12:1-5)
And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (Gen 13:2-9)
Bear in mind, this was Abram’s promised land. Giving Lot any of it was giving him an advance on an inheritance. This action alone shows that Abram designated Lot as his heir, as would be expected.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.” (Gen 13:10-11)
This separation was more than physical distance, it severed family ties. Listen to how the LORD comforts Abram on the loss of the future hopes he had pinned on Lot, even more than the loss of a huge amount of wealth. Remember, Abram is getting on in age, and Lot was the closest relationship to a son he could expect to ever have.
“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered…And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless [now that Lot is gone], and the steward of my house [next in line to inherit not just ownership but responsibility] is this Eliezer of Damascus [not even a blood relative]? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Gen 13:14-16, 15:2-6)
Contrast this account of Abram’s relationship with God the Father to Lot’s relationship with Abram as father. Lot does not reflect Abram’s righteous character. Even though Abram had assumed responsibility as a clan member to rescue Lot from the four kings, there is no record of submission to either Melchizedek’s or Abram’s authority. Even the king of Sodom has more respect!
“Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly…And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan…And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods…And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God…And he [Abram] gave him tithes of all. [But Lot didn’t.] And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. [That’s appropriate, but Lot didn’t offer!] (Gen 13:12-13, 14:14-21)
And when Lot hits rock bottom he still won’t admit that he is a sinner who got himself into his awful predicament, and plead for forgiveness and mercy.
And there came two angels to Sodom…And the men said unto Lot…because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD…the LORD hath sent us to destroy it...then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city…Escape for thy life…neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: [Now here is arrogance personified, arguing with the Angel of Death.]…I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: [and what evil does he fear awaiting him in the mountain? None else but Abraham.]…And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” (Gen 19:2-38)
As you read the following story contrast Lot’s actions with this other son’s in the same circumstances.
“A certain man had [a son who] said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto [him] his living. And not many days after the…son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance...and he began to be in want…And when he came to himself, he said…I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.” (Lu 15:11-20)
Unlike the prodigal son, at no point in his tragic life did Lot have the humility to submit himself to Abraham’s authority in order to take possession of his resources. And in the end, Lot was not a member of Abraham’s household of faith. Abraham commanded his children and household to keep the way of the LORD, and when Lot didn’t, Abraham didn’t accommodate his lower standards.
There were, however, other persons who came out from well-known wicked nations, who must have had enough faith in Abram’s God and Abram’s leadership to follow him into what was otherwise a suicide mission.
“…Abram the Hebrew…dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram…And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet…Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Gen 14:13-24)
These men had to be believers like Abimelech in order for Abraham to be in league with them. A search of the names confirms their alliance with the God of Abraham who memorializes them with himself in the Word of God which abides forever: Mamre is forever identified as the gracious seller of the first plot of promised land, Eshcol is forever identified with the lushious first fruits of the promised land.
If, as I am asserting, people from different ethnicities could be amalgamated into the Hebrew nation, how could they be distinguished from their old ethnic association?
By taking on a characteristic trade mark.
“And God said unto Abraham…This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised…every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed…And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant…And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.” (Gen 17:9-23)
Ishmael provides us with the evidence that simply going through religious rituals like circumcision or baptism doesn’t qualify one to be a member of Abraham’s household of faith.
“And Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham…in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Gen 21:8-12)”
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage…and answereth to Jerusalem which now is [not true Mosaic Judaism but the 1st century legalistic demands on behaviors that had nothing to do with the heart of relationship], and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Now we, [Christian] brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Behold, I Paul say unto you [former Gentiles now Christians], that if ye be circumcised [in order to be saved], Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Gal 4:21-5:6)
So Gentile children of Abraham do not take the mark of circumcision as a sign of God’s covenant with them in Christ. However there are other marks besides circumcision indicating ownership.
“And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: [Do you catch the implications for your family in serving the Lord?!] Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” (Ex 21:5-6)
Former-Gentile Christians don’t get “let off the hook” by not getting circumcised. The fact of the matter is that the New Covenant, by empowering believers so much more, demands so much more from the believer than the Old! “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Lu 12:48)
Paul describes the mark which shows that one is a New Covenant believer. It is doing the will of the Father which is in heaven (Mat 7:21), which will show in changed likeness (behavior) and image (appearance) of God.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: [can’t you hear his exhaustion – from defending himself from fellow believers?] for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus...in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (Gal 6:15-17, II Cor 11:23-28)
This obviously comes at a much greater cost than men sacrificing a bit of flesh. Christianity costs doing one’s own will and is a very public testimony of one’s love for, and placing one’s trust for the future in, the Father, by following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ whose name we claim as Christians. It is also a very lonely experience that can only be managed by drawing closer to God our Father.
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Matt 26:27-44)
Wow. How many Christians do we know who live like this? We understand that many of us who were born as American citizens take our national privileges for granted and refuse to perform our responsibilities. Even worse, many of us who were born into Christian church-going families take our spiritual privileges for granted and refuse to perform our responsibilities.
I’m afraid we don’t understand who is in charge of our national membership from a biblical standpoint. We take it for granted that we can have the benefits of being children of Abraham because the patriarch / father of a nation has the authority to choose who will be included in his nation, regardless of their genetic ancestry. But it seems that Christians overlook the essential element of that – the father of a nation has the authority to choose who will be included in his nation, period.
Bestowing of sonship and inheritance by the Father to person(s) of his choosing is what Abra(ha)m was talking about as he prepared to make his trusted servant his heir.
“And Abram said…the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus…mine heir.” (Gen 15:3)
I’m afraid we don’t pay attention to the Father’s piece of the sonship process. Belonging and inheritance is only granted by the Father. Yes, we get that it is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done…” (Titus 3:5). But neither is it left up to the individual to finalize the process of becoming a son or a citizen. It is up to the Father of the family or nation.
“And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. (Gen 15:4)
The essential condition of receiving the inheritance and privileges of a son only as granted by the Father to one who is the extension of his will and character is what John the Baptist was talking about as he prepared hearts to receive the promised inheritance of “a great nation” (Gen 12:2) through Abraham’s seed Messiah/Christ/Promised Savior, first in his physical presence as David’s royal heir then in his fully empowering presence as the Holy Spirit.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees [Conservatives] and Sadducees [Liberals] come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father…I indeed baptize / overwhelm you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize / overwhelm you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Mat 3:1-12)
The allusion to grain and chaff would have brought to the minds of the literate Jews anticipating the arrival of the Son of David the abstract meaning of the treasured story of the human origins of the Davidic dynasty, which included the Moabite Ruth who had to be accepted by Boaz.
“Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore…mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do…So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life…Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. ( Ruth 3:1-11, 4:13-15
The Pharisees, steeped in prophetic scriptures, would have been able to understand the spiritual aspects of John’s message, and in fact we know that there were ” certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed.” (Act 15:5)
“I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God [King].” (Eze 36:24-28)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever...Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For…He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isa 9:6-7, 53:1-7)
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing/overwhelming with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth/overwhelms with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (Joh 1:29-34)
“And when the day of Pentecost [harvest celebration like Boaz had after winnowing his grain] was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled/to the greatest extent, accomplished with the Holy Ghost And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven…Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God…they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Act 2:1-11, 37-41)
“John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received…” (Joh 1:15-16)
The prerogatives of the Father to bestow sonship on persons of his choosing is what Paul was talking about as he fought to integrate Gentile believers into Abraham’s nation with full citizenship rights and privileges.
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Messiah / The Anointed One / Christ..For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise…For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female [like the original Adams as described in the previous post]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16-29)
This nation is not a brand new government replacing the nation of Israel after the Jews rejected their Messiah.
“Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: if those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” (Jer 31:35-37)
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Ro 11:1-5)
There was a nation that was replaced, but it was one of Antichrist’s Anti-governments, wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“And when he [Jesus] was come into the temple, the chief priests [who we’ve learned from the previous post were not the legitimate Levitical priests] and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?…And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. [Outrageous public defiance!] Jesus saith unto them…the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him…There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard…and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another…last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them…Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof…And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” (Mat 21:23-46)
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied [howbeit unwittingly, remember God can take over voice controls] that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation [of Israel] only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52)
The call to separate from one’s current membership in an idolatrous nation in order to keep the way of the LORD is not just to the nation of Israel but to everyone in every nation that came into being after the flood. Abraham is the father of the original assembly of believers before there was a nation of Israel, and he continues to be the father of the same assembly of believers after the establishment of the nation of Israel. We can’t be ethnocentric. The story that ends in Revelation began in Genesis, not in Exodus or Acts!
“…behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:5-10)
Consider the “mixed multitude” of ethnic groups in the Empire of Egypt who obeyed God’s call through Melchizedek Moses. They were saved by faith, just like the Israelites, even though they did not know how to worship like the Israelites.
“For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine [Pharoah’s] heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field…So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast.” (Ex 9:15-25) “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them…And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts [plural] of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt…And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: [obviously non-Israelites are present]. But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof…And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” (Ex 12:37-38, 41-49)
We see here that under the Old Covenant there were uncircumcised people who associated with Israelites because of shared faith in a saving God. This was the basis for the ruling that uncircumcised New Covenant Christians from a mixed multitude of ethnicities can associate with believing adherents to the Old Covenant including circumcision.
“there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them [the Gentile believers], and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Act 15:5-18
“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal 3:5-9)
Can we understand that becoming Abraham’s seed/children is a real national identity, based on established social principles, in effect during – and since – Abraham’s day? When we apply the full meaning of father as we’ve come to understand it in ancient culture, we understand the extent of Paul’s claim to Gentile Christians. He is not allegorizing a relationship. He is stating a fact that Gentiles have equal standing with the physical descendants because the Father says so.
“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)” (Ro 4:6-17)
Notice exactly what it is that Abraham and his seed are promised – to be heirs of the world, claiming the inheritance lost to Satan in the garden of Eden.
“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.” (Psa 47)
Those who are identified with The Promised Seed/Messiah/Christ through the faith of Abraham are granted fellowcitizenship with all the saints, obviously including Abraham but also his godly ancestors like Shem, Noah, Enoch, etc. back to Adam back in the day when there was only one language, ergo one nation. God is restoring his one world government.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God [Genesis 1-2] so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous [Genesis 4], God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death [Genesis 5]; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; [Genesis 6] by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went, not knowing whither he went…Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Letter to the Hebrews 11:1-19)
“Thus saith the LORD God; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.“ (Eze 11:17-20)
We understand this about the nation of Israel, but this applies to all the peoples of the world. Eber’s nation, the Hebrew nation, is the core assembly to which people from every nation are gathered back as God’s people, reversing the scattering under Antichrist Nimrod.
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. “ (Eze 36:22-23)
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus [Jewish and Gentile believers] and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, [i.e. to belong to his nation] according to the good pleasure of his will…having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven [our predeceased forefathers], and which are on earth [those who are alive at his coming]; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” (Eph 1:1-11)
Sound heretical to lump New Testament Christians in with the ancient Hebrews? Read the letter to the Hebrews.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers [including our father Abraham] by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” (Heb 1:1-2)
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house[hold]; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts.” (Heb 3:1-18)
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong . crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 4:14-5:14)
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;” (Letter to the Hebrews 12:1-2)
Notice what Paul, the great expositor of salvation by grace, says about Jesus. He is the author-ity on our faith. As the author he composed the guidelines, and as the finisher he author-izes who meets criteria. To understand what this means let’s review some civics lessons from high school.
George Washington is the father, i.e. head, authority, of one new nation composed of people from many nations who are now identified as Americ-ans only if they publicly renounce all previous authority and swear allegiance and commitment to live by this nation’s constitution and defend it under the leadership of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services.
Likewise, Abraham is the human father / leader of one new nation composed of people from many other nations who are now identified as Christ-ans only if they have renounced all previous spiritual authority and sworn allegiance and commitment to live according to the Kingdom of God’s constitution, the Bible, under the leadership of the King/Christ/ Messiah/ seed of the woman/ Yahweh’s Anointed Savior. Protestants may not have as clear an understanding of this requirement for inclusion in the Kingdom of God as do Catholics who explicitly swear this oath in the baptismal prayer.
V. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
R. I do.
V. Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
R. I do.
V. Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.
There is a heretical teaching that believers are entitled to simply “name it and claim it” as if God is a giant vending machine whose primary role is to indulge his children. Even salvation is treated as being at the discretion of the individual. “Did you pray the sinner’s prayer and truly understand and believe what it teaches? If so, please click on the “I have accepted Christ today” button below.”
We need to understand that citizenship/rights/inheritance in both an earthly nation and God’s nation, like immigration status, is not given to someone simply because they choose it. It is bestowed, by the ruler, on those he determines are worthy as demonstrated by their allegiance/submission to him in their actions/works. Remember, “Among the Israelites [and all ancient peoples] a child became a son or daughter not primarily by the fact of physical generation but rather through acknowledgement or election by the father...[as the] incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character…” Even in our contemporary society adoption and inheritance are not decided by the child but by the parents based on consideration of the child’s worthiness for the entailed privileges and responsibilities.
“And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, [No.] Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Gen 17:18-19)
“…Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright…afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Heb 12:17)
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained [when he instructed the original sanctified human, Adam, to be fruitful] that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which?…Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 19:16-23)
Hold on! Many fundamentalist Christians will holler that this is teaching that we are saved by works, and point to the passages clearly stating that we are saved by grace, not works.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Ro 4:2-8)
But if we keep on reading we find far too many other scriptures balancing what has become an “easy believism” religion of fire insurance after death that doesn’t change one’s daily routine and life goal of fulfilling the desires of the flesh with no evidence of spiritual regeneration. The concept that membership in the Kingdom of God is simply a “get out of jail free” card is absolutely antithetical to what scripture relates.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” (Jam 2:14-24)
If we go back to the beginning of the doctrine of eternal security, AKA sure mercies of David, we find that the doctrine we are relying on unarguably teaches God does in fact bestow inheritance on the persons of his choosing, NOT on everyone who wants it.
“I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.” (II Sam 7:14-15)
The next passage referencing the sure mercies of David doesn’t treat this as a gift of God casually distributed like necklaces at a Mardi Gras parade. There is effort, actions, one can even say work, involved in obtaining salvation. Just read how many action verbs are demanded of those who would get saved. At the very least seeking, repenting, and forsaking.
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat...Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:1-7)
The next passage referencing the sure mercies of David warn that they won’t be granted as a gift to those who despise, wonder/question, refuse to believe. Yes, salvation is a gift, but you can’t claim the free aspect of a gift without also acknowledging the aspect that the gift is given at the discretion of the giver to those of his choosing! In this case, salvation is a gift of God only given to those who prove they are entitled to it by their actions. Like a bonus at work, it’s not part of the wage, but it is only given to those who prove they are worthy of it.
“[Paul speaking] And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David…Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” (Act 13:32-41)
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not [in skepticism] in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Ro 10:3-11
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mar 8:34-38)
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it…Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Mat 7:13-23)
Sidebar as here we see one of those balancing acts so often provided in scripture to keep us centered, as the works that Jesus rejects are the very works he also promised would prove Spirit indwelling. Which is it?
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mar 16:15-18)
Paul explains this apparent contradiction.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For
- to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
- to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
- To another faith by the same Spirit;
- to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
- To another the working of miracles;
- to another prophecy;
- to another discerning of spirits;
- to another divers kinds of tongues;
- to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body…And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing…Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding…In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Cor 12-14)
Paul makes it clear that the “signs” – which can be faked – aren’t the works that Jesus demands of us for salvation or even to prove salvation. They are, however, the proof that the Jews, who “require a sign” (I Cor 1:22), need to be convinced that the Gentiles are blessed with God’s presence and power like they are.
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:…my sentence is, that we trouble not them [to be circumcised to finalize salvation], which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:” (Act 15:12-19)
The works that are spelled out in scripture that prove one is regenerated, born again, controlled by the Holy Spirit, are repentance from evil/self centeredness and knowing/ growing in relationship with Jesus which shows in a changed lifestyle of obedience to the Father paralleling his.
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh...an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee…. touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Phili 3:3-10)
This doesn’t mean that if we sin or fail to live up to a certain standard we “lose our salvation.” Go back to the archetype, David. He committed murder and adultery, but he also repented and brought forth “works meet for repentance” when he accepted God’s chastening in his life. He remained submitted to God’s will, as described in the previous post. To claim salvation because you privately muttered a prayer during a church invitation then went out and continued living as before is to be one of the people of the lie of the devil.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I Joh 1:5-10)
The reason salvation is not a matter of either faith or works, it is faith and works, should be obvious. Our actions – both righteous and unrighteous – demonstrate the reality of our trust in, and submission to, the Lord in obtaining his criteria of righteousness. We should recognize God’s righteousness in relying on our behavior as proof! Unlike the infamous Dreyfus affair, in the day of judgment not even God makes himself the sole judge of our guilt or innocence. It is for our own protection that God relies on DEMONSTRABLE EVIDENCE of our adherence to the requirements for inclusion in his kingdom!
If we really take scripture seriously we should take stock of our behavior as children of Abraham. Are we acting like we are members of the household of faith, citizens with the saints? Are we in fact following in the footsteps of the man we claim is our father, leaving our pagan culture and way of life to serve the true and living God?
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath for them a city.” (Heb 11:8-16)
Or are we numbered among the backslidden children like Lot, content to simply denounce the evil around us without getting clear of it, and despite all his preaching losing his entire family to the wickedness of his society? Actions speak louder than words.
“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:25-29)
“Go and proclaim these words toward the north [the map shows that “north” is the first direction in the crescent route around the desert to the mighty empires of Assyria and Babylon in the east], and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord. A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jer 3:12-25)
In the next post we’ll examine one of Father Abraham’s many nations – the children of Israel. Why did this family become a subsidiary of the main family of Hebrews? Here’s a clue. Why was Joseph split off from his family?