Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 5
Law and Grace: Time Line: Isaac
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, writes to the Gentiles:
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
When Paul refers to things “written aforetime”, he was referring to the Old Testament. The reason we study the Old Testament is to pick up a background for all the doctrines that are going to come, especially those from the pen of the Apostle Paul. I like to bring out the intrinsic quality of Scripture; of how miraculously it all fits, so that we will have no doubts that we can trust it as the eternal, supernatural, miraculously written Word of God. Let’s go back to Genesis 24. In the last few lessons we were dealing with Isaac and Ishmael, and howIsaac was, in type, a picture of Grace; the son of promise. Whereas Ishmael was a son of the flesh, and was depicted by Paul in his letter to the Galatians as a picture of Law.
In Genesis 24 we have a study I’m reluctant to call a “type” because there is one part of the account that would break down with regard to a perfect type. Most of you know what a “type” is in the Old Testament – a perfect illustration of a New Testament truth. For example, we know that Abraham is so typical of the man of faith, that we can call him a faith “type.” Joseph, in so many ways experienced the same things that were experienced in the life of Christ, so we can consider Joseph as a “type” of Christ in that Old Testament setting. The same applies here in Chapter 24. It comes close to being a “type,” but because of one little detail, I will only call it a “good illustration.” As Abraham is going to send out his servant to bring back a bride for his son Isaac, it is a perfect parallel of what the Holy Spirit is doing today to call out the Bride for Christ. So, this is the lesson I like to pull out of this chapter.
The only small part that breaks down is that the Gentiles, as such had not really been isolated as yet in Scripture, because Abraham was the father of the Hebrew race; and he was sending his servant back to his own kinfolk for a bride for Isaac. So, it isn’t like he was actually going to the Gentiles, as we know the Lord is doing today with regard to the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ which is, for the most part today, Gentiles. Nevertheless, we’ll look at this chapter with this parallel, using this illustration:
The role of the servant in this situation is totally in line with the role of the Holy Spirit today, and it’s important that you see this. We won’t take the entire chapter verse by verse because so much of it is repetitious, but we will hit the highlights.
“And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.”
Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and Isaac was now well up in years, so Abraham was indeed old. In Verse 2, Abraham addressed his servant, and although that servant is not named here, earlier in Genesis 15:2 we found that Abraham had a servant named Eliezer of Damascus – no doubt this is the same man.
“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, ‘Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:…’”
This language throws a curve at us, and we think, “What in the world?” But all they were doing was practicing ancient customs written out by Hammurabi. This man was more or less a philosopher and law-giver in ancient Babylon. Until God called out the Nation of Israel, and began dealing with them, and gave them His special instructions in the form of the Law, most of the then-known world operated under the laws of Hammurabi. They were good, moral laws for the most part, but they certainly were not God-inspired, as we now find here in the Scriptures. So these things we think of as “odd,” were just customs of those ancient days.
“‘And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.’”
I believe this is a good time to stop and do a brief review of the nations of that area in Abraham’s time. In order to understand what Abraham was really talking about when he said, “Go back to my kindred,” we need to remember from where he came. Let’s look at a map of this area:
If you recall, back in Genesis when God first talked to Abram (Abraham), that he and his father Terah made their way up along the Euphrates River into the area known as Syria today. Terah and his three sons had made their way from Ur, down on the Gulf of Arabia, into Syria, to a place later known as Haran. Then, from Haran, after Terah died, Abraham came down into the land of Canaan where the Canaanites lived.
The whole Middle East is in the news nearly every day. If more people could understand that setting according to Biblical history, I think we’d have a lot less confusion even among our men in high places. Remember, that Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. We’ll take care of Japheth first, because he became the progenitor of what The Bible refers to as the “Goyim” and we have now put the term “Gentile” on that.
Later in history, the Goyim became the Caucasian people, or the Indo-European peoples as they are often referred to now. As we come down through Biblical history, we have come to use the term Gentile to mean any non-Jewish peoples. In order to get a good picture of this setting, we’re going to have to go way back to the three sons of Noah as illustrated in the family tree below:
Ham was the son upon whom Noah placed the curse, and he became the father of the Canaanites. We normally think of the Canaanites, as referred to in Scripture, as the peoples living along the shores of the Mediterranean in the land of Palestine (or Israel), and they were already in the land when Abraham came.
Shem is the son we are predominately interested in. From this line came the man Terah who had three sons, Haran, Abram (Abraham) and Nahor. These names are not all that important except that I want you to see how, in our own present day with all the troubles in the Middle East, it all goes back to these families. Haran was the father of Lot. Lot, in turn, had two sons by his own daughters, back at the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. His offspring from the two daughters were Moabites and the Ammonites. Now, just in case you wonder what I’m talking about, what’s the present day capital of Trans-Jordan? Amman. It all comes back to these same roots. They are still all part and parcel of this family line.
Nahor had a son named Bethuel, and he had a daughter named Rebekah. She’s the one we’re going to come to now in Genesis 24. He also had a son named Laban. Laban in turn had two daughters named Leah and Rachel. Now, is it starting to fall into place?
Let’s look at Abraham’s family. First, he had a son by the Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, named Ishmael. Then he had a son by his legal wife, Sarah, named Isaac. Then after Sarah died, he took a wife named Keturah, and she had a son, among others, from whom came the Midianite nation. If you’ll remember your Biblical history, the Midianites were the people to the east. When Moses fled to the desert after leaving Egypt the first time, he married the daughter of the priest of Midian. I’m only pointing all this out to show how all these families are intertwined with the exception, of course, of the Canaanites, because God specifically said that they were not to marry Canaanites. Let’s move on down. His mother being an Egyptian, Ishmael in turn married an Egyptian woman. The Egyptians, of course, came from Ham, so we have a connection between this line of the offspring of Ishmael to the Canaanites and the Egyptians. That’s why I mentioned several lessons ago that even though the Egyptians are not true Arabs, the Egyptians and the Arabs are always acting like next-of-kin.
We know that Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau, in turn went right back and married two Canaanite women, which the Scriptures say were “a grief of mind” to Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob, on the other hand, went back to his father’s family, marrying Leah and Rachel. From those two marriages, we have the twelve sons which become the twelve tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah came King David, then King Solomon. From Solomon the genealogy splits and on one side we have the genealogy of Mary, which is the bloodline that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. On the other side, we have the line that led to Joseph, who, of course, was not the blood father, but he was the legal father of the Lord Jesus. So, you see, everything just fits perfectly all the way down through these lines, and God is in complete sovereign control. Let’s move on now in Genesis 24. Remember, that all of these families in the Middle East except for Japheth’s, are all inter-related. That’s why they have such a hatred for each other – they are all blood relatives. There’s just no denying it.
“‘…thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.’ And the servant said unto him, ‘Peradventure the woman will not be willing . . .’”
I believe this is will be a picture, illustration, or parallel of God’s calling out the Body of Christ from among the Gentiles. God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is moving among the human race, wooing them, presenting them with the plan of Salvation. Even though God is sovereign, one of the things that is hard to reconcile is the question, “Is God absolute in whom He chooses? Does everyone else not have a chance? How does it all work?” I think what you have to do, is put the questions into an awareness that it’s not either one or the other. What I’m talking about, of course, is whether it is totally the sovereign choosing of God (“the chosen” is used, or “the elect” is used, “predestinated” is used); or, over against that is the free will of man. Way back in the time of the reformers, Calvin was of the persuasion that we are chosen. Then those who abused Calvin’s teaching went so far as to go overboard and say, “If you’re chosen, there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re chosen, no one has to do anything to win you, you’re in. If you’re not chosen, you’re out.” I maintain this approach is rather ridiculous. But, you see, at the time of Luther and Calvin with that approach, along came a man by the name of Armenius, and I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Armenian view. This expressed the opposite persuasion, that God had nothing to do with choosing. It’s all up to the free will of the individual. That’s the other extreme.
What we have to see is what verse 5 indicates – there has to be a willingness, but on the other hand, as you go through this chapter you can see that God definitely had His hands on the whole situation. Everything fell into place, and the servant was amazed. When he got up to Syria, he asked God, “the girl who is to be the one, let her, when I ask for water, say, ‘not only can you drink, but I’ll water the camels also.’” And that’s the way it happened. The very first girl that came along was the one! Now, how are we to reconcile this. Keep your place in Genesis and let’s turn all the way back to I Peter, because this thing about the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are with us all the way from Genesis to Revelation. So, we might as well reconcile it early on.
1 Peter 1:1,2
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
“…Elect according to the foreknowledge of God…“ that’s the secret to understanding this whole doctrine. Why can God chose some and not others? Because it is foreknowledge!Because He knows what an individual will do with His particular offer of Salvation. Way back in Genesis, why did Rebekah come to water the livestock and meet Abraham’s servant at just the appropriate time. Obviously, it was the sovereign working of God, there’s no doubt about it! But, she was also willing. And why was she chosen? Because God knew she would be willing.
Why are some of us saved, and our friends and loved ones not saved? Not because we were special or better, but God in His foreknowledge could see what we would do with the offer of Salvation, as Paul said in Ephesians 1:4. I know this verse has thrown a curve at a lot of people, but, hopefully, this will satisfy some of your questions. It isn’t that some are left without a chance, and God has put His finger on certain ones; but, rather, God in His foreknowledge knew what every individual would do in the exercise of his or her free will and then He could pick.
“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:…” Why did God choose us? Because He knew what we would do. That was in His foreknowledge.
We’re not going to be able to finish Chapter 24 in this lesson, but let’s go back to it and get as far as we can.
“And the servant said unto him, ‘Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?’ And Abraham said unto him, ‘Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.’”
I think the key word in these verses, to understand what the servant was talking about, is the word ‘again.’ Since this is, as I believe, a picture of the calling out of the Body of Christ. All through the Book of Hebrews we find the word “once.“ This Christ died once;“ “This He did once;“ over and over again! What is being implied here? Christ is not going to come back a second time to go to the Cross. That was accomplished one time. Nothing can ever cross that over, so the emphasis here is, “Beware that you don’t take my Son back there again!” We’re not going to repeat something that’s been done once before.
“The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, ‘Unto thy seed will I give this land;’ he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.’” The land that he was speaking of was Canaan, and the LORD’s angel was, of course, Christ in his Old Testament personality, as we’ve discussed before.
“‘And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.’”
We come back to this again! As the Holy Spirit moves through the human race, particularly among the Gentiles in this Age of Grace, He is calling out a people for His Name, (and we’ll be discussing this more thoroughly in our next lesson). No one is ever forced! It is all based on the free will of the individual. But never forget, God has foreknowledge of who will respond.