And, at the same time, there are those who are older and can accept more of it. So, this is all going to be presented with a caveat. Use discernment that being a child’s parent can provide. One question to ask is, “What is your child ready for now?” And there may be three or four answers, depending on the three or four children you have. So, if you have children in an age range, go to the lowest level of maturity. I probably didn’t need to say all that. Most parents know that, but I’m a little paranoid about it, since, in my work, I quite often deal with people who were traumatized as children by watching movies with their parents that they should have never seen at that age. So here we go.
We’re celebrating the Feast of Trumpets – one day of seven festivals that God has laid out on our annual calendar. By the sacred calendar of ancient Israel, this festival was the first day of the seventh month. And every first day of every month was a special day, commemorated by the blowing of a shofar – a trumpet made of a ram’s horn. So the seventh month was when the seventh trumpet was sounded. And most of us know that the seventh trumpet has a special meaning in the Bible. In Revelation, we can read of seven angels. Each blow their trumpet in succession to announce various events, predicting what’s going to happen in rapid succession before Christ’s return. The seventh trumpet pictures the return of Christ. So today, we celebrate and look forward to that future event.
Children have less context – less life experience – than adults. So, if they’re going to make sense of what about what we’re going to teach them about His return, we have to become very specific. And I think most importantly, we need to go to where it all started. When God created Adam and Eve, they were good. Let’s look at that in Genesis 1:31.
Genesis 1:31 – God saw all that He had made and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
So it’s important for kids to know that when God made Adam and Eve, they were good and they had a good relationship with God. They obeyed what God told them to do, so they didn’t feel guilty about anything. They didn’t have any shame. They had a very good life with God and got along with Him well.
But we know, today, people are not always good. We all do things that we know are wrong and we all feel guilty from time to time. So how did this happen? How did this feeling of guilt enter into the world? How did it start? So then we would go to Genesis 3 – to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and point out that the devil was allowed in there as well, and that he convinced Adam and Eve to disobey God. And then we can explain how it all went downhill from there. Once they began to disobey God, they felt guilty. And so we find there they were hiding from God they were so afraid of Him. Whereas, just a few days before, everything was great. So, because of what they’d done wrong, God sent them out of the Garden, where life was much, much harder. Today we have weeds that have to be pulled. Back then, there were none. All the animals were friendly. Now some are dangerous. We can’t be around them or they’d hurt us. It wasn’t like that when God first created them. This is also an explanation why there are so many people today who don’t care about or know God, why there are bad people who hurt others. Because of all the evil that we all do, like Adam and Eve, we all have to die eventually. And you might use whatever examples that you could think of about your family, or what’s going on in your neighborhood, or at your school. You know, you can point to school bullies, as an example of how things have gone wrong in the world. We need to use examples that are concrete so our kids can understand what we’re talking about.
So what we’re doing here is, we’re painting a picture from creation to Christ and this present evil world. And then, we’re going to talk about how then, after a long time, God did something that He’d been planning from the beginning – something very good. He sent Christ, who died in our place so that we don’t have to, because all the sins that people commit – all the means things people do – that means that we’re going to have to die because of those things. So He sent Jesus, who died in our place, so that we don’t have to.
Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist – when Jesus was alive on the earth – said in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And he said that when he saw Jesus coming toward him. So, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So Jesus died and was resurrected after three days. And that happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is in the spring.
So we’ve got from the beginning up until Christ. We’ve explained how things went bad and what God is going to do to fix that. And the first thing He did was, caused Jesus Christ to suffer and die so that our sins could be paid for and we could live with Him forever in His Kingdom.
So now we’re going to talk about from Christ to the end. He then started the church on the Feast of Pentecost. And the church has been at work ever since, setting an example for those who don’t know God, so that they might have a chance to get to know Him and be washed clean of their sins. And you can talk about how you, as parents, became converted, if you both are, and that you’re a part of that church, and that they can look forward to being a part of it too. In fact, in a way, they are, because they’re special because you’re special to God.
So God very much liked the way the world was in the Garden, and He has a plan to make it all become the same way again. In a sermon that Peter gave on Pentecost – the day the church started – in Acts 3, verse 19, we can read this:
Acts 3:19-21 – Peter said to the people, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out – that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” I think, in the King James Bible, it says, “…that times of restitution.” So things are going to be reset and brought back to the way they were. Refreshing means the same thing, I guess. You were okay, and then ran out of steam, and then you were refreshed. And then he said: “So that your sins may be wiped out – that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.”
So He’s up there now, waiting – waiting to get the word from the Father to return to the earth and set things aright. There’s also a place in the Bible where Jesus talked about coming back – when the disciples asked Him. It’s in Matthew 24:3.
Matthew 24:3 – As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, “Tell, us,” they said, “when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
So they wanted to know about it. Then the rest of the chapter – Matthew 24 – is Jesus explaining how we could tell when times are getting close. I’m not going to go into that, because there is some pretty graphic stuff in it, but you can look at that and see what you might want to explain out of it. But they were concerned about when He was coming back, and we all are too. We’re all waiting to see what’s going to happen.
So then we’re going to talk about the return of Christ. And in Revelation is where we’re going to spend most of our time here now. There is a buildup of events that are going to occur before the return of Christ. And it’s impossible for me to detail how much a parent should share with their children about these events, but they’re all right here in Revelation. And you can use them as you see fit. If you want a chronology, you can go to the old booklet – The Book of Revelation Unveiled At Last, by Herbert Armstrong. I’ve up a link to it on the Website. The way you would find that is to go to the page we have on Series, called Holy Days. Then you would look for this sermon, which is The Return of Christ. And in the page about that, you would find the link itself to that old booklet. Another place – more recent – and maybe easier to find would be the September/October issue of Beyond Today magazine by the United Church of God. And that would be 2018. It has the traditional timeline on pages 36 and 37 as sort of a footer to the article. In that edition, there are also a couple of articles in that issue as well, which are about Christ’s return.
But following our rule of Bible study, as we go through this, what’s the point? That’s what we’re to ask. And the point of all this – all this stuff – is, because of the evil in the world, many, many bad things are going to happen – and just before Christ’s return. And that may be all a young child needs to know – that it’s going to be a time of upset. But God promises to protect His church, and that when Jesus comes, He’s going to stop all that and make the earth a better place for everyone. So we can tell all our children that all the bad things people do and have done are going to be fixed when Christ returns. Everything is going to be set aright and people are going to have a chance to repent of their sins and change their ways. And when that happens, then the earth is going to become a peaceful place.
Now, the sign that it is finally time for Jesus to return is called the seventh trumpet. Seven angels come down from heaven, we’re told in the book of Revelation, and each of them – one after another – blows a trumpet. And the last – the seventh trumpet – sounds. That’s the symbol for the time when Christ returns. Let’s read about that in Revelation 11:15.
Revelation 11:15 – The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, “The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.”
So this is an announcement about what’s going to happen, and it’s presented as though it’s already happened, because nothing can stop it. It’s as good as done. And then in verse 16, it says:
V-16-19 – The twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, “We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty – the One who is, and who was – because You’ve taken Your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry and Your wrath has come.” You know, God is upset about all the things that have happened on the earth since the Garden of Eden. He hasn’t forgotten any of it. “And the time has come for the judging of the dead and the rewarding of Your servants, the prophets, and Your saints, and those who reverence Your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
So there’s a price to be paid for all the evil that’s been done along the way – all the murders that have been committed, and all the wars that have been fought. So that’s what this is about. And the twenty-four elders, when they hear the seventh angel sound his trumpet, they are so amazed and so happy that they fall on their faces before God and worship Him, and they say these things. So that’s so important for us to know that this is going to happen. Why would you even be a Christian if you didn’t have some kind of hope that things are going to get straightened out? And this is our hope.
So once that seventh angel sounds his trumpet, something wonderful happens immediately after that trumpet sounds. Let’s read about that in 1 Corinthians 15. This is the apostle Paul – one of the original apostles – speaking to the congregation in Corinth by letter. And he said:
1 Corinthians 15:50-55 – I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye – when? – at the last trumpet. So, when Christ returns, that’s the very first thing that’s going to happen. The people who have been faithful to God in this life are going to be resurrected from the dead to imperishable – in other words, immortal. They’ll be changed from one kind of being to another. He says in verse 53: For the perishable – the physical – must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. So that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that was written will come true, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?”
In every person is the desire to live forever. And yet, without God, that’s not going to happen. We’re all going to die. But God is going to resurrect those people who are willing to follow Him to an eternal life. And for those who, in this lifetime, have lived and died with God, that resurrection comes when Christ returns. We might talk to our kids about how people in the world think that we’re going to go to heaven when we die, and yet, the Bible says we go to sleep in the grave, and we wake up when Christ returns.
So after the resurrection of the dead, then what happens? Well, we can read about that, too, in the Bible – in Revelation 19:11.
Revelation 19:11-16 – I saw heaven standing open and there was before me a white horse, whose rider was called Faithful and True. You might point out that Faithful and True are capitalized, because they are names for God. With justice He judges and makes war. You know, we have social justice in the world today and political correctness, but when God comes, it’s just going to be justice. He judges and makes war with justice. In other words, those who have done wrong are going to get it, and those who have not are going to be resurrected to life. His eyes are like blazing fire and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows by He Himself, and He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood. His name is The Word of God – which is the name of Jesus. The armies of heaven were following Him – Who do you suppose those armies are going to be? Well, we’ve already read about it, haven’t we? The resurrected saints – riding on white horses, dressed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth comes a sharp sword, with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter and He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of Almighty God. And on His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s coming with power and there will be people that won’t want Him to come, and won’t be willing to follow Him, and so He’s going to have to fight with them until they submit – which is not going to take long, because He has more power than they have.
Okay, so what happens after that? Well, we can read in Revelation 20 through 22 about the millennium and the second resurrection – for all those who were not in the first one. You know, it does talk about the first resurrection in Revelation, so that means there has to be at least one more. Right? Well, after the millennium, there’s going to be a second resurrection for all those who are not resurrected in the first. Think about that. All the people who never accepted Jesus are going to finally get a chance to meet Him, to learn of His ways, and to believe in Him – all of them – all the people that died – with Adam, all the way through all the Buddhists, all the Muslims, all the Hindus, all the people of all the different religions of the ancient world that we don’t remember anymore. All of them are going to have a chance. How can all that many people live on the earth at one time? Well, there’s going to have been a thousand years of time to get ready for them.
So the events in Revelation 20 through 22 – at least, in my mind – are all detailed chronologically, so there’s no real need for me to go through them one by one.
Now, if you read these passages in Revelation 20 through 22, if you wonder what’s real and what is symbolic, just bypass that question and ask, “What is God clearly teaching me in this passage?” That’s all you have to know. This is a story to help us understand what’s going to happen next. And, if we get off on the details of what this means and that means… – like that sharp sword that comes out of Jesus’ mouth. Is that really what’s going to happen, or is that a symbol for warlike words or intent that He has exercised toward the people who want to fight Him? Some people think it’s literal. Some people think it’s a symbol. But the point of it is, He is going to come and He is going to destroy those who are going to destroy the earth. We don’t know exactly how.
Let’s talk about symbol versus reality for a minute. In our ongoing series, Bible Stories for Adults, we talk about the confusion that’s been created when people stop asking what God means by the story and start trying to dig into the details. How did God create Adam and Eve? Was it by fiat or by evolution? Well, I believe it was by fiat, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. If God comes and says, “No, I did it by evolution,” I’ll say, “Amen. Yes, Lord.” But there are two reasons why I believe that He did it the way it says in the Bible and that those aren’t symbols. One is, that that’s what it says, and two is, that after all the years since paleontology began, there’s still not a single example of the gap between one creature and another in the earth’s record – not one example of that change in any creature. Now think about the millions – maybe billions – of fossils that have been excavated and not a single shred of clear evidence. You’d think it would be there. You’d think you could see it all the way through – all through the whole thing. There’s no such “missing link.” But the Bible doesn’t really address this issue. It tells us a story. And if we ask, “What’s the point of the story?” then we know what God wants us to know, provided we come up with the correct point. So, we should always do this with our children: What can we learn from this story?
Another good one is: Will Christ return on a white horse? And not only Christ, but you and me with Him? It does say, “…they’re going to be riding white horses,” doesn’t it? So, do we need to take riding lessons? Well, I think, when the time comes, we’ll have everything we need to do what God wants us to do. And I’m sure that God has shown John what warfare at the end time would look like. And it seems really clear that, if He was showing John what was really happening – you know, like thermonuclear weapons, and Chinook and Apache helicopters, and F26’s or whatever they are now – he wouldn’t really have words to describe that. I don’t know that that’s what he was showing him. Maybe He really was showing him a cloud of locusts and scorpions with stings in their tails. I don’t know. But we do know that, if he was looking at modern warfare, he understood the destruction and not the means. And he certainly understood the destruction in this example. So, if that’s what God wants us to get – there’s going to be destruction…. You know, there are passages in Revelation where John describes warfare in terms…it sounds like a man seeing something he doesn’t have words for and yet, doing the best he can. He sees flying scorpions that made a terribly loud sound with stings in their tails. Let’s read that – Revelation 9:9.
Revelation 9:9-10 – …they had breastplates like breastplates of iron – so would the fuselage of a helicopter or a jet plane might look like that to him? – and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.
Now, let’s look at that again. You see that word like? He doesn’t say that there were horses and chariots. He says, “There were like thundering of many horses and chariots.” Have you ever seen a Chinook helicopter? I got to go inside one at Double Eagle Airport a while back. I got to play with the Gatling gun and listen to the pilot tell us about how that could hold twenty-some special forces troops – each one of them weighing 200 pounds with 135 pounds on his back. And you could lift that with a helicopter. And guess where they go in and out? They go in and out the back. Do you remember what the MOAB bombs were? It stands for Massive Ordinance Air Blasts. Of course, the Air Force guys call them the Mother Of All Bombs. Those are the largest bombs that we have that aren’t nuclear. And they can push those out of the back of a transport plane – or even a helicopter, it you can get far enough away from it in time.
Are there creatures in heaven that look like the horses we know? I think it does mention that. It’s all very interesting to think about to me. What did he see? Well, yeah, it’s fun to talk about it, but the important thing is to get the point. And that is, that there’s going to be a lot of trouble down here on earth before He returns.
You know, I have to tell you that I’m still a little bit biased toward riding a horse. Why would you think that? Well, look with me in Job – Job 31. Here Job has just told God about all his troubles. And God is now putting things in perspective for Job, so that he can understand it. And it’s in this passage that’s something that makes me wonder – Job 39:19 – this is God talking to Job:
Job 39:19 -24– Do you give the horse his strength? Or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear – afraid of nothing. He does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement, he eats up the ground. He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
Don’t forget to comment on the Website. Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.
Why did God do this? Well, He’s moving to the next step of His salvation plan and He selects this one man to begin building something amazing. Paul says, in Romans 4, about this:
Romans 4:16 – That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring – not only to the adherents of the law, but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
So Paul is here talking to the church, which, by that time, was made up of not only the physical descendants of Abraham – the Jews and Israelites – but also all peoples of all races, cultures and nations that God calls. And God tells all those He is calling that they are children of Abraham. Now that doesn’t mean that they are genetically the children of Abraham, but spiritually.
So why does He do this? What’s the point? Well, remember the question that we always ask when we read one of God’s Bible stories is: What’s the point? Don’t bog down in the details so much, but what is God communicating?
So let’s read on. “Abram, if you’ll move with your family to a place where I tell you, I will make it worth your while.” Let’s see what He says. What’s He going to promise him? Well, in verse 2 of Genesis 12, God says:
Genesis 12:2-3 – I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
So here He tells Abram that he will be protected and that everyone will be blessed because of him. How has that happened? Well, in Romans 4:20, Paul explains it.
Romans 4:20-25 – No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness,” Paul tells us. But the words, “it was counted to him,” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us, who believe in Him, who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Now Jesus was a direct descendent of Abraham. And in this way, through Abraham, everybody would be blessed. Every last person who has, and who yet will accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, will be counted a descendent of Abraham – again, not physically, but spiritually. So, it starts with Jesus Christ, but along the way, God picked one man to start the show – about Christ, and about salvation, and about faith, and about justification. Why? Well, notice why God chose this man. This is big!
We can read in, Genesis 12:4, that when Abram arrived in the land he was promised, he built an altar to honor God and mark the place from where he had come. Abram lived in the Ur of the Chaldees. And historians call that part of the Middle East the cradle of civilization. It’s much to the east – probably not far from where the Garden of Eden had been. And the land God guided him into was what is roughly modern Israel today. Now, between Ur of the Chaldees and Israel is a great, fierce desert. The Bible account names a few places Abram went on his way to The Promised Land. And it shows us that he first went north into the mountains, and then west around the desert, and then south into The Promised Land. They took this big huge detour to the north and then to the west to get around the desert, and then drop down into the land that we call Israel today. And that detour made it a long, long journey. And remember, he had herds, and household items, and a large troop of family members, servants and herders. So this was a big deal! It was a lot of effort. Still, he did as he agreed to do. He wanted God’s blessing. And he forsook everything and went for it! He was full out! And his example shows us what God wants from us. He wants us to trust in Him – to believe in Him.
So God tested Abram in this way. And from this, we can think about what life is like. It’s a test for everyone. And for some people, the benefit of the test isn’t going to come until much later. But for those God is calling, the difficulties of this life serve a purpose. All of life is a test. It’s not supposed to be easy. Trials are not proof that God doesn’t love us, or that God doesn’t exist. They prove just the opposite. God tests all of those He calls.
I was talking to a man recently, who spent some time in Turkey. And he had talked to some Christians there. And they told him that they suffer because of their faith in this predominantly Muslim nation. And my friend said to me, “If you want to be a Christian in Turkey, you have to want it.” Well, we live in a nation that has a Christian heritage – a nation where it’s much easier to be a Christian than in Turkey – God will not leave anybody out. One way or another, we all have to want it. And trial is what causes us to want it the most. So, when that time comes for us, whining and wishing for softness isn’t going to cut it. Thinking that we don’t deserve it isn’t going to cut it. God is going to find out, as He did with Abraham, if we’re all in or not.
In 1 Samuel 2:30, there’s a scripture that says:
1 Samuel 2:30 – Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel – and it’s interesting there – He is the God of Israel – I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before Me forever, but now the LORD declares, “Far be it from Me, for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. So God is going to find out if we’re going to honor Him or not, one way or another, in this life.
We can read something vital in Genesis 12:10. As Abram navigated his way toward the Negev – he was coming to the south – there was a famine. So he went down to Egypt to find food. Once he was there, he realized that his beautiful wife, Sarai, would attract the attention of the Egyptians. And he thought it possible they would kill him and take her, so he told Sarai that she was to pose as his sister, which she did for a while. Pharaoh heard about her beauty, and thinking she was single, took her to wife. They also gave Abram a lot of animals and servants and money, and honored him in that way – made him even richer than he was before. Nothing is said here about what Sarai wanted to do or thought about. She probably feared she would die if she didn’t go along. But God had other plans – other ideas – for this couple. He caused Pharaoh to be curse. And Pharaoh – even though he was pagan, certainly was not anybody’s fool. He put two and two together, and when he figured out what had happened, he was really angry with Abram, and probably, Sarai too, for lying to him. And he sent Sarai back to Abram, told them to “Get out!” which they did. We might think, “Great! The father and mother of the faithful are liars.” And that may be the biggest part of this whole story. Pleasing God is not so much about living His law perfectly as it is about believing in Him. There are lots of other things in here in this story about Abram that let us know that he wasn’t perfect. He had his faults, just like you and I, but God extended grace to him to cover his weaknesses, because he believed God enough to get up and follow Him to a completely new land and to believe that He would take care of him.
Paul had this discussion with those who were all about the law in his day. Let’s read about that again in 4:20.
Romans 4:20 – No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in the faith, as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” What is righteousness? Well, righteousness is obeying the law. And Abram didn’t keep the law perfectly. He lied – we saw that in the account. But his belief in God was counted to him as righteousness. And then Paul said: But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us, who believe in Him, who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
So he’s using the faith that Abraham had in God and the weakness that Abraham exhibited, to explain how salvation works to these people, who had been of the Jewish religion, and thought that their salvation came from obedience to God. It’s hard for some people to understand, but we’re all required to obey God, but we’re not saved by it. And that’s what the Jews thought – that they would be saved by obeying God. We can’t obey God. So Paul is here helping some people, who all their lives had tried to attain eternal life by obeying God’s law, to wrap their heads around a better way to approach God. And what is that exactly? Well, instead of thinking that we can be saved by obeying God’s law, we see that it is a way to show love to God and His children – a way to follow Christ’s example. And at the same time, we realize it’s impossible to obey the law perfectly, bringing upon ourselves the death penalty. And we see Jesus’ sacrifice as paying for our past sins. He paid for it with His death. And while all this became possible – because God sent Jesus to die for us – to receive it, we must become the children of Abraham, because he is now the father of the faithful.
So think about what He’s doing here – what God is doing here. Abraham was one man, and he started out with a family, but somehow this is all getting transferred to anybody that wants to obey God. So to track God’s plan through the Bible, we have to know something about his early descendants. Let’s look in Genesis 17:1.
Genesis 17:1-5 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him – the name Abram, by the way, means exalted father – and said to him, “I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be blameless, that I may make My covenant between Me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” And Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, My covenant is with you. And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham – which means father of a multitude – for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
Without going to each scripture, but just to leave a bread crumb trail, Abram had a son from Sarah, his wife, named Isaac. You may remember the story. Sarah was not able to have children. They were old. You know, they were seventy-five years old when they left to go from Ur of the Chaldees. So they were old people by that time. And she wasn’t able to have children. She knew the promise that Abraham was supposed to have a multitude of children, so she tried to make God’s plan work. She gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham, so he could have a child that way. And he did. And they named that son Ishmael. He was Abraham’s firstborn. Now, technically, the blessing was supposed to go to him, because he was the firstborn. But Sarah had a son named Isaac, and God passed the birthright to him.
Well, Isaac married Rebekah. She had twins – Esau, the first born, and Jacob, the second born. And Esau later gave up his birthright, because he was hungry and Jacob had a pot of beans, and he traded him – he traded his birthright. So again, the birthright gets passed down not by custom, but by God’s design. He allowed all this stuff to happen. So it was tweaked and changed a second time.
Now here’s an interesting story. It’s the story about how it got passed to Jacob. In Genesis 32:22, it says:
Genesis 22:22 – The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And the man said to Jacob, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob,” which means supplanter. And he certainly was that. He tricked Esau out of his blessing. Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel – and that means strive with God – for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
So here we find out why God wanted Jacob, rather than Esau. Esau gave up his blessing easily. And Jacob wanted it. He was willing to fight all night with God to get it. So, is there a lesson for us from the ancient pages? Well, Paul lays it out for us – “who are now Abraham’s spiritual children.” It’s in Hebrews 12:14.
Hebrew 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God – that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled, that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it carefully with tears.
He wanted it, but he wanted it too late. He didn’t value it when it was time to value it. And he failed the test. So, the question is – since we’re all children of Israel now, if we’re in God’s Church – “Will we do it now, or will we hear those two terrible words later – “It’s too late?” Jacob grasped his brother’s heel in the womb. And later he grabbed a hold of God and would not let go – a lesson for us. Something about the characteristic of being a child of Abraham, and of Israel, is that we go for it. We’re all in. And we are willing to struggle, and not complain, not whine, not wish for something easy, but to go for it!
Now after his name was changed to Israel, he had twelve sons. The firstborn son was Reuben. Judah – the father of the Jews – was one also. His descendants – of all those twelve sons – are the only ones who remember where they came from today. All the rest have been scattered through the pages of history. But can rest assured that they’re still out there, and God knows every last one of them, even if they don’t.
So that’s how the family was formed. Notice something that Paul says here. This is big, too. This is in Galatians 6:16.
Galatians 6:16 – And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God.
So he’s talking to the church, and he calls the church the Israel of God. The entire family of God – the church, the saints – we’re all now called the Israel of God. Even though we’re not genetically related to him, we’re still part of Israel. Paul talked of how Israel was grafted in. Now, you know, if you have an apple tree, and you graft a pear branch into it, it still produces pears – it’s still recognized as pears – but it’s part of the apple tree. And so, people that were not genetically of Israel can still be recognized as what their nationality is, but they’re now called the Israel of God. They’ve been grafted in.
So the entire family of God – the church, the saints – are all now called the Israel of God, no matter where we came from. Even more astounding and revelatory is this scripture – in Isaiah 49:1 through 3.
Isaiah 49:1-3 – Listen to Me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb. From the body of My mother, He named My name. Well, who’s speaking here? Who is this talking about? We’ll let’s read verse 2: He made my mouth like a sharp sword. In the shadow of His hand, He hid me. He made me a polished arrow. In His quiver He hid me away. So who is it in revelation who has a sharp sword coming from His mouth? Well, it’s Jesus. So He’s the One who is talking here. He’s the One that was taken from the womb by the Father, and He had the sharp sword from His mouth. And in verse 3, it says: And He said to Me, “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
So Israel is one of Jesus’ names. And this tells us that God, through Jesus, is creating a family. And that family is called Israel, after the one who made them. And it also tells us something else. It’s telling us the He’s doing it the way God like to work. He likes to start small and grow bigger. In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable.
Matthew 13:31 – He put another parable before them, saying – in verse 31 – “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. Or, it’s like Jerusalem – just a tiny outpost at first, but eventually, it becomes the New Jerusalem – the heavenly city, brought down to us, wherein all God’s children dwell – the seat of God’s power for all eternity.
See how God likes to do things? You know, human beings like to start big, but God starts small with things. In the same way, God called one man, and from him, is growing the whole family of heaven and earth – the Israel of God, founded on Israel, the creator of a multitude, who all become eternal members of God’s family.
What can we learn from this? Well, we can learn that we’re all weak and small, but we do not have to despair. As the prophet Zechariah said, “Do not despair the day of small things.” Do you ever feel that what you do doesn’t make a difference, or there’s no way that you can do what you think you need to do to help God, or advance the work of God, or even live your own life properly? Well, God has a plan for our weakness. And that plan is Jesus Christ. And we can have it. But we have to want it. We have to contend for it. We have to work for it. We have to be willing to be tried for it. And like Abraham, perhaps most of all, we have to believe it. We have to believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And if we do, then we, too, can be part of the Israel of God.
Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs, for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.