Promises to Israel – 2. The Seed

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future? 

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation
  4. Promises to Israel – A Conclusion

This post will address the Promise of the Seed.  So “let’s get at ‘er”

THE SEED PROMISE

Growing up with the KJV, I always read the following verses with “seed” being used instead of “offspring”. Paul makes a deal about this in Galations. I am using the ESV below (and throughout the post) for clarity sake.

This promise is murky in my mind, and I am thankful we have an Apostle defining the intent of the promise in Galations 3.

Murky, cause it seems to emphasize Abraham’s genetic offspring, that is, all of his children. This isn’t Paul’s point in the New Testament. Paul emphasizes “the seed” as referring to Christ, not “the seeds”, referring to the multitudinous children of Abraham.

The offspring in this verse are linked directly to the promise of the land. We’ve considered the land promise and if this was the only verse relating to the “seed”, we might conclude that when the land was forfeited, the offspring would be effected somehow. (After all, where would the offspring settle without the land?)

Genesis 12:7

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 15:5 seems to be defining the promise in relation to the volume of Abraham’s offspring. Abraham’s offspring would be innumerable!

Genesis 15:5

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 17:7 gets hairy – What is He promising? This promise relating to Abraham’s offspring has the intended result of an everlasting covenant of God being God to the offspring.

Genesis 17:7

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

How did this work out? Before we get to Galations, lets consider the story of Elijah.

1 Kings 19:18

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Abraham’s physical offspring resided in the nation of Israel at the time of Elijah, and yet God informed Elijah that a remnant existed within the nation. The apostate nation could not be considered to be included in the “everlasting covenant” since they were apostate. (God was not their God!)

But they were the physical offspring! This distinction is critical to note. Jesus made much of this concept in His teaching.

Matthew 3:9

“and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

 Matthew 8:11

“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 19:9

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

 John 8:39-40

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

Notice that Jesus did not associate Abraham’s children as physically related, that is by blood, but by the actions performed in their lives.

It think my point is obvious and I don’t want to get too distracted so lets move on. (How ‘bout John the Baptist talking about repentance – No – I said I would stop!)

Galations 3:16

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 Christ.

If Paul’s point is that the covenant promise was between God and His Messiah, things become somewhat clearer. The Christ is the only One who truly established an everlasting covenant for the offspring of Abraham. That is, the offspring of Abraham, those who have the faith of Abraham. Physical lineage was not crucial. Consider Ruth, Naaman, the Egyptians that joined the exodus, Rahab…. The remnant has always existed and that remnant recognized the Savior when He arrived.

OK, so we made a few minor detours going through the post. Sorry bout the remnant rant, but finding that thread of truth through the Word has helped me understand so much!

What is the conclusion of the matter? Does God have any responsibility to the people of Israel?

Oh nooo! That is another problem – Who specifically are the children of Israel today? Can a Jewish person prove his lineage back to Abraham Isaac and Jacob? I understand that it is impossible to trace lineage back to the fathers since all the records were destroyed in the temple fires during the Roman siege. But that is another rabbit trail that I may tackle at a later date.

It looks like the New Testament confirms God’s promise of the Seed to be an accomplished fact in the person of Jesus Christ.

Contact me or make comment to further our discussion in Considering the Bible.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Hope to see you in the next post.

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