Robert Jeffress - It Begins and Ends with Israel, Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. From the very beginning, it's been clear that God has a special plan and purpose for the nation of Israel. So what does the future of this ancient nation have to do with the future of the world? The answer is everything. Today, we're going to discover how God's promise to Abraham more than 3.000 years ago directly connects to his plan and for our present and for our future. My message is titled "It Begins and Ends With Israel" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I want you to imagine for just a moment that a friend of yours says, "You need to get a copy of John Grisham's latest novel. It is a real spellbinder". And so you go out and purchase the book, Grisham's latest lawyer tale, and one night before you go to bed, you decide to start reading it and you open it up in the middle of the book, and suddenly you're confronted with names and locations that are unfamiliar to you. Who in the world are Joan and Jill and Judge Mills, and what are they doing in the Caribbean? And why did Bill just dump a million dollars over into the ocean, out of his boat?
You're confused, and so to make sense out of it, you go to the end of the book. You're reading there in the end, and suddenly, the action has shifted to a funeral home. It's the funeral of Bill, and Joan and Judge Mills were seated there, and Joan leans over to Judge Mills and says, "You know, Bill shouldn't have dropped that million dollars over the boat in the Caribbean," and Judge Mills says, "Well, he didn't know the mafia was after him". You think, "Mafia? Where did the mafia come from"? You're hopelessly confused, and so you slam the book shut in disgust, and you think to yourself, "You know, old Grisham has lost his touch, hasn't he"?
Now, I realize that analogy is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it illustrates a very important point, and that is why so many people are confused by the Bible in general, and certainly by the subject of Bible prophecy. You know, if you want to understand the Bible, you want to understand Bible prophecy, the place to begin is not at the end, in the Book of Revelation. It's not in the middle, in Ezekiel and Daniel. If you want to understand the Bible and Bible prophecy, you start where? At the beginning. You start at the beginning of the book. Now, that makes sense, doesn't it? Well, that's what we're going to do today as we launch into our series, "Perfect Ending: Why Your Future Matters Today". The way to understand prophecy is to start at the beginning.
So if you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to the Book of Genesis. In fact, the word Genesis literally means beginnings, and in Genesis, we find the beginning of everything. Now, when you think of the Book of Genesis, what comes to mind immediately? You probably think of these great momentous events like the creation of the world or the fall of man or the flood or the Tower of Babel, and yet all of those magnificent events we think about when we think about Genesis, you know, they're all compressed into the first 11 chapters of the book. There are 50 chapters in Genesis. All of those big things are told in the first 11 chapters. It's almost as if God is saying, "Hey, by the way, this is how these things happened". It's an introduction.
The theme of the first 11 chapters of Genesis is man's alienation from God. God created man perfectly, placed him in a perfect garden, yet man chose to rebel against God, and in the first 11 chapters of Genesis, you find man moving further and further away from God until that climactic event in Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel, man's ultimate defiance of his Creator. Now at that point, God would have been completely justified in condemning man forever, allowing man to suffer the consequences of his alienation from God, but God, being rich in love, didn't do that. Instead, he instituted a rescue plan for both mankind and the world that God created, and that rescue plan begins in Genesis 12. And write this down. The theme of Genesis 12, all the way to the end of the Bible in Revelation 22 is God's reconciliation with man. God's reconciliation with man. That's Genesis 12, all the way to Revelation 22.
Now, God's rescue plan plan for man and his plan for the restoration of the entire world all centered on one man. His name was Abraham. That's where the rescue plan began, with this man called Abraham, and the remaining 39 chapters of Genesis have to do with Abraham and his descendants, the beginning of this plan of reconciliation. And so when we come to Genesis chapter 12, we are introduced to Abraham and to the specific promise that God made to Abraham. We call it the Abrahamic covenant. It was the promise of redemption for mankind and for all of creation. Now, to understand this promise, you have to understand the context of the promise that God made to Abraham. We're first introduced actually to Abraham back in Genesis chapter 11, and when we come to Genesis 11, we find Abraham and his family living city called Ur of the Chaldeans.
Now, Ur was a metropolitan city, much like London or New York is today. I remember when I was in college, I went down to see Amy at the university of Texas in Austin, and I went to a display they had there, an archeological display. I didn't spend a lot of time there. I had more important things to do, but I spent a little bit of time there, and it was an archeological excavation of Ur of the Chaldeans, and they had all of these artifacts from UR. And when you looked at these artifacts, you quickly discovered that Ur was known as a center of mathematics and astronomy, but one thing our geology has revealed to us as well is Ur of the Chaldeans was a center of idolatry. The residents of Ur were involved in idol worship.
Now, we want to think that Abraham was different from everybody else. We want to think that the reason God reached down and called Abraham, because unlike the other residents of Ur, who worship false gods, Abraham was looking for the true God. But that's not the case. In fact, the Bible tells us that Abraham was no different than any other resident of Ur. He worship false gods as well. You say, "Where do you get that, pastor"? Joshua 24, verses two to three. Joshua said that Abraham was an idol worshiper. Joshua said to all the people, verse two, "Thus says the Lord the God of Israel, from ancient times, your fathers lived beyond the river, namely Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahar, and they served other gods". Doesn't say they except for Abraham served other gods. They served other gods. Abraham was an idol worshiper.
So the question is, why did God choose to save Abraham? Why did he choose to make Abraham the focal point of his plan for redemption for the world? It had nothing to do with the goodness of Abraham. It had everything to do with the goodness of God, and there is a very important spiritual truth there for you and me. If you're a Christian today, if you're watching this broadcast, why is it God saved you? It had nothing to do with your goodness. It's not because God looked in your life and saw something worth saving. It's not because God looked down the corridor of history and knew that if you had the opportunity to respond to the Gospel, you would. God's choice of you, your salvation had nothing to do with your goodness. It had everything to do with the goodness of God.
Titus 3, verse five says, "God saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy". Your salvation, my salvation had nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with God, and that was true for Abraham. God out of his mercy chose to save Abraham, and he gave this command. Look at verse one, Genesis, chapter 12. "Then the Lord said to Abram, 'go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you'". God was saying to Abraham, "I want you to uproot everything you have, your family, your possessions, and I want you to move to a distant land that I will eventually show you. You're to get up and you're to start moving".
Now, think what that must have been Abraham, to leave everyone and everything familiar to him to go to this unnamed country. I remember in our last church, Amy and I had dinner one evening with a Hispanic couple, and they told us their story. Two years earlier, they had both been living in Mexico. They had fabulous jobs, a large house. They had a child on the way, and they said God spoke to them and said to leave their home and move to the United States. They didn't speak at that time one word of English. They had no job prospects, but they said, "Pastor, God told us to go, so we came. We left our house. We left with only what we could carry in two suitcases, and came to the United States. But eventually, after being here, we realized why God had sent us". That's what God did to Abraham. He said, "I want you to move". It didn't make any sense.
FB Meyer, the great biographer, one time said about Abraham and this command to leave. He said God's commands are not always followed or accompanied by reason, but God's commands are always accompanied by a promise, whether spoken or unspoken. Some of you here today know what I'm talking about. God has given you a command. He's told you clearly what he wants you to do. Doesn't make any sense, doesn't seem reasonable, but God has spoken. He said it's time to get up and move. Remember, whenever God gives a command, that command doesn't always makes sense, but it is always accompanied by a promise. That was true for Abraham, and we find those promises that followed God's command in verses one to three of Genesis 12. Look at it with me. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land I will show you, and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'".
I want you to jot down here the three components of this Abrahamic promise or covenant. First of all, God promised to Abraham a land. A land. Verse one, he said, "Go forth from your country to the land which I will show you". God was saying to Abraham, "I've got a piece of real estate for you and your descendants, and it will be yours forever". Later in Genesis 15, God gives us the geographical boundaries of that real estate that was to belong to Abraham and his descendants. In Ezekiel 37, we find a further expansion of those boundaries. God said, "This is going to be yours, Abraham, and your descendants' forever".
Now, we know from history that Israel has never possessed all of the land yet that God has promised. We certainly know now they're not possessing all of God's Promised Land. The time in history when they had the greatest percentage of that land was the 10th century BC, during Solomon's reign, but even then, they had not yet inhabited all the land, but one day they will. That was God's promise to Abraham and to his believing descendants, and I don't have to tell you all of the conflict we read about every day in the Middle East. When you boil it down to its essence, it's over this promise, this promise that God made to Israel of a land that would be theirs forever. Either God meant it, or he didn't mean it. I believe God meant it, and I believe ultimately God's going to fulfill it. God said, "I'm going to give you a land". Not only that, he said, "I'm going to give you a seed". He said, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you". He was saying to Abraham, "You're going to be the father of a tremendous nation".
In fact, in Genesis 22, God expounded on how great that nation would be. In Genesis 22:17, he said, "Indeed I will greatly bless you, Abraham. I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and of the sand which is on the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies". That is, Abraham, your descendants are going to be innumerable like the stars in the heavens, like the sand on the seashore. That's how great your nation will be. That promise was amazing, considering the fact that when God made the promise to Abraham, Abraham was 75 years old. In fact, the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:12 describes Abraham at that time that God made the promise as being, quote, "As good as dead".
Now, some of you wives know what I'm talking about. You look over your husband and say, "He's as good as dead. He's still breathing, but he might as well be dead". Well, that was how Abraham was. That's how Sarah felt. He was as good as dead. Not only that, but Sarah herself was barren, and yet God said to this couple, "You're going to be the father, the mother of a great, great nation". And thirdly, he said, "Not only am I going to give you a land, a seed, I'm going to make you a blessing". Genesis 12:3 says, "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed". Now, this is obviously the climax of this promise, a worldwide blessing Abraham and his descendants would be.
What is God talking about? Some people say that he's talking about some general spiritual blessing. We know that three major world religions claim Abraham as their father, Islam and Judaism and Christianity, so maybe that's what he's talking about. In that sense, all of the world is going to be blessed through you, Abraham. I don't think that's what God means at all. I think God had something very specific in mind. He was saying, "Through you, Abraham, one is going to come, who is going to redeem mankind and reverse the curse that has been placed on this earth. Through you, Abraham, the Savior of the world is going to come". You just say, "Now, wait a minute, pastor, how do you get of that out of verse three? Where do you find a promise of a Savior who's going to redeem mankind"? In this simple phrase. "Through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed".
How do I know that's true? It's from the New Testament, and the way the New Testament interprets this verse. You know, there are some people who believe that Abraham knew there'd be some general blessing that would come through his descendants, but he never really understood the true nature of that blessing. That's just not true. The Bible tells us Abraham had a very clear understanding of what this blessing would be.
Hold your place and turnover to Galatians chapter three. Galatians chapter three, verses six through eight. As you're turning there, let me remind you of the setting of the book of Galatians. The churches at Galatia were being infected by false teachers. They were called the judaizers, and the judaizers said this. They said faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, but it's not sufficient for salvation. That is, you need to trust in Jesus as your Savior and keep the law, be circumcised, on and on and on and on. It's faith and works. That was the teaching of the judaizers.
Today you have the same thing. In fact, in most of Christendom, you find the same thing being taught. Faith in Christ is important, but it's not enough. To be saved, you need to trust in Christ as your Savior and be baptized and partake of the sacraments and join this particular church and, and, and, and. It's faith in Christ and for salvation. Paul says no. In Galatians 1:8, he says, "If any man preaches another Gospel," that is another Gospel besides faith in Christ alone, "Let that man be anathema". Let him be damned. The Bible says that it is faith in Christ alone that saves, and to prove that to the Galatians, he uses the story of Abraham. Look at verse six. "Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness".
Now remember, he's talking to Jews here. He's saying, you want to know how a person is saved? Let's go back to the father, our father Abraham, and see how he was saved. Was he saved by faith and works and circumcision? No, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Verse seven. "Therefore be sure that it is those who of faith who are sons of Abraham". Now, I'm going to talk about this in the weeks ahead. To be a recipient of Abraham covenant and blessing, you don't just need to be a physical descendant of Abraham. Being a Jew by birth, by nationality, that doesn't get you anything. The true sons of Abraham are those who are related to him by faith. By faith. The promise is made to God and to believing Israel. Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
Verse eight, "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'all the nations shall be blessed in you'". It's that last verse. I want you to get. What message was preached to Abraham? It was the Gospel. God preached the Gospel to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you". In other words, Abraham had a much deeper understanding of the Gospel. It wasn't some general idea of a blessing. Abraham understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Abraham was saved not because of his works, but because of God's grace that was received through faith. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Now, everybody get ready to put your boots on, okay? We're going to wait in some deep theological waters here for five minutes. I promise we will make it to the other side, okay? But this is so key to understand. This isn't in your notes. This is bonus, okay? This is bonus.
You know, I'm asked all the time, how are people in the Old Testament saved? Have you ever been asked that question before? Have you ever wondered, in the days before Jesus Christ came and died, how were people in the Old Testament saved? They were saved the same way you and I are saved. Now, I want you to write down these three statements somewhere on the side of your outline. Doesn't matter whether you're in the Old Testament or the New Testament, the basis of salvation is God's grace. Doesn't matter when you lived. We're all saved not by our works, but by God's grace, God giving us what we don't deserve. The basis for salvation is God's grace. Secondly, the means of salvation is Christ's death. The means of salvation is Christ's death. That is, God's grace, his willingness to give us what we deserve, actually had an expression in time and history. It occurred at Calvary at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5 says, "God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". Because of God's grace, God sent his son Jesus to be the means of our salvation, and when Jesus died on the cross, that act by God provided the opportunity for anyone to be saved. The basis of our salvation is God's grace. The means of salvation is Christ's death. The channel of salvation, number three, is our faith. The channel of salvation is by our faith. The way God's grace through the death of Jesus Christ applies or is applied to our life, is through our faith.
Now, get this. We're not saved by faith. We are saved by God's grace, God's grace that was demonstrated by Christ's death, but we receive salvation through faith. It was Paul who said Ephesians 2:4, "For by," what? "Grace you were saved through faith". And that's what was true of Abraham. The Bible says here in Galatians 3:8, "Abraham believed God, and his belief, his faith was reckoned as righteousness". The moment Abraham believed, his faith was counted as righteousness. Now, that word reckoned is an interesting word. Here in Texas, we use that word all the time. Reckon. I reckon it's about to rain. I reckon it's about time for the preacher to get through, so we can go to lunch. I reckon, I reckon I reckon. Well, that's not what the word means here. The word here translated reckon means, it's an accounting term. It means to put to the account of, to put to the account of.