|Judah's Septere and Joseph's Birthright
Chapter 2 - The Birthright or the Promise of Many Nations to Abraham
Race Versus Grace Since we are compelled to begin our search for light, concerning every phase of these themes, along the lines of Biblical history and prophecy, it will be well for us first to gather from those sources a few of the greater and more general facts. By so doing, we will find it to be a great help in our study of the more special features of the subjects, as it will enable us to place, with unerring certainty, each detail where it belongs.
It being true that the Lord included in the Abrahamic covenants a promise that the forthcoming children of promise should eventually develop into many nations, there are many other things that must follow as a consequent; one of which is, that for the accomplishment of this purpose, God must provide sufficient territory or scope of country, which shall become the home of each nation, for it is absolutely impossible that flourishing nations shall exist without national homes.
Pursuant to this thought, we know of no utterance in all the Word of God which furnishes a more general or comprehensive outlook than the following:
"When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot [cord, or line] of his inheritance," (Deuteronomy 32:8, 9).
When Moses was commanded to write the above concerning the division of the earth's surface to the sons of Adam, only a very small portion of it was inhabited; nevertheless, in the mind of God every Island was set apart, and every continent divided. For the scope of the facts herein stated are worldwide, and embrace within their sweep the entire inhabited and inhabitable portion of the earth's surface. Also, those divisions were so arranged and subdivided, and the boundaries so set, that every nation, tongue, and people among the sons of Adam — be they already in existence, or be they among the forthcoming nations — had their national home allotted unto them.
Moreover, God always not only kept in mind that special country which he had promised should become the everlasting inheritance of the chosen race, but he also, when setting the territorial bounds for other nations, remembered Israel, and either restricted the boundaries of other nations, or enlarged those divisions of country intended for Israel, which will be needed by that immense multitude of people when they shall have fulfilled their appointed destiny of developing into many nations. For we must bear in mind that the posterity of Abraham are a natural seed, according to the flesh, and that each special nation of the many must have a place in which to dwell.
In addition to the fact that these Abrahamic nations are a fleshly seed, we must remember also that they are not necessarily a race of saints; for it is a notorious fact that some of that race have been, and others are now, just as wicked as that fallen son of the heavens would have them; but, on the other hand, that same race has furnished, and still is furnishing, men who are the grandest and best of earth.
When the time came for God to produce from the covenant man a son who should be the further progenitor of the covenant race, Abraham was anxious that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, should be used for this purpose, and exclaimed, "O that Ishmael might live before thee!" To this earnest appeal the Lord was not indifferent, and promised that he would bless Ishmael. But on the subject of rejecting Ishmael as the covenant inheritor, and making his covenant with a son who should be a child of Sarah, as well as of Abraham, the Lord was inflexible. His word of promise was the insurmountable barrier, and so he said to Abraham:
"Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac...and as for Ishmael, I have heard thee...twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year." (Genesis 17:19-21)
So Ishmael's posterity became alien before the legal line had any existence, except that, on the authority and responsibility of creative faith, the Lord counts things that are not as if they were — for God had yet to create Isaac and bring forth life out of that which was as good as dead.
We have the record of another racial choice and rejection which was made before birth, that of Jacob and Esau, but before we discuss the question of race versus grace, —as involved in the caption of this chapter — relative to them, for it is over their case that the subject is argued in the New Testament, we wish to call your attention to the fact that after the death of Sarah, Abraham married a second wife whose name was Keturah, by whom he had a number of sons. These sons in time became the fathers of the Medes, Midianites, and other nations; but we can no more reckon these nations as a part of the promised many, than we can those which were formed by the posterity of Ishmael and Esau. Could we do so, our task would be an easy one and our story soon told; but we cannot do this, for the covenant nations must come only from Abraham and Sarah through their only son Isaac, whose posterity alone can be called, as they are called, "the Children of the Promise," in contradistinction to those who belong to the other families, and who are called "the Children of the Flesh."
This brings us to the question of race versus grace as understood by the New Testament Church, and explained by the Apostle Paul, who in his Epistle to the Romans says:
"Neither, because they are the children of Abraham, are they all [racial] children...but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." (Romans 9:7-8)
As he carries the argument still further, he makes this truth all the more apparent by declaring:
"In Isaac shall thy seed be called,"
and then explains, as follows:
"That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the [national] children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, at this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even our father Isaac (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth): it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!" (Romans 9:7-14).
With this argument before us, it is clear that it is only the children of Isaac who are counted for the national seed of the covenant concerning the promised multitude, and that all this question of election as regards Jacob and Esau is purely racial and national. That is, one of these two nations which sprang from the same mater is the recipient of national promises, glories, honors, covenants, and service of which the other is not a partaker.
The argument is that when Rebecca, who we remember was to become the mother of thousands of millions, had conceived by Isaac, the father of the race, the result was that there were two nations, or nationalities, in the womb — not necessarily a nation, either of sinners or of saints. To convince us that the election was purely racial, Paul throws in the parenthetical clauses explaining that Jacob had done nothing good that he should deserve these covenant blessings. But he also just as assuredly affirms that Esau had done no evil that he should not have them, for the choice was made before they had the power to do good or evil, i.e., before they were born.
The King James version is a little unfortunate in its use of the word "hated," as herein used, for one meaning which is given to the original word is, "to love less," and when used in contrast to the word "love" as applied to Jacob, it will bear that simple meaning. The fact, which Paul states, is simply that God loved Jacob more and Esau less, or that he preferred one to the other, and that this preference for one excluded the other.
So Paul asks the question, "Is there unrighteousness with God?" and for a reply gives only that surprised exclamation, "God forbid!" he scouts the criminating thought that it could possibly be unrighteousness with God, that he should be pleased to choose the white race with which to work out his purpose, instead of the red, or copper-colored one; but makes the implication that there would have been unrighteousness, of a very grave character, with the Lord, if this election had been one of grace instead of race — that is, grace unto salvation for Jacob and his seed, and damnation, without any possible chance of grace, for Esau and his children.
Now for the facts concerning these contradistinctive appellations, "Children of the Flesh" and "Children of the Promise," as applied to the races which have Abraham for one common father.
- God, as we have shown, made a covenant with Abraham, in which it was promised that he should become the father of many nations, hence Abraham was the inheritor of a promise from God.
- Isaac, who was a natural son of Abraham and Sarah, according to the flesh, was not only the child of a special promise, but he was also the first child of the covenant promise.
- After the death of Abraham, God confirmed the original covenant promise to Isaac, the child of promise, as follows:
"I will perform the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 26:3-4)
Hence Isaac also became the inheritor of a promise from the God of his father.
- The immediate posterity of Isaac, the promise-holder, were Jacob and Esau, the persons whom Paul uses in making his argument concerning the Lord's choice of race. Jacob, the younger of these two, who were twins, was chosen by the promise-maker, before they were born, to be the inheritor of the covenant promises. And so the Divine promiser reiterates those promises to him, as follows:
"I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 28:13-14)
Hence Jacob also received direct from the Lord the same covenant promises which had previously been given to his fathers.
- Since there can be no mistaking the purport of these covenant promises regarding a natural and multitudinous posterity for these promise-inheritors, and inasmuch as these promises were promised and re-promised, by the Divine promise-maker to the successive promise-holders, then, when that promised multitude of people shall have materialized, it is they, and they only, who can be called "The Children of the Promise." And the only crucial test is that they be Abraham's seed who have descended from Isaac through Jacob.
Thus it is that the natural seed of Abraham, whose genealogical tree sprouts from the Jacob roots, are the children of the promise, and that others are not, although they also be the natural sons of Abraham, but, not having come through the family line of the promise-inheritors, they are "the Children of the Flesh" only. While to Israelites only, the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, pertain the promises, the covenants, the adoption, the glory, the special service, the giving of the divine law, and through whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. But no such national glory, honor, dignity, and exaltation are promised to those other nations which sprang from that same father through Ishmael, Esau, and the sons of Keturah: no, not even such glory as comes from the least of these covenants promises and blessings.
Consequently, we can see why the Lord always declares himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not the God of Abraham, Ishmael, and Esau; and why it is that Paul's kinsmen according to the flesh are exclusively the children of the promise, for they are Israelites, to whom pertain the promises, etc. That is, they are the people who owe their existence to the fact that God was true to the promise which he made to Abraham, repeated to Isaac, and reiterated to Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and from whom come the elect people whose general racial name is Israel. Thus each individual member of the race is an Israelite, be he a good man or a bad one, and belongs to the elect or chosen people of God.
Therefore all this question of election between Jacob and Esau, which has caused so many unjust conceptions of God and his precious saving truth, is a question of Race, and not of Grace.
However, there is both an election of race and an election of grace, for Paul, when speaking of the seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal, declares that even now,
"...at this present time, also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace." (Romans 11:5)
But when he wrote regarding the attitude of a certain part of the elect race toward the election of grace, he says:
"As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." (Romans 11:28)
Here we find two elections, i.e., the election of race and the election of grace.
Touching the election of race, God could say, "And thou, Israel, art my servant whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." But, when it was a question of individual service or relation to him, even among his chosen people, he could throw the responsibility on them, and say: "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." Or when pressing the subject of eternal life to be accepted or rejected by each member of that elect race, God could say: "See, I have this day set before thee life and death," and then exhort them to "Choose life!"
If it is a question of race election, and the fidelity of the Divine promise is at stake, it can be asserted that the will of God, independent of the will of others, can cause certain conditions to obtain; "that the purpose of God according to election might stand" (Romans 9:11) — not in the good or evil works, or unholy natures of unborn babes, "but of him that calleth."
When the call of God is of racial, or of national import, God can say: "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel my called." But if it is a question of personal election to the grace of salvation, then faithful men of God may exhort other men, saying:
"Give diligence to make your calling and election sure." (2Peter 1:10)
When it is race, it is, "Whom I (God) have chosen."
When it is grace, it is, "Whosoever will, may come and take the water of life freely." (Revelation 21:6, 22:17)
When it is race, it is, "I have called thee by my name; thou art mine." In grace it is "Whosoever believeth," of whom the Lord says: "They are mine.
In grace it is, "Come."
In race it is fate, destiny, kismet.
One is a chosen race, and the other is a chosen way. The way is by faith that it might be of grace, but the choice of race is according to the predetermined and predestined purpose of God.
In race election it is generation, or born of the flesh.
In the election of grace it is regeneration, or born of the Spirit.
In grace it is, "Whosoever offereth praise glorifieth me;" (Psalm 50:23) but in race, it is, "This people have I formed for myself; they SHALL show forth my praise." (Isaiah 43:21)
This declaration brings us to the consideration of the purpose, or object, which the Lord has in choosing, and forming a special race of men who, in spite of the wickedness of the great bulk of them, he calls his own chosen people, and whose national destiny he purposes to control.
Much of the manifest purpose of God touching this people is made known in that brief epitome given by the Apostle Paul, as quoted above, respecting the national honors of his own people. Figuratively speaking, every word in that resume of Israelitish history and the summing up of their honors weighs a ton. As we proceed with the story of Israel, it is our purpose to consider these facts in detail, but at this juncture we will take time only to say that, since the creation, no such opportunity, or such fitting cause, for national honor and greatness has ever come, or ever can come, to any other nation on the earth.
It would seem that their cup of glory was full to the overflow, when through them the Lord sent his word from Heaven, and spread it abroad over the face of the inhabited portions of the earth, and when God's word had been so fulfilled, and his purpose for them so fully accomplished that they could say:
"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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
When they could say this — then it would seem that their cup of national greatness and glory was overflowing, and that the supreme purpose of God for them had been reached. But it is our glad privilege to tell you that there is in God's word a declared purpose, which must yet be accomplished through that elect race, and until it shall be fulfilled, all that which is done is robbed of fully nine-tenths of its power and glory; since, outside the realm of faith, millions are today hopelessly drifting on the shoals of constantly increasing forms of unbelief, and with the great majority of men, the word of God must forever be regarded as a cunningly devised fable, unless God has some plan of vindication for it and himself.
Furthermore, the great love of God is misunderstood and despised; the blood of the atonement is trampled upon; Christ is still considered by the many a bastard, a fraud, and a failure. He is still put to an open shame in the house of his professed friends; shipwrecks of a one-time faith and a present professed faith in him are scattered everywhere. And so it is that God, his Word, and his Christ, must yet be fully vindicated. And they shall be, for God has promised it; and when this vindication shall have been accomplished, then, and not till then, will Israel have reached the supreme climax of greatness and glory of the purpose for which the Lord has chosen her.
Harken ye unbelieving ones! Harken to this! —
"Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel...ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He; before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange God among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord — that I am God," (Isaiah 43:1,10-12).
Note this, "That YE may know and believe ME, and understand that I AM HE."
God not only intends to use the Israelites for the purpose of convincing them that he is God, and the only God, but he also intends to use them to convince the rest of the world. For he says:
"I will sanctify my great name...and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes," (Ezekiel 36:23).
This is the great purpose for which the Lord has chosen Israel, and when this is accomplished, they shall have reached the acme of national glory.
If you ask, "Is the history of Israel, as a whole, a Divine work? we answer, yes. But if you ask, "Is that history designed as a preparation for the moral creation which Jesus Christ came to effect?" Our answer is, no; the law which the Lord gave to his people was intended to accomplish that purpose; but the history of Israel, together with prophecies concerning them, many of which must yet become history, is for the vindication of God.