We are continuing on in our current series entitled, “God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations.” I am of the firm conviction that interpreting the scriptures dispensationally gives us the “big picture”, if you will, with regard to understanding the unfolding of God’s great Plan for man. It allows us to see also the different ways in which God has related to and dealt with man down through the Ages of time, and more importantly, how man has been responsible to God in each of the dispensations.
We come this time to the fourth dispensation, the Dispensation of Promise. If this happens to be the first post you have read in this series, I really encourage you to go back and read the posts that have gone before so that you can gain a better understanding of where we are coming from. You can find the previous posts at: https://pastorkj.wordpress.com.
We find this dispensation, as we have the three that have gone before, in the book of Genesis. I would encourage you to thoroughly study this book, as within it we can gain great understanding as to the ways of God.
The book of Genesis is the book of “beginnings.” In chapter 1, we read of the beginning of the human race with Adam and Eve. In chapter 8, we read of a new beginning with Noah and his family. And then, in chapter 12 we have the beginning of God’s chosen Nation in Abram. This period is called the Dispensation of Promise because of the Covenant God made with Abram:
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.[Gen. 12:1 – 3]
These promises, along with about 40 others, formed the basis of God’s dealings with His chosen people during this period:
- Abram was to father a great nation;
- Abram was to be blessed;
- Abram’s name was to be made great (it was later changed of course to Abraham);
- Not only would Abram be blessed, but he would be a blessing to others;
- God would bless those who blessed Abram;
- God would curse those who cursed Abram; and,
- All of the families of the Earth would be blessed because of Abram’s seed.
This dispensation presents another first, in that this was the first time in history that God had dealt with a particular lineage separate from the rest of humanity. Because of the prevalence of idolatry and pantheism brought about by Nimrod and the religious system of Babylon, God chose to separate unto Himself one family, that through them the worship of the one True God would continue.
Through Abram would come the Nation of Israel and the promised Messiah. This is the significance of the Promise, …in YOU shall all families of the Earth be blessed.” It is amazing to see the wisdom of God as the various Ages have unfolded. What do I mean by that? Although God had promised a Redeemer to Adam and Eve through the “seed’ of the woman (Gen. 3:15) and promised that the line of Seth would be blessed in a special way (Gen. 9:26), it was not until the call of Abram that God prophesied that Christ would come through a particular race and would bless all nations of the Earth (Gen. 12:3).
This prophecy, it should be noted, has not been completely fulfilled as yet. It will find its fulfillment during the Millennium and the eternal ages when Israel will become the leading nation of the Earth (See Deut. 28:9 – 13; Zech. 8:23). Many of the promises, in fact, that God made during the 430 years of this Dispensation will be fulfilled eternally (Gen. 17:7, 8, 19; 22:17, 18; etc.).
As stated twice in the scriptures the Dispensation of Promise lasted 430 years (See Ex. 12:40; Gal. 3:17). The 430 years is calculated from the call of Abram to the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
Earlier we mentioned some “firsts” in connection with the Dispensation of Promise. There was another one. During the life of Abram, secular history began to correlate with biblical history. We know quite a bit concerning the homeland of Abram, Ur of the Chaldees, from modern excavation. Houses were made of brick and actually were painted white for aesthetic purposes. Most of the homes were two stories high. The larger houses had from 10 to 20 rooms, with fully equipped kitchens, a good plumbing system, and sanitation.
There were also schools in the city of Abram’s childhood. Clay tablets have been discovered that indicate some of the subjects taught in these schools. Students had writing lessons and studied the vocabulary. In arithmetic they had multiplication and division tables. More advanced scholars studied geometry, along with square roots and cubic roots. Grammar lessons included paradigms of the conjunction of verbs. This substantiates the fact that Abram came from a city of high civilization that existed about 2000 B.C. So Abram and his family would have left these modern conveniences – at least modern for that time – to go to a land they had never been, and to live a nomadic lifestyle for the rest of their lives, and all because of a revelation from God! How many would be willing to do that?
The Jewish Targums (Jewish historical commentaries of sorts) say that Abram’s family were idol makers. In other words, they made the idol which represented the moon god “Ur”, for which the city was named.
Whether this was true or not, we do know that idolatry was the religious system of Abram’s day. There was family worship of household gods, and each home had an altar that displayed clay figurines of these gods, which were called “teraphim.” These family gods served as “guardian angels” of the home. When the father died, these idols were often left to the oldest son so that the worship could continue. The teraphim are mentioned later in the book of Genesis in connection with Laban and Rachel [See Gen. 31:19, 30, 34]. The possession of the household gods was the equivalent of having the family inheritance; therefore, Rachel sought to steal her brother’s birth-right so that Jacob could be the legal heir!
Abram did not involve himself or his family in the idolatrous worship of his society. After he left Ur, as God had commanded, along with Sarai (who later became Sarah), his wife, and Lot, his nephew, and along with their servants, Abram built an altar unto the LORD in Sichem, in the plain of Moreh. The Lord appeared again to Abram in Sichem (Shechem) [See Gen. 12:7].
Again the Covenant was confirmed that God was going to raise up a nation from Abram and give to them the land of Canaan. The scripture also declares that “the Canaanite was then in the land” [Gen. 12:6]. The Canaanites were part of the giant races that appeared both before and after the Flood [Gen. 6:4]. It is important to understand that Satan still intended to corrupt the human race with the mingling of the fallen Angels and the “daughters of men”, so that the “Seed” of the woman could not be born. I have brethren that I greatly respect who contend this “mingling” will occur again (and is occurring) in these last of the Last Days, just prior to the Return of our Lord. There are prophetic references that indicate this may well be the case, however, that is for another time and a later study.
The giants possessed Canaan and the surrounding countries, but God allowed Israel to multiply in Egypt until they became strong enough to kill these giants and possess their land. No wonder Paul wrote, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! [Rom. 11:33 NASB]
The only test for man in this Dispensation was to believe God’s Promises and to live by the Covenant given to Abram. Men were expected, of course, to obey all of the civil laws that did not oppose God’s Will for them, as well. Man, in general, had knowledge of the one True God through the witness of Abram and Melchizedek, the king of Salem [Gen. 14:18].
Not only do all of the Dispensations come with a test, they also each have a Divine purpose. What was the Divine purpose in the Dispensation of Promise? God purposed in the Dispensation of Promise to make Abram and his family His witnesses in the Earth. He desired to bless them spiritually, physically, and financially. God wanted to show the heathen nations the Blessings of serving the Living and True God, and the utter futility of serving dumb idols. The Blessings of Salvation that we now enjoy were made available through the Covenant God made with Abram. These include Faith, Remission of sin, Justification, Sanctification, bodily Healing, answers to prayer, Spiritual Revelations, etc. All of these wonderful gifts could be received in the Dispensation of Promise by simply trusting God’s Word! They are received today in exactly the same manner.
We will continue our look at the Dispensation of Promise next time. We will pick up with Abram leaving Sichem (Shechem), and pitching his tent toward Bethel, meaning , “house of God”.
Join us if you can.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson