dispensationalism

 

 

 

It has been said, “You will never know that God is all you need, until God is all you have.” There is a great deal of truth encapsulated in that little statement. In my own life, I can see as I reflect on how the Lord has worked in many different situations and allowed me to be taken to the end of myself and my ability and resources, to a place where if it were not for Him it would be an absolute impossibility for the situation to work out and turn around.

 

My believing friend, that is an excellent place for us to be! We need to realize that our God is more than enough, and that contained in each of His Promises is sufficient power to bring about their own fulfillment, and all we need do is simply take Him at His Word!

 

It is William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet that contains the often quoted line, “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The character Juliet was putting forth the argument that the names of things don’t really matter, but only what they are. While perhaps there is some truth to that sentiment, names do indeed matter, or at least they should. In Jewish culture a parent would name their child based on what they desired that child’s destiny to be. Names were often prophetic declarations, declared over and concerning the child.

 

That practice was patterned after God Himself. In the Old Testament, Yahweh/Jehovah, revealed Himself to His people in some 16 what are referred to as, Jehovah Titles. His revealed Name, as we discover in Exodus 3:14, is, I AM, THAT I AM. In Hebrew, this is a tetragram, or a word of four letters. There are no vowels in Hebrew, only consonants. The revealed Name of God is typically translated as, Yahweh or Jehovah. It should be noted that the ancient Jews viewed the revealed Name as so sacred that they didn’t use it out of fear of mispronouncing it. They forgot how to pronounce it as a result. So which is correct, Yahweh or Jehovah? No one really knows, but, “I AM” is God’s Name. He is exactly what you or I need Him to be!

 

Do you need to get right with Him? He is Jehovah-tsidkenu, “God our righteousness.” Do you need to draw closer to Him, and walk at a greater level of holiness? He is Jehovah-mekaddishkem , “The Lord who sanctifies.” Do you need healing? He is Jehovah-Rapha, “The Lord who heals.” Do you need peace? He is Jehovah-shalom, “The Lord who sends peace.” Again, there are 16 of these titles in the Old Testament, each revealing another aspect of the nature and the characteristics of our Great God.

 

In the case of Abram, God revealed Himself for the first time in an aspect of His Nature and character that was not tied to His revealed Name, which was of course revealed later to Moses; but was ideally suited for the occasion. This Name is revealed in Genesis 17:1:

 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

 

Keep in mind, some thirteen years had passed since the Lord had directly communicated with Abram, and during this time he probably still thought that Ishmael was the promised seed. He was soon to discover differently. The last personal revelation Abram had received from the Lord regarding the Name of the Lord concerned the meeting with Melchizedek. Even then, the revelation had come through Melchizedek to Abram, with the Lord referred to as, El-Elyon, which means, “Most High God, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” As well, through Hagar, he had learned of God as El-Roi, which means, “You are a God who permits Himself to be seen.” But here, he is given the revelation of El-Shaddai, “Almighty God.” It means, “Strong so as to overpower.” Keil and Delitzsch said of this name, “It belonged to the sphere of salvation, forming one element in the manifestation of Jehovah, and describing Jehovah, the covenant God, as possessing the power to realize His promises, even when the order of nature presented no prospect of their fulfillment, and the powers of nature were insufficient to secure it.” [Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament]

 

In other words, for this situation, that is Abram and Sarai’s ability to bring forth the promised seed by natural means of procreation, time had run out. Naturally speaking, it was an hopelessly impossible prospect! Only a God of miracles could meet Abram’s need at this time. With Abram at the age of 99, and his wife at the age of 89, both well beyond the age of childbearing, it seemed impossible that they could still have hoped for a son. We must remember however, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. [Mark 10:27] He is, El-Shaddai, the All-sufficient one!

 

The Apostle Paul described the faith of Abraham: (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. [Rom. 4:17 – 21]

 

It was during this fifth appearance of the Lord to Abram that God once again confirmed the Promises that He had made many years before [See Gen. 17:1 – 8]. God also changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. Abram meant, “exalted father”, whereas the name Abraham meant, “father of a multitude.” The name Sarah meant, “Princess.”

 

Think just a moment about the great leap the Lord takes Abraham to here. He takes him from the one “seed”, the one son he was worried about, to the position of “father of many nations.” In effect, He was saying to the Patriarch, “I am Almighty God, and I can do anything.” Hebrew scholar Ellicott notes that the fourth verse is poorly translated. He goes on to say, “Literally the word, ‘of many nations,’ signifies a confused noise like the din of a populous city. Abraham was to be the father of a ‘thronging crowd’ of nations.” This was a real faith stretcher, to say the least, for Abraham!

 

The “multitudes” of which are spoken here, really concern all who have come, or will come, to Christ. Why do I say that? Because while it is true nations and kings have actually came from Abraham, in fact, the entire Arab world, now numbering over 100 million, along with the Jews, numbering over 20 million, if all are counted in the world, all these would be naturally speaking the “seed” or descendants of Abraham. These would be other than the Church, or the Body of Christ. Stay with me here.

 

The True Seed, which came from Abraham, is none other than Christ. The Bible says, 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.[Gal. 3:16] Consequently, all who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, being partakers of the same Covenant blessings, secured by the same oath and promise. My dear friend, all that the Christian world enjoys, or ever will enjoy, it is indebted to Abraham and his Seed.

 

At the time of the changing of Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah, God also gave to Abraham the sign of the Covenant, which was circumcision [Gen. 17:11]. This practice was to continue forever as a continual reminder of God’s Promise to Israel. On a side note, I believe that we can say that circumcision for the Jews was what good works are for the child of God. What do I mean by that? Circumcision was not only the sign of the Covenant, but in a very real sense, was also the badge of the Covenant. The Israelites did not circumcise themselves and their sons in order to become members of the Covenant. They did this because they had the Covenant from God. In the same manner, as believers we don’t perform good works in order to be saved. We perform good works because we have been saved.

 

At this time, God also reminded Abraham that although He had a plan for Ishmael [Gen. 17:20], Sarah would indeed bear a son, and he was to call his name Isaac. God said that He would establish His Covenant through Isaac and his seed forever [Gen. 17:19]. God even specified the time that Isaac would be born, this set time in the next year [Gen. 17:21].

 

It is a bit of an enigma as to why God did not reveal all of His Plan to Abraham in the beginning, but allowed Abraham and Sarah to continue for several years without the full knowledge or the fulfillment of the Promise. We must learn this. God’s timing is so very important! It seems that God delights in answering prayer or fulfilling a Promise just “in the nick of time!” Another way to state this, and this certainly is not original, God is seldom early, but He is never late!

 

Even when God gave His Son as the Redeemer of mankind, it was “when the FULNESS of the time was come” [Gal. 4:4]. Although God had His timing also in dealing with Abraham and Sarah, He, no doubt, wanted to test their faith and their ability to believe the Promises of God, for this was the one test of this Dispensation of Promise.

 

We will, Lord willing, complete this study on the Dispensation of Promise next time. Join us if you can.

 

Pastor Kevin E. Johnson

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