Rev. Ben Herlong
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Toward the goal of filling the world with the glory of God and fulfilling the promise to Abraham of a great nation through which all the nations of the world will be blessed, there came what is called 400 years of silence. This was the time between the last of the Old Testament prophets and the arrival of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. The remnant of Jews rebuilt Jerusalem under the rule of the Medes and Persians. After them, Judah became known as Judea and was under the rule of the Greeks and then the Romans. From Abram to the 12 tribes of Israel, to a great nation under Solomon, down to a small remnant of one tribe, there comes the birth of one boy descended from Abraham of the tribe of Judah, of the house of David, who was also the Son of God through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed, Jesus the Christ. But this is not the end goal. And what was God doing during those silent years to advance His purposes?
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel of salvation was established by Christ’s blood. With the giving of the Great Commission to take the Gospel to every creature the scope had been broadened to the entire world. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church, the spiritual nation that could go into nation, had been established and equipped. But where did church come from in God’s promise to Abraham?
Some say that the church was God’s “plan B”. When Israel failed by her many departures from God culminating in their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, it is argued that God ended His covenant with them and gave it all to the church. But I believe Church was in God’s plan all the time. He is much too wise to have to resort to a “plan B” on His trek toward His glory filling the earth and all nations coming to Israel as promised. And what God was doing through the silent 400 years had great impact on the success of the Church carrying the Gospel to the world…..To be continued. — Ben
Anthem: “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”
Chancel Choir, Flute: Leslie Maury
Offertory: “How Great Thou Art”
Morgan Hudson & Al Quarles
God told Abram that He would make of him a great nation through which all the earth would be blessed. Having been made into a multitude of people, being given the Law, and entering the Promised Land under Joshua, there was still a long ways to go to be a great nation. During the time of the Judges when “everyone did what was right in their own sight,” Israel was on a moral rollercoaster; following God, turning from God, being turned over to their enemies, seeking God, being delivered from their enemies. This cycle was repeated generation after generation….then came the time of the kings.
With King Saul, Israel became a nation “like all the other nations.” But Saul fell from grace and David became king and unified the nation. It became powerful. With King Solomon, the powerful nation lived in peace and obtained great wealth. This nation was great but with Solomon’s death Israel became divided, and yet all nations of the earth had not been blessed by it.
The 10 northern tribes retained the name Israel. The two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin became known as Judah. Around 700 BC, Assyria came and took Israel away. From one man to a great nation, God now has just two tribes. Then Babylon took Judah away for 70 years. After those years Ezra and Nehemiah returned to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem. But only a small portion of Jews (as they were now called) was interested in returning. This was around 400 BC. This was nothing like the great nation promised to Abram. It seems like God is on the downward slope and losing ground quickly. But God continues toward His goal. –Ben
The Bible records many people of faith from the time of Adam to Abraham. We recall Enoch, who walked with God and never died, and Noah, who received the covenant of the rainbow after the Flood, that God would never again cover the world with water. But that was a long time with no progress toward the end that the Glory of God would fill the earth. Then came Abraham. With him God made the covenant that he would be the father of a great nation and through his seed all the nations would be blessed. A nation needs land, laws and people. It would take more than four hundred years for this to take place. God waited a hundred years for the ark to be built, 100 years for people to repent. God does not judge on an immediate whim. His patience is graceful. God is in no hurry but he is steady.
God gave Abraham the land as an eternal inheritance for his descendants. However, they would not enter the land “until the iniquity of the Amorites is complete.” (Gen. 15:16)God gives over 400 years for the Amorites to repent or have their sin completed for judgment. Then the Lord would give the land to Abraham’s descendants. While the land was promised, God lacked two things, people and law. The covenant was reaffirmed to Issac and Jacob and then Jacob’s twelve sons, the tribes of Israel. It was these persons that went to Egypt (a total of 72). They became slaves for 400 years. This was lost time; or was it? Well, it was time for the sin of the Amorites to be completed. Freedom allows people to wander as Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans. Slavery was a way of keeping people together. Shared oppression also builds strong bonds. Abraham had left his heritage behind. He was the first Hebrew. Three generations later the 72 could have wandered away; not so in Egypt. There, God was building a people of common heritage of hardship and oppression, a heritage that has helped keep the people of Abraham unique to this day!
With the Exodus, Moses and laws of Sinai, the people had been prepared to enter the Land and become a nation. But the promise to Abraham was not yet fulfilled. There is a long way to go to glory.– Ben