What Scripture Says About Salvation
A Bible Study by Fred Kenison
Monograph 26: In Thy Seed Shall All Nations Be
The Israelites looked upon Abraham as their father, a fact that is constantly emphasized throughout the Bible. But, in Genesis 17:4-8, God said to Abraham:
"As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
The word for nations comes from goim, which is the same word used for Gentile. God actually told Abraham that he would be the father of many Gentile nations as well as the nation of Israel.
Israel, however, took little notice of God's concern for other nations, and assumed that they were special to God because of who they were. They failed to realize that God chose them to render a service, not because of who they were. They were supposed to be witnesses to the Gentiles of the goodness and mercy of God, so the Gentiles would also come to worship him. Because they failed in this service, the judgment of God fell upon them.
In his book, Niebuhr (p. 214) wrote,
"Prophetic religion had its very inception in a conflict with national self-deification. Beginning with Amos, all the great Hebrew prophets challenged the simple identification between God and the nation, or the naive confidence of the nation in its exclusive relation to God. The prophets prophesied in the name of a holy God who spoke judgment upon the nation; and the basic sin against which this judgment was directed was the sin of claiming that Israel and God were one or that God was the exclusive possession of Israel. Amos 7:16-17. Judgment would overtake not only Israel but every nation, including the great nations who were used for the moment to execute divine judgment upon Israel but were also equally guilty of exalting themselves beyond measure (Is. 47; Jer 25:15; Ez. 24-39)."
The Israelites became vain and greedy for the land. This greed was based on their insecurity and their lack of faith in the providence of God. Luke 12:13-20 says,
"And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man=s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?"
God had set a testimony to the spiritual inheritance and its worth in their very midst. When he promised the land to the Israelites, he also said that the Levites and priests of the tribe of Aaron would receive no land when they entered Canaan, but that he would be their heritage, or inheritance.
"And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel" (Numbers 18:20).
The Israelites had a constant witness of the valuable spiritual dimension concerning their inheritance. This testimony went everywhere they went, but for the most part they ignored it.
Believers today are still afflicted the same way the Israelites were: by seeking materialistic wealth and security, and making themselves their own god through their unbelief in the promises of The God. We still suffer today from the same basic weaknesses of the Israelites.
Girdlestone (p. 256) wrote,
"Throughout the historical books, the Psalms, and the prophets, the word goim primarily signifies those nations which lived in the immediate neighbourhood of the Jewish people; they were regarded as enemies, as ignorant of the truth, and sometimes as tyrants."
This attitude of pride became another stumbling block for Israel which greatly deterred them from their calling to influence others. Rather than influencing the nations around them, the Israelites despised them and felt them to be inferior in their relationship to God. This spiritual pride eventually became part of their undoing.
Genesis 18:17-18 says,
"And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?"
God stated that all nations, Jewish and Gentile, would be blessed through him. God made it abundantly clear from the beginning that he was interested in the spiritual welfare of the Gentiles as well as the Israelites. Truly, God is no respecter of persons.
Early in his prophecies, Isaiah told Israel of the link with the Gentiles.
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:2-4).
The references to all nations and many peoples refers to the Gentiles. In the last days, Gentiles as well as Israelites will be in Jerusalem. They will be one people in the Lord. Paul stated this same fact in Galatians 3:28:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Several passages in Isaiah show that the destiny of Israel and the Gentiles, or nations, were inextricably intertwined. For example, Isaiah 5:25-26 notes that God used the Gentiles to punish the Israelites.
"Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly."
When God used the Gentiles to punish Israel, they developed a haughty spirit and committed the same sin of self-deification. Then, God told Israel that although the Gentiles had been used to punish them that they, too, would be punished by God.
Isaiah 11:10-12 says,
"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
Again, we see that the Jews and Gentiles will both be gathered into the Lord's "rest" in the last days.
Isaiah 25:6-9 also refers to the last days.
"And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Again, the phrase, "all nations" emphasizes God's salvation for all nations, not just Israel. God directed his prophets to remind the Israelites of their responsibility to evangelize the Gentiles, to tell them about the God who would also bring his salvation to them, as well as to the Israelites.
Isaiah 33 relates the blessings of living in Jerusalem under God. Then, in Isaiah 34:1-3, God said to the Gentiles,
"Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood."
This is a picture of God's punishment of the Gentiles.
Isaiah 60:1-5 extols the wonders of Zion after the Israelites returned to the land.
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee."
Here we see the material blessings that will come to Zion, or Israel, at the coming of the Lord. Eventually, they will be the light God had intended them to be, and the Gentiles, along with their wealth, will be drawn to that light.
Many believe that the Jews who are now returning to Israel are going to remain there until the coming of the Messiah. However, Zechariah 14:1-9 seems to say otherwise.
"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth."
Israel will continue to have troubles until the coming of the Lord. When he returns, the Lord will bless Israel, and will again bring her to the promised land and sustain her there forever.
Although the scriptures chosen for this study show that the Gentiles will also be in the land with Israel, they do not indicate exactly what role the Gentiles will play. The prophets alternated between two extremes, telling Israel, on the one hand, that God was faithful to his covenant with them, and, on the other hand, how they would be punished by the Gentiles because of their unfaithfulness.
The next group of scriptures will add enlightenment about the blessing to be given to the Gentiles in the next age. Genesis 22:15-18 states,
"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
The previous portion of our study dealt with the"seed," plural, the descendants as numerous as stars and sand on the seashore. The next group of scriptures will examine the "seed," singular. It is this singular seed, not the descendants, by which all nations will be blessed. We will look at a sampling of Old Testament scriptures dealing with this aspect of the promise to Abraham.
In their old age, Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac, the child of promise. It was through Isaac, the child of promise, that the "seed" would be continued. Genesis 26:2-5 says that after Abraham's death,
"And the Lord appeared unto him [Isaac], and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."
God was telling Isaac that his covenant with Abraham did not expire just because Abraham had died. His covenant was still valid, and God intended to honor it.
When Isaac's son, Jacob, was old enough to marry, Isaac told him,
"Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother=s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham" (Genesis 28:1-4).
Jacob did as he was advised.
As Jacob rested on his journey,
"he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, 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. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (Genesis 28:12-15).
Jacob was the third person to whom God promised the continuity of Abraham's covenant blessing. Even a cursory study of the bible shows that this covenant is the basis for most of the Israelite beliefs. They believed God would keep his covenant, and they saw historic actions as God bringing about the fulfillment of his covenant.
From this time forward, God was spoken of as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"-the God who gave a covenant and the God who would keep it until all eternity. In other words, God could be trusted! This faith sustained Israel through many trials and gave them hope, the most important ingredient in life.
The next scripture, Psalms 89:1-4, introduces a new element.
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations."
A kingship has now been promised to David. One of his seed will rule through "all generations." A king is anointed; therefore, this is another scripture which implies a messiah, or anointed one.
Isaiah 9:2-7 also contains this idea of a ruler.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For 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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
Isaiah was looking forward to the reign of this one on David's throne. Notice that he will rule with justice and righteousness.
Not only will this ruler be on the throne of David, but also over his (David's) kingdom. This foretells the area which will be known in the next age as "The Kingdom of God." It will encompass all the land promised to Abraham and taken by David and the Israelites during his reign. Essentially, this land will encompass what we know today as the Middle East. See Numbers 34:3-12 for a description of the area covered.
Isaiah 42:1, 6-7 refer to the seed as a servant.
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them."
Then, Isaiah breaks into one of his great songs of praise to the Lord. In this scripture Isaiah also said that God would "put his spirit on him." Isaiah was prophesying about the time when Jesus would come and give light to the Gentiles. The New Testament says that the holy spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism, and other scriptures say that this spirit was given to him without measure.
When Isaiah refers to the servant of the Lord, it is often in relationship to the spirit. Isaiah 44:1-3 says,
"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring."
God promised Jacob, or Israel, that he would pour out his spirit on Israel's seed.
Isaiah 49:6-9 again refers to a servant.
"And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves."
Besides mentioning the "servant," Isaiah also spoke of "my salvation," a "day of salvation." The Jewish people often spoke of the next age, when the messiah would come, as the salvation, or as the day of salvation. This is an important servant! Kings arise when they see him and princes bow down. This servant will also restore the land to its designated heirs. When the Lord returns, the land will again be reassigned to the Israelites.
By examining these few scriptures, we have attempted to show that the inheritance of the land God promised to Abraham is the fulfillment of the covenant. The covenant was made only on the part of God; it was a gift to Abraham and his descendants.
When the Israelites showed unbelief in the covenant God had given Abraham, they were punished for their unbelief, not because they failed to fulfill any requirements on their part as a participant of the covenant. They were not a partner with God in this covenant, although they thought they were. That was one of their errors. When they were punished, then God had his prophet remind them of his covenant promises so they would again believe in the word, or promise, of God.
However, the Gentiles were also recipients of a portion of this covenant given to Abraham, since they were to be blessed through him. We will examine the nature of that blessing in later sections.
# God actually told Abraham that he would be the father of many
Gentile nations as well as the nation of Israel.
# The Israelites failed to realize that God chose them to render a service,
not because of who they were.
# Judgment would overtake not only Israel but every nation, including
the great nations who were used for the moment to execute divine
judgment upon Israel but were also equally guilty of exalting
themselves beyond measure.
# Believers today are still afflicted the same way the Israelites were: by
seeking materialistic wealth and security, and making themselves their
own god through their unbelief in the promises of The God.
# The attitude of pride became another stumbling block for Israel which
greatly deterred them from their calling to influence others. Rather
than influencing the nations around them, the Israelites despised them
and felt them to be inferior in their relationship to God.
# God made it abundantly clear from the beginning that he was
interested in the spiritual welfare of the Gentiles as well as the
# Eventually, the Israelites will be the light God had intended them to be
and the Gentiles will be drawn to that light.
# The kingdom of God will encompass all the land promised to
Abraham, Isaac Jacob, and David. Essentially, this land will
encompass what we know today as the Middle East.
# When the Lord returns, the land will again be reassigned to the
# The covenant was made only on the part of God; it was a gift to
Abraham and his descendants. When the Israelites showed unbelief in
the covenant God had given Abraham, they were punished for their
unbelief, not because they failed to fulfill any requirements on their
part as a participant of the covenant.
© 2009, Fred Kenison and Merrill Douglass. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.