Children of the Promise

“This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins.”
Romans 9:8-10 NLT

We continue to work our way through Paul’s thesis on Abraham’s children. He was making a very clear distinction about the status of Abraham’s children and the special place enjoyed by the descendants of Isaac. In previous verses, Abraham’s other children, such as Ishmael, had no birth right to be a “child of the promise”. But what was this “promise”? 

In Genesis 17, we read about how God appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him. The first two verses read, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants””. And then in Genesis 17:19 we read, “But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant”. The covenant, or promise, that God made with Abraham was to be implemented through his son Isaac. And in Genesis 17:7-8 we see what the promise was all about, “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God”.

God specifically said to Abraham, in response to his question about Ishmael, that this son would not be a part of the promise. And, by implication, neither would his other children. Isaac was the man through whom God was to build a mighty nation; all pure-blooded Jews, like Paul, were descended from him. Note that this covenant is eternal, everlasting and one that God will never abandon, no matter how much His chosen nation rebels.

What an incredible position, and responsibility, this put the Israelite nation under. Specifically chosen by God under the terms of an “everlasting covenant”, to be His chosen people. But here it would stay, as an interesting historical fact, if it wasn’t for Jesus. God’s plan was that His Son would come to this world and, through His sacrifice at Calvary, widen the “promise” to include all who believed in Him. Paul joins up the dots in his letter to the Galatians. We read in Galatians 4:22-23,  “The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfilment of his promise”. Paul goes on to describe how Isaac was the spiritual fulfilment of God’s promise, and he continues to write, “And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac” (Galatians 4:28).

Are we pilgrims guilty of the same action as Abraham, trying to hurry God along, or presuming a course of action outside His will? It is always tempting to rationalise a course of action when we should instead be patient, and full of faith that God will bring about what He promises.

So we pilgrims are included in God’s spiritual kingdom, as “children of the promise”. This doesn’t, of course, bring us under the Jewish Law – in Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law”. God through His wonderful grace, of which we are totally undeserving, has adopted us into His family has His children. And just as God promised to Abraham that his descendants would be given the land of Canaan, we spiritual “children of the promise” look forward to our inheritance in Heaven. We don’t know when that will be, but it will come to pass one day, perhaps sooner than we think.

Dear God. We look forward to receiving our inheritance in our coming promised land. Please help us to live out our lives dedicated to You, running the race to reach the finishing line. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

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