The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Covenant of Grace

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1:1)

Herein, I hope to prove, conclusively and without doubt, that the Covenant that God made in the beginning was but One, and that it was an infinite Covenant. This Covenant, although ratified and renewed with various people, in various forms, and at various times, spoke of the relationship of God with His People, His Creation.

You have heard that there were/are two main covenants in Scripture; the Covenant of Works, which included the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, and so on and so forth, as many as seven, and the Covenant of Grace, which came through Jesus who is the Christ. This is an unfair distinction to make, because it should be fairly clear that the Covenant that God constantly affirmed with His people included both Law ( Works ) AND Grace! When Adam was created, for instance, God did not have to provide a mate for him, but because He loved His Creation, He gracefully brought Eve to Adam! Noah, along with his family, was saved from the whelming flood through the Grace of the Ark, which was typical of salvation in the Christ! The Abrahamic and Davidic, and other various iterations can be seen to involve both an undeserved Grace and a rather weak and iffy obedience to that covenant.

If you have read any of my previous posts on the subject, you are probably familiar with the concept that I along with others have put forth, the fact, as I believe, that the Creation Account in Genesis 1 is not so much an account of the physical creation, as it is an account of the forming of the Covenant, first with the Land ( Temple ), then with Man in the Land ( Adam ). I have posited before that the 'Let there be Light' in Genesis 1:3 was the initiation of this Covenant, and that God's 'Let Us make Man in Our Image' in Genesis 1:26, the ratification of His Covenant with Man!

To be sure, Scripture does, in a sense, speak of two different, or separate covenants! The first recorded as such was made with Abraham, beginning from Genesis 12 and on, but the main covenantal focus in the Hebrew Scriptures is the Mosaic Covenant, which is what has come to be known as the Covenant of Works! This Covenant is most famously enumerated in Exodus 20, with the giving of the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments, or Ten Words. The blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy chapter 28 are also one of the more famous ( or 'infamous'? ) examples of the Mosaic, or Covenant of Works.

Some study has been done of the notion that this first ( covenant ) was not one of marriage, as had previously been thought, but was actually one of betrothal. In the Hebrew or Jewish mindset, as I understand it, this is not quite like an engagement, though obviously related,but had greater and deeper ramifications as to the legality of the marriage. For instance, when Joseph found out that his betrothed was with child, Scripture records that he was told by God 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit'. Even though they were not legally and officially married yet, they were already bound together as husband and wife. The Covenant had been inaugurated with the betrothal, but would not be consummated until the marriage had occurred!

As we have seen, and can easily ascertain throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, even though there were always consequences for wrongful actions; Grace has always played a major role in God's dealings with His covenant people! If not for Grace, Israel under that first ( covenant ) wouldn't have lasted as long as She did. Ezekiel 36:22 records, 'Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: 'I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.'

As I alluded to earlier, the fact that there is really but One Eternal Covenant in the record of Scripture, is not only scripturally sound, but theologically sound as well, and it just makes sense! We know that God does not change, and if we posit that there were two totally different covenants, one of ( by ) Works and one of ( by ) Grace, then we must see, by implication, that God Himself changed His modus operandi over the ages. This, in fact, if I'm not mistaken, is what dispensationalism teaches! God has always dealt with His people in Grace, although through Law, and He will continue for the ages of the ages to deal with them in the same way! Scripture tells us that 'He chastens those whom He loves'. Like any good Father, He disciplines, through the application of Law, His people, but He always deals with us in Grace!

In conclusion then; we cannot have Grace without Law, and vice-versa, the Law of God operates through His Grace!! If we claim that there is no longer any Law then we cannot have Grace, since Grace, being un-merited favor, is receiving what we do not deserve. If there is no Law saying that we must do this or that, then there must be no Grace to give us what we don't deserve! The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, 'For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.' ( Romans 5:13 )

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Evil that Men Do

Stephen King is truly one messed up individual! I had not watched one of his movies or read one of his books for a while, but I was reminded this afternoon just how disturbed he is when I watched 'Needful Things' for the first time! The gist of the movie, as I understood it, was that while the author/writer portrays the traditional evil spiritual being named Satan, though he is never mentioned, except generically, as 'the devil', he understands very well the latent ability for all kinds of evil that dwells within the heart of the man ( or woman ) who is not in right relationship, or communion with his ( or her ) Creator and with the Body of Christ! This concept ( of true communion ) is so alien to most people, even some Christians, that it is really almost shocking that more of what we see in those types of movies doesn't happen more often!

Ah, maybe I've just led a sheltered life!

Man, by nature, as Stephen King understands very well, is capable of almost unimaginable evil; he just needs the right ( or wrong ) excuse to let it flow, or spew out! But for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the communion of the saints, anyone could snap at the least little thing, even, or maybe especially, some so-called Christians! 

Like it or not, men do succumb to the desires and lusts and all sorts of evil is spawned from these feelings! Even though the Son of God reconciled the world to Himself by His one Sacrifice ( else another must be made ), there are individuals in the world who have not reconciled with this concialiatory act, and still refuse, however weakly, to pursue or maintain a meaningful relationship with their Creator, and communion with the Body of Christ! These men, no matter what evil they have perpetrated in the past, can be forgiven, redeemed, and though not always brought back into fellowship ( someone has to pay the bill, naturally ), they can become one in the communion of the saints!

Human beings do evil things, there is no question! Are human beings then, naturally and necessarily, apart from the Communion of the Holy Spirit, evil? I would venture to say that they are not, but that they are always capable of great evil! Yes, some have progressed ( or is that regressed? ) to the point that they become very animalistic in nature, and yes, become evil, but it is not that human beings are, by nature evil. Rememmber that in the beginning, God declared His entire creation good, including His human creation!

Human beings always have had a choice! When faced with any given situation, as were Adam & Eve in the Garden ( Genesis 3 ), they often choose the wrong path, and thus unleash a world of evil! In subsequent generations, depending on the choices made by those following, that evil heritage may or may not alter the course of their legend, but it is always based on choice! What will you do with your choice? Will you strike back at your adversary, or will you choose to do right, though everyone else seems to be doing wrong?

Charles Haddon Shank

Change of Heart, Change of Life

'The Truth Hurts'; so the saying goes!

With the rabid influx of  'feel-goodism' in the American church ove the past century ( give or take ), is it really any surprise ( 'Shocked, shocked, I tell you!' ) that many or most American Christians would rather stay in their comfortable four-walled, steepled prisons, and slumber in the pews, than stand and challenge what they've been fed for ages, and to take pains to discover the Truth?! If you dare to question, for instance, the authority of the historical creeds in some Reformed congregations, you may be ostracized, asked to leave, or at the very least, be in danger of church discipline! In certain evangelical congregations, you might receive much the same treatment, except for the church discipline, and laughed to scorn on top of it! Why would they act like this; what are they afraid of?

First of all, many of us ARE very comfortable just warming pews, listening to the preacher drone on and on, whether spouting some marshmallowy goodness, or whether it's some halfway meaningful, though often errant drivel! Too many Christians are there, mostly for the social aspect of  'keeping up with the Joneses', but also for the warm feelings that this marshmallowy goodness engenders! Too many of the preachers are just there for the money! Sure, there are those that, even though they are over-paid waistcoats, might actually be worth listening to ( though you probably shouldn't do what they do )! The Scriptures do say that we should share our material wealth with those who share spiritual wealth and knowledge with us, but seriously, how many vehicles does a pastor with two children, maybe three, and a wife need? Does he really need all those fine expensive clothes and that big fine house on a hill? How about the boat and those skidoos? Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that a Christian shouldn't be rich in material wealth, and have all those things, but too often they have all those things because they are unwilling to stand up and say, 'this is wrong, that is right'! The favored 501(c)3  status seems to help as well, making certain that the pastor and his congregation enjoy certain scraps from the table, while losing the ability to stand on their own two feet!

Christians like this often receive the truth of the glorious reality of true freedom in Christ like a slap in the face! For whatever reason, many Christians, when faced with the harsh reality that they may have been wrong about any number of things concerning the Kingdom of Heaven and of God will react in any number of ways, but for the most part will just stand there, blinking their eyes as if they've just had their blinders removed and beg you to put them back ( 'put the prison bars back' )!

We can't just pick on those certain Christians, because it really is just human nature! We all, I believe, to a greater or lesser degree, love our comforts, whether theologically, spiritually, or physically speaking. If something makes us uncomfortable, we most often will try to find any excuse not to do it! Some have overcome this innate desire for comfort ( at any cost? ), and challenging both their 'druthers and the status quo, have ventured where angels fear to tread!

Tradition is hard to overcome! This is not to say that just because a doctrine is traditional, it should be challenged or is questionable, though that is often the case. Just because any certain doctrine is traditional, and has been practiced, to whatever  extent, for almost 2,000 years of Church History, does not mean that it is right, or reveals Truth about Who God is and how He operates throughout History!

Most often, paradigm shifts hit us like a slap in the face, especially when we have fervently held to our pet doctrines all lives, and sometimes they hit with the intensity of a major seismic event! We all like comfort, and some of us even like marshmallows with our wine, but how many of us are willing to accept the Truth of God's Kingdom, though it may mean the loss of our comfortable and easy lives, when we can keep our comfortable, feel-good positions, even though we might have to tell a few white lies to keep them?

When the disciples, as recorded in Matthew 19:23-26, asked Jesus 'how then can a rich man be saved?', He told them that 'with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible'. All it takes is a change of heart, and the rest will follow!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Righteousness Which Comes by Faith; the Baptism of the Holy Spirit ( Romans 10 )

It's a question of faith; ultimately, it always has been and always will be! Who's faith; ours or God's?

There is no question that a man must exercise the faith he has been given in order for it to be a true and living faith, and you may accuse me of having a Calvinist hangover if it makes you feel better, but from whence does faith come; does not Scripture tell us that it is a gift from God? Faith, Scripture tells us, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' ( Hebrews 11:1 ). This is obviously not something that originates with man, for the writer to the Hebrews speaks here of things beyond man's comprehension almost, his ability to grasp with any of his physical senses! There are most certainly passages in Scripture that do speak of our having faith, as in James 2:20 ( 'faith without works is dead' ); this speaks of a man's faith, as we read more context, which, unaccompanied by works, or the exercise of that faith, becomes no faith at all, but mere belief!

Reading through the Hebrew, or Old Testament Scriptures, we can see that, for the most part, when a man or woman's faith is talked about, it is in the context of their actions, whether they are faithful or unfaithful, right or wrong. Those who consistently do wrong, as in Deuteronomy 32:20, are spoken of, for example, as 'Children in whom [ is ] no faith'. It might as correctly be said that a man or woman holds their faith as has  faith.

There is a controversy raging at this time which purports that there is no more faith, that we, on the far side of the veil, have reached the end of faith. Maybe Faith No More had it right, in that respect. Have we reached the end of faith, or more correctly, did they, in the first century, reach the end of faith? The apostle Peter wrote in his first letter that the end of their faith, a faith which he said was '
by the Power of God', was their salvation. The Greek word translated 'end' here is 'telos', which basically means ( according to most Bible interpreters ) 'termination, or limit'. This word, though, comes from the root 'tello', which means, 'to set out for a definite point or goal'. Clearly, a terminus is in view here! Faith was given, as so many other gifts that we see in Scripture, to serve an eschatological purpose! When that purpose was fulfilled, the gift, its eschatological service fulfilled, returned to its Originator!

Is there faith no more? Now that we have the enduring Presence of God, bask in His Righteousness and partake in the blessings of His Salvation, is it necessary to have evidence of things that we cannot see with our naked eye; do we still hope for the Substance, which is Christ? 

As we saw, the writer to the Hebrews comforted them with the words that they were soon to grasp the Substance of their hope, for their faithfulness was the evidence of things yet unseen! This faith was fulfilled; it saw its end, which was evidenced in their lives by their living hope for the Substance which was about to come. The question is, does faith exist today? Is it still necessary to exercise belief in things unseen? Well, on one hand yes, and on the other hand no. The object of their faith, the Substance for which they hoped, was fulfilled, and thus, in that sense, came to its end. The apostle Paul asked the Roman believers ( Romans 8:24 ) this rhetorical question, 'why does one still hope for what he sees?' Christians in the first century AD saw the end of their faith, which ultimately, was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by John 14:23. For those who do not yet see that Substance, though the Substance is evidenced among them, faith may yet be necessary in order to reveal this to them. Through our faithfulness, the faithfulness of the people of God, those who cannot see may see, and the eyes of the blind may be opened!

Throughout the history of God's people, but particularly in the first century, it was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed in places like Ezekiel 36:24-27, and Psalm 51:10-12, that conferred upon His Beloved this faith, the faith that one day, in the fulness of time, the Substance for which they hoped would be revealed from 'Heaven'. As revealed in the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, we see that this Substance came in the form of Jesus the Christ, and was consummated with their full salvation in AD70, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

As with the faith described to the Hebrews, so you might say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in the first century. The purpose for which He was sent, to give His people a clean heart, and renew a right Spirit within them was fulfilled, but is that the end, or termination of the Holy Spirit of God? Does not He still exist, dwelling within His people to guide them and to comfort them in their tribulations? I believe that we must with doubt say that He does!

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit spoken of in Scripture was fulfilled; it served its purpose, which was to bring His people back into right relationship with Him. However, we may rightly and readily ask the question; are there still those today who are not living in right relationship with their Creator? Are there others who will come to enjoy the Presence of God forever, and if so; how will they come?

I leave you with these questions!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Baptism of Creation

Before a good friend of mine revealed it in his latest sermon the other week, I had never really thought about it in those terms. I have been saying for the past several years, that the Scriptures, while definitely historically accurate, are not, in that sense, scientifically and chronologically precise. The Scriptures tell the story of God's enduring, long-suffering love for His people, but they tell it in a way that we westerners are not used to reading ( unless we're used to reading Middle-Eastern literature ); His ( God's ) Story is told in such a way as to reveal the deepness of His love for His entire Creation!

The Story of Creation, as we read it in Genesis 1 & 2, is such a Story. It is undoubtedly true that God did create everything that we see and enjoy, and that ultimatimately, or from the Genesis of Time, out of nothing. Scripture, while never really focusing on this point, clearly reveals Yahweh as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Whether or not every reference to His creation of Heaven and Earth is a covenantal one, in other words, regarding His people, may be questioned; the fact that He, and He alone, engendered everything that we see, whether directly or indirectly, is without question!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ( Genesis 1:1, 2 )

Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, 
and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 
( Genesis 1: 9 )

The language of Scripture here, or more specifically maybe, in our English Bible, does not necessarily spell it out for us, but it is clear from this account that we have recorded here the first baptism in Scripture! Although they do not specifically record for us that the Land rose up out of the water, we can safely assume that, just as the Christ rose out of the waters of His baptism, so the Land, as we read in verse 9 above, rose up out of the waters as they separated and became the Sea.

To many Christians today, the very notion that Genesis 1 & 2 in particular, and all of Scripture in general, are simply Covenant Records is almost blasphemous! There are several reasons for this, one of which is that, since we are not Israelites according to the flesh, or biological descendants of Abraham, if the Scriptures are simply a History of the Covenant, then we cannot possibly be related to that History, and the Creator ends up being just another tribal god, although the One, True, and Living God! As we have seen previously, though, it is not through, or because of physical descendancy that we have inherited through Abraham the blessings of Covenant Life, and enjoy the Presence of God as His New Temple; it was always because of the promise, and the faithfulness of our God and Father, and through the baptism of His Spirit, that we enjoy these blessings!

Another reason is that if the Genesis account is simply a record of the forming of the Covenant with God's People, and thus Adam ( man ) was not the first human being on the planet, but the first of our Father's creation to who He chose His Covenant, then the earth is likely quite a bit older than six thousand years, and the YEC ( Young-Earth Creationist ) movement is in danger of losing face, but a whole lot of money! Too much time and money have been liberally invested into this worthy cause for them to be proven wrong now! If they were to be proven wrong, think of all the business they would lose! Theme parks would go out of business, warehouses full of books would be burnt up ( or maybe they would be recycled ), and many speakers, defenders of this cause, would lose their engagements, as well as face!

On the other hand, the baptism of creation, whether Covenant Creation or YEC or Old-Earth Creationism, has some interesting and far-reaching implications! If baptism is equal to a Covenant Creation, which I believe it is, then the baptism of the Land, as chronicled in Genesis 1, was a baptism of the Holy Spirit of God, albeit through water! Through the lens of Covenant Creation, we see that through causing the Land to rise up out of the water, or Sea, God revealed His Covenant in a way that He had not before. In the view of Young-Earth Creationism, if one is to posit, for instance, that Genesis 1 is the record of the Genesis of Time itself, and Adam was indeed the first man on the face of Planet Earth, then we do have the entire planet being baptized, and thus ultimately, saved!

Whether or not any of these reasons may be valid is beyond the point, if we take literally the account of Creation in Genesis 1, which I believe we may, then we must admit that we are witnessing the first recorded baptism in Scripture, as my friend said! If the Creation was baptized, whether through natural or spiritual birth, it was most assuredly the birth of the Covenant, the Revelation, in picture form, of the Presence of God among His Creation!

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; 
and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, 
and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
 And suddenly a voice [ came ] from heaven, saying, 
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
( Matthew 3:16 & 17 ) 

When Israel, as the son of God ( 'Out of Egypt I called My son'-Hosea 11:1 ( Matthew 2:15 ), rose up out of the Sea of Chaos and Confusion and became the Land, he was baptized into the priesthood of the Most High God. His baptism prefigured and pointed to the Baptism of Jesus, the Son of God, and with this Son, this sacrifice, our Father was well pleased, as He was not with that first son, as we read in Hebrews 8:7.

As signified by the Land, Israel was to have been God's priest to the entire Creation; instead of cleansing the nations, as was their priestly duty, Israel was soiled by the nations around them, and became so corrupt that God sent His only begotten Son, that He might do what the fleshly son had failed to do, redeem His Creation!

The Creation has been redeemed; now what will WE do with our baptism!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Story of Passover

The story of the Passover is the story of the deliverance of God's people from the bondage of sin. It is traditionally understood that the Passover Lamb was typical of Jesus, and that through the Blood of this Lamb, Yahweh has redeemed His people, leading them by His Spirit through the wilderness temptations of the 1st century AD, much as His Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to face His temptations.

Malki-tzedek is probably one of the most interesting figures in the narrative of Scripture, not just because he was, as Hebrews 6:13-7:28 report, 'without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life', but also because he, being a Jebusite king, king of what became known as Jerusalem, was a priest of the Most High God. According to Genesis 14:18-20, he was a historical figure, and also according to some Jewish traditions, the oldest son of Noah, Shem, the renowned and prosperous. As the foremost type of Christ that we see in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, the writer to the Hebrews took license, at the inspiration of the Spirit of God, to give nigh the same status to this figure as to the Son of God!

As we can see, even with focusing mainly on the Passover; there is one single thread, intricately woven throughout the Scriptural history of God's people, that links us all together! This thread, of course, is revealed in the prophetic Scriptures to be Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who became a man in order to orchestrate the redemption and salvation of His people from their sins, and from slavery in Egypt! Egypt, as we have seen, is what Israel under that first covenant had become. In Ezekiel's prophecy, chapter 16, we read the story of God's everlasting love for His people Israel. Beginning in verse 53, and reading through verse 63, we see that even though Israel, under that first covenant, had become the very thing that God had freed His children from, God showed His undying love for us by instituting a New Covenant with Israel. He sent of His own essence to lead His people on a New Exodus, a Final Exodus from the New Egypt, through His once for all sacrifice as the True Lamb of God!

The Passover, like the Lord's Supper, was instituted as a remembrance, nothing more, nothing less, of our deliverance from Egypt. We read in Exodus 12 how the children of Israel, in preparation for their deliverance, were to make ready a lamb, either of the sheep or goats ( Matthew 25 ), together with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, in haste. The feast of unleavened bread is celebrated to this day among the Jews as a memorial of this significant and symbolic event.

When Jesus, as a Jew among Jews, celebrated His final Passover ( supper ) with His disciples, He instituted a new way of celebration; He utilized the bread and wine that were an ordinary part of any meal to symbolize the body and blood of the True Passover Lamb, and of their True Deliverance from Egypt! After they had supped, as the account goes, at least according to the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11, Jesus offered the bread and wine to symbolize His Body which was about to be given up for them.

How should we then live; what shall we do?

As the Israel of God, which the apostle Paul calls us in Galatians 6:16, we are an integral part of the story, and thus partake, not in the shadow, which the Passover was, but in the substance, which is the Body of Christ!

What does it mean then, to partake in the Body of Christ? It most certainly does not involve any physical action on our part ( or does it )! Our participation in the Body of Christ does not, as did the children of Israel's in the Passover, mean preparing a meal, much less one with flat lifeless bread and bitter herbs, even normal food and drink, as bread and wine. The apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 14, verse 17. The Meal that we partake of is the Body of Christ. It is a participation in His Life, a Life which He freely shares with His people; it is the Life that we now live, not as His subjects, but as His Sons and Brothers, in His Kingdom!

Let us determine to live in the Love we were given, sharing it with our brothers and sisters!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Israel of God ( A Companion to 'Replacement Theology' )

The question might well be asked here; 'Is this really necessary?' Having already written, in several articles, somewhat on this subject, that is a valid question! The question as to 'who is Israel' seems to be a fairly prevalent one though, with some rather concerning ramifications! if most, or all of Scripture was written concerning national, physical Israel ( which we are obviously not ), where does that leave us? If the promises of Scripture were meant only for national, physical Israel ( and no one else? ), then what truths can we glean from their pages? If the blessings of the New Covenant were for national, physical Israel alone, what comforting reality can we find in passages like Jeremiah 31:31-34? Lord willing, this study will be a bit more in-depth, informative, and comprehensive than it's companion!

A look first, at who Israel was formed as might be helpful. What and where were its roots? We know from Scripture that Israel was the name given to the younger of Isaac's sons ( Genesis 32:22-32 ). We know that, racially speaking, Israelites were of the same descent as most everyone else living in that part of the world. In Ezekiel 16, for instance, we read, concerning Israel ( after the flesh ); 'Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.'  There is no real question whether or not most of the people who read this article would be able to trace their physical lineage back to Israelite descent, they can't! There are however, plenty of people of Middle Eastern and Arabic descent still living and multiplying on the earth today, and some of my readers could doubtless trace their lineage, somehow to them.

So, who is Israel, according to these findings? Well, logically, Israel ( according to the flesh ) would be the physical descendants of one man, that younger son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, Jacob the deceiver. If you were not a physical descendant of this man, you were not a true Israelite, even though you lived as one. as the story goes, a mixed multitude came out of Egypt in that first symbolic Exodus, and were thus assimilated into the congregation, though some fell in the wilderness. As the foreigners who inhabited the captive lands to the north, though, were not native to the land, nor physical descendants of Abraham's, they never held quite the same favored status as the southern tribes, at least in the eyes of those southern tribes themselves! The Jews of Jesus' day seem to have forgotten their own slightly colorful heritage when they told Him, 'We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.'

According to Paul's teaching in places like Romans 2:28&29, 9:6, and Galatians 3:7, it was not according to physical descent that the Remnant, or the Israel of God was called, but according to spiritual birth. Just because you were born of the physical seed of Abraham did not mean that you were a part of Israel, even according to the flesh! We must remember that Esau, also known as Edom ( of whom came the line of the Herodian kings ) was technically a son of Abraham, and also that Abraham had sons ( children ) by another wife. As the son of the concubine/wife of Abraham before Isaac was born, Ishmael was technically a son of Abraham, though not by promise.

Who, then, were/are these spiritual descendants of Abraham? Scripture tells us that 'those who are of faith are sons of Abraham'. How are we to understand Paul's words today? Are we, who are unquestionably of the same Faith today as those spiritual sons of Abraham, thus sons of Abraham, and through him, of Israel? If we are not, and thus do not partake in the New Covenant as did that Remnant of national, physical Israel, then maybe certain people are right; the Scriptures have nothing to say to us today, and we should eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!

If, however, we are spiritual descendants of Abraham, and part of the Never-ending Story, and having received the adoption of sons, are children of our Heavenly Father, then we do have a part in that New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34!

As part of the Redemption Story, we thus partake in the blessings of the Covenant, as children, sons, brothers and sisters, as the Wife and New Temple of God, the Body of His Son, the Church! Let us live the Story, learning the lessons that our fore-runners and progenitors taught us, communing with each other, and with those long gone, as the Israel of God!

Charles Haddon Shank