Sermon #29 Exodus Series
Title: Who are the Hebrews?
Text: Exodus 3:15-18
Subject: The Israel of God
Date: Tuesday Evening November 21, 2006
Tape # Exodus 29
Readings: Larry Brown & Bob Duff
Every promise of God in Holy Scripture, every covenant blessing is made to one race, only one. Every prophecy in the Book of God concerns the welfare of one nation, only one. And I assure you that few people in this world have a clue who that race and that nation is. This will come as a shock to many, but it needs to be shouted from the housetop: God is not a Jew, an American, a Democrat, or even a Republican.
There is only one nation in which the God of Glory is interested, only one nations whose interests are his interests, and that nation is “The Israel of God” (Gal. 6:14), “the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Read 1 Peter 1:9-10. Here the Holy Spirit clearly identifies that race and nation upon which the very heart of the triune God is fixed and has been fixed from eternity.
(1 Peter 2:9-10) “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Let’s read Exodus 3:15-18 together.
(Exodus 3:15-18) “And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (16) Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: (17) And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. (18) And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.”
In verse 18, the Lord our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, describes himself as “Jehovah God of the Hebrews.” Having identified himself as distinctly and peculiarly “the Lord God of the Hebrews,” and “the Lord God of the Hebrews,” alone, not the Lord God of the Egyptian, but “the Lord God of the Hebrews.” He was God over the Egyptians’, just as he is God over all, but he is distinctly and peculiarly “the Lord God of the Hebrews,” only of the Hebrews. So I want to know, who those people are. Don’t you? I want to be found among those people. Don’t you?
Who are the Hebrews? That is the question I want to answer in this message. The question is a matter of great importance because everything in the Word of God is connected with the fact that the God of Glory is distinctly “the Lord God of the Hebrews.” Until we know who the Hebrews are we cannot understand what God’s promises to them are and cannot understand the wondrous works of his providence in performing his promises.
This question, is very relevant to our lives socially and politically, as well as spiritually, because there is a huge effort in our day, particularly in the United States and to a lesser degree in England, to convince people that the political state of Israel has a divine right to that piece of ground referred to as “the Holy Land” at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. This obsession with Israel’s right to “the Holy Land” has its roots in the heresies of dispensational theology, made popular by the Scofield Reference Bible. This is the one place where political liberals and the political conservatives are commonly in agreement.
Let me give you an example. Back in October 1994, President Bill Clinton, in a speech before the Israeli Knesset, declared, “It is God’s will that Israel, the Biblical home of the people of Israel, continue forever and ever.” He concluded his speech saying, “Your journey is our journey, and America will stand with you now and always.” Mr. Clinton prefaced those statements by citing the words of his pastor back in Arkansas to him. His pastor told him, “If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you.”
I don’t think anyone would accuse Mr. Clinton of being a conservative, or of being terribly concerned about the teachings of the Bible. Yet, his political notions regarding the state of Israel are exactly the same as those promoted Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn, John Hagee, Paul Crouch, and most of the fundamentalist religious world. Both our nation’s political leaders and our nation’s religious leaders, who are at odds on most issues, believe that the Jewish nation is the centerpiece of God’s purpose and the apple of his eye.
Multitudes read the Bible with that idea fixed in their minds. Thinking that the Jewish nation is the centerpiece of God’s purpose and the apple of his eye, when they read of God’s covenant promises and the prophecies of the Scriptures relating to Israel, they ignorantly presume that those promises and prophecies must have reference to the Jewish state. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Who are they?
So I want you to carefully follow me through the Word of God, as I try to show you the answer to this question, Who are the Hebrews?
“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever?” When we hear Spirit of God declare, “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh” (Rom. 2:28), and “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6), we ought to immediately presume that when God speaks of himself as “the Lord God of the Hebrews” (Ex. 3:18; 5:3; 7:16; 9:1, 13; 10:3) he is not talking about the physical descendants of Abraham.
The first time we see the word “Hebrew” it is found in Genesis 14:13, where Abram is called “the Hebrew.” In later years the Egyptians referred to the descendants of Abraham as Hebrews (Gen. 39:14, 17; 41:12; Exo. 1:16; 2:6), as did the Philistines (1 Sam. l 4:6, 9; 13:19; 14:11; 29:3). And the Israelites themselves used this term, “Hebrews,” to distinguish themselves from all other people (Gen. 40:15; Exo. 1:19; 2:7; 3:18; 5:3; 7:16; 9:1, 13; 10:3; Jonah 1:9; 2 Cor. 11:22). The word “Hebrew” is used synonymously with both Israelite and Jew. I cannot find anyone who can give a definite or specific meaning to the word translated “Hebrew” in the Scriptures. but it conveys the idea of “one from beyond,” or “one who passes over,” or “one who lives beyond.” That is a pretty good description of God’s people. Don’t you think? The child of God in this world is…
One from beyond.
One who passes over.
One who lives beyond.
If you read the Scriptures with honesty, you simply cannot question the fact Abraham’s physical descendants are not now and never have been the centerpiece of God’s purpose and the apple of his eye. When the Lord Jesus Christ declares himself to the distinctly and peculiarly “the Lord God of the Hebrews,” he is talking about Abraham’s spiritual descendants. The Word of God states this fact clearly, identifying Abraham’s seed and his children as God’s elect, those people scattered throughout the world, both Jew and Gentile “the Lord God of the Hebrews” is determined to save, those to whom he gives the blessing of Abraham, the gift of life and faith in Christ by his Spirit (Gal. 3:7-9).
(Galatians 3:7-9) “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (8) And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (9) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
Abraham’s physical descendants who do not trust in Christ have the devil, not Abraham, for their father (John 8:37-44). “They which are of faith,” and no one else, “the same are the children of Abraham,” whom the Holy Spirit calls “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
The true Israel of God are not the natural descendants of Abraham, but the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the nation from whom Christ sprang, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith; and all of God’s children are children of faith. As the Holy Spirit puts it in Philippians 3:3, “we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
The Word of God shows this to us with unmistakable clarity. The natural, physical seed of Abraham, Jews, or Israelites, after the flesh, are not the people of God by right of their physical birth. It is true that God made definite promises to the physical seed of Abraham, which were all physically fulfilled in the days of Joshua (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14-15), but fulfilled upon condition of obedience. Israel, after the flesh, has denied Christ and has been judged by God for having done so (Matt. 22:1-14; 23:37-38).
Yet, throughout the Old Testament, God’s prophets continually spoke of God’s salvation of his elect in this Gospel day in connection with gather his people to their land. Why? Read any one of those prophetic promises of grace, read them all, and you will see clearly that they are referring to the complete reconciliation of God’s elect to him in Christ, which was portrayed and typified by Israel taking possession of Canaan in the days of Joshua.
Paul clearly asserts that Israel after the flesh is not the true Israel (Rom. 2:28-29; 9:4-7). God has cut off the natural seed in order to bring in the greater spiritual seed (Rom. 11:22, 25-36). “The Israel of God” is that holy nation and royal priesthood of saved sinners who live by the rule of the gospel (Gal. 6:14-16), “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
God the Holy Spirit holds Abraham before us as “the father of all them that believe,” because we see in Abraham certain marks, certain characteristics by which all God’s elect are identified in this world. In Galatians 3:6 and 7 Paul gives us two divinely inspired statements concerning Abraham’s faith, which destroy all carnal hope, both for the Jews and for Gentiles who hope for righteousness upon the basis of their works.
First, Paul asserts that Abraham was justified by faith, apart from any works of his own. ― “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (v. 6). Abraham’s justification preceded his circumcision by many years (Gen. 15:6; 16:16; 17:24; Rom. 4:9-12). He believed God. The Object of his faith was God, especially the Son of God, who is the Word of God (Gen. 15:1, 6). He was Abraham’s Shield (Eph. 6:16) and his Reward (1 Cor. 1:30). Abraham trusted Christ. It was Christ’s obedience, the Object of Abraham’s faith that was imputed unto him for righteousness, not his act of faith (Compare Rom. 4:22-25; John 8:56). His faith was the channel through which he received the blessing of justification, the righteousness of Christ.
Then, the Apostle declares, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (v. 7). All who, like Abraham, believe God are justified by faith; and they are the children of Abraham. Physical lineage from Abraham guaranteed no spiritual blessing to Jews (Matt. 3:9).
(Matthew 3:5-9) “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, (6) And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. (7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (9) And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
And being the physical descendants of godly (believing) parents secures no spiritual blessing to any today (John 1:11-13).
(John 1:11-13) “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
All spiritual blessings (all the blessings of grace, salvation, and eternal life) are in Christ and come to sinners by grace alone. All who are of faith (all who trust Christ) have right to all the promises, which God made to Abraham.
The Gospel Preached to Abraham
The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8-9). ― “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” For some strange reason, many are terribly uncomfortable with that fact. They are uncomfortable with it because they do not know the gospel. They vainly imagine that God saved people in a different way and by a different gospel in the Old Testament than he does today. But that is not the case.
It was never God’s purpose to limit his church and kingdom to the physical nation of Israel, but to use them as a means of saving his elect among the Gentiles (Matt. 8:11-12). This he determined before the world began, and, therefore, before Abraham was called to life and faith in Christ by the gospel, by the revelation of Christ in the gospel. Yes, Abraham saw Christ, knew Christ, and trusted Christ, just as believers do today.
I do not mean to suggest that Abraham had the full revelation of Christ that is given with the completion of Holy Scripture. But I do mean to assert that Abraham believed on the Son of God as he is revealed in the gospel. Our Savior himself declared, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).
God promised Abraham that the Seed would be from his loins, who would be the Messiah, in and by whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Abraham believed in Christ, his Messiah-Redeemer. God promised him that the Messianic blessings were to be worldwide (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 John 2:2), that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in and by him
In Galatians 3:9 Paul was inspired of God to to conclude, “So then, they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” All who believe God, upon the hearing of the Gospel, are the sons of Abraham; hence, they are blessed with him. What Paul is here teaching is the important truth that the church of both the Old Testament dispensation and the New is one. All believers are one in Christ.
All of God’s people were chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4).
All enjoy being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
All are redeemed by Christ (Isa. 53; Matt. 1:21; John 3:16).
All are his sheep, have one Shepherd, and belong to one fold (Ezek. 37:22; John 10:16; Eph. 2:14-15).
The names of all the elect are recorded in one Book of Life (Rev. 13:8).
All the elect are predestined to the same glory (Rom. 8:29-30).
All partake of the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12-14; Matt. 8:11-12).
And all will be perfected together (Heb. 11:40).
Live by Faith
Let’s stay here in Galatians 3 a little longer. Those who are “Hebrews” like Abraham, “people passing over,” are a people who live by faith, not by law (Gal. 3:10-12).
(Galatians 3:10-12) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.”
We understand the impossibility of law righteousness. Every believer does. We know that the law demands perfection we cannot perform, righteousness we cannot produce, and satisfaction we cannot give. Knowing that fact, all who are just before God, all who have been justified by his grace and have received that justification by faith in Christ, live by faith, just like Abraham did (Heb. 11:1-3). They obey God because they believe him. Read the life of Abraham in the Book of God, and learn what it is to live by faith.
By faith Abraham forsook his own country to seek another (Gen. 11:28-32).
By faith Abraham forsook his family to follow Christ (Gen. 12:1; Heb. 11:8).
By faith Abraham separated himself from Lot for the glory of God (Gen. 13:1-13).
By faith Abraham received a son (Gen. 17).
By faith Abraham sacrificed his son (Gen. 22).
By faith Abraham received his son back from the dead (Gen. 22).
By faith Abraham sojourned through this earth seeking the city of God, not receiving one parcel of land for himself (Gen. 13:14-18; Heb. 11:10).
By faith Abraham died (Heb. 11:13).
If we seek to live by the law, Paul tells us plainly that we do not live by faith (v. 12). To embrace the law as a principle of life is to abandon faith, abandon grace, and abandon Christ (Gal. 5:1-4).
Redeemed sinners are free from the curse and condemnation of the law. We cannot and shall not be cursed by the law. ― “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (v. 13).
What a blessed, clear statement this is of particular, effectual redemption! Christ’s object in redeeming us, as it is here declared, was that we might receive the blessing of Abraham, the Spirit of God, and all the gifts of grace and salvation in him by faith in Christ. ― “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (vv. 13-14).
Shall be Saved
But there are multitudes who are of Abraham’s seed, Jews and Gentiles, who have not yet been called by grace, who are yet scattered among the nations of the world, of whom the Spirit of God declares, “a remnant shall be save” (Rom. 9:27) “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). When the fulness of the Gentiles has been brought in, when God has called out and saved all his elect by his omnipotent mercy, “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Just as surely as “the Lord God of the Hebrews” saved Abraham’s physical seed out of Egypt he shall save all his elect in and by Christ (Isa. 45:17).
(Isaiah 45:17) “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
The prophet of God declares with absolute certainty, that there are some people in this world who must and shall be saved. “But Israel shall be saved in the Lord!”
“Israel shall be saved!” Who are these people called “Israel,” who must and shall be saved? Let me once more emphasize this point. The promise of this text does not speak of Abraham’s physical seed, his natural descendants. It is not talking about the salvation of the whole nation of Israel. We know this for two reasons:
If this text promises salvation to men and women on the basis of their ancestry, their race, their natural birth, then it completely contradicts the whole word of God (John 1:11-13).
Many of the Jews, the natural seed of Israel have already perished under the wrath of God. (Korah, Dathan and Abiram Judas)
“Israel” is the name that God gave to Jacob. It is a name by which God himself designates the people to whom his is gracious. Who are the people whom the Lord calls “Israel”? Who are the Hebrews of whom he is distinctly and peculiarly the Lord God?
They are the people of God’s loving choice and sovereign election (Ps. 135:4).
(Psalms 135:4) “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.”
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). Esau was as much a son of Abraham physically as Jacob was, but he was not a part of Israel. Israel is the people of God’s free, eternal love and unconditional election.
They are the people of special revelation (Gen. 28:10-17). The Lord revealed himself to Jacob at Bethel. Christ the Ladder The only Mediator between God and man.
(Genesis 28:10-17) “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. (11) And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. (12) And 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. (13) 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; (14) 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. (15) 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. (16) And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. (17) And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
They are the people converted by grace (Gen. 32:24-31). Grace conquered Jacob, forced him to acknowledge himself and surrender to Christ. Grace gave him a new name. Grace changed his life and caused him to consecrate himself to God.
They are the people of distinct and peculiar, God-given faith in Christ (Phil. 3:3).
(Philippians 3:3) “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Israel is the people of God’s peculiar care (Gen. 28:15). “I am with thee.” “I will keep thee.” “I will not leave thee.” “And he blessed him” (Gen. 32:29; Eph. 1:3).
Why has the Lord God of the Hebrews sworn to save Israel? Because “he delighteth in mercy” and he is faithful to his covenant (Mic. 7:18-20).
(Micah 7:18-20) “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. (19) He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (20) Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.”
“Israel shall be saved in the Lord!” These words declare both the certain salvation of God’s elect and the method, or means of their salvation. God’s elect, Israel, shall assuredly be saved. The text does not read, “Israel may be saved,” but “Israel shall be saved!” The one who said this is God Almighty, “the Lord God of the Hebrews.”!
It is the will of God that they be saved; and his will cannot be resisted (Isa. 14:24, 26, 27; 46:10).
They have been purchased by Christ; and what he purchased he cannot lose (1 Pet. 1:18-20).
The Holy Spirit is the Earnest, Pledge and Seal of their salvation; and the seal of the Spirit cannot be broken (Eph. 1:18).
God declares absolutely, “Israel shall be saved!” This is an infallible fact, secured by the immutability of God himself (Mal. 3:6). Whatever may become of others, “Israel shall be saved!” No matter what difficulties or dangers lie in the way, no matter what conspiracies are hatched in hell to prevent it, the promise of God stands and cannot be nullified. “Israel shall be saved!”
Notice the next words “In The Lord!” God’s elect are saved, not in themselves; their destruction is in themselves! They are saved “in the Lord!” Saved because they are “in the Lord.”
Chosen in him!
Redeemed in him!
Justified in him!
Represented in him!
Sanctified in him!
Kept in him!
“In the Lord shall all the house of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa. 45:25).
We are saved by the merits of his blood.
We are saved by the efficacy of his grace.
We are saved by the power of his intercession.
Not a word about our “freewill”!
Not a word about our “good works”!
“Salvation is of the Lord!” “By the grace of God I am what I am!”
“Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation!” How sweet those words are! Lest we should limit our expectations to some temporal, earthly benefit, lest we should be slow of heart to believe God’s Word, he asserts his promise of grace in terms as strong and energetic as language can afford or imagination can conceive. “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with everlasting salvation!” This truth is confirmed in every page of Holy Scripture. God uses the richest variety of expression to assure us of his grace and establish our faith. Everlasting salvation is perfect, perpetual, complete salvation. Nothing can be added to it; and nothing can be taken from it (Eccl. 3:14).
Every believer may rightfully lay claim to all that God himself can give in time and eternity in the name of Christ. “The Lord will give grace and glory!” We shall never be disappointed of our hope in time or in eternity. The believer’s blessedness begins the moment he believes of Christ, and endures forever! The salvation that God performs is “everlasting salvation!”
Forgiveness is everlasting!
Justification is Everlasting!
Adoption is everlasting!
Acceptance is everlasting!
Preservation is everlasting!
There are no variables to be considered!
“Ye shall not be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end!” Quite literally, the text reads, “Ye shall not be ashamed, nor confounded, unto the ages of eternity!” “The Scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 10:13). You who trust Christ shall never be ashamed; and you shall not be confounded. You shall not be ashamed of Christ.
Your faith in him.
You shall not be confounded. Your hope and faith shall not be a matter of confusion to you, and you shall never be brought into confusion.
At the Bar of God.
To all eternity.
Romans 8: 32-39
Would you have this “everlasting salvation”? Trust Christ (Isa. 45:22).
(Isaiah 45:22) “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
“Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord” (Deut. 33:29).
You may meet with many troubles on your way to glory; but you shall survive them!
You may often be tossed about in the tempest; but you will not perish!
You may suffer the loss of all earthly comforts; but God’s Word will not be broken!
You may fall many times; but God’s mercy is sure!
This is God’s Word to you. “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end!” Why? Because the Lord God declares himself to be “the Lord God of the Hebrews!”