By Charles F. Nix
The patient forbearance of the Lord is as amazing as it is beautiful. His love is everlasting and He does not forget His promises.
When He called Abraham out from among the idol worshipping heathen He made certain great and precious promises to him. (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:1-8). The seventh of those promises was: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” He promised Abraham and Sarah a son long after they were past the age to have children. Isaac was born at a set time the next year when Abraham was a hundred years old, and God told Abraham: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12). The promises were confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). The Lord said unto Jacob: “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest;—I will not leave thee.” We have the record in Genesis 32:28 of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel.
Now Israel was the father of twelve sons from whom came the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Old Testament records the growth of the Twelve Tribes into the Nation of Israel. It also tells of how that nation failed God repeatedly and rebelled against Him and how faithful He was to forgive them.
When Jacob (Israel) fled from the famine into Egypt God reassured him: “I am God, the God of thy father, fear not to go down into Egypt—I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will surely bring thee up again” (Genesis 46:3-4).
The Twelve Tribes grew into a vast multitude during their sojourn in Egypt. God delivered them from their Egyptian masters by a great deliverance and under the leadership of Moses He brought them up out of the land of Egypt. God accompanied them on the journey as a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night, to keep them from harm.
The Lord brought them before Sinai where He instructed Moses to say to them: “If ye will obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people,” and the people promised: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:5, 8). He then gave them the Law Covenant from Mount Sinai. This was the thing they had promised to keep. But within a few hours they began to break their promise. Their history is the history of law breakers and rebels.
The Lord remembered His promise to Jacob and united the twelve tribes into a great nation. By His direction David, a man after God’s own heart, was anointed king. David sinned against the Lord, grievously, but he repented and the Lord forgave him.
The joy of his salvation was restored unto him and the Lord promised David: “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
For many centuries the Lord undertook for them, caring for them in a special way. They, in turn, forsook God, went into idolatry, blasphemed against God and stoned His prophets that He sent to warn them. The Lord had made other promises to Israel. Through Moses He warned them that if they forsook God: “The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even unto the other, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest” (Deuteronomy 28:64-65). For centuries the wandering Jew has wandered over the face of the earth without a national home.
Because of their rebellion and sins against Him, God permitted the enemies of Israel to overcome them to oppress them and to carry them into captivity. But He remembered His promises and always kept or returned a portion of the people to live in the land He had promised them.
Centuries after His promise to David, the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying: “Unto us a Son is given … and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace … of His government and peace there shall be no end. Upon the throne of David to establish it with judgment and with justice from hence forth and for ever” (Isaiah 9:6-7). Even though He later permitted the nation to be destroyed and the survivors to be taken captive into Babylon, yet He returned many of them to the land, that His promise might be fulfilled.
In Luke chapter two we are given the account of the keeping of that portion of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their seed would be a blessing to all people. Christ the Savior was sent to sinful, rebellious Israel one night in Judea. An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in the fields and said unto them: “Fear not, for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior: which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
We know from the record that He has kept all His promises on schedule and that, in God’s own time, He will keep them all, because “For ever, O Lord. thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations” (Psalm 119:89-90).