01 Dec. 2004            
A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

The Promise

Chapter 10

God Keeps His Promises

By Edgar Jones


We can accurately describe the Old Testament as the history of the promises of God that he made to Israel.  There were two, closely related.  He promised that they would inherit the Land of Canaan in perpetuity, and He promised that He would give them a king from the line of David to reign over them in peace, forever.  We have surveyed these promises and have learned that the first, the promise of the inheritance of the land, was conditional on the faithfulness of Israel, whereas that of a king from the line of David was absolutely without conditions.

The fall of the historic kingdom at the close of Zedekiah's reign in 586 BC and the carrying away of the Jews to Babylon was a severe interruption of both promises.  They had lost both their land and their kingdom.  Yet at the end, the unconditional promise of a king and a kingdom was reasserted in the words spoken to the last king, Zedekiah, through the prophet:

[24] "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins appear -- because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in them.
[25] And you, O unhallowed wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come, the time of your final punishment,
[26] thus says the Lord GOD: Remove the turban, and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they are; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high.
[27] A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it.

Ezekiel then uttered prophecy to assure Israel that both promises were very much alive in his day.  We see both the promised land and the kingdom here:

[21] then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land;
[22] and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.
[23] They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
[24] My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.
[25] They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

Centuries past.  Yes, Israel was gathered out of foreign lands and returned to the land of promise, but where was the promised one of whom Ezekiel wrote,
My servant David shall be king over them?  Zerubbabel brought hope to some, the Maccabean Dynasty to many, but they retreated into history without leaving a king.  There was no security in the Land of Promise.  Instead, the people dwelt as captives that were serving foreign kings in their own land -- the Greeks, then the Romans.  There were numerous would - be messiahs, which is the term they had grown accustomed to using to describe the coming one, the Lord's anointed. This, in Greek, becomes 'the Lord's Christ.'  Judas the Galilean was one, whom the Roman's crushed.  There would be others, and other crushings.  We see the final concerted Jewish effort to reestablish their kingdom in the rebellion under bar Kokhba, about a century after Jesus was crucified.  From that day to this they have uttered this constant refrain:

"How long, O Lord?   Wilt thou hide thyself for ever? How long will thy wrath burn like fire?"

These words of the Psalmist (89:46) capture the mood of Israel from the demise of Zedekiah until this day.  But the Promise was fulfilled to them who, tragically, have not the ears to hear nor the eyes to see.  Now we move on to the New Testament Gospels to explore its fulfillment.

I. The Great Expectation

There was a near universal expectation in Israel during the first two thirds of the First Century.  The final crushing of Jewish hope came with the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple in 70 AD.  This was itself the consequence of a violent rebellion against their Roman overlords, led by those who supposed the Messiah was in their midst.

The evidence of this expectation is particularly strong in the N. T. gospels.  It first appears in the account of John the Baptist, for they were asking him if he were the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet?  In each case, it was a reference to the prophetic promise of one who was to come.  The Christ was their promised Messiah (anointed one, king), and they thought John might be the one.  But John denied it (John 1:20,21).  Nevertheless, the fact that they were asking him such questions tells us that they were expecting the promised one -- the Christ, the Son of God. They were thinking of the Promise of
Psalm 2:

[4] He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the LORD has them in derision.
[5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
[6] "I have set my king
on Zion, my holy hill."
[7] I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, "You are my son,
today I have begotten you.
[8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
[9] You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

It was of this one, this
"You are my son" that John began to declare:

John 1
33 And I did not know him, but the one who sent me to be baptizing in water, that one said to me: Upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining upon him, this is the one baptizing in the Holy Spirit. 34 And I have seen, and have witnessed that this is the son of God.

John later began to doubt, because Jesus was not doing the things he expected to Messiah to do.  From prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to question him.  Their question was:

Matthew 11
3 . . .he said to him: Are you the coming one or do we look for another?

Jesus kept his messianic identity a secret until near the end of his program of calling and teaching disciples who would understand and carry on his work after his departure.  Rather than responding to John's question positively, he identified himself with a prophetic text (Is. 35:1-6) that he expect John to interpret and thereby identify him as the Christ. 

Matthew 11
4 And answering Jesus said to them: Go tell John what you hear and see: 5 The blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf hear, and dead are raised and the poor are good-newsed. 6 And blessed is he who shall not be offended in me.

When Jesus began to call men to follow him, he made a powerful impression on them from the beginning.  When Andrew first encountered Jesus, he immediately went to inform his brother, Simon (Peter).  He said to him:

John 1
41 This one finds first his own brother Simon and says to him: We have found the Messiah, which is being translated: Christ.

John 1
45 Phillip finds Nathaneal, and says to him: What is written in the law of Moses and the prophets we have found, Jesus, son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth.

After meeting Jesus, Nathaniel confessed to him,

John 1
49 Nathanael answered him: Rabbi, you are the son of God, you are the king of Israel.

Both Son and King!  This was their great expectation and the gospels are careful to emphasize it.  Even in Samaria, the same great expectation was growing among the people.  When Jesus encountered a woman there at the well:

John 4
.25 The woman says to him: We know that the Messiah is coming, the one being called. When that one come, he will declare to us everything.

There was this universal ferment -- much excitement whenever anyone appeared who might be the Messiah.  It was all summed up in John's last question, "Are you he that is to come, or look we for another?"  And, as we have seen, the coming one was not only to be their king; he would be the Son of God.

II. The Response of Jesus

He said very little about the Promises of God.  When we consider all the attention given to him by the Law and the Prophets, as the promised one, we might expect him to come in like gangbusters.  One would think he would take charge, announcing his identity and setting a throne for himself in Jerusalem.  He didn't.

He acted contrary to most of the great expectations of the people.  When, impressed by the signs he performed, they sought to seize him and make him their king, he would have none of it. 

John 6
15 Jesus therefore having known that they were about to come and seize him in order that they make him king withdrew again to the mountain himself alone.

Even John the Baptist did not get a straight answer from him when he sent his disciples to question whether he was the one who was to come.  He might have said, "Yes, I am he."  He didn't.  Instead, he referred him to a prophecy and left John to draw his own conclusions.  He did not even confess his identity to his closest disciples until near the end of his earthly visitation.  Listen to him:

 Matthew 16
15 He says to them: But who do you say I am? 16 And Simon Peter answering said: You are the Christ the son of the living God. 17 Jesus answering said to him: Blessed are you, Simon Barjonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my father in heaven.

Thus we learn that Jesus had not revealed his identity, not even to his chosen apostles.  Here he confesses it to them for the first time, for he affirms Peter's confession.  But then he immediately commands them:

Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

It is obvious; he is attempting to conceal his messianic identity from everyone, except, at last, his disciples.  There were others, impressed by his signs, whom he had commanded to secrecy.  "Tell no one" must be a command given to many, as it was to some who had been healed of afflictions.  After the Transfiguration, coming down the mountain, after the Father from heaven had identified Jesus as his Son, he commanded them,

Mark 9
When they were coming down from the mountain, he ordered them that to no one what they saw should they recount, except when the son of man go up out of the clouds.

It is easy to discern why he operated secretly, carefully concealing his identity until the end.  History had proved the fate of all who claimed the throne of Israel since Zedekiah.  They were soon killed and their movements crushed so that they amounted to nothing.  When he saw that his hour had come and that he had accomplished his purpose on earth of planting the seed of the Word in the hearts of a few disciples who were to carry on his work after him, then he declared himself.  He cooperated with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem that was the fulfillment of the prophecy and the signal that he was claiming the kingship.  He went directly to the temple and asserted his authority over it, cleansing it.  Then when he stood before Pontius Pilate, and was asked:

John 18
Are you the king of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered: Do you say this from yourself or did others tell you concerning me? 35 Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Your nation and chief-priests have delivered you up to me. What did you do? 36 Jesus answered: My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my officers would have fought in order that I not be delivered up to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here. 37 Pilate therefore said to him: So are you a king? Jesus answered: You say that I am king. I am born for this and am come into the world for this, in order that I witness to the truth. All those being from the truth hear my voice. Pilate says to him: What is truth? 38 And having said this he again went out to the Jews, and says to them: I find nothing blameworthy in him.

If he was declaring himself, why this cryptic response to Pilate? 

He did not intend that his crucifixion be charged to the Romans.  It was his own people who had rejected him, and it was they who would be responsible for his crucifixion.  Had it been Pilates will to crucify him, we would not be clear that it was solely the will of the Jews, who had positively rejected him from being their king.  This encounter does serve the purpose of announcing to the world that he is indeed a king, but that his kingdom is not of the world.  This is the first we have heard this characterization of his kingdom, and it is an utter rejection of the Jewish conception of the kingdom of God. 

The Jews understood the prophets to speak of a kingdom that is very much of this world, and it doubtless would have had a much different character had they accepted him as their king.  We cannot say what that would have been, because he has not told us.  The Promise, therefore, turns out to be somewhat different from what the prophets envisioned -- yet it was the same kingdom and the same king that they had prophesied.  We turn now to examine the effect this had on the Promise as it relates to the Jews, who were seeking the kingdom from a false view of its real character. 

III. The Promise Lost

The Lord seemed somewhat optimistic at the beginning of his revelation of himself to Israel.  He looked out over the land and saw what he hoped was a great and fruitful harvest of the sheep of the Lord's flock.

John 4:
34 Jesus says to them: My food is that I do the will of the one having sent me and accomplish his work. 35 Are you not saying that there is yet four months and then the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and behold the fields that they are white for the harvest. 36 Already the one harvesting receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one sowing and the one harvesting together rejoice. 37 For in this the word is true that one is the one sowing and another is the one harvesting. 38 I sent you to be harvesting what you have not labored; others have toiled, and you have entered into their labor.
Matthew 9
35 And Jesus went about all the cities and all the towns, teaching in the synagogues and teaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and weakness. 36 And having seen the crowd he had compassion for them, for they were troubled and thrown about as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then he says to his disciples: The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he throw workers into his harvest.

This early and optimistic assessment of the task that lay before him was nevertheless clouded from the beginning, even before he appeared in Israel as the Son of Man.  We have learned this from his own revelation of the charge he had received from the Father.  He revealed this in the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree.

Luke 13
1 Now there were at hand some in that opportune time reporting to him concerning the Galilean whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifice. 2 And answering he said to them: Do you suppose that these Galilean were sinners more than all the Galleons because of these things which they suffered? 3 No, I say to you, but if you do not repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen upon whom fell the tower in Silo and killed them, do you suppose them to have been debtors more than all the men inhabiting Jerusalem? 5 No, I say to you, but if you do not repent, you will all likewise perish. 6 But he was saying this parable: A certain man has a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to his vine dresser: Behold from which three years I come seeking fruit on this tree and found none. Cut it down, why also waste the land? 8 But answering he said to him: Lord, leave it even this year, until I dig around it and throw dung, 9 and for result it may give fruit. Otherwise, cut it down.

Should you need the identification of this fig tree, it represent Israel -- all those to whom the promises were announced.  The lesson is that the Father had decreed the end of that nation (cut it down), but Jesus, who in this case identifies himself as the Father's vine dresser, had actually negotiated, with the Father, one more attempt to realize fruit from this fig tree of a nation.  He thus came into the world with that charge from the Father. 

How he loved them, these offspring of Abraham!  He did indeed cultivate them to the maximum, seeking to enlighten them through the Word.  However, as time passed it became obvious that all his efforts were vain.  We see him in such encounters as this, that reveal his perceptions of the great crowds that came to see and hear him.

John 6
24 When therefore the crowd saw that Jesus is not there nor his disciples, they embarked in the boats and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 And having found him on the other side of the sea they said to him, Rabbi, when did you come here? 26 Jesus answered them and said: Truly truly I say to you, you seek me not because you see signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

He had come seeking fruit from Israel, and found little, just as he found no fruit on the fig tree in Jerusalem that he cursed and that withered.  So, it was a vain endeavor.  There would be no fruit from this tree and it broke his heart to finally acknowledge the failure of his mission to save Israel from the vine dresser's ax.

Luke 19
41 And as he drew near, seeing the city he wept over it, 42 saying: If you only knew in this day the things towards peace - but now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you and your enemies will cast up stakes for you and will surround you and attack you from all directions. 44 And they will dash to the ground you and your children in you, and they will not leave stone upon stone in you, for you did not know the opportune time of your visitation.
Matthew 23
37 Jerusalem Jerusalem, who killed the prophets and stoned those sent to you, how often I would gather your children, just as a bird gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. 38 Behold your house is abandoned to you desolate.

Israel had lost the promise of the land, and Israel had lost the promise of the kingdom.  The Lord seems never to have advanced the Land Promise, except for this one utterance, very early in his mission:

Matthew 5
5 Blessed are the gentle, For they will inherit the land.

This was the conditional promise that he chose not to pursue it because there was not a time when he saw fruit on that fig tree.  But he was emphatically specific as to the promise of the kingdom that was the unconditional promise.  To make his intentions unmistakable, he prefaced his withdrawal of the promise of the kingdom to them with two more parables.  I list them all, with his final pronunciation of the rejection of Israel (the Jewish nation) from the (unconditional) promise:

Matthew 21
28 But how does it seem to you? a man had two sons. Coming to the first he said: Son, be going today, be working in the vineyard. 29 But answering he says: I will not, but later repenting he went. 30 Coming to the second he said likewise. And answering he said: I will Lord, and went not. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father? They say: The first. Jesus says to them: Truly I say to you that the tax-collectors and the harlots will precede you into the kingdom of God. 32 For John came to you in the way of justice and you believed him not, but the tax-collectors and the harlots believed him. But you when you saw neither repented later that You might believe in him. 33 Hear another parable. There was a man who was Lord of the house who planted a vineyard and built a fence around it, and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to vinedressers and went on a journey. 34 Now when the time of the fruits drew near, he sent his slaves to the vinedressers to be taking his fruit. 35 And taking his slaves the vinedressers beat one and killed another and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves more than the first, and they did to them likewise. 37 And later he sent to them his son saying: They will respect my son. 38 But the vinedressers seeing the son said among themselves: This is the heir. Come let us kill him and we will have his inheritance. 39 And taking him they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the Lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers? 41 They say to him: He will badly destroy those evil ones, and he will lease the vineyard to other vinedressers, who give him the fruits in their own seasons. 42 Jesus says to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone which the builders rejected
This became the head of the cornerstones.
By the Lord this came to pass
And is a wonder in our eyes.
43 Because of this I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.

Both promises, that of the land and that of the kingdom, were irretrievably lost to Israel.  They had irretrievably lost the kingdom, and without the kingdom, there was no reason to give them the land. 
Israel's modern conquest of the of the land is therefore a vain and foolish endeavor that will only shed more and more blood.

IV. The Promise Kept

Again and again, however, we have seen that the promise of the kingdom and the king who would rule forever was and is unconditional.  Just to remind us of it's unconditional nature, let's look at one statement of the Promise:

[34] I will not violate my covenant,
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
[35] Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
[36] His line shall endure for ever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
[37] Like the moon it shall be established for ever;
it shall stand firm while the skies endure.

God left no possibility but that his promise to David, of a throne and a kingdom from his line, would endure forever, "while the skies endure."  The Promise continued with Solomon, and to his descendants, but this aspect of the Eternal Promise was subject to a condition as stated to David's son and successor, Solomon:

[17] And as for you, if you walk before me, as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances,
[18] then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, `There shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.'

This is a conditional, and much of what I have written above records the Old Testament's sad story of how the continuing line of David failed to meet the conditions.  The final judgment was announced to Zedekiah, that the kingdom of Judah under successive kings in Jerusalem.  But there was, in the final sentence announced to the doomed Zedekiah, this assurance that the Promise, the unconditional Promise announced to David, yet remained: it shall be no more, until he comes to whom it belongs, and to him I will give it.

We can summarize this in a statement:  The conditional promise failed, but the unconditional one remained in force.  The carnal line of David ended with Zedekiah, but it was only suspended for the nation of Israel -- until he comes to whom it belongs.  Jesus is the one, and he came to Israel hoping to see the unconditional promise to David fulfilled in the physical nation of Israel.  But Israel would not receive him; at that point, he took the kingdom from that nation.  The physical line of David first failed, in the Sixth Century, and in the First Century the nation failed to meet its conditions.  It was their final examination.  The kingdom was taken away from the  from the nation.

But wasn't the promise unconditional?

Absolutely; therefore Jesus announced that it had been removed from both the descendants of David and from the nation, but given to another nation that, as he asserted, would bring forth the fruits.

Because of this I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.

Thereafter, he announced the identity of this nation producing the fruits of it as follows:

Luke 12
32 Be not fearing, O small flock for your father delights to give to you the kingdom.

Then, after his resurrection, he revealed that the kingship had been delivered to him:

Matthew 28
18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me.

The unconditional promise has been kept.  It may seem that it was not kept as regards those to whom it was originally delivered: it was.  It was delivered to David; Jesus of Nazareth was of the house of David, the final one in his line to whom the kingdom is given, forever.  He holds it forever, according to the Promise.  It was delivered to the king of Israel, and it was kept -- to a remnant of Israel consisting originally of Israelites -- the apostles and disciples whom Jesus gathered to himself.

Then Jesus revealed that the entire conception of the kingdom has been restated.

It was the kingdom of Israel, but it is the kingdom of God. 

It was delivered to those who had a genetic relation  to David as the successors in his line.  Jesus qualified for that, but then revealed that the succession from David was not relevant, denying any father/son relation to the King of Israel:

Luke 20
41 But he said to them: How do they say the Christ to be David's son? 42 For David himself says in the scroll of psalms,
The Lord said to my Lord:
Sit at my right
43 Until I place your enemies
for a footstool of your feet.
44 David therefore calls him Lord, and how is he his son?

It is, after all, not to a son of David that the promise is kept -- but to the Son of God.

It is not to the nation of Israel that the promise is kept -- but to the Little Flock.

These are reductions in scope and numbers.  But then Jesus immediately announces a vast expansion.

The realm of the kingdom is not the little land of Canaan; it is heaven and earth.

Matthew 28
18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me.

The Little Flock has no more direct relation to the nation of Israel.  It expands to include those who come from all nations, or folds:

John 10
And I have other sheep which are not of this fold, and I must bring those, and they will hear my voice, and one flock will come to pass, one shepherd.

What qualifies one who is
not of this fold -- not of Israel/Judah -- to enter the kingdom of God, becoming one of the sheep of the Little Flock?

. . . they will heed my voice.

The Father keeps his promises!


Like the signboards over the expressway, the Law and the Prophets of Israel state the promise and point to its fulfillment, but do not disclose what one finds when one gets there.  It is only in this way that they testify of Jesus the Messiah and of the promises of God.  Anyone in the correct lane that follows the signs will know the character of the destination only after arriving there, and that after thoroughly examining its streets and structures and becoming acquainted with its inhabitants and their language.  They have no need to go back and check the expressway signs again -- that is, unless they find themselves in a place not to their liking.  The primary function of the Old Testament is therefore to provide background and signs of the kingdom of God.  Moses and the prophets do not understand the true character of the kingdom, and cannot enlighten us further.  The world of Israel into which Jesus came was, along with the whole world, perfectly dark.  His Light continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it.  It is in this Light that we see that the Promise is sure, its fulfillment is wonderful and has a place for us, provided we follow the advise of this sign board:

[15] The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren -- him you shall heed --
[16] just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, `Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.'
[17] And the LORD said to me, `They have rightly said all that they have spoken.
[18] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
[19] And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

John 12
48 The one rejecting me and not receiving my words has one judging him: the word which I spoke, that will judge him in the last day. 49 Because I have not spoken from myself, but the one having sent me, the father himself has given to me commandment what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What therefore I speak, just as the father has spoken to me, thusly I speak.

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