(NOTE: All Scripture verses are taken from the New International Version 1984, unless otherwise stated.)
FOCUS: The Bible provides a fascinating look at world history based on the lives of the descendants of Adam, primarily through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God did not sugar-coat His message to mankind. Instead He recorded ‘sin in action’ and ‘the gains of good,’ showcasing the countless flaws of human nature. He challenges us to learn from the past, put what we’ve learned into practice in the present, and understand that He has a plan for the future.
FOUNDATION SCRIPTURE: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 3:8).
PROPHECY CONNECTION #1: Lessons from the Past
A. The writer of Hebrews gave a profound summary of WHY the past is of such great importance …
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
“By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. [Joshua 6]
“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. [Joshua 2]
“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon [Judges 6-8], Barak [Judges 4], Samson [Judges 13-16], Jephthah [Judges 11], David [1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2], Samuel [1 Samuel 1-16; 28:3-16] and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11)
B. The prophets of the past foretold how the Savior would atone for the sin of mankind …
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…. he was led like a lamb to the slaughter … By oppression and judgment he was taken away … for the transgression of my people he was stricken…. though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering … After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:4-11)
C. Jesus referred to the past when teaching about His death and resurrection …
“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.’
“He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:38-42)
WHAT’S THE POINT?
By studying what happened to the descendants of Abraham — a.k.a. “Abram,” the father of Ishmael and his Arab descendants — we learn that the Bible is consistent, recording WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and often the WHY of historical events that still have an affect on situations in our world today. And we learn that the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (ISRAEL) has the final say on what happens globally.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
For my faith to remain secure, I have to remember that “He is God, and I am not.” Studying the past, as recorded in the Bible and by comparing other historical records shows me that this Book is unique, and it is a foundation upon which I can base my life.
THINK ABOUT IT …
Trust in God requires sacrifice. For some, that means experiencing brutality and actual death. But Jesus promised: “… Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.… He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:10-11). You can read about the “second death” in Revelation 20:11-15.