“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan


Before the world began, it was the eternal purpose of God not only to create man but to give to him eternal life “in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 1:1-2). When Adam and Eve sinned, by eating the forbidden fruit, God began to reveal His eternal purpose (Gen. 3:14-15).

He gave man a wakeup call in a flood only eight persons survived. Man, however, did not wake up but continued to deteriorate morally and religiously.

God called Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation, to bless him and make his name great and to bless all families of the earth in his seed.

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:1-6)

Abraham, thus, became “the father of all those who believe” (Rom. 4:16).

When Abraham was a hundred years old and Sarah, his wife, was ninety, they gave birth to a son as God had promised them (Gen. 21:1-5). When a problem arose between Isaac and Ishmael, God reminded Abraham, “in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Gen. 21:12).

God later tested Abraham’s faith, by commanding him to offer up the son of promise as a burnt offering.

Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Gen. 22:3).

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Heb. 11:17-19)

After the death of Sarah, Abraham married Keturah, who bore him six children. He died at age 175.

While Abraham provided for all of his children, he left the bulk of his estate to Isaac, the son of promise (Gen. 25:1-8).

Isaac and Jacob

At this point in Moses’ inspired narrative, the focus shifts, as God promises to Isaac what He had promised Abraham.

And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah , which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife. And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac dwelt at Beer Lahai Roi. (Gen. 25:9-11)

There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the Lord appeared to him and said: "Do not go down to Egypt ; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." (Gen. 26:1-5)

The birthright and the blessing were passed on to Isaac, rather than Ishmael, by the will of God, not by the will of man.

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel , nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." ( Rom. 9:6-9).

Likewise, Esau was the first one born to Isaac, but Jacob was chosen by God.

This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham's son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If all is well, why am I like this?" So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: "Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger." So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. (Gen. 25:19-26)

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." ( Rom. 9:10-12).

Esau despised his birthright selling it for “one morsel of food” (Gen. 25:27-34; Heb. 12:16-17). Jacob received the birthright and the blessing not because of his deceit but because it was the will of God (Gen. 27:1-29). Thus, the “seed promise” was passed on to Jacob, rather than Esau. However, this does not mean that Jacob was unconditionally elected to salvation and that Esau was necessarily lost. It simply means that God elected to fulfill His promises to Abraham through the younger, rather than the older, of the sons of Isaac.

God appeared to Jacob in a dream and repeated the promise that He had made to his father and grandfather before him.

Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.

Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 28:12-14)

God changed his name from Jacob, meaning “supplanter,” to Israel , meaning, “prince with God.” (Gen. 32:24-28)

Years later, Jacob moved his family to Egypt , where he identified Judah as the Messianic tribe.

" Judah , you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's children shall bow down before you.

“Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah , Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Gen. 49:8-10)

Review of this Lesson

Thus, God revealed His eternal purpose a little at a time. First, He would put enmity between the woman and the serpent, between his seed and her seed. Her seed would bruise the serpent’s head, but the serpent would merely bruise His heel. (Gen. 3:14-15)

God later revealed, to Abraham, that all the families in all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). He later eliminated Ishmael by identifying Isaac as the “seed of promise” (Gen. 17:21; 26:1-5). He still further eliminated Esau by making His covenant with Jacob, or Israel (Gen. 28:14).

Then, through Jacob, God eliminated eleven tribes by identifying Judah as the tribe through whom Shiloh would come.

 [To be continued]