God’s Promises to Israel

In Romans 9 Paul explains how God has acted towards both the Jews and the Gentiles; (vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles – v23-24). Now chapter 11 starts with the question, “Hath God cast away his people?”

As we study the history of both the church and the four beasts, we see that the Jews are put aside. The gospel has appeared in the world to save sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, in order to reveal the hidden mystery of a heavenly people. Hence, “unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Ephesians 3:10)

‘After These Things’ Chapter 4.8 – God’s Promises to Israel

From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE

A summary of the Eighth Lecture by J N Darby on the Present Hope of the Church – Geneva 1840 entitled ‘Israel’s First Entry into the Land was the Result of Promise’

After These Things

4.8  God’s Promises to Israel

Israel Remains God’s People

Israel and the Church

Replacement Theology or Supersessionism

Adam and Noah

Idolatry and the Call of Abraham

Promises to Abraham and Israel

Israel’s Relationship with God

Law and the Promises to Abraham

The Promised Land



Israel Remains God’s People


After dealing with God’s relationships with men in the first eight chapters of Romans, Paul, a Jew, turns his attention in the next three chapters to Israel.  He asks the question, ‘Hath God cast away his people?’  The answer ‘God forbid’ (Romans 11:1)[1]

In Romans 9  Paul explained how God acted towards both the Jews and the Gentiles;  (vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles – v23-24).

As we study the history of the church and also the four Gentile empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome), typified in the four beasts of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (see Daniel 2), we see that the Jews are set aside nationally.  The gospel has appeared in the world to save sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, to reveal the hidden mystery of a heavenly people.  Hence, ‘unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’  (Ephesians 3:10)

Although the Jews are enemies as to the gospel, the nation remains God’s people according to the flesh, and beloved on account of the fathers. (See Romans 11:28). God has not rejected His people.  ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance’.  (v.29)


Israel and the Church

In the present dispensation, we have the calling of a heavenly people.  Consequentially, God puts aside His earthly people, the Jews.  The Jewish nation never enters into the church, though of course, many individual Jewish people do so.  Indeed,  ‘Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in’ (v.25).  This will be until the addition to the Church of the last of the children of God.

Replacement Theology or Supersessionism

Many Christian denominations espouse what has come to be called ‘replacement theology’.  That is the teaching:[2]

  • That the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan.
  • The many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian church, not in Israel.
  • The restoration of Israel to the Promised Land is not physical, but spiritualised or allegorised promises of God’s blessing for the church.
  • The New Covenant through Jesus Christ supersedes the Old Covenant, which was made exclusively with the Jewish people, and that the New Covenant applies to the Church.

This lecture countered this erroneous teaching.

Adam and Noah

God chose Abraham and his family according to the flesh.  Among Abraham’s descendants, Israel serves as the depositary of God’s promises demonstrating God’s choice.  Nevertheless, to understand the root of the promises, we must look at the preceding dispensations.

Adam – Man left to himself after the fall.  The world was full of violence and corruption, and

Noah – God makes a covenant with Noah and with the creation; and gives the rainbow as a witness. ‘The Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground’ (Gen. 8:21).  This covenant was given immediately after Noah’s sacrifice – typically the sacrifice of Christ.  But Noah failed when he became drunk.

Every dispensation has ended in the failure of man.  What is lost through human folly is recovered at the end in Christ, whether it be blessing to the earth, prosperity to the Jews, or the glory of the church.

Idolatry and the Call of Abraham

Satan presents himself as God and makes himself the god of this earth.  It is written, ‘The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God’ (Deuteronomy 32:17).  The Lord reminded the Israelites,  Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the river in old time . . . and they served other gods.’ (Joshua 24:2 Darby and others).  This is the first time that we find God marking the existence of idolatry.

However, the true God separated a people to preserve the truth.   All the ways of God towards men turn upon God’s calling of Abraham and his posterity to be the depositary of this one great truth: ‘There are none other gods but one’ (Deuteronomy 4:35).

Promises to Abraham and Israel

The promises that God made to Abraham were without condition.  In Genesis 12 and 15, Abraham received both earthly and spiritual blessings.   He received an unconditional covenant, an absolute gift of the land.

We are told, ‘Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed’ Genesis 12:1-3.

God reconfirmed it in chapter 15.

God told Abraham that he was going to have a numerous posterity: ‘Look now toward the heavens, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said to him, So shall thy seed be!’ (v. 5).  He was even given the exact limits of the country.  Abraham believed God. God renewed His promise in Chapter 17, and re-confirmed it to Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and Jacob (Genesis 35:12).

Thus, God made Himself ‘the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob’, (Exodus 3:15), and His people became the heirs of the promises, pilgrims upon the earth, but God’s boast. The faithful in Israel were to find their confidence in that.

Israel’s Relationship with God

Until Exodus 19 the promise had been unconditional.  However, Israel placed themselves in relationship with God in the opposite way, that is based on their own righteousness on the principle of the law.    They acknowledged obedience to God and undertook to obey the law in their own strength.  Therefore, the covenant at Sinai was founded on the principle of obedience.

In this covenant, we have an ‘If…’. ‘If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation’ (Exodus 19:6).

The Israelites should have said instead, ‘It is true, most gracious God, we ought to obey Thee; but we have failed so often, that we dare not receive the promises under such a condition.’ Instead of this, they said ‘All the words that the Lord hath said, will we do.’ (Exodus 19:8).  They rashly bound themselves to fulfil everything that Jehovah had commanded they received the promises under the condition of perfect obedience.  We all know what happened: The Children of Israel had made the golden calf before Moses had even come down from the mount.

Like Israel, we fail at the first hurdle, and we realise that we are lost because we have violated the covenant.  If as sinners, we engage ourselves to obey God, we forfeit the blessing if we fail.  Our answer should always be, ‘We are lost’.  That is the answer that grace expects.  That is why Paul said, ‘A mediator is not a mediator of one.’ (Galatians 3:20-21).  If there is a mediator, there must be two parties – God and man.  Moses mediated in the wilderness; Christ is our Mediator now.  We see the sovereignty of grace.  Had God not been sovereign, He would have to have destroyed the people.

Law and the Promises to Abraham

The law did NOT annul the promises made to Abraham (Gen 12-15) and confirmed to Isaac (Gen 26) and Jacob (Gen 35).

  • Numerous posterity.
  • The land.
  • Earthly blessings to Israel.
  • Blessing to the nations.

In Exodus 32:13, we see how the promises made before the law were never repealed. Aaron and the people had made the golden calf.  Moses interceded with ‘Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.’

In Leviticus 26:27-31, there is the threat of all the chastisements which were to follow the unfaithfulness of Israel. ‘And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.  And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.  And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.  And I will make your cities waste . . . (v. 27-31).  However, in v. 42: ‘Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham; . . . and I will remember the land.’.  God returns to His promises made unconditionally long before the law.

God’s promises here have never changed: they are valid now (despite Israel being set aside), and will continue to the last days.

The Promised Land

Thus, we get the principle on which they entered into the land of Canaan.  Before the law, God had unconditionally promised the land to Israel for a perpetual possession.  God promised, Moses mediated, Israel was spared and at last enjoyed the land.

Israel failed in the promised land and ultimately fell.  First, the ten tribes were taken into captivity and lost.  Then Judah[3]  was taken captive seventy years, but in God’s providential ways, their identity was preserved.

We now await the re-establishment of all the promises made to Abraham.  Although the people had failed in every possible way towards God, the prophets show us clearly that God  promised to re-establish them in their land, under the Lord Jesus Christ as their King.  Every promise made in the prophets will be fulfilled.  Knowing this, it is small wonder that the disciples asked the Lord following His resurrection, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6).


[1] In the Greek the answer is ‘μὴ γένοιτο/me genoito’ – ‘Never may it be!’ – (Strong’s translation).

[2] The Wikipedia article on ‘Supersessionism’ gives the position of various denominations on this subject.

[3] With the tribe Benjamin and the Levites who were among them.

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Author: Sosthenes

Once the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth Then a co-writer of a letter by Paul - just a brother - no longer an official Now a blogger seeking to serve the Lord by posting some words that the Lord has given His Church.

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