Dr. Ron Herrod was unaware that I would preach this message. Interestingly, yesterday he sent a brief message that could serve as its thesis. He writes:
“GOD BLESS AMERICA AS WE CELEBRATE 235 YEARS OF FREEDOM”
May you and your family enjoy a blessed day of celebration for the freedom given to us by God and protected by our brave military.
Let us never forget that God has blessed America because America has blessed God, supported Israel, and invested in propagating the Gospel throughout a dark world.
Let us commit to join our hearts in prayer on our birthday that our beloved nation would return to the reasons for our existence.”
Frederick the Great (1712-1786) of Prussia was somewhat of a skeptic because of his association with Voltaire (1694-1778), the French infidel whose real name was François-Marie Arouet. Frederick asked his chaplain to prove the authenticity of the Bible in two words, and the chaplain immediately replied, ‘The Jew, your Majesty!’
Someone recently shared that a political commentator gave his listeners the impression that Martin Luther (1483-1546) was anti-Semitic in every sense of the word. In fairness to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther we need to know the rest of the story.
Dr. Roland Herbert Bainton (1894-1984), noted church historian and Luther biographer, wrote with reference to On the Jews and Their Lies: “One could wish that Luther had died before ever this tract was written. His position was entirely religious and in no respect racial.”
Dr. Richard Curry Marius (1933-1999) contends that in making this “declaration,” “Roland Bainton’s effort is directed towards trying ‘to make the best of Luther,’ and ‘Luther’s view of the Jews.'”
Dr. Bainton’s view is later echoed by Dr. James M. Kittelson writing about Luther’s correspondence with Jewish scholar Josel of Rosheim: “There was no anti-Semitism in this response. Moreover, Luther never became an anti-Semite in the modern, racial sense of the term.”
Dr. Paul Halsall states, “In his Letters to Spalatin, we can already see that Luther’s hatred of Jews, best seen in this 1543 letter On the Jews and Their Lies, was not some affectation of old age, but was present very early on. Luther expected Jews to convert to his purified Christianity. When they did not, he turned violently against them.”
Dr. Robert George Loeson Waite (1919-1999) compared his psychoanalysis with Erik Erikson’s own psychohistory of Luther, Young Man Luther, and concluded that, had Luther been alive during the 1930s, he most likely would have spoke out against Nazi persecution of Jews, even if this placed his life in danger, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a Lutheran pastor) did.
There are not many ways to heaven. There is only one way. There has always been one way. There is not a works way versus a faith way. Paul the Apostle writes inRomans 9:30-10:4, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, / And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The Book of Hebrews reveals that faith is and always has been the key to a relationship with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This is not anti-Semitic it is absolute truth from the mouth of God the Son.
John writes of Jesus Christ, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).
From the pages of The Women’s Missionary Magazine we read, “It is told of Count Zinzendorf that one morning he met a Jew, Rabbi Abraham. The pious Count stretched out his hand and said, ‘Gray hairs are a crown of glory. I can see from your head and the expression of your eyes that you have much experience both of heart and life. In the Name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let us be friends.’
The old man had never heard such words from a Christian before. He had usually been saluted by the words, ‘Be gone, Jew!’ He was struck dumb with wonder. His lips trembled, his voice failed, tears ran down his wrinkled cheeks upon his flowing beard.
‘Enough, father,’ said the Count, ‘we understand each other.’ And from that moment on the two were friends. The count went to see him in his dirty home and ate black bread at his table. One morning before dawn, as the two walked out, old Abraham said, ‘My heart is longing for the dawn. I am sick, and yet I know not what is the matter with me. I am looking for something and yet I know not what I seek. I am like one who is chased, yet I see no enemy except the one within me, my old evil heart.’ And then Count Zinzendorf opened his lips and declared the Gospel of Christ. He painted a picture of love on the Cross, and how that love came down from Heaven. He painted in glowing colors how Christ met and died for corrupted humanity that men might become like God.
As the old man wept and wrung his hands, the two were ascending a hill where stood a lonely church. As the sun rose, and its rays fell on the golden cross on the church spire, the cross glittered brightly in the light of Heaven.
‘See there, Abraham,’ said Zinzendorf, ‘a sign from Heaven for you! Believe on Him whose blood was shed by your fathers, that God’s purpose of mercy might be fulfilled, that you might be free from all sin and find in Him all your salvation.’
‘So be it,’ said old Abraham, as a new light flashed on his soul.
O God, give us Zinzendorfs today—men who will love the Jews and love them into the Christian faith!”
Moody Monthly magazine carried the following statement by a Rabbi Wise which read, “For eighteen hundred years, certainly most of the time, Jews have not been given anopportunity to know what Christianity is, least of all to understand who Jesus was and what the Christ means. The very ignorance of the Jew, touching Jesus, condemns not the Jew but Christendom.”
Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5). He was the son of Terah (Genesis 11:26). He was a descendant of Shem (1 Chronicles 1:24-29). Abraham was a native of Ur (Genesis 11:28 and 31).
Moses writes in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, / From your family / And from your father’s house, / To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; / I will bless you / And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, / And I will curse him who curses you; / And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Allow me to share three points from our passage.
I. God’s Promise to Abraham
God’s promises to Abraham are strong affirmations translated in several “I will” statements. Three are found in the first two verses.
A. “I will show you [a land]” (Genesis 12:1b).
This land is known as Canaan or the land of promise.
B. “I will make you [a great nation]” (Genesis 12:2a)
C. “I will bless you / And make your name great / And you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2b)
II. God’s Protection of Abraham
God’s protection of Abraham is assured when He declares, “I will bless those who bless you, / And I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3a).
III. God’s Program for Abraham
God through Moses writes to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b).
We see part of this in the Book of Jonah. The pagan people of Nineveh repented and enjoyed the greatest revival in history. We see the attitude of Jonah related to this divine program. Most Bible story books do not reveal the details recorded in Jonah 3:10-4:11, where we read, “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.’ Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘It is right for me to be angry, even to death!’ But the LORD said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?’”
Dr. Luke records the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 is a restatement of the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, where we read, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.’”
Is God through with the Jew? No. Paul the Apostle explains in Romans 11:11-36, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, / And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; / For this is My covenant with them, / When I take away their sins.’ Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him / And it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
Abraham was not just a God-fearer. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). In Hebrews 11:8-10 we find, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” From Hebrews 11:1 and 6 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. . . . But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Just as God set before His chosen people a choice to obey Him or to disobey Him (Deuteronomy 28); He allows us to choose blessing instead of cursing as a nation.
Our treatment of Israel will determine our blessing or cursing, as will our treatment of Immanuel, Jesus Christ the Lord.
The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalms 33:12). Blessing comes to those who are good to the nation of Israel and cursing comes to those who are not. David the psalmist exhorts, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: / ‘May they prosper who love you’” (Psalm 122:6).
Irving Berlin, born Israel Baline (1888-1989) in Russia, penned the familiar words “God bless America, land that I love” and introduced it on Armistice Day 1938.
Dr. Ed F. Vallowe (1919-2002) asks, “What part has the United States played in Israel’s growth? From the beginning the United States was sympathetic toward Israel, and the prosperous Jews in the United States were unhindered as they gave liberally toward the establishment of the nation of Israel.
Beginning with 1948, over the next 14 years, Israel received through the United States government, in all forms of aid, a total of 880 million dollars. Under President John F. Kennedy [1917-1963], beginning in 1962, the policy toward Israel showed a marked change. President Kennedy strongly supported [Gamal Abdel] Nassar [(1918-1970) former President of Egypt, founder of the short lived United Arab Republic, who fought against Israel twice, 1956, 1967] in his ambition to gain complete control of the Middle East. This displeased England and France. In 1962, Washington gave aid to Nassar totaling 250 million dollars. This was 30 percent of what Israel had received over a 14-year period.
It is a dangerous policy to take sides against Israel. Any nation that does will suffer dire consequences. God warned: ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee’ (Genesis 12:3).
‘Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey’ (Jeremiah 30:16).
It was shocking indeed when the news was announced to the world of the death of John Kennedy, President of the United States. Immediately after his death, all foreign aid to the nation of Israel was reestablished under President Johnson.”
Dr. David R. Reagan explains, “[Ronald Reagan’s (1911-2004)] successor, George Bush, became deceived by the vision of the ‘New World Order’, and in the process, he turned against the nation of Israel, forcing the Jewish leaders to begin the suicidal appeasement policy of trading land for peace.”
Yesterday the following came to my attention, “The Veterans Administration is releasing new cemetery guidelines after complaints by local veterans and volunteer groups that there’s a ban on religious speech at VA National Cemeteries. The Department of Veterans Affairs says invoking the name of God or Jesus is allowed and common. But a federal civil suit filed by the Liberty Institute against the VA claims the opposite. In one instance, the suit describes how a cemetery director told volunteers they had to stop telling families ‘God bless you’ at funerals and ordered them to remove the words ‘God bless’ from condolence cards. Several members of congress have expressed their concerns over the matter.”
It is heartbreaking to see once God blessed America becoming Godless America. It is heartwarming to see individuals across this land call for repentance and revival! May our heart-cry be, God bless America.
RHEMA Ron Herrod Evangelistic Ministries Association via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 07/02/11
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978), p. 297
Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, (Harvard University Press, 1999), 377
James M. Kittelson, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986), p. 274
Paul Halsall, Medieval Sourcebook: Martin Luther (1483-1546), Internet History Sourcebook Project, Fordham University (Retrieved January 4, 2005)
Robert G. L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (New York: First DaCapo Press Edition, 1993) [orig. pub. 1977], ISBN 0-306/80514-6
Ed F. Vallowe, Israel-Russia in the Last Days: The Budding of the Fig Tree (Forest Park, GA: The Ed F. Vallowe Evangelistic Association, 1972, 1977), pp. 49-50
David R. Reagan, America the Beautiful? The United States in Bible Prophecy (McKinney, TX: Lamb & Lion Ministries, 2003), p. 28
Power 88 Notes 7-3-11, WBHY@goforth.org via e-mail 07/02/11
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