To A Thousand Generations

November 4, 2018 / No. 3957

Dear Radio Friends,

The ark of God’s covenant had long been removed from the tabernacle in Shiloh. Ever since the wicked sons of Samuel, Hophni and Phineas, had taken the ark into battle against the Philistines it lay in Gibeah, some distance from Jerusalem. It remained there for a good 70 years. When David sought to move the ark to Jerusalem by way of an ox cart, he chose the wrong way to move it. Uzzah, the man driving the cart, touched the ark and was struck dead just outside of the city of Jerusalem. The ark remained in the home of Obed-Edom for a few months, until David decided to transport it the rest of the way to Jerusalem. This time David did it the right way—the priests carried it on their shoulders to the tabernacle, which now resided in Jerusalem adjacent the palace.

When the ark was in place, David wrote a psalm, and the sons of Asaph sang it before the Lord in the tabernacle. That song is found in Psalm 105. In today’s broadcast we are going to study just a few verses of this Psalm. We read in Psalm 105:6-8, “O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. He is the Lord our God: his judgments are in all the earth. He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.”

These verses bring to our attention once again the truth of God’s covenant. We may wonder, at this point, what more can be said about God’s covenant that has not already been explained in the last few radio broadcasts. We defined the covenant and we examined the promises of the covenant. What more can we learn about God’s covenant? If we take a close look at the passage before us, we will notice that there is one truth that stands out. God remembers His covenant forever. God’s covenant stands to a thousand generations. That aspect of the covenant we have not yet considered. We need to take a look at how God carries on His covenant from one generation to the next throughout all ages. Not just simply with Abraham but with the church today too. That will be our focus today. Here is the word of God’s covenant to the seed of Abraham and the chosen children of Jacob: I will be your God and you will be my people—forever.

I. An Exclusive Covenant

Though many generations had come and gone after Abraham, David in this Psalm still extols God’s covenant with His people. That means that God had maintained that covenant already for many generations. Certainly, if that covenant had been conditioned on the works or faith of men, it would have long ceased and faded away. But that covenant is not a pact into which God enters with man. God’s covenant is the relationship He establishes with His elect people in Christ. It is a relationship of love and friendship. We repeat that because God’s Word that we consider now repeats it for us again. We read in verse 7, “He is the Lord our God.” Jehovah is our God and we are His people.

Neither can we overlook what David prayed to God after writing this Psalm. We read in I Chronicles 17:22, “For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, Lord, becamest their God.” This is revealed in the name Jehovah as well, which reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His people. He is a God who changes not but keeps His covenant. In this covenant that God establishes with His people in Christ, He becomes to us a Father. He adopts us to be His children and therefore members of His family. We belong to the family of God in the earth. Our relationship with God is as close as that of parents and children. All the blessings of belonging to God’s household belong to us. We experience God’s favor and fellowship.

We cannot emphasize that enough. This knowledge gives to God’s people the greatest of all assurance. It gives them joy, peace, comfort, courage, and strength. Why? Because there is nothing more solid and secure than that knowledge. If God is for us, who can be against us? If the almighty God is our Father who sovereignly directs all things, then we know that all things will work together for our good. Even when hardship and trials are sent to us in life, we know that God will turn them to our benefit. Even if Satan should buffet us, we know the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. God is our strength and refuge, our strong high tower, a shelter from the stormy blast. All of this is true because God has graciously grafted us into His church and covenant by a true and living faith. God’s church is His son because that church is seen in connection with Jesus Christ. No one had better lay a hand on God’s son! We are safe with our Father’s care. Once again, all of this is true of God’s chosen people as we dwell together in God’s covenant.

But this covenant fellowship we share with God is exclusive. God does not share His friendship and fellowship with everyone in this world. We do not belong to a brotherhood of all men. We belong to the family of God, and it’s the brotherhood therefore of our fellow saints who through faith also belong to that family. Look at whom David addresses with the words of our text tonight, verse 6: “O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.” As in much of Hebrew poetry the psalmist uses what is called Hebrew parallelism. That means the second phrase in this verse is saying the same thing as the first but using different words. The seed of Abraham and the children of Jacob refer to the same people. Both Abraham and Jacob were God’s servants and chosen. Together these phrases explain to us with whom God establishes His covenant. He establishes and maintains that covenant with the seed of Abraham.

In the past several broadcasts we already determined from Scripture who the seed of Abraham are. They are not the natural-born seed of Abraham, but they are believers. Abraham is the father of all believers. He was so in the Old Testament too. It is true that the natural-born children of Abraham were the children of Jacob. The children of Jacob were the children or nation of Israel. But, remember, they are not all Israel that are called Israel. Though God established His covenant in the sphere of the nation of Israel, the Old Testament church, nevertheless only those who believed within this nation were true partakers of God’s covenant and blessing. Only those who looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah, only those who believed that for His sake alone their sins were forgiven and they would be given their heavenly inheritance were the true seed of Abraham and true Israel.

This is evident from the two words used to describe the seed of Abraham or the children of Jacob—they are God’s chosen ones. Once again, only those whom God has elected from eternity belong to the covenant. The covenant is not open to everyone. Man does not make the decision whether he will belong to the covenant or not. God does not leave it up to man to decide whether he is going to be one of those believers or not. From eternity God chose a certain people unto Himself. This people does not include everyone born into Israel or born into the church, though the church as an institute embraces them. The truth is, because God chooses them as members of His covenant they believe. And, believing, they become servants of God. As a result of their faith, those who belong to God’s covenant can be identified by their walk of obedience. They delight to do God’s will, they walk in His commandments, and thus become servants of God. So we have an order, you see. God from eternity elects a people unto Himself, and then, having chosen them, He bestows on them the gift of faith. Having had bestowed on them the gift of faith, they walk as obedient servants of God in this world. God’s covenant is exclusive.

II. A Generational Covenant

That God’s covenant is exclusive does not mean that those who belong to that covenant are few in number. They may be few in number in comparison to the many whom God has not chosen, but God’s elect church with whom God establishes His covenant is still as many as the stars in multitude. David writes in verse 8 that God commanded His covenant to a thousand generations. God has gathered His church since the beginning of time from generation to generation, and that in the line of generations. God told Abraham in Genesis 17:7, “I will establish my covenant with you and your children after you in your generations to be a God unto you and your children after you.” God’s covenant embraces generations of believers. It is a generational covenant. God establishes His covenant from one generation to the next, with each new generation born into this world.

To be even more specific, God saves in the generations of believers. God promises that He will establish His fellowship with the children of believers, and then with their believing children, and then with their children’s believing children, and so on. That, of course, is a truth that is all but lost in the church world of today. Few people in much of the modern church think about the careful nurture of children by parents and the church in order to preserve the church and covenant in their generations. Instead, they are bombarded from the pulpit with the need to go out and evangelize the world. They are encouraged to see themselves as mini-missionaries. They are told that their duty is to go out and join this mission group and that parachurch organization to go out and convert thousands to Christ.

This is not wrong in itself. We certainly are called to be witnesses to others and to become involved as much as possible in outreach. But there is little emphasis placed anymore on the truth of Scripture that the church must—it must—grow from within. Our children are the next generation of the church and covenant. Much instruction must be given our children in homes and families and in the church—and, when given the opportunity, in the school too. The children of the next generation must be prepared as believers to take the place of their parents.

Let’s try to nail this down a little more. We can liken the establishment of God’s covenant in the line of generations to a grapevine. The husbandman carefully strings two wires between two posts deeply planted in the ground. He then plants the grape root and stock into the ground. Branches shoot forth from this vine, and with the help of the husbandman, slowly make their way down the two wires in either direction. Years later when a person views the grapevine, he will first pass by the vines that made their way in one direction from the root. After several feet he will reach the root. Then, continuing on, he can follow the vines that extend in the other direction from the root.

Well, Christ is the root. He it is that gives life to the vine. All the branches receive their life from Him. Christ teaches us that in John 15, the first several verses. If we were to begin our walk down the row, let’s say, beginning with Abraham, we would follow the vine of the generations of Old Testament believers that followed him. But there would be only one branch, only one vine to follow. This was the one line of the generations of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the nation of Israel. We would follow this vine until we came to the root and stock, which is Jesus Christ. Notice that the vine of believers in the Old Testament found their life and their salvation in Christ. They belonged to Him by faith just as much as the branches that will extend in the other direction into the New Testament. Continuing to follow the vine of the covenant into the New Testament, however, we are met with a stunning reality. There are multiple—many multiple—branches growing out of the root and extending out into the generations of believers in the New Testament. This is true because of Pentecost, when the Spirit of Christ was poured out on all flesh. That means the line of the covenant no longer was limited to the single branch of Abraham’s seed.

Today God’s covenant comprehends believers out of every nation, language, and race of the earth. God establishes His covenant with many different people in this world. But the reality of God’s covenant in the line of generations remains the same: God gathers His people out of the generations of believers. Wherever God establishes His true church in this world, God continues to gather that church in the line of the generations of believers. The church institute that springs up in one generation and vanishes almost as quickly as it sprang up was not a church where God established His covenant. In fact, the true test of whether God chooses to carry on His covenant in a particular church is to witness growth from within. The blessings of God’s covenant extend to that church where we find children and children’s children growing up in the church and becoming young men and women who love and cherish their place in God’s covenant.

Once again, if we were to look back along the branches of the church of Jesus Christ today we would find that the covenant of God is rooted in Jesus Christ. The life of the church and of believers today is drawn from the person and work of our Savior.

In this connection, too, we must understand that God’s covenant is sure to every generation! God has remembered His covenant forever to a thousand generations. Implied in this is the truth that the covenant of God is sure to every generation of people born into this world! God did not skip a generation here and there only to pick it up perhaps several generations later. God established His covenant with each succeeding generation of His church from the beginning of time to the end. It began with Adam in Paradise and was carried on through Seth until Noah. After the Flood, God chose His covenant line out of Noah’s son Shem, then out of Abraham, a descendant of Shem, and so on. In the New Testament the generations of Japheth were brought into the tents of Shem to dwell together in God’s covenant. This is how God works. This is how He has dealt with His church of all ages. We must grasp this concept of God’s covenant with our hearts in order to begin to understand why the church functions the way it has throughout the ages. If we lose this concept of God’s covenant, we lose the essence of God’s dealings with His elect people in this world. The truth of God’s covenant is the golden thread that holds all the truths of Scripture together as one unified whole. Each succeeding generation appears before God, and He carries on that covenant with each new generation, non-stop.

This does not mean that God does not prune the vine of His covenant. Many born into the line of believers and into the sphere of His covenant are not believers. With each new generation God cuts these out of His vine. They do not partake of the root, which is Jesus Christ. Also, with each new generation God grafts others into that vine and begins to carry on His covenant in their generations as well. In this we find the need for outreach. All this is going on within the church and covenant that God establishes with His elect people in Christ. What an amazing truth Scripture teaches us!

III. An Everlasting Covenant

One last truth David teaches us about God’s covenant: it will last forever. It is an everlasting covenant. This means, first of all, that God will continue to establish His covenant with His elect people until the very end of time. God’s covenant with His people will continue until Jesus Christ comes again at the end of time. The church has been small at times. The church is always small in comparison to the overwhelming majority of unbelievers. At the time of the Flood there were only eight people with whom God established His covenant. Even today the true church shrinks, while the false church increases in numbers. But God will ever remember the vine of His church. He will not forsake His people. He will always carry on His covenant in the generations of believers until time will be no more. We labor diligently today with that assurance and hope. Mothers may grow weary and impatient at times with the care of their children from day to day. Parents may despair when they see this wicked world pressing in on their children and seeking to pull them into the ways of sin. The truth of God’s everlasting covenant of grace ought to give you heart—even joy in your labors. Those routine labors you perform everyday that seem to get nowhere are being used by God to carry on His covenant in our generations. What a glorious task we perform, parents of the church.

But more—God will continue His covenant unto all eternity. It is everlasting. It does not end with the end of the world. When God gathers His elect church together in heaven, we will fellowship with our God world without end. We will share in God’s love and favor with no sin to mar it. God’s covenant will have been brought to its perfect end—the eternal rest of heaven. What a day that will be, when we together with our children and children’s children in our generations will rejoice together in blessed fellowship in life eternal.