Abraham had a special covenant with God—one that has affected all of human history since. We’ve already studied how this promise has shaped the Jewish people and the promises included in the covenant that guaranteed them countless descendants and the special Holy Land. In the conclusion of our 4-part series on this covenant, we’ll study how the whole world is blessed through this promise.
God promised not only that Abraham would be blessed and would be a blessing, but also that all families of the earth would be blessed. That means that you and I, thousands of years later, are blessed too. How are we blessed? Through the Word of God, which has come through the Jewish people, and through Jesus, our Savior, who descended from Abraham’s line! Remember to carry this wonderful truth with you each day as you remember God’s wonderful faithfulness to the Jewish people and to you!
If you missed the previous episodes of this series, you can Listen Here on our Archives page.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have an exciting show for you once again this week, but before Chris comes, I want to remind you to visit our website, foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we're completing our series today. We've been in a four-part series and we've been looking at the promise that God made to Abraham. Going back to the basics, if you will, to kind of see number one, why it's important for Christians to see the value of the promise that God made to Abraham, but also how this promise really gave a vision for why the Friends of Israel exists. What compelled our founders to help Jewish people in their darkest moment? I believe it's all rooted back to this promise that God made to Abraham.
Steve Conover: We look forward to concluding our series, but first in the news, early this month, nearly 110,000 Israelis covered the streets of Tel Aviv.
This is one of Israel's biggest anti-government protests in the past decade. Protestors are speaking out against the Netanyahu government's judicial reform bill that seeks to limit the reach of Israel's Supreme Court. Protestors say they are trying to stop a coup taking place against the system of government.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, well, here's my take. Over the years, Israel's Supreme Court has taken upon itself to act more as a legislative branch than a judicial one. In the 1990s, the court usurped legislative power to overturn any piece of legislation at any time for any reason whatsoever. Netanyahu's reforms would put limits to the reach of the Supreme Court so that the juristocracy of the few doesn't rule the will of the Israeli people.
Chris Katulka: For the beginning of 2023, I wanted to go back to the basics, and what do I mean by that? Well, I've been sharing these unsettling statistics that the church is definitely hungry for God's truth. Support for Israel among American evangelicals ages 18 to 29, our young adults, is in steady decline with some polls showing only 33.6% of young evangelical Christians supporting Israel. However, nearly half of the evangelical young adults polled were unsure of what they believe about Israel and whose side they would take. This is a large number of undecided Christians who need to hear God's biblical plan about Israel and the Jewish people. I also shared last week that in the early 1900s, North America and Europe comprised of 92% of evangelicalism globally, but today those numbers have completely shifted. Today, 72% of evangelicals can be found in South America, Africa, and Asia, while North America and Europe only make up 23%.
The reason I wanted to go back to the basics is so that we can return to the core values of what we believe, especially as we're entering into 2023. Vince Lombardi said it best at the start of training camp in 1961. Lombardi walked into the locker room of the Green Bay Packers and he said to his team what will become one of the most iconic quotes in sports history, "Gentlemen, this is a football." It's all about going back to the fundamentals and it doesn't matter what profession you're in. We can easily begin to lose sight of what we believe, what our core values are if we don't hone in on them, if we don't teach them. Listen, as people are coming to the Lord from all around the world, we need to be ready to share about our core values biblically; why we believe Israel and the Jewish people matter to God. And I also want to show how this one promise that God made to Abraham drives our ministry at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
Now, last week I shared about the descendants component to the promise that God made to Abraham from Genesis chapter 12. I shared with you why the Jewish people are so important to the scriptures. I also showed you how the Friends of Israel supports the Jewish people and stands up against antisemitism. Now, if you didn't get a chance to listen, that's no problem. You can simply go to our website foiradio.org and you can find last week's program in our archives. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Now, I want you to remember the three components. Again, let's remind ourselves here the three components of the promise that God made to Abraham. It's the land, the land of Israel, the descendants which are the Jewish people and the blessing. And in today's message we're going to look at the blessing component of God's promise to Abraham and how that blessing wasn't just for Abraham, but how it affects every nation, every family of the earth.
So far every element of the Abrahamic covenant that we've examined, the land and the descendants, has been directed to Abraham for the benefit of the Jewish people. Yet what is often overlooked concerning this amazing promise is that God designed and implemented this covenant for the benefit of all mankind. If you're a believer in Jesus the Messiah, in many ways you are a beneficiary of this grand promise that we've been talking about for the past few weeks. God said to Abraham, "And so you, Abraham shall be a blessing and I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you, I will curse and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." That's Genesis 12:2-3.
What did God mean when he told Abraham and his descendants that they would be a blessing? Well, God wanted Abraham to know that his name and his descendants would always be known as a people associated with what it meant to be blessed by God, so if anyone was ever searching for what it meant to be blessed by God, Abraham and his descendants would be the prime example.
With this understanding of blessing in mind, I always like to go to the New English translation from Genesis chapter 12 verse two, where God says this to Abraham, "I will bless you (Abraham) and I will make your name great so that you (Abraham) will exemplify divine blessing." This carries the idea that Israel is an example of what God's blessing really looks like.
God wanted to use Abraham and his descendants as a tiny mirror to reflect the immensity of God's grace to a lost and broken world. The Lord strategically placed that tiny mirror in the land of Israel on purpose. See, all of the civilizations of antiquity pass through this small plot of land in the Middle East in order to get from one area of the world to the other. It's a natural land bridge between modern day Europe, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East to get to places like Egypt and northern Africa, and that's why every major historical empire wanted to control it: The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, they all sought to conquer it.
The reason: Israel is an ancient toll road and every civilization needed to pass through it to trade their goods to other countries. In an age prior to the internet, telephones and even the printing press, God wanted to use the land He promised to Abraham as a place to announce to the world that regularly traveled through that He is the one and only sovereign God and the Lord's mouthpiece would be the Jewish people. Instead of the Jewish people going out to the world... Think about this... God was bringing the world to them. “I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you, I will curse.” God's promise to Abraham was established on this premise that if he leaves Ur, the country of his family, God is with him.
That's not a bad deal. God is actually there to protect him. God united himself with Abraham through this covenant, so anyone who enriches Abraham or his descendants benefits from that blessing. That is God's blessing to them. On the other hand, anyone who curses Abraham has God to answer to. When you look at Genesis 12:3, you'll notice the word curse is actually translated twice. “And the one who curses you, I will curse.” Each time the word curse is used, it's actually a different Hebrew word. Genesis 12:3, which has the first use of the word curse. It literally means “to take lightly.” God is saying to Abraham, if anyone takes this covenant that I'm making with you lightly and mistreats you, I will curse them because when you mistreat Abraham or his descendants, they're actually mistreating God.
The second curse in Genesis 12:3 means to “banish” or to “remove from blessing.”
Again, the New English translation I think does a great job translating this verse. They write, "I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly, I must curse." If the covenant made to Abraham is eternal in nature, then we must assume this aspect of this promise still applies today. That is that God does not take lightly His covenant with Abraham. I believe this comes across in Paul's letter to the Romans when he tells even the church, “do not be arrogant toward the branches,” that's Israel, “but if you, the church, are arrogant, remember that it's not you who supports the root,” that's the promise that God made to Abraham, “but it's the root that supports you.” That's Romans 11:18. And I love what it says as you go on in Genesis 12:3, it says this, "Abraham, in you all of the families of the earth will be blessed."
The Abraham Covenant is not a static promise that remains in the Book of Genesis. Its purpose flows throughout the Scriptures in the Old Testament and New Testament and does not solely benefit the Jewish people, but did you hear it? It's designed to bless all the families of the earth. I'll give you two ways the Abrahamic Covenant has blessed us.
First, God communicated His Word through the promised descendants of Abraham. The Bible that you and I read during church, devotions, Bible study in Sunday schools was promulgated through the Jewish people. Every day His Word encourages us. It corrects us. It teaches us. It reveals to us more about the character of God and His Son, Jesus. That's a blessing. Second, through the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised to send one particular descendant that would change my life forever. His name is Jesus. Jesus, according to the scriptures, is the promised Messiah who fulfilled all the prophecies spoken by the Jewish prophets.
He lived a perfect life. He died a sacrificial death according to the law and it was by His blood that we've been set free from sin. He was resurrected from the dead to validate His sacrifice and deity, thus enabling us to live in newness of life by the promised Holy Spirit. Now that's a blessing. All of these blessings that come from one promise rooted all the way back to Abraham, made more than 4,000 years ago. I believe the promise to Abraham should compel us to share our faith with everyone so when we return, I want to share how The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry fulfills this aspect of the promise that God made to Abraham.
Steve Conover: Chris, this covenant series has been so eye-opening for many of us as to how God's promise to Abraham is what ultimately helps connect why God remains faithful through the ages.
Chris Katulka: That's right, Steve. Even today when we see God's chosen people still living, breathing, and thriving in their ancient homeland, we can be confident that the Lord never breaks His promises.
Steve Conover: It's really incredible and in fact, as eye opening as this series is, I would like to share with the listeners another eye opening and eye-catching resource that will help enhance their understanding of God's faithfulness through the Bible. It's called Charting The Bible Chronologically and it's a visual guide to God's unfolding plan.
Chris Katulka: I completely agree. The authors, Ed Hindson and Thomas Ice, did an amazing job putting together this colorful panoramic view of the events recorded in scripture all laid out in chronological order. You'll see 40 plus color charts that include timelines of biblical history, overviews of major empires, and a master fold out chart of the entire Bible.
Steve Conover: It's the perfect resource to help deepen your understanding of God's faithfulness. To learn more or to purchase a copy, visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. The gospel drives everything that we do here at Friends of Israel. That's why we're called the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. As Paul says in Romans 1:16-17, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith; just as it is written, 'The righteous by faith will live.'"
Like the Apostle Paul, we are not ashamed of the gospel. We believe the gospel, the good news of Jesus the Messiah, is the power of salvation to everyone who believes both the Jewish person and the Gentile. It was the gospel that motivated Victor Buksbazen, our very first executive director, to take clothes and food and shoes to the few beleaguered Jewish people who were able to immigrate over to the United States during the Holocaust.
Through Victor and his wife Lydia's ministry, many individuals came to faith in the Lord Jesus. Victor's gospel ministry with the Friends of Israel lives on today. Every year we send teams of volunteers from the United States and Canada to serve Israeli people through our ORIGINS and Hesed programs. ORIGINS is our young adult volunteer program and Hesed is our adult volunteer program, but both of these teams are made up of Christians who love the Lord and love God's chosen people. The volunteer work that they do is menial, but extremely meaningful to the Israeli people.
For many years we volunteered at Kaplan Medical Center where we cleaned the hospital. We worked with the landscaping team and volunteered in the kitchen serving the Jewish people. And through these acts of kindness, God opened the doors for our ORIGINS and Hesed volunteers to share their faith in the Lord Jesus, which is the whole reason that we're there to serve.
I can remember a very kind Israeli woman who worked at the hospital. She pulled me aside once and said, "Why do you pay money to come to Israel to clean toilets and mop floors? I just don't understand all of this kindness." I told her, "I'm not here because of me. I'm here because of the kindness of God and how He sent His Son Jesus for all of us. This is just a small way for me to give back to God for the grace He has given to me."
I was able to read to that Israeli woman, Isaiah chapter 53, the suffering servant and the prophecy of Christ's sacrificial death that gives eternal life. At the Friends of Israel, we take very seriously the promise that God made to Abraham. It's the reason that we support the state of Israel. It's the reason we support Jewish people all around the world and stand up against antisemitism. It's the reason that we share our faith as the Lord allows with anyone who asks. Because we believe the gospel is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. If you missed the earlier episodes in this four-part series on the covenants, you can hear them along with nearly eight years worth of programming at foiradio.org.
Steve Conover: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of His Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: My wife and I recently visited her mother in the hospital. Most of the people in that hospital can no longer care for themselves, speak little, and seem bitter. They appear to be counting the days until they die. As I viewed the sorrowful picture, I realized I must encourage these people. I quickly befriended them. They immediately seemed to like me, probably because I made them feel like they still have value and they are important in God's eyes. When I asked if they remembered anything about the Bible, most replied they pray only from the prayer books. One of the men said, "Listening to the rabbis does not bring us joy, but you in just a short time have actually made us smile." I then read Psalm 37:25 to show them even in old age they can be fruitful. “I have been young, and now I'm old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His descendants begging bread.”
I told them, you are important even at your advanced age and you can be even more important if you will turn back to the Lord. Return to Him and obey His commandments. I assured them they do not have to be bitter because those who truly believe in the Lord will never be forsaken but will have everlasting life in His presence. As it is written in Job 19:25-26, "I know my redeemer lives and He shall stand on the earth and after my skin is destroyed, in my flesh, I shall see God." I told them too, as Amos 5:4 says, "Seek me and live. In the Lord, there is no death, only life."
I could tell from their expressions they never heard these things before. They began to question me about the future.
They wanted assurance that the things I told them were really true. I began reading some of the Psalms to them. I ended with Psalm 23, putting special emphasis on the end of verse six, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever," and when I finished reading, someone said, "We have read those passages many times, but they never entered into our hearts as they have today."
Just then my wife said, "Zvi, today is Friday. We must get to the shops before they close for the Sabbath." I looked at my watch and realized I'd been speaking with these people for more than three hours. They seemed sad I had to leave, so I said to my wife, "Give me a few more minutes with my new friends."
I then asked them, "Do you have any more questions before I leave?" One asked, "How can you be sure you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever?" I replied, "It is written in Psalm 119:89, 'Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.' Put your trust in him and you will have the same assurance" Psalm 118:17 says, "I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord."
I plan to return and continue witnessing to these dear people. I pray they will accept the Lord as their Messiah and Savior before their earthly journey is over.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life and ministry in Israel; it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you were challenged to think deeper about how we as Christians should think about a relationship to Israel and the Jewish people. Now, Chris, we're headed somewhere pretty special next week.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I'm excited because you're interviewing me. I actually wrote a book recently that was released called Israel Always. It's about the continuity of God's love for His chosen people from Abraham to today and even into the future, but also a look at how we can see God's faithfulness to Israel in our own lives as well. So I'm looking forward to the questions you have for me, Steve, next week.
I'd also like to remind our listeners, do you have questions about the Bible? If you do, you're not alone. I've got questions as well. Well, I want to encourage you to join us online March 10th and 11th for our free Lookup Virtual Conference where we're going to Unravel the Mysteries of the Bible; from the signs of Christ’s Coming to the Millennial Kingdom. Learn more by going to lookup.foi.org.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And I'll give you one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org.
The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Charting the Bible Chronologically
The start of a new year for many of us means reading through the Bible. We’d like to share with you a book that can be a powerful companion to your Bible reading, Charting the Bible Chronologically. This hardbound, full color piece by authors Ed Hindson and Thomas Ice gives you a panoramic view of the events recorded in Scripture.
Apples of Gold: From Silence and Sorrow to Joyful Singing
Zvi visited his mother-in-law in the hospital. As he looked around, he saw so many faces full of sorrow and hopelessness, people who were just waiting to die. He realized the opportunity he had to reach a hurting group of people in need of the truth of God’s Word. Though the people knew the Old Testament, their hearts were just waiting to be opened to the true glory of God’s Word. Hear how Zvi brought hope to many people who had been seeking it for so long.
Wondering how you can get involved? At The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, we serve God by loving Israel and the Jewish people. Dive deeper into learning about God's plan for Israel, show your love for the Jewish people and experience the joy of serving others by participating in one of our enriching outreach opportunities.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.