The events and stories of prophecy are not random accounts of history. They are divinely inspired to communicate truth. God preserved them as examples to his nation Israel, and as a witness for us who now have the revelation of the mystery of Christ.
In Abraham, we see the picture of a man of faith. When God gave him a promise without works, he believed (Gen 15:7). When God told him to do works, he performed by faith (Gen 22:2-7; Heb 11:17-19).
Abraham was strong in faith, and became the father of faith to those of whom works were required, and to those of whom works were not (Rom 4:1-13).
Sarah: Freedom and Grace
Just as Abraham exemplified faith, Sarah represents freedom and grace. Abraham’s other wife, Hagar, was a bondwoman, but she could bear Abraham a son by her fertile flesh.
Abraham’s first wife, Sarah, was a freewoman, but she was barren and could not fulfill God’s promise by her own strength. No matter how much she believed, she could not perform what was necessary to provide Abraham a son.
What Sarah could not do, God did by reviving her womb (Gen 21:1-2). Instead of the bondwoman who could bear, God, by his grace, caused the barren to bear in her freedom (Gal 4:27).
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace…” – Rom 4:16
Isaac’s brother Ishmael was born of the flesh of Abraham and the bondwoman. He was not the child God promised.
The promised child would be through Sarah, and so it was. Isaac was the child that was promised, the child that required faith (Abraham) and grace (Sarah).
God had promised a son, and the arrival of Isaac was the fulfillment of the long awaited promise. To fulfill God’s greater hidden purpose, there was another seed of promise that would come: Jesus Christ (Gal 3:14-16).
God’s promise of blessing would be given by faith and grace, through the promised son.
Jacob: Grace without Works
Jacob was chosen by God before he had done any evil works (Rom 9:11). Jacob had done nothing to deserve God’s promise of blessing. He lied to his father, cheated his brother, conspired with his mother, and fled for his life from the land God promised.
Despite what Jacob did not merit on his own, God gave Jacob grace, the promise, protection, a vision, and more children than his fathers.
God knew before they were born that there would not be any merit in Esau or Jacob. He chose Jacob to fulfill his purpose not by his works, but by His choice to give him grace.
Their Witness, Our Learning
Arbaham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob knew nothing about the mystery of Christ, nor the preaching of the cross. It was hid from them. They were destined for God’s kingdom on the earth.
They were given promises of a land, and a mighty nation, and blessing toward all the nations of the earth. Nothing was known about a mystery church of one body, receiving all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and risen above all things to sit with the Lord of glory (Eph 1:3; Eph 2:6-7; Eph 3:4-9).
They were ignorant of the mystery kept secret (1 Cor 2:6-8), but God inspired the record of their lives as a witness to the righteousness of God.
The gospel of Christ was unknown to them, but it was our apostle Paul that uses them as lessons of faith and grace from Israel’s history.
Taken together we see a picture of faith and grace, through God’s promise without works. The mystery of Christ was God’s hidden wisdom all along.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” – Romans 3:21
All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable; the things written aforetime were written for our learning, and the scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation (Rom 15:4, 2 Tim 3:15-16).
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not know the gospel of Christ, nor how God could be so gracious, but now it is declared through the revelation of the mystery how God intended to save all men: by God’s own righteousness in Christ.