THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL - TO GOD (1)
In recent years the ugly face of anti-Semitism has reappeared, particularly in Europe, with the burning of synagogues, defacing grave stones and attacking individual Jews. The strident attitude of Israel towards the Palestinians, and their ‘shoot first and talk later’ policy of dealing with car bombers and stone-throwing youngsters on the West Bank has not endeared them to that family of nations. They are, as Scripture clearly indicates, in spiritual darkness—that is, the nation as a whole. Although there are now ecclesias in Israel, for which we greatly rejoice, we are at the present time “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11) awaiting the coming of our Lord to “restore again the Kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). We are expressly told by Paul, “… we are saved by the Hope (Greek)” (Rom. 8:24) – that “hope”, of course, being “the Hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20)
However, in our public and private witness it is essential that we are seen to be separate from the present attitude of the nation of Israel. Yes, we do see the Jews as God’s people (Ezek. 38:16), like Paul we do yearn for them (cp Rom. 9:1-2). Their return to the land of promise in recent years is indeed a “sign of the times” (Isa. 9:1-2, Ezek. 38:8). But, the weight of our message is on the Return of the Jews to their God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The inhabiting of the land of promise today is but a forerunner of a greater regathering, accompanied by a spiritual revival based upon the “New Covenant” in Christ Jesus (Jer. 31:31-40 – compare Heb. 10:12-18). This aspect of the Gospel appears to have been neglected at times in our preaching. The misunderstanding by the general public of our real attitude to the Jewish problem, or indeed their strong objection to God’s answer on this matter may bring, as indeed in some parts of the world it has brought, a violent reaction. We must now water down the message, but care should be taken in our advertising, subject titles and talks.
The subject of the repentance and spiritual renewal of Israel is one which delights our Heavenly Father. He feels very keenly their departure from him, and he yearns for their return to him, and when accomplished will resound with Heavenly Acclaim. If God rejoices over “one sinner that repents”, how much more Israel, the natural “olive tree” at long last, partaking of the “root and fatness” (Rom. 11:15-18) at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This concept involves promises to the Patriarchs intertwined with the work of redemption in Jesus, the necessary lesson for us Gentiles is to appreciate the “goodness” of God, or else we could also face his “severity”. God speaking to Jeremiah in a vision questions: “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord” (Jer. 31:20) or as it is put in the NIV “have great compassion for him”.
Jeremiah deals in depth with this dynamic theme of the Jews return to Yahweh, and the best way to appreciate chapters like this is to privately muse upon them, using a concordance, Bible marginal references, and a variety of translations. Praise to God should issue from such reflections. The moving words of God through the prophet Hosea again clearly illustrate His loving concern for Israel:
“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not excite the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man (Hos. 11:8-9).
The words in these verses are the same as the expression used of Joseph when he saw Benjamin in Egypt: “And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother” (Gen. 43:30). In the heartfelt feelings of Joseph and his repentant brothers, we have a delightful type of the innermost yearnings of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and repentant Israel. When we come to the time of the “restitution of all things” we should discover in the Scriptures the joy experienced by our God. Zepheniah records: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17—Amplified Old Testament). Of course, these words will apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and the redeemed, but in applying to them, it is surely applicable to Yahweh their God. Isaiah adds to the “wondrous story”, speaking again of the Jewish people in the Millennium: “for as a young man married a virigin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the Bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isa. 62:5). This is in a context of the marriage of Hephzibah to Hezekiah (see verse 4). As the margin indicates, the name “Hephzibah” signifies “my delight is in her” – when Israel bears spiritual fruits to God then the meaning of that name will be fulfilled and the natural benefits of “basket and store” will flow.
ISRAEL THE GREAT NATION
An important element of the promises made to Abraham was that of Israel becoming a “great nation” (Gen. 12:2). This “greatness” is again spoken of by Moses, obviously drawing the minds of his hearers back to the above Scritpure: “Behold I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, surely this great nations is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great who hath God so night unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deut. 4:5-6).
Notice that as indicated, the word “great” is used three times in connection with the reaction of Israel by the surrounding nations. They were to be an example of Godliness, a beacon in the midst of Gentile darkness, through which they would attract the nations to turn to God and “live”. This has rarely happened in Bible times, but it will happen, because a remnant of the Jews will turn to their Saviour and be a spiritually dynamic force on this planet. Jerusalem will not only be the hub of the nations, it will also be the centre of spiritual attraction in the glorious time of Messiah’s reign. Very importantly, God will be glorified in these matters, as Isaiah records: “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified” (Isa. 60:21—see also 61:3). We read in a range of Scriptures the reaction of the nations to this spiritual jewel in the Middle East, which the Lord has chastened, humbled, and brought under his wing. Zechariah writes:
“thus saith the Lord of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech.8:23).
Note how widespread is this influence “out of all languages”. The beautiful description by Hosea of Israel as a “lilly … his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return … grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon (Hos. 14:5). In that day:
“all the trees of the field (the nations) shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I Yahweh have spoken and have done it” (Eze. 17:24).
In other words, they will understand Israel’s history—their “low” and “high” periods, being instructed by both the righteous remnant of Israel and the saints. May we be there for that amazing revelation to the Nations! At the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15), where the Apostles endeavoured to solve the dispute over whether Gentile converts should be circumcised, and other matters in connection of the Law of Moses, the Apostle James quotes from Simon Peter and a range of Old Testament reference to establish the purpose of God both with Gentile and Jew as follows:
“Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name. And to this agree the words of the Prophets; as it is written: After this, I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after ther Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called saith Yahweh who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His Works from the beginnings of the world” (Acts 15:13-18).
In this passage, the Apostle James sets out the ordered plan of God:
- Call of the Gentiles
- Return of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. “I will return”)
- The restoration of the kingdom to Israel (i.e. “build again the tabernacle of David”)
- The influence of this restoration causes Gentiles to seek Yahweh and be part of His Name (i.e. that the residue of men might seek after the Lord)
Points 3 and 4 above are taken from Amos chapter 9, verse 11, where we read:
“in that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.
Israel will “possess” the affections of the nations and through their example will inspire those peoples to serve God. A clear indication of this is seen in the well-known words of Isaiah chapter two, and verse three:
“And many people shall go to [Jerusalem—verse 2] and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”.
THE DIVINE NAME LINKED WITH THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL
When the Name was revealed to Moses (Exo. 3:13-15), God said:
“Yahweh Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob hath sent me unto you …”
By linking this Name with the patriarchs, God was stressing to Moses that the promises made to these worthies in connection with Israel are closely bound up of the purpose and character of the Yahweh name. Sadly, for much of Bible History Israel have not been worthy “name-bearers” – but they will be in the Kingdom of God—they will be a “great nation” then. God’s Name is a guarantee that he Jewish people will not be destroyed: “For I am Yahweh, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not destroyed” (Mal. 3:6).
In Leviticus chapter 26, the judgements to come upon Israel are described. But in verse 44, we have these wonderful words: “and yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I AM YAHWEH THEIR ELOHIM”.
The existence of the Jewish people is not just to prove that there is a God, and that the Bible is the Word of God, important though these matters are. God is yearning for the day when they will be “in spirit and truth” true worshippers of Him, and a LIVING witness of him. After all, the words “spirit and truth” used by the Master in connection with worshipping God (to the woman at the well—Jno. 4), were first spoken by Joshua to Israel (see. Jos. 24:14). As Jeremiah writes: “in his days (the kingdom age—see v. 5) Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is the name whereby he shall be called: “Yahweh our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
It was stressed at the beginning of our considerations that “the Hope of Israel” is a vital plank in our understanding of the Gospel. However, along with these glorious promises, Yahweh is termed “the Hope of Israel” on two occasions in the prophecy of Jeremiah:
“O Yahweh, the Hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth …” (Jer. 17:13).
“O, the Hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble …”.
The great danger is of us enjoying the academic side of Bible Study and not treating it as a means seeing our need of God and His Salvation, and using the Word of Life to draw closer to Him. As Jeremiah exhorts, we must see God as “the saviour thereof in time of trouble”. The New Testament brings out the same exhortational concept:
“the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
This combination of the influence of the Word of God and real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ is something we shall proceed to consider in our next article in this series, if the Lord permit.