Unhappy Israel: For two thousand years set aside by Jehovah, Who declares the nation "lo-ammi", not My people, bearing the consequences of a self-inflicted curse, "His blood be upon us and upon our children”, and thus enduring persecution from the Gentile nations, culminating in this twentieth century in a Satanic attack by Hitler's Germany and also by the evil power of Russia and its associates. And yet through all this time miraculously preserved!
Unhappy Israel! The promises that Jehovah made to her appropriated by a sectarian and disbelieving Christendom, which has the effrontery to attempt to nullify them by calling itself "Spiritual Israel” and "The Israel of God", aided and abetted by the translators of the Authorized Version who were fond of heading pages with such notes as "God's wrath against Israel" followed on the next page by "God's promises to the church".
Unhappy Israel! For over the last century some Christians (who can have no understanding whatever of the Pauline message) have advanced the spurious theory of Anglo-Israelism in a pathetic effort to prove that certain Gentile nations are Israel, in particular Great Britain and the U.S.A., and all this flagrantly in the face of Scripture as written in the Hebrew Scriptures and endorsed by Paul with precision in Romans nine to eleven.
Nothing could be more definite than the promises made by God through His prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel, in which He goes to the length of saying that His promises to restore Israel are as unbreakable "as my covenants of the day and night". And yet all these words are deliberately ignored by the great mass of Christendom, that wild olive which is only temporarily grafted into the true olive, which still remains the nation of Israel.
Yet we should learn from all this, for we are told in Romans 15 "for as much as was written before was written for our teaching, that through the endurance and consolation of the Scriptures we may have expectation” (15:4 CV) so the previously recorded, subsequently observed and prophetically foretold history of Israel should have much to teach us today, we who are members of' the body of Christ, in which Covenant has no place, and in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but new creation. Incidentally, if Christians really believed Paul regarding this they would have no desire whatever to be numbered among the “lost" ten tribes, who of course are not lost to God!
By learning from Israel's history we do not mean to endorse the pernicious and popular habit of taking some anecdote or portion of Scripture and "spiritualizing" it, so that its meaning becomes utterly divorced from the intention of the original write—although there is a legitimate manner in which events referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures or the Gospels can be applied with benefit to believers of all ages, for we are all men and women, and human nature does not change. Plenty of Jacobs and "prodigal sons" still exist among us, together with all the other variations of human temperament which Scripture so graphically describes. All this can be done without making any confusion between eras and administrations and without pressing figures so for as to bring them into conflict with present truth.
All through Scripture God employs for our enlightenment, in the literal or visionary events recorded, the figures of Type and Antitype, as all students of Scripture will know, yet despite the preoccupations of many with the past and future of Israel, and the prevalent admixture of Hebraic and Pauline teachings which make up the incongruous doctrines of orthodoxy, few seem to see the true application which should be made between Israel's history and the history of mankind as a whole, which, looked at from a standpoint which is informed as to God's ultimate, is seen so clearly to be the intention of the Divine Author, Who is also the great Disposer of human affairs. There can be no doubt that He has preserved for us the records of His dealings with Israel so that we can take them for an example, which takes away nothing from their truth and literalness, and most certainly robs them of nothing of their promise.
We may look on Israel as it truly was, the nation chosen for special blessing, privileged beyond all others, yet rebellious beyond all others and chastised above all others. Drawn out of the iron furnace of Egypt, saved from her enemies, taught and kept, yet again and again through her own disobedience brought to the very verge of destruction until at last, the lessons of captivity in Egypt and Babylon not enough for their warning, she sins the sin of sins in bringing upon herself the blood of the Saviour.
In many ways Israel is the type of the human soul in its relation to God. The fact that this is so Paul takes for granted in the many lessons he draws. The familiar hymns and prayers of Christians take it for granted also. If the long sad story of Israel's fall and rejection has symbolic meaning, what is it?
If we study the Greek Scriptures we shall see that they bear out the typical identification of this disobedient nation, not with the saved but with the impenitent soul, for as a nation she could not and would not tolerate Christ as her rightful King and Messiah, so that Matthew 23:38 records the verdict "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate".
Right at the beginning of her history recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15, the alternatives of Life and Death were set before Israel. "See" said the Lord, "I have set before thee this day life and good, death and evil; for thou shalt keep the commandment of Jehovah thy God which I command thee this day, to love Jehovah thy God". But we see the result of the great favors showered upon them by Jehovah, for these only made them perverse and proud. The nation AS A WHOLE continued through all its history to be a rebellious people, refusing to know their God and constantly breaking His commandments. Then, as now, it was only individuals who responded to Him in faith I and faith then, as now, was the only basis of salvation, despite any works of law.
The story of Israel is indeed a sad one, but it is a still unfinished story and it has a Divinely foretold conclusion. If we are to regard it as a type-history of an individual judgment of the sinful person who has consistently rejected God's proffered light and blessing, should we not expect to hear of greater and more radical destruction, further and further alienation from God, until every trace of the original Divine blessing is lost, God's image obliterated entirely, and all the early premises withered away as sin is added to sin and sorrow to sorrow? Humanly speaking, we can see no possibility of any other sequel, nor can we read of any as we ponder the fearful words of Leviticus a6, where the disobedient people are promised terror, consumption and the burning ague that shall consume the eyes and cause of heart. They should sow their seed in vain and their enemies were to eat it, and God would set His face against them, punishing them seven times more for their sins, breaking the pride of their power, making their heaven as iron and their earth as brass. And so the words continue with more threats of destruction, fury and desolation, until we come to this wonderful verse (40) "If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, and (41) if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they make amends for their iniquity, then (42) will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac; and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land".
So, if Israel is an example, it is possible for the sinner who has drained the cup of bitterness to its dregs to be blessed at last!
The words of the writer of Deuteronomy, and those of Moses, tell us the same message: "Until they acknowledge their offence and seek My face; in their affliction they will seek Me early". As a nation Israel sinned and perished, and as a nation she shall repent and live. Paul confirms this in Romans 11 by these inspired words of grace: "All Israel shall be saved". All Israel, be it noted, not only those of the nation who happen to be living when the Rescuer arrives out of Zion.
But if Israel is the type, where is the counterpart of Israel's age-long banishment from God? We must surely ask ourselves the question, “If it is true that the nation that rejected Christ is to be especially reserved for mercy, why ought men to be without hope for others who have rejected Christ?" If the only purpose of penalties is to serve the demands of strict justice; if purification after sin and suffering, in Israel's case the most desperate and prolonged, does not prove to be the reality of which Israel's somber story is the type; what can be the real meaning of Israeli s history?
Apart from a relatively brief interlude encompassed within the Pauline Epistles (and even they have reference to it, indeed) Israel's history of choice and rejection, of love and wrath, occupies Scripture from end to end: It is the burden of all the prophets, and Israel's restoration is their most glorious vision.
Do we give sufficient heed to the ringing words of Isaiah's prophecy (25:7) "And He will destroy in this mountain (Jerusalem) the veil that is cast over all nations", for Isaiah goes on to say:
"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall be taken away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it".
And Paul carries that truth over into his Roman Epistle (11:15) "For if the casting away of them (Israel) be the reconciling of the world, WHAT SHALL THE RECEIVING OF THEM BE BUT LIFE FROM AMONG DEAD ONES?" The meaning of all these types in antitype must be that Israel's history is the history of the human soul drawn to scale.
Practically all the Hebrew prophets are full of this story of Israel's falling and rising again; Jeremiah in particular, the man whose heart was extremely sensitive, must appeal most to our own hearts. Against his inclination he was charged with a continual message of destruction to Jerusalem and captivity to the people, a message which the people refused, accusing him of treachery to the king and threatening him with death. Bitter indeed are the reproaches they heap upon him, but the commanding word of the Lord makes him "an iron pillar and a brazen wall". But we see that a day comes when Jehovah Himself comforts Jeremiah, and He does this not by telling him that the judgment shall be averted, not by promising to destroy the attacking army, not by cancelling the threatened captivity, but by showing him a vision of times far off, through the arches of the years, when the curse will be removed and the exiles restored. Study these contrasts in Jehovah's statements: “The city shall be destroyed", He proclaims; yet also, "The city shall be built upon her own heap". "Thy bruise is grievous, and thy wound incurable", He says, yet also, "I will bring it health and cure". Note especially this remarkable contrast: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved"; yet "Thus saith the Lord, who giveth the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and stars by night: if these ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then Israel shall cease being a nation before Me all the days". To Jehovah such a thought is impossible, and He underlines it, “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out from beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all they have done" (Jeremiah 31:35-37). Nothing can be more certain than that Israel's future is utterly secure.
While we are still with Jeremiah, let us notice he was told to "Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth; for the right of redemption is thine to buy it" (Chapter 32). So the puzzled prophet buys Hanameel's field and secures the title-deeds by putting them in an earthen vessel. "And I subscribed the evidence and sealed it and took witnesses and I gave the evidence to Baruch and I charged him before them saying "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; 'Take these evidences and seal them in an earthen vessel, THAT THEY MAY CONTINUE MANY DAYS’". So the evidence of purchase was sealed for posterity, although at the very moment the city was under assault by the king of Babylon and Jeremiah knew it would fall. The prophet protests to the Lord that it was surely inconsistent to buy land and thus secure it in legal form (verse 25) but this is the reply he gets. "Behold, I am Jehovah, God of all flesh; For ME is anything too wonderful?" Then Jehovah goes on to recite at length the many evils of Israel and Judah, who have provoked Him to anger with their abominations. But note the vast change (v. 37).
"Behold Me, gathering them out of all the lands whither I have driven them in Mine anger and I will cause them to return unto this place and will make them dwell securely, and they shall become My people, and I will become their God".
Does it not seem strange that the poet of Lamentations should be also the exultant prophet of the New Covenant? The same man who had seen the misery of his nation because of the broken Covenant is the one to whom the New Covenant 15 revealed in all its grace and glory, as it never had been before, so that even the New Testament in Hebrews 8:8-12 adds nothing to these words of Jeremiah.
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their forefathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God and they shall be My people. For they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying Know the Lord, for they shall all know lie, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (31: 31-34).
Later Paul writes this postscript, “So all Israel shall be saved", and the promises remain: “I will bring again the captivity of Jacob”, "Out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.”
Yet not Israel alone! We find strange promises also for others; promises which perhaps we have not carefully noticed; some which lie fallow, as it were, because no one dares to interpret them! I suggest we ponder on some of these, such as "Yet will I bring again (restore) the captivity of Moab in the latter days" (Jer. 48:47); "Afterwards I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon" (49:6) and again, "In the latter days I will bring again the captivity of Elam" (v. 39) and still more striking, "I will bring again the captivity of Egypt" (Ezekiel 29:14). And if we are not already surprised at these gracious and unexpected prophetic promises, let it be well noted that the longest, fullest and tenderest of them all is the promised restoration of Sodom! (Ezekiel 16:53-61):—
"I will bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters.When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters (Jerusalem) shall return to your former estate".
How many people believe these wonderful prophecies, or indeed have even heard of them? Certainly not the mass of professing Christians which has invented its own peculiar theology since the days of Christ and Paul; and what Jehovah is really saying through His prophets is something like this: The Covenant of the Law worked death; you cannot be restored under that; not you, Jerusalem, any more than Sodom, Samaria and the others. You must be saved by a New Covenant founded on better promises, and only in the latter days shall it be fully revealed.
But if we take Jerusalem as an example, what are we to think of this Sodom which shall be restored to favor? The answer is that, through all Scripture, Sodom is the type of the abandoned and carnal sinner, just as Israel is the type of the self-righteous sinner. Sodom stands for sheer wickedness, and is the type of those who go down to the pit in age-long retribution, as cited by both Peter and Jude in their Epistles. YET BOTH ARE TO BE REMEMBERED IN MERCY.
It must be obvious that these national histories are really the story of the whole human race. It is true that no gleam of hope appeared for man in the words of the first warning, "Thou shalt surely die", BUT ALL THE WHILE GOD KEPT HIS SECRET OF REDEMPTION. There is an even sterner warning given us of a doom which does not end with earthly death but projects itself into the future ages. There is no evangel in words of doom, but the promise of the Deliverer lies elsewhere, over and above the warning. "The wages of sin is death", but "The gift of God is age-long life". Sin’s desert is one thing, and God’s gracious gift quite another. There is a double truth, and we cannot believe that God can raise only dead bodies but not dead souls. Calvinism, despite its many good points, has as its thesis: God is Sovereign, and since He does not save all, it is plain that He does not will to save all". But if we read Scripture we can logically turn that thesis round about and say, "God is Sovereign, and since He has declared His will to save all, HE MUST BE ABLE TO SAVE THEM".
Look again at our examples: If God means to “bring again", which means "restore the fortunes" of all Israel, and also Sodom and her daughters, does this not mean that He will restore all the other nations similarly? Israel was a most rebellious nation, and Sodom was wicked and foul. We are told at least seven times in the Greek Scriptures that there is no partiality or favoritism with God, in relation to men, and if so He will not be partial to cities and nations. Assuredly God must restore all human beings and nations, by various means at various times, in His own wonderful way. So we can believe with confidence that the last enemy, Death, ultimately will be utterly abolished. Christ must finally finish His mediatorial work in total triumph; hence, before the ages of regeneration and. restitution can close all things must be restored, and the reign of death overthrown, with all things in heaven and earth gathered together, till at last every knee is bowed to Christ. That God ultimately will put down rebellion, defeat Satan, and prove sin to be a miserable failure is not questioned. The argument always has concerned what He will do afterward with His defeated foes. The examples of history reveal His methods far better than the theories of theology. When the very severity of their condemnation has awakened a corresponding self-condemnation in the disobedient, and prepared them to be won by the compassion and attraction of Divine love, will God exercise no pity to His prostrate foes? Will His mercy have clean gone, so that He retains His anger forever, inflicting them with endless pain which leads to no good result? The whole teaching and example of Scripture proclaims any such conclusion would be utterly inconstant with the revealed character of God. Even feeble men can be touched with compassion for the guilty, and although the law must be vindicated, when the offenders’ sentences have been completed, attempts are made at reformation, so that thereafter they may again live in honor and respectability, taking a useful place in human society. Such attempts sometimes fail, for reformers have no means of dealing with the basic cause of wrong-doing, and can deal only with symptoms of sin. The Almighty Father of men has infinitely greater resources by which to accomplish not only His desire but His revealed will. He intends eventually to become All in All, the great Father of all men everywhere; and all this, be it never forgotten, through the Blood of the Cross.
Cecil J. Blay (Treasures of Truth, Instalment Six, September 1972)