Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thoughts about Israel

It is evident from a study of Israel that they have never received the full promises of God. For instance, God promises Joshua land boundaries that extend to the Euphrates River. Never has Israel ever gained full control of what God has promised. What are we to think about promises not fulfilled? There are some who would teach that the church has replaced Israel in the promises, but this is not what Paul teaches in Romans. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion, he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27) So, the Bible plainly teaches here that the hardening is from God, and is meant to be temporary, changing when the “deliverer” from Zion comes. Who then is that Deliverer? None other than Christ Himself.

Zechariah adds to our knowledge of Israel’s return to God with this passage: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10 & 11) Here we are told that Israel will look on Him whom they pierced, a clear reference to Christ. Isaiah also speaks of the Christ when he says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5) That time will be a day of reckoning, a day in which Israel recognizes their Savior at last. Of this day, the prophet Isaiah adds this promise: “ As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” (Is. 59:21) Thus Isaiah makes the promise of God clear—it is not laid aside and forgotten, or magically transformed into a promise for the Gentiles, but is “henceforth and for ever”. Indeed, the nation of Israel will come to a time when they behold “the one whom they pierced” and in that day that will humble themselves and recognize their sins. In one of the most epic and dramatic portions of Scripture, Zechariah says: “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zech. 14:3,4) He adds this dramatic flourish: “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” (verse 6)

Hebrews tells us that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.” Remember the epistle of Hebrews is written to Jews, and this promise is evidently partly based on a promise Moses had iterated to his people: “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. (Deut. 4:31) It is no accident that this promise of “not forsaking us” is given to the Jews just after Moses foresees their radical apostasy, and tells them of it: “When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.” (Deut. 4:30) I believe that Moses himself foresaw not only the apostasy of Israel, but also the faithfulness of God in spite of that apostasy. Psalm 2 stands as one of the great psalms, and in it, it declares: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The world, in rebellion against the plan of God conspires to break His laws and ruling power. What does the Psalm say about this conspiring? “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2: 4-6) Jesus is coming back, He is going to be recognized as the Son by all of Israel, and He is going to rule in Jerusalem. Not one plan by man shall ever contest the council of God. He laughs in derision at their rebellion.

The Bible is plain, and repeats these themes endlessly. I am reminded of that great American theologian, Popeye, gritting his pipe between his teeth, and saying, “I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam." God here plainly tells us what will happen in His plan to the earth and the Jews. It is what it is, and that’s all it is. If we choose not to believe it, we do so at our own peril. Peter tells us that in the last days scoffers will come, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:4) Indeed, the ninth verse of the same chapter tells us why the delay: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” He is coming, and in the words of the Bellemy Brothers, “Boy, is He pissed”. Or in the words, if you prefer, that theologian, Popeye, once more: “"That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands n'more!" The day rapidly approaches, and was planned from eternity past, when God is going to simply say, “That’s it. That’s all.”

But the time of mercy is now, when you are called to believe, and believing to find repentance, and finding repentance, to turn from your selfish ways, and turning from those selfish ways, to be granted the righteousness of the Son, not for what you have done, but rather because of what He has done on the cross, bearing your sins, without murmur, that you might find life. Why not start believing today?

So, the central point which made me start this whole thought process is found in the question: “What are we to make of Israel today?” Are they a godly people? Nay, any examination of Israel shows just the smallest throes of religion, and even that small part seems to be devoid of God. In fact, I am told that the nation of Israel is full of atheists. The agony and awful trials of the 20th Century for the Jewish people did not bring them closer to God; rather, for the most part, it has seemed to drive them away from God.

Nevertheless, God is faithful, and in many places has promised Israel things which simply have not come to pass. If we agree that God says what He means, then there is only one possible conclusion: these things are yet to come to pass. Says Chafer of these yet-to-be-fulfilled Scriptures: “The kingdom Scriptures of the Old Testament are occupied largely with the character and glory of Messiah's reign, the promises to Israel of restoration and earthly glory, the universal blessings to Gentiles, and the deliverance of creation itself.” If, then, Israel is to be regathered, what can I notice from current events that might be significant?

Before I list the few things I notice as significant, I do want to make something very clear. I do not know the time of the coming of my Lord; neither does any other man. It might be 20 seconds from your reading this passage, or it may be 20 years off yet. As Christians, we are not to know the day, but we are to recognize the season. In Matthew 25 Jesus listed the signs of the end of the age of grace, and told us to watch for them. Many of those signs are multiplying now, but chief among them is the regathering of Israel, for it would be impossible that the rest of the ancient world should be waiting to destroy Israel, except that she be.

I notice first that the Arab world this past year has been in deep turmoil and revolution. Dubbed “the Arab Spring” by the ever optimistic politicians, now the same politicians have to be wondering if they gave a premature diagnosis. In every country, the fundamentalist Moslems are gaining, and their hatred for the nation of Israel is multiplying. To me, this appears to be something that would happen before the time of Jacob’s trouble begins.

I notice that Iran and Israel seem to be moving towards a conflict. Will it be a short sortie, or will it result in general chaos throughout the region?
I notice that Iran boasts the first thing they will do in a war is destroy Israel and they claim that they will party in Jerusalem.

I notice that all the constitutions of countries surrounding Israel explicitly call for her total annihilation. I further notice that, for the first time, Israel is being pushed by the US to make peace with the Palestinians, who are not being asked to even recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

I notice that Israel is in desperate need for someone to stand up with her to face this growing animosity from the world.

Who can say what these observations amount to? I surely cannot, but I am watching earnestly, to see. God alone knows, and He is the one in charge.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2008-07-19). Grace (Kindle Locations 1528-1529). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.