Understanding that God is more concerned with people than things. This is of utmost importance. The keyword used in this message is restoration. God wants to restore to His people all that belongs to them.
It’s good to be with you again as we continue with our theme, “Facing the Future.”
In my talks this week I’ve shared with you various ways in which we see events in the world around us building to a climax.
Yesterday I dealt with our response to this crisis situation. I suggested three appropriate ways to respond:
The first is optimism (we don’t put our heads down, we don’t cower, we don’t hide away; we lift up our heads, our redemption is coming near);
Second, commitment (total, unreserved commitment to God and to His purposes);
The third response, align yourself with God’s purposes (God has purposes that are being worked out in the earth, we need to find out those purposes and align ourselves with them). 1 John 2:17 says this:
“The world is passing away, and also its lusts [its desires, its ambitions, its objectives]; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
When you’re united with God’s will, you’re as unshakable, as unsinkable, as undefeatable as the will of God itself.
Today I want to share with you further just what God’s purposes are at this time. It’s very important that we have a clear understanding of the purposes that God has set Himself to work out in the midst of all that’s going on around us in the world. The first and a vital fact is this: God’s purposes center in His people. God is more interested in people than in things. Deuteronomy 32:9 says this:
“For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob [is] his allotted inheritance.”
There’s a general and a particular there. The general is the Lord’s portion is His people, the thing that God is going to get out of history is a people for Himself. That’s what God is working at. God’s not so much concerned about material things, gold and silver, buildings, banks, institutions, governments, even about religion. God is concerned with people. His portion is His people. And then it says, “Jacob his allotted inheritance.” One specific people is picked out; that is, Jacob or the people that today we know as “Israel.”
You see, God has two covenant peoples in the earth. This is clearly unfolded in Scripture. Two peoples to whom God is committed by a covenant which He Himself made and which He has declared He will never break. Those two peoples are Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ. Basically, Israel is formed out of natural descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel); the church is formed out of supernatural regeneration through the Holy Spirit. Israel is a natural people, the church is a spiritual regenerated people. Each are related to God by a covenant unfolded in Scripture, which God Himself declares He will never break.
Let’s look at what God says about His covenant with Israel, first of all, in Jeremiah 31:35-37:
“Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the Lord [This ‘fixed order’ is the sun, the moon, the stars and the sea. ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the Lord,] ‘then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’”
So God says as long as you see the sun and the moon and the stars and you know they’re going to continue then you know that Israel is going to continue as a nation before the Lord forever. And then he gives another comparison, verse 37:
“Thus says the Lord, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the Lord.”
So, God says as long as heaven remains immeasurable and the foundations of the earth cannot be searched out, then as long as that continues, you know that I will never cast off the nation of Israel or cause them to cease from being My covenant people. And actually, the more we try to measure the heavens, the more immeasurable they become. So, in other words, God is saying Israel is eternally My people, I will never cast them away.
Then listen to what Jesus said about the church in Matthew 16:18:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The gates of Hades really represents all the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness, of Satan and all his kingdom. Jesus says, “I’m going to build my church in such a way that there’s no force of evil that will ever be able to overthrow it or to overcome it.” So there’s a guarantee of the absolute continuation and victory of the church of Jesus Christ.
Now, in relation to both of these people, God has one purpose that He’s working out in different ways that are appropriate to the nature of the peoples but the purpose is the same. The purpose is restoration. This is clearly unfolded in Acts 3:19-21, where Peter says to the Jewish people:
“Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”
There are four successive phases there unfolded all related to the close of this age and, interestingly enough, in the English language each of them is summed up in a word which begins with the letters R-E. The first is repent. God calls His people to repentance that they may come into line with His purposes because as long as we’re stubborn and rebellious and unyielded, we cannot come into line with God’s purposes. God says, “As you, My people, repent, there will come times of refreshing.” That’s the second word, refreshing. And then He says these times of refreshing will lead us into the period of restoration of all things. So everything is going to be put back in its right place, its right condition and particularly God’s people.
Now, this period of restoration of all things is so important that God has spoken about it by the mouth of all His holy prophets from ancient time. It’s the theme of all prophecy. And then, in connection with this period of restoration, the Scripture indicates we may look for the return of Jesus Christ from heaven. So you have those four words that are so easy to remember because they all begin with R-E. Try and grip them with your memory.
Fourth, the RETURN of Jesus Christ
Associated with this period of restoration is the return of Jesus Christ. And the restoration primarily concerns not things, but people. The people of God, the peoples to whom God is related by His unbreakable covenant; that is, Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ. This promise of restoration for God’s people is the key to understanding the purposes of God that are being worked out. We see so much that’s confusing, so much that might lead us to feel discouraged or downcast; but if we can see below the surface, we see underneath it the strong irresistible current of God’s purpose flowing on to its fulfillment, the restoration of His people.
There’s one particular scripture that I’ve always loved and it’s become so real to me in recent years. Joel 2:25, God speaks to His people and says:
“I will restore to you the years that the insects have eaten...”
Oh, what a blessing! I wonder if you can grasp it. God says, “Not merely will I drive out all the insects that have eaten up your inheritance, but I’ll also give you back everything the insects have eaten!”
Let me illustrate this with something that happened in my ministry a little while back. A lady was brought to me for prayer. She was partially paralyzed in her left cheek, the left corner of her mouth was twisted up, her left arm and her left leg were partially paralyzed and amongst the many things that she endured, she was incapable of smiling because of the paralysis related to her mouth. And so, another lady had brought her and asked for prayer and I prayed with her and then I stepped back and for 10 minutes we watched God work a miracle. At the end of that 10 minutes, her face was straight, she was able to give me a radiant smile, she had recovered the use of her left arm and her left leg. And as we stood there just marveling at what God had done, the lady who had brought her said, “Why, you look ten years younger than you did 10 minutes ago!” And I said to myself, “That’s restoration.” Ten years given back in 10 minutes. Can you grasp the extent of the fullness of promise of God? God speaking to His people in these closing days. “I will restore to you all that the insects have eaten. Not just drive out the insects, not just get you back to Myself, but I’ll give you everything you ought to have, all the fullness of my blessing and provision I’m going to give it back to you.”
That goes for Israel, it goes for the church. It’s God’s promise of restoration to His people, the Lord’s portion is His people. In the midst of all the confusion and perplexity, it just matters that we know that we really are part of God’s people. That His gracious purposes, His wisdom, His almightiness are all being exercised on our behalf to make us the people that God wants us to be, that His name may be glorified and the peoples of the earth may marvel at what God has done in us, His people.
Our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking more fully about God’s purpose to restore Israel.