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“Let all the earth fear the Lord. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing. He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance.”
And that is the theme of what I want to talk about today. My message today is the uniqueness of the nation whom God chose as His own inheritance. How many of you know the name of that nation? I didn’t hear you. Israel, that’s right. That’s not popular teaching everywhere but it just happens to be true. So, as I’ve said, my theme this morning is the uniqueness of Israel. That’s something that upsets people today. We live in what I would call a humanistic egalitarian culture where they are obliterating the differences between everything and everybody. There’s no difference between man or woman, no difference between races; we’re all alike. That’s nonsense. To be different is not to be inferior but if you’re different and you don’t recognize the difference, you’re making trouble for yourself. God has made Israel a unique people, that’s one main reason why they have been consistently persecuted for many hundreds of years, because people object to something that’s different. But the fact remains if you’re different, you’re different and you can’t change it.
There’s a tendency amongst the people of Israel today to want to escape their difference. The present prime minister of Israel said on the day that he took office, “We are a people just like all other peoples.” It isn’t true. His saying it doesn’t make it true. We have to face up to the fact that there are differences.
I’m going to give you a series of scriptures that deal with the uniqueness of Israel. The first one is found in 1 Chronicles 17:21, which is part of a prayer that David prayed to the Lord. It says in the first half of the verse:
“And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people...”
David says there very clearly and specifically Israel is a unique nation, it’s the only nation on the earth that God went to redeem for Himself as a people.
And then we turn to Exodus 19, the words that God gave to Moses as Israel were assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and He told Moses to tell Israel His purpose for them. It’s found in Exodus 19:5–6. God said to Moses, tell Israel this:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all peoples, for all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
So there are three things for which God set Israel apart. They were to be a special treasure to Him above all nations and they were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Three distinctive destinies: a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.
Now my conclusion from years of experience and study is that the devil can delay the fulfillment of God’s purposes but he can never ultimately prevent it. I believe Satan has done everything he can to delay the outworking of God’s purpose for Israel, but ultimately he cannot prevent it. Israel will become precisely what God chose them to be: a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.
And in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul, we find a number of scriptural facts which point out various distinctive features of Israel. In Romans 3:1–2, Paul raises the question:
“What advantage, then, has the Jew? Or what is the profit of circumcision?”
That’s the distinctive mark of God’s covenant with Israel. And the answer is:
“Much in every way. Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles [or the living words] of God.”
So that’s one feature that makes Israel totally unique. The Word of God, the scriptures, the Bible, were given to us through one people, Israel. If there had never been an Israel there would never be a Bible. If that was the only fact, it would make the uniquely important.
It says in this verse “to them were committed the oracles of God.” I prefer to say “to them were entrusted the words of God” because God did not give His word to Israel to be their exclusive possession, but that they might be stewards to administer the Word of God to all other nations.
And one Israelite certainly saw his responsibility. Again, the words of Paul in Romans 1:14–15:
“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.”
Paul says, “I am under a divine obligation because of what God has done for me and my people.”
“So as much as in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
Paul recognized his responsibility. He didn’t possess the scriptures, he didn’t possess the gospel, it was entrusted to him as a steward. And thank God for the faithful stewardship of the apostle Paul.
Let’s consider what it cost him. It cost him absolutely everything. But for the sake of other nations, because he was the apostle to the Gentiles, he gave up everything and devoted his whole life, time, energy and eventually died the death of a martyr that other nations might receive what had been entrusted to his people Israel.
I’m not Jewish, I need to say that clearly, but I thank God for Paul’s faithfulness. I thank God for the faithfulness of all the Jewish people who provided the scriptures for us from Genesis through Revelation. There’s only one author in the Bible who was possibly or probably not actually Jewish, that was Luke. But it’s highly probable that he was a proselyte. In other words, he had a spiritual inheritance through Israel. Otherwise, without question, every author of every book in the Bible was Jewish. Are you grateful for the Bible? Then you have to be grateful for the Jewish people. It’s totally inconsistent to appreciate the Bible and depreciate the Jews.
Then again in Romans 9 Paul points out eight distinctive features of Israel. Romans 9:4–5, and I’ll try and count them on my fingers. I only have five fingers so I’ll have to go around to the second hand. I’m not very good at this but I’ll do my best. He says at the beginning of the verse:
“My kinsmen who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption...”
God adopted them as His people.
Secondly, the glory.
The word glory means the visible, sensible presence of God among His people. It’s not something intangible, it’s something very tangible. Wherever that word glory occurs it means somehow or other the presence of God impacts human senses. Many times when the glory of God filled the temple the priests could not stand in the presence of God’s glory, the impact was so physically powerful. I happen to have a background in the Greek language which I studied for about fifteen years. The Greek word for glory is doxa. I don’t want to go into the background of it but in the philosophy of Plato it was one of his key concepts. Doxa means that which is apprehended by the senses. He didn’t use it in the sense of glory but it’s retained that significance right down into the New Testament. The glory is that which impacts our senses. It was first manifested in the form of a cloud by day and a column of fire by night. The glory of God came down over Israel after they had been redeemed by the blood of the lamb.
The third thing that separates themselves is the covenants belong to them. From Abraham onwards all the covenants of God were made with Israelites.
Then the giving of the law, number four. The law was given only to one people, Israel. This may seem controversial but I don’t believe Gentiles were ever expected to observe the Law of Moses. We have another law given to us by the Lord Jesus and it has actually not ten commandments but one. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” If we kept that commandment we’d be a different set of people from what we are.
Then number five, the service of God. The word means the priestly service of God. All the priests of God up to the time of Yeshua were taken from the Jewish people. It was their responsibility to offer praise and worship and sacrifice. It was not given to any other people.
Then it says the promises, that’s number six. All the promises from Abraham onwards were given to Jewish people.
Then number seven, of whom came the fathers, the patriarchs. All the patriarchs were Jewish.
Seven is the number of completeness as I understand it, but we go one beyond seven to number eight which is the distinctive glory of Israel which says:
“...of whom, according to the flesh, Messiah came...”
The ultimate contribution of Israel to all humanity was the gift of the Savior.
So there are eight facts that distinguish Israel from all other nations. It is flying in the face of common sense and truth to faith to recognize the uniqueness of Israel.
Then another interesting and vitally important fact is that Jesus when He was incarnate, became a Jew. I have spoken to quite a number of Jewish people who became believers, and almost all of them have said something the same, they had been brought up to believe that Yeshua was only for the Gentiles, He was the Gentile Messiah but had nothing to do with the Jews. In fact, you know the Orthodox Jews won’t even write His name. They’ll write Yeshu, they’ll leave out the last letter. But, I don’t know how many Jewish people I’ve encountered, they said, “When I read the gospel of Matthew I realized that Jesus really was a Jew.” And, the best Jew, a complete Jew, what all Jews should have aspired to be.
But what I want to point out is He became a Jew not just for 33 years but for eternity. That’s a staggering thought and I’ll show you the scripture. Revelation 5 takes us up into the presence of God in heaven and John saw these wonderful things. But there was a scroll which no one could open because it had seven seals. John was weeping bitterly because no one could open the scroll. One of the elders said to him in verse 5:
“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seals.”
This is a dramatic moment and it has such an important lesson for all of us. Doubtless, John expected to see a mighty roaring lion but he didn’t. He said:
“I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and the midst of the elders stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.”
What a message! The Lamb is the lion. It’s not strength, it’s yieldedness. It’s not claiming, it’s surrendering. It’s laying down life that opens the door to God’s sovereign, supernatural power. And there in eternity, at least 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Judah is the word from which we get the name Jew. Some people don’t realize that but in Hebrew Judah is Yehuda, and Jew is Yehudi, there’s only one letter difference. So when He’s called the Lion of the tribe of Judah He is eternally stamped as Jewish. That’s a staggering thought. If I had been God I wouldn’t have arranged it that way but then God didn’t consult me. I wonder how anti-Semites are going to do if they ever make it into the New Jerusalem because all the names on all the gates and on all the foundations are Jewish names.
This is so dramatically clear, it’s so totally incontrovertible that God has set apart the Jewish people as a special people for Himself. I’ll tell you, if you’re not Jewish and you want to be blessed, just recognize that fact because God has blessed my life beyond my ability to understand. One fact is that by the destiny of God I became father to eight little girls of whom six were Jewish. God has never forgotten that. I often forget it. Sometimes I wonder, “God, why are you so good to me?” Then God makes it clear, “Because you took care of my little Jewish believing girls.”
So, you who are not Jewish, don’t miss out on a blessing. Don’t be stubborn and proud. Humble yourself before the truth of God. Balaam who was a very reluctant prophet prophesied under the pressure of God but in Numbers 24:9, speaking to Israel, he said:
“Blessed is everyone who blesses you and cursed is everyone who curses you.”
So, you can choose. That’s the title of the book, Blessing or Curse, You Can Choose. One way to choose blessing is to bless Israel. I’m not saying everybody has to do it our way but every time Ruth and I eat—and normally we have four meals a day—we have quite a complicated grace but in the middle of it we say, “In this set time show mercy and favor to Israel,” because we believe according to Psalm 102, this is God’s set time to show mercy and favor to Israel. We believe according to Psalm 102, this is God’s set time to show mercy and favor to Israel. So, every time we have a meal we get a blessing because when you bless Israel, God blesses you.
Finally, the statement of the Messiah Himself, which is perhaps the capstone of everything that I’ve been saying. John 4:22, speaking to a non Jew, the woman of Samaria at the well, Jesus said:
“You worship what you do not know. We [we Jews] know what we worship for salvation is from the Jews.”
In English, five words: salvation is from the Jews. Incontrovertible and uniquely important.
Let me just say briefly if there had been no Jews there would be no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and no Savior. So, how much salvation would there be for us without those five things?
One of the things the Bible makes plain is to receive good and show evil in return incurs a curse. I’m afraid multitudes of Gentiles have brought a curse upon themselves because they received good and returned evil. Let us guard ourselves from that.
Now I want to point out another unique fact about Israel which separates them completely from any other people, it is that their whole history was foretold in advance through predictive prophecy. I’m going to list sixteen specific prophecies all given in advance concerning Israel, and I’m going to check them off as to those that were fulfilled and those that still have to be fulfilled.
Number one, their enslavement in Egypt was predicted to Abraham in Genesis 15:13 before it took place.
Number two, their deliverance with wealth from Egypt was likewise predicted to Abraham in the next verse, Genesis 15:14. That was a remarkable prophecy because they had been slaves and in 24 hours they were laden with wealth. Very unusual.
Their possession of the land of Canaan was likewise predicted to Abraham 400 years before it took place in Genesis 15:18–20.
Number four, that Israel would turn to idolatry in the land was clearly predicted before they ever entered, for instance, in Deuteronomy 22:15–21.
Number five, that God would establish a center of worship in Jerusalem was predicted, again, before they entered the land in Deuteronomy 12:5–6 and many other places.
Then again, in regard to the northern kingdom named Israel, it was clearly predicted in advance that they would be taken into exile by Assyria. Many of those prophecies are found in Amos 5:27, 6:14, 7:17.
Likewise, concerning the southern kingdom of Judah, it was predicted in advance time and time again that they would be taken into exile by the empire of Babylon in many parts of Jeremiah, particularly Jeremiah 16:13 and 21:10.
The destruction of the first temple, the one that was built by Solomon, was clearly predicted in 2 Chronicles 7:19–22, that’s the eighth prediction.
Number nine, the return from Babylon of a remnant was predicted in Isaiah 6:11–13, 48:20, and many other passages.
Number ten, the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD was predicted very, very vividly by Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:2 and Luke 19:43–44. And, the prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. Jesus said not one stone would be left upon another and that’s exactly how it was.
Number eleven, the scattering of Israel among all nations was predicted in Leviticus 26:33–34, Ezekiel 12:15, and many other passages.
Number twelve, that they would be subjected to persecution and oppression while amongst the Gentiles was again predicted very vividly in Leviticus 26:36–39.
Number thirteen, their regathering from exile from all nations back to their land was predicted in many places. I’ll mention just two, Isaiah 11:11–12 and Zechariah 10:9–10.
That’s thirteen specific predictions of Israel’s history that were given in advance, and every one of them exactly fulfilled. Not metaphorically. There was no spiritualizing of those prophecies. I don’t believe in the spiritualizing of any prophecies, myself. I believe all prophecies mean what they say and will be fulfilled as they were written.
Now, in my understanding of scripture, and you could adjust this, you could make one or two additions, but I see three main events in the history of Israel still to be fulfilled.
Number fourteen, the gathering of all nations against Jerusalem, predicted in Zechariah 12:2–3, 14:1–2. In the next two sessions in this conference, God helping me, I will be dealing with glimpses of the future and I’ll be dealing with a whole series of prophetic pictures concerning Israel that have not yet taken place.
Going on with this list, number fifteen, the supernatural revelation of the identity of Messiah, predicted very, very vividly in Zechariah 12:10–14.
And finally, last but by no means least, the coming of Messiah in power and glory upon the clouds of heaven to establish His kingdom here on earth, predicted in Zechariah 14:3–5.
I have listed sixteen specific prophecies of which I say thirteen have been fulfilled. Only three remain yet to be fulfilled. According to my mathematics, which never was my major subject, approximately 81% of those prophecies have been exactly fulfilled. I was before I became a preacher a logician. I want to suggest to you that it is quite logical to expect the remaining three prophecies to be fulfilled just as exactly as the first thirteen have. That’s not a guarantee logically that it will happen, but I would venture to say it means we’re not unreasonable to believe it will happen. We are not woolly minded fanatics, we are not simply dreamers, we have very solid logical and historical grounds for believing in the culmination of Israel’s destiny as predicted in the scriptures.
I tell people personally I don’t feel intellectually inferior because I believe the Bible. Some people would suggest that only the woolly minded and the uneducated and the simple believe the Bible. Well, the simple certainly do believe the Bible and in that way I want to be simple. But I am not uneducated, I’m not woolly minded, I held a quite distinctive teaching post in Cambridge University in logic and philosophy. And do you know what happened since I studied the Bible, which is now more than 51 years, my mind has become sharper and clearer than it ever was. I can tell you there are a lot of woolly minded philosophers! You wouldn’t believe how woolly minded some of them are.
I want to go into a little bit of detail in regard to the predicted restoration of Israel. I’m going to turn to Jeremiah 30 for my first passage of scripture. Jeremiah 30, why be stingy, we’ll read seven verses.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, ‘Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying, ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I’ve spoken to you. For behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will bring back from captivity [or exile] my people Israel and Judah...’’”
The two are specified because when they went into captivity it was two separate nations, Israel and Judah.
“...and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers.”
I think anybody with a minimal knowledge of the Bible will have no difficulty in identifying that land. There is only one land of which it could be said that God gave it to the fathers of Israel, the land which today again is called the land of Israel. Mistakenly for a long while it was called Palestine. Most people don’t realize that Palestine was a name given to it by the Romans in order to obliterate the historical association of the Jewish people with the land. Consequently, if I ever say Palestine may wife jumps down my throat immediately. And it is an error to use the word Palestine. Palestine is connected with the word Philistine. In other words, it’s saying it was the land of the Philistines. I don’t want to go into that but it’s one of the countless different ways in which the media are consistently brainwashing people and obliterating truth when it doesn’t suit them.
Now we’re going on. These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
“For thus says the Lord, ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace. Ask now and see whether a male is every in labor with child. So why do I see every male with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale?’”
Now, quite a well known preacher who is a friend of mine, up to a certain point, wrote some years back in a British magazine “obviously the return of the Jews to their land was not brought about by God because if it had been there would be peace.” But you see, the scriptures say the exact opposite. Speaking about the return of the Jews it speaks about a time of fear and not of peace, a time so terrible that even men behave like women in labor pains.
And then Jeremiah continues:
“Alas, for that day is great so that none is like it.”
I’m going to deal with this, God helping me, when we come to glimpses of the future. This speaks of a period yet to come in the history of Israel without precedent. In the light of the Holocaust, that is a breathtaking statement.
“Alas, for that day is great so that none is like it, and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble but he shall be saved out of it.”
Not from it but out of it. That is a clear prediction of the Word of God which is confirmed in countless other passages of scripture. But my point is that God says there will come a time when He will cause the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to return to the land that He gave their fathers. And He says they shall possess it. They shall not be there temporarily but they shall be there permanently.
And at the end of that chapter, God, as it were, indicates the time. In verse 24, right at the end of the verse, there’s a sort of postscript of the whole chapter. The Lord says:
“In the latter days you will consider it.”
In other words, this prediction is for the latter days, the period immediately before the close of the age. You do realize that this age is coming to a close? How’s your reaction? Do you say praise the Lord? I certainly do, I wouldn’t want things to continue the way they are right now. The Bible makes it very clear that there’s going to be an end to the present age and it gives innumerable different indications which help us to recognize the time when that is to be fulfilled. One of the most significant, perhaps the most significant indication, is the sovereign return of the Jewish people after 19 centuries of exile to their own land.
A lot of other things that are spoken about—wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes—have taken place at various times during the last 19 centuries but one thing is without any parallel in that whole period. It is the return of the Jewish people to their own land. And as I said, I think the other night, somebody has said the Jews are the minute hand on God’s prophetic clock. It’s very near to midnight. What a solemn thought. It’s all right to whoop it up, I can do it with the rest. It’s all right to get excited. It’s all right to be happy; in fact, it’s a good thing. But let’s also be realistic. Let’s not live in euphoria, in a dream world that doesn’t relate to the realities of life and of the Bible.
I want to quote one other scripture about the place where all this will take place. My wife tells me some people had trouble in finding Obadiah the other night so I don’t know how you’ll do with Hosea, but it’s a little larger and it comes immediately after Daniel, if you have any difficulty. Daniel comes immediately after Lamentations, and Lamentations comes immediately after Jeremiah, and Jeremiah is a long book, you should be able to find that!
I’m only going to quote part of a verse. I’ll give you the whole verse, it’s in Hosea 1:10. The first part of the chapter is a pronunciation of judgment upon Israel and God says to them, Lo-ammi, you are not my people; Lo-ruhamah, you have not obtained mercy.
And then in the last part of that chapter God reverses that judgment, it’s very important to remember. And so, in verse 10 of Hosea 1 the Lord says:
“Yet in spite of all that’s happened, the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’”
Notice it’s going to happen in a place and it’s in the same place where the Lord said, “You are not my people.” What place was that? The land of Israel. So God says, “In the same place where I pronounced my judgment I will restore my blessing.”
So, they have to be back in the land before that can be fulfilled, you see?
There’s another sort of practical reason, I understand, and I think it’s very important for us in this particular culture to recognize it. We have become in America and in other western nations excessively individualistic. It’s me, my family, my God, my church, my gifts, my ministry. You know, I read a statistic which astonished me, that the average number of persons in an American household today is 1.7 persons. Not even two people can live together any longer! That is the proof of individualism. One of the errors of Protestantism, when carried to extremes, is the excessive emphasis on the individual—which is not Biblical. I think of the situation in Philippi after the earthquake, when Paul and Silas had been released by an earthquake. I just love that thought, you know, God sending an earthquake to get people out of prison. I mean, I don’t want to be in prison but if I were in prison it would be exciting to be released by an earthquake!
Anyhow, the jailer jumps in, is about to commit suicide because under Roman law if his prisoners escaped, his life would answer for them. So, thinking the prisoners had escaped he said, “I might as well end it now.” Paul, what grace! I mean, this man had not been unusually kind to Paul and Paul said, “Don’t! We’re all here, you don’t have to kill yourself.” He wasn’t concerned about his own situation, he was concerned about the soul of the jailer.
And, confronted by that kind of love, the jailer said, “What must I do to be saved?” Now, his was a very individual question, what must I do to be saved? But the answer that Paul gave him was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” but he didn’t end there, “and your household.” God’s salvation is intended to be a household salvation. It’s not just for individuals, it’s for groups, it’s for families, it’s for people who are related. One of the things that God has always emphasized in His dealing with the Jewish people is they are a people. God relates to them not just as individuals but as a people. God entered into a covenant with them at Sinai by which they collectively became His people and, by that covenant, they were also related to one another. The same covenant that established a vertical relationship with the Lord established a horizontal relationship. Brothers and sisters, that’s how it should be in the church.
But returning to Israel, God is going to restore that vertical and horizontal relationship. As a matter of fact, God’s covenant, I believe, is the reason why after 19 centuries of dispersal among more than 100 nations the Jews still retain their distinctive identity and relationship.
My first wife was Danish and a lover of the Jews. She used to say quite often to me, “If you scattered the Danes among all the nations and returned 200 years later, you wouldn’t find a single Dane anywhere.” They would have all been assimilated. And here are the Jewish people who have been scattered for 19 centuries, under tremendous pressure to give up their identity, and they’re still a distinct nation. That’s God’s doing and it is the outworking of a covenant relationship. It has a message for the church because with the church also, God established a covenant which was vertical and horizontal.
In order to complete His dealings, God has to bring the Jewish people back into a place where He can deal with them collectively, not just as individuals. The only logical and scriptural place for that is the land that He gave them. This is not just a whim of God, it’s the logical outworking of His covenant commitment to them.
I did touch briefly, if I remember rightly, on Ezekiel 36 yesterday evening. But I want to go back to that chapter because of all the prophecies of Israel’s restoration, I think Ezekiel 36 is the most specific line by line, incident by incident prediction. We’ll go to Ezekiel 36, I don’t have time to fill in the background. We’ll begin at verse 16 and I want to take you quickly through the remainder of the chapter. Ezekiel 36:16:
“Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land...’”
Who’s land? Their own land. They defiled it by their own ways and deeds. Then going on:
“...therefore I poured out my fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it.”
Notice while they were in it, it was their own land. God says they were so rebellious and disobedient and unfaithful that “I had to bring judgment upon them.”
Then He describes the judgment, verse 19:
“So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds.”
The dispersion of the Jewish people was a judgment of God. You find, if you talk to Jewish people, that’s a fact that they’re very unwilling to acknowledge. In fact, most people today, whether they’re Jews or non Jews, don’t like to talk about the judgment of God. We’ve got a picture of God as a kind, elderly person who just pats people on the head and says, “There, there, never mind.” That is not a correct picture. God is a judge and He does judge, and ultimately, He will judge every single human being. But His dealings with Israel, in many ways, are a pattern worked out in history of the principles on which He deals with us as individuals.
Then God says, going on in Ezekiel 36:20:
“When they came to the nations [goyim, non-Jewish], wherever they went they profaned my holy name when they said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord and yet they have gone out of His land.’”
God says—I hope you’ll not think me anti-Semitic—“I was embarrassed by their behavior. Everywhere they came they brought dishonor to my name because they didn’t represent me as I really am.”
And then here is the motive for God’s intervention, it’s very important to understand. God is not intervening because Israel had deserved it. If He had to wait for that He’d wait forever. He’s intervening to redeem the glory of His name. So verse 21:
“But I had concern for my holy name which the house of Israel had profaned amongst the nations [the goyim] wherever they went. Therefore [verse 22], say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.’’”
It couldn’t be plainer. It’s not because you deserved it, it’s because I want to redeem the glory of my holy name.
I want to say I spoke last night about parallel restoration, Israel and the church. Exactly the same is true of God’s visitation of the church. It’s not because the church has deserved it. We have deserved it no more than Israel but God is determined to restore the glory of His name.
Going on in verse 23:
“I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the nations...”
Sanctify means restore the holiness of. It’s a tragic fact that the name of God, the name of Jesus and the name of Christ in contemporary culture are normally used as swear words. There is something to redeem.
“I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when I am hallowed [or sanctified] in you before their eyes.”
What God does is not only for the sake of Israel, it’s to reveal His true nature and His principles to all nations. He’s chosen to demonstrate it in one nation.
Verse 24, now we come to the process which God says will take place. Now it is step by step. I think we can more or less put our finger on the verse which is as far as we’ve come. Verse 24:
“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land.”
Whose land? See, it’s their own land whether they’re in it or not. Whether they’re in it or not doesn’t affect the ownership of the land, it’s theirs because God gave it to them by an everlasting covenant. He didn’t lend it to them, He gave it to them. But, He expected them to behave appropriately.
“I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land.”
The Jewish people that are regathered today in Israel have come from at least 100 different nations. God is doing very exactly what He said.
Ruth and I attended the Hebrew University for a language course in 1979 in Jerusalem. I reckon that amongst the students who were with me there were people who had returned from 30 different nations—in one class! I mean, it’s breathtaking. People cheat themselves out of so much but they don’t see the magnitude of what God is doing. It’s awe inspiring, at least to me.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.”
Notice that they are to return in what God calls filthiness. It’s very important to see that because a lot of Christians have taught, yes, the Jews will return but only after they’ve acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah. That’s a nice thought but it isn’t God’s thought. God said, “I’m going to bring them back first, then I’m going to deal with them there.” I explained what I believe is a logical reason. I want to say that the present spiritual condition of the Jewish people in Israel is filthiness. I think as many babies have been aborted in Israel as perished in the whole of the Holocaust. That’s just simply one item. Israel is absolutely swamped with the occult. And let me say this, the Orthodox Jews, most of them, are as deep in the occult as anybody. I used to think at a distance they were very pious, holy people. They’re not. They regularly make pilgrimages to the tombs of dead rabbis to worship them.
I think I’ll say this, God help me. Recently Ruth and I had a new Russian immigrant, who had just come from Russia, working for us. It’s a typical example of what God does. He was an atheist, he wasn’t interested, he didn’t know why he’d come to Israel. But, he wanted to see the sights. He wandered around the old city and ended up in The Church of The Holy Sepulchre. If there’s one place to me that’s idolatrous and unclean, it’s The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He sat there and God revealed to him Jesus as the Messiah. He was so weak by the revelation he couldn’t get up and walk for 40 minutes. Then he staggered outside, sat down again, but he knew that Jesus is the Messiah. He came and worked for us for a while and he was living at that time in the old city. He said—I just think that I need to say this—he said, “There’s a brothel just next door to where I live. Every night the young Orthodox men line up at the brothel.” Do you know why? Because scripture says that during a woman’s period a man must not have intercourse. And the rabbis, some of them, have actually endorsed the practice by which a man may during that period go to a prostitute. I don’t want to be negative but I just want to say if it talks about filthiness, filthiness is what it is. God brought them back like that. You and I wouldn’t have done it but if I’d been me I’d never have saved me! I certainly didn’t deserve it and I was filthy. So, let’s not withhold from Israel the same kind of grace that God has shown to us. He is sovereign in His grace. That’s a word that’s dropped out of the vocabulary of most Christians, the sovereignty of God. My definition of sovereignty is this, God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, and He asks no one’s permission. And so, I bow before the sovereignty of God. I read the scriptures and I say if God says that, that’s what He’s going to do. I don’t try to straighten God out.
So, God says:
“I’ll sprinkle clean water upon you and cleanse you from all your filthiness.”
It’s interesting, what’s the clean water? For me, I think it means the Word of God because Jesus said to His disciples, “You are clean through the word which I have spoken.” More and more the Jewish people in Israel are being exposed to the Word of God, including the New Testament. It has a startling effect.
I think of one young man who’s a friend of both Ruth and me. He was a typical American secular Jew. He didn’t have any kind of religious faith. But somehow or other, somebody gave him a New Testament and he started to read the obvious place, Matthew’s gospel. He said, “After I read a few chapters I realized that Jesus really was a Jew.” Then of all the amazing things for the Holy Spirit to do, he got to the place where it describes the crucifixion of Jesus and it says over the cross, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” He realized it’s true and those words revealed Jesus to him. Today he’s a firm, dedicated believer living in Israel.
So, I have endless confidence in the power of the Word of God. That was how I came to know the Lord. I started to read the Bible as a secular philosopher, treating it as a work of philosophy. After nine months I encountered the author and that made the book meaningful. From that day to this I have never doubted that the Bible is the true inspired Word of God. I’ve never struggled for faith, thank God. It’s the grace of the Lord. The Lord doesn’t do the same for everybody.
And then I was in the army at the time so I thought what am I going to do? I thought let me start a Bible class. I said where do I begin? I said let’s skip the Old Testament and start with the New. So we start with Matthew 1:1 and I held a Bible class in the deserts of North Africa. Then later on I held a Bible class for my fellow soldiers in the Sudan. But one thing I learned, if you expose people to the Word of God and they start to open their minds to it, something is going to happen. I have total confidence in the Word of God. It never will return to Him void, it will accomplish what He pleases and prosper in the thing for which He sent it.
So, I believe the sprinkling of clean water is the exposure of the returned Jewish people to the scriptures.
And then it says in verse 26:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
So up to that time they had a heart of stone. Now if I’d said that I would have been called anti-Semitic but it was Ezekiel so don’t blame me! But the fact of the matter is there was a change of heart predicted. What is true of the heart of stone is it cannot respond to the Holy Spirit. I believe for many, many centuries the Jewish people as a whole, with exceptions, were incapable of responding to the Holy Spirit. This is one of the mysteries of God. God did it. But now He says, “I’m going to take away the heart of stone and give you back a heart of flesh.” What’s the difference? A heart of flesh can respond to the Holy Spirit.
Then He says in the next verse, verse 27:
“I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.”
Notice there’s a change. The previous word was “a heart of flesh” and “a new spirit.” Now God says, “I will put my Spirit, the Holy Spirit, within you, and then you will keep my commandments.”
How many of you will recognize that apart from the Holy Spirit none of us can obey God? Jew or Gentile. We can try, we can be religious, we can be earnest, we can be self-righteous, but apart from the Holy Spirit we cannot keep God’s commandments. And so, here’s God’s dealings. First of all, take out the heart of stone, restore a heart of flesh, and then put my Spirit in them and they will become, once again, obedient.
Now we come to verse 28 which is the goal, the climax.
“Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers...”
Again, there is no doubt about what land that is.
“...you shall be my people and I will be your God.”
That’s the goal. Everything else are steps along the way. If you watched a man making a sculpture out of wood or stone and he was halfway through the process, you’d say, “I don’t see much in that. There’s a lot of lumps sticking out where they shouldn’t be sticking out. I don’t see any beauty in it.” The sculptor would say, “Wait till I’ve finished. Then judge my work.” God says, “Don’t criticize the Jewish people. Don’t criticize me. Wait till I’ve finished, because when I’ve finished you will dwell in the land, you will be my people and I will be your God.” That’s the goal. Everything else are just stages on the way to that.
And then God goes on to speak about blessings of prosperity in the land, which we will not go into.
Then He says in verse 31:
“Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe [or despise] yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations.”
At last the Jewish people will come face to face with all their wrongdoing, with all the ways they’ve failed God and failed to keep their covenant, and failed to live up to their calling. That will be true repentance. And you know, there’s only one person who can give repentance, that’s the Holy Spirit. But when it comes, brothers and sisters, don’t turn it down. This is important because I believe myself that God is striving with the church in America to bring us to a place of repentance. Everything that I’ve said about Israel has a corresponding application for the church. We need it as much as they do. Basically, we are as far away from being what we ought to be as we see them. We come back to this parallel restoration but my theme today is Israel, not the church.
Then God says in verse 32:
“Not for your sake do I do this, says the Lord God, let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.”
Again God emphasizes don’t think you deserved it. You haven’t. I’m doing it because I’m good, I’m faithful, because I’m gracious, because I keep my covenant promises.
Then we’ll skip a few verses and we go down to the last verse but one:
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will also be inquired of by the house of Israel to do this for them.’”
There’s a remarkable illustration of the balance between God’s predestination and man’s free will. God says, “I’m going to do all this, you don’t deserve it. I’m going to do it because I decided to do it.” But He says, “There’ll come a point where I will require you to respond to what I’m doing. I will require you to pray a prayer that asks me to do what I’ve committed myself to do.”
You see, the best kind of prayer is the prayer that David prayed in that same 17th chapter of 1 Chronicles when God revealed that He had a plan for David and his house. He said, “Lord, do as you have said.” When you pray that prayer, you’re unshakable. It isn’t really so important to decide what we want God to do, what’s important is to decide what God wants to do and then ask Him to do it.
See again, God’s dealings with Israel are a pattern of His dealing with us as individuals.
Now, just two points to close. Romans 9:27–28. God is dealing with Israel as a nation and He has said all Israel will be saved. But, the all Israel that will be saved is the remnant that God has chosen. Again we come back to God’s sovereignty. And so in Romans 9:27, Paul quotes Isaiah:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.”
The remnant, the specific number of those whom God has chosen. They will be saved. See again we’re confronted with God’s sovereignty and I see your faces looking a little puzzled. Let me tell you this, you’re not a Christian because you chose Christ, you’re a Christian because Christ chose you. If He had never chosen you, you could never have chosen Him. The initiative is with God, not with man.
But I want to say that when God says all Israel will be saved, the all Israel that will be saved will be the remnant whom God has chosen. Probably there are at least a dozen places in the scriptures where the word remnant is specifically applied to Israel, the remaining number that God has chosen.
And then finally, one further scripture to close with, Romans 11:25–26. Remember that Romans 9, 10 and 11 all deal with God’s purpose for Israel. Romans 11:25–26:
“For I do not desire, brethren...”
And he’s writing to Gentiles.
“...that you should be ignorant of this mystery...”
Alas, the majority of Gentile Christians today are abysmally ignorant of the mystery.
“...lest you should be wise in your own opinion...”
Which is a very dangerous thing. The book of Proverbs says do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your inward parts and strength to your bones. Do not be wise in your own eyes. It’s contrary to the fear of the Lord.
“For I do not desire, brethren, you should be ignorant of this mystery; lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”
Notice two phrases, in part and until. The Jewish people have never at any time been totally alienated from Israel. There has always been a divine remnant. At some times it was a small remnant. And every time the Bible speaks about God’s judgments on Israel, the next word is always until. It always emphasizes it is not permanent. So blindness or hardness in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so, all Israel will be saved. But all Israel will be the remnant that God has foreknown.
It’s very important to understand that God has an order and He’s going to bring in the full number of the Gentiles appointed for salvation before the final consummation of the salvation of Israel.
So, if you were a missionary to Africa or South America, winning Gentiles to the Lord, whether you know it or not, you’re hastening the salvation of Israel. That’s encouraging because the full number of the Gentiles has to come in before the complete salvation of Israel.
Ruth and I are committed to two scriptures in our ministry. The first one is Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”
What is the distinctive sign of the close of the age? The proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations.
The other scripture is this:
“When the full number of the Gentiles come in, all Israel will be saved.”
That’s God’s divine pattern and order.
Turn, if you will, to Isaiah 60:12. This is so important I don’t want to omit it. These words are addressed to Zion, which is God’s covenant people, especially Israel. In Isaiah 60:12, the Lord says:
“For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.”
It’s important that we all recognize that, no matter what nationality we belong to. God requires every nation to submit themselves to God’s plan for Israel. He says, “If you don’t, I’ll require it of you.”
See, I was born into the British Empire when it was the largest empire that history had ever seen. I was born in India which was called the British jewel in the British Imperial crown. I have seen the British Empire disintegrate and cease to be. I’m not saying that’s a disaster but I’ll tell you when it happened. Britain emerged victorious from two world wars, but in 1948 the British administration deliberately set itself in a crafty and underhand way to oppose the birth of the state of Israel. I was living in Israel, I’m British, I have been in the British Army, I’m qualified to speak. From that moment, the British Empire fell apart and Britain declined to the role of a second rate world power.
Why do I say that in America? Because today the American government is in grave danger of making precisely the same error. My friend Lance Lambert, who lives in Israel, said early in 1992 because of the policy that the American administration was following, he said the American administration is on a collision course with Almighty God. The American administration represented by George Bush and James Baker. I’ve met many Americans who are puzzled at their election results in November of 1992. The answer is very simple, the administration collided with Almighty God. No one can do that and survive.
Now I believe there are many other interests that are close to God’s heart, the fight against abortion and others. But if space in the Bible is an indication of the importance that a thing has in God’s sight, then the restoration of Israel is priority number one. It takes precedence over all others. A lot of people don’t like that, that’s their problem. God is going to do it. I mean, I’ve lived through this as a Britisher. I saw my own nation make the mistake, I saw the results. And thank God I’m happy today because I’m not committed to an earthly kingdom. My whole family was what you would call empire builders, without exception. But I’m not building the British Empire, I’m building the kingdom of God. Everybody who is a Christian has to decide at some point whether you are a nationalist or a patriarch. Because, a patriarch puts the kingdom of God before his own and his national interests. A nationalist puts interests of his nation before the kingdom of God. If you want a startling example of the tragedy of nationalism, just look at Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. There were many wonderful born again German Christians. There was a history of the gospel but I would say 90% of them were nationalists before they were Christians. And so, because they thought Hitler had the answer for Germany they embraced him as their choice representative. The results are written in history.
So let us, dear brothers and sisters, and especially my dear American brothers and sisters, take heed. Listen while you can. Pray for your government that it will not make the same tragic mistake as Britain made. May God bless you.