A Watchman for a Nation

In Ezekiel 3:16–21, the prophet relates how God made him a watchman to His people Israel. He explains that if a nation embarks on a course in opposition to God’s revealed purpose, the watchman’s responsibility is to warn his nation. If the nation heeds and repents, the nation will be saved. If it does not heed, it will come under God’s judgment, but the watchman himself will save his own soul.

As God’s servants today, we are responsible to deliver His message to the nations as given in Jeremiah 31:10:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’”

The Lord is warning the nations not to oppose His purposes in regathering Israel, but to cooperate with them.

In Zechariah 2:8, God warns the nations: “He who touches you [Israel] touches the apple of His [God’s] eye.” The apple of the eye is the most sensitive part of the entire body. It is the part we are quickest to defend. That is how God reacts to any threat to Israel.

In recent months, virtually all the nations of Europe have taken their stand against Israel. In all the checkered history of Europe, I cannot recall a single occasion on which all its nations agreed about anything. Such agreement in this case was supernatural. It was the work of the spirit of antichrist, preparing the nations to resist the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. It is natural to ask: Did God have His “watchmen” in those nations? Did they give them warning?

In Israel itself, the watchman’s task is to remind the people of their unique accountability to God as revealed in Amos 3:2: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” If Israel fails to live up to their God-given responsibility, He warns them that He will judge them severely. Thousands of years of history bear witness to this truth.

This is not the end of the story, however. God emphatically declares that in His appointed time He will regather and restore Israel as a people. Furthermore, He requires the other nations to play their part in this restoration of Israel. This is an important theme of Paul’s message to Gentile believers in Romans 11:13–15 and 25–27:

“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening [blindness] in part has happened to Israel until the fullness [full number] of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”

Unfortunately, I meet so many Christians today who are “wise in their own opinions.” They think they know better than God how He should deal with the Jewish people.

Paul is here restating in Romans what God has already plainly said in Jeremiah 32:37–41:

“Behold, I will gather them [Israel] out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place [the land of Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land [Israel], with all My heart and with all My soul.”

The words “forever” and “everlasting” make it clear that God is not speaking about some temporary restoration of Israel but about establishing them in their own land as a permanent and irrevocable fact. Furthermore, God says He will do this with “all My heart and with all My soul.” It would be presumptuous for any nation to resist anything that God does with all His heart and soul. I believe that my own nation, Britain, discovered this to her own cost when she was administering the United Nations’ Mandate over Palestine. It so happens that I was residing in Jerusalem at the time, and I was an eyewitness of various ways that the British occupying forces opposed the transition to a Jewish State.

God’s purpose, however, goes beyond restoring and reestablishing Israel as a nation in their own land. God will ultimately make them the instrument of His judgment on the other nations. In Jeremiah 51:20–23, God is speaking to Israel, and He says:

“You are My battle-ax and weapons of war: for with you I will break the nation in pieces; with you I will destroy kingdoms…and with you I will break in pieces governors and rulers.”

Further, in Isaiah 60:12, God assures Israel of a place of preeminence among the nations:

“For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you [Israel] shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.”

Nations that oppose God’s purposes for Israel are responsible for the judgment which they will bring upon themselves. No matter how strong or prosperous those nations may appear, they will have no permanent place in history. They are on their way out.

These promises are given to Israel not on the basis of their own merits, but to honor the redemptive work of the Messiah Jesus, and because He has made Israel His people. “And it shall come to pass that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing…” (Zechariah 8:13). “The Portion of Jacob is not like them [the Gentile nations], for He [the Lord] is the Maker of all things, and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance” (Jeremiah 10:16).

Scripture looks forward to a day when: “Ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'" (Zechariah 8:23).

Do You Feel Responsible?

Let me ask you: Do you feel responsible for your nation—whichever that may be?

For my part, I hold U.S. citizenship, but the nation with which I have been identified all through my life is Britain. You will never meet anyone more “British” than I am. Every male relative I have ever known personally has been an officer in the British Army. My father retired as a Colonel, my uncle as a Brigadier and my grandfather as a Major General. I was educated at two strongholds of “British tradition” - Eton and Cambridge. For nearly ten years, I held a Fellowship in King’s College, Cambridge. In World War II, I served five years in the British Army.

I am not ashamed to say that I care about Britain. I am deeply grateful for all the blessings I have received through the United States, but I am not prepared to write Britain off. I believe that God’s desire is to bless both of these English-speaking nations who have led the way in bringing the Gospel to countless other nations. But I believe, according to Scripture, that they will determine their destiny by the way they relate to God’s purpose for Israel.

As I was preparing to write this letter, a Christian musician handed me the words of this hymn written by John Wesley:

Isaiah 66:19–20

ALMIGHTY God of love,
Set up the attracting sign,
And summon whom thou dost approve
For messengers divine;
From favoured Abraham’s seed
The new apostles choose,
In isles and continents to spread
The dead-reviving news.

Them, snatched out of the flame,
Through every nation send,
The true Messiah to proclaim,
The universal friend;
That all the God unknown
May learn of Jews to adore,
And see Thy glory in Thy Son,
Till time shall be no more.

O that the chosen band
Might now their brethren bring,
And, gathered out of every land,
Present to Zion’s King!
Of all the ancient race
Not one be left behind
But each, impelled by secret grace,
His way to Canaan find.

We know it must be done,
For God hath spoke the word:
All Israel shall the Saviour own,
To their first state restored;
Rebuilt by his command,
Jerusalem shall rise;
Her temple on Moriah stand
Again, and touch the skies.

Send then thy servants forth,
To call the Hebrews home;
From East, and West,
And South, and North,
Let all the wanderers come;
Where’er in lands unknown
The fugitives remain,
Bid every creature help them on,
Thy holy mount to gain.

An offering to their God,
There let them all be seen,
Sprinkled with water and with blood,
In soul and body clean;
With Israel’s myriads sealed,
Let all the nations meet,
And show the mystery fulfilled,
Thy family complete!

As I read them, I was astonished to see how exactly Wesley understood and expressed the biblical truth about the end-time regathering of Israel. I want to challenge you, my Methodist brothers and sisters - what have you done with this truth revealed to your founder? It was never more urgently needed than it is today.

But this revelation does not concern only Methodists. All committed Christians have a responsibility to bear witness - each in his own nation - to the full counsel of God concerning Israel and the nations.

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