Tag Archives: Israel

IS GOD FINISHED WITH ISRAEL?

IS GOD FINISHED WITH ISRAEL?

“I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject His people whom He foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel. ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:1-6.

There is a stream of teaching in the church today that says that God has washed His hands of the Jews. If Paul were here, he would vehemently defend the argument of Scripture that God still has a plan for them in spite of their mass rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. ‘If not,’ says Paul, ‘then why is it that I, who am an Israelite and a descendant of Abraham, am also one of his spiritual sons, by faith in Jesus?’

The Bible teaches that there are two “Israels” – natural Israel, those who are the physical descendants of Abraham, and spiritual Israel, those who follow Abraham’s example of faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

Not all natural Israel are God’s children because they have rejected Jesus, set up their own standard of righteousness and fallen short of God’s requirement, perfection. On the other hand, Gentiles who have no claim to Abrahamic descent, have been welcomed into the family of God because they did what Abraham did; they believed God’s promise and received His righteousness as a free gift. And this when they were not even actively seeking Him!

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. Romans 9:6-8

What Paul is clearly teaching is that God has established a new covenant with Israel, not based on the law but based on the one who perfectly fulfilled the law. Only those who receive and participate in this new covenant are the true people of God. Jews and Gentiles are included in the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus.

This covenant was not an afterthought. It is the central message of the Bible and the fulfilment of God’s covenant with Abraham. The Mosaic covenant was an interim agreement by which God set up His holy standards to show His people what was needed to be accepted and which was intended to show them just how far short they fell and how impossible it was to achieve the righteousness acceptable to God by their own efforts.

No, God did not reject the Jews, but He did show them that they are no different from the Gentiles. They have to come to God in exactly the same way as any non-Jew – through the one whom God appointed to be the mediator – His Son, whom He sent to be the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the whole world.

However, at the same time, does that mean that He has no further use for the Jews as a nation? Does He treat them as He does any other nation on earth? He chose Abraham and promised that He would make of him a great nation and through him all the nations on earth would be blessed. Did God cancel His promise to Abraham? Did He go back on what He had said simply because Israel failed to keep their side of the agreement? Does that make God’s sovereign plans subject to human failure?

Some argue that God is finished with the Jews; that He wiped His hands of them when they crucified their Messiah. That’s the reason the Romans came in and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and scattered the Jews. That’s why Hitler exterminated millions during WW2. That’s why the world is against Israel today and the Arab nations are bent on wiping the Jews from the face of the earth – so they say.

But is that what God’s Word says? We shall have to read on to find out what God has to say about Israel…

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – TIMING IS THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

TIMING IS THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

“When they were together for the last time, they asked, ‘Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?’

“He told them, ‘You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit.  And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the world.'” Acts 1:6-8 (The Message).

The disciples were like bulldogs with a bone. They never let go of their belief that Messiah was going to free them from the Romans. Just think of how much of the impact of Jesus’ teaching they missed because they had a fixation for getting rid of Rome. It was probably one of the motivations behind Judas’ betrayal. Perhaps he wanted to shock Jesus into action — but it didn’t work.

Their constant squabbling was always about who would be ‘Prime Minister’ in Jesus’ cabinet. His teaching about greatness in the kingdom of God fell on deaf ears. They could not understand it because it always collided with their preconceived idea about the kingdom of God.

Even the cataclysmic events of the past few weeks had not dislodged their expectation. Now Jesus was about to leave them and He had still not said or done anything about the Romans! All the instruction He had given them about the kingdom of God over the past forty days had been filtered through the notion that He would take action now so that they could administer the new kingdom for Him after He had gone.

They finally brought their expectation out into the open. ‘Is this the time?’ they asked, hoping against hope that He would say yes. The answer they got cut them short, once and for all. ‘Timing is the Father’s business.’  It was not their business, and neither is it ours, to question God’s timing or intentions. Like the disciples, this is often something that consumes us so much that we miss the bigger picture and the valuable lesson.

These men were about to learn a new way of life. Up to now they had Jesus with them. He set the pace and they tagged along, not knowing what was going on but content to be with Him and let Him do the stuff while they watched and listened. They did what He told them and went where He sent them. He had given them authority and power and they had tasted some of the impact of the kingdom He was presenting.

From now on He would no longer be with them in person. They had witnessed the Holy Spirit’s power in His life. Now it was their turn. His physical presence would give way to the Spirit’s internal residence and they would have to learn to recognise His voice and follow His leading from within. This would put a new responsibility on them; to learn to discern His voice, understand His leading and follow His instructions.

Jesus did not leave a “Google map” for them, with all the details of the journey and the destination. That would have been so much easier to follow. Instead He promised them another person just like Himself; same disposition, same power, same wisdom, same purpose, same destination, but one who would be in their spirits, always there, always the same, always in charge.

This time they would do the stuff and the world would watch and listen and be convinced that Jesus is, after all, who He said He is. The issue is, like the disciples, like us, do we listen and follow, or do we ignore the Holy Spirit and do life our way? There is no better way to squelch the work of God on earth than to do it our way.

Learning To Be A Son – Chapter One – Sonship God’s Original Design

LEARNING TO BE A SON

CHAPTER ONE

Sonship – God’s Original Design

God’s dream was to create a family, sons and daughters who would resemble Him and be one with Him and who would be His vice-regents to rule over the earth. His plan was that all people would be His children. Even when Adam fell and was driven from God’s presence in disgrace, he was still God’s son, just as the prodigal in Jesus’ story remained the son of the father even when he rebelled and left home.

The father in the story did not disown him. He waited for his erring son to return and welcomed him home with joy because his lost son had been found. No matter how far God’s human family runs from Him, we can never be “unborn” because, as the offspring of Adam, whom Luke described as “the son of God”; (Luke 3:38), we are all sons and daughters of God.

Paul acknowledged this by quoting a Greek poet in Acts 17: 28 – We are all His offspring.

The older son was equally “lost”, not because he ran away but because he was estranged from the father by having a slave-mentality. Like the Pharisees who despised “sinners”, the older son refused to rejoice when his brother returned home because he was more concerned about his brother’s behaviour than his standing as a son.

God had reasons for creating the human race. Apart from His desire to give His love to a family, He had to sort out an issue with Satan. God created the angelic host to be “sons of God’, but Lucifer, the highest of the angelic beings who became Satan, had designs on God’s throne. He was evicted from God’s presence and thrown down upon the earth. It was his plan to entice the human race away from love and loyalty to the Father to exert his rule over the earth through them.

Through the nation of Israel, it was God’s intention to reveal His true nature to the entire human race and to prepare them to receive His Messiah who would redeem humanity from slavery to the devil and restore and reinstate them into the family of God. Israel failed to fulfil its mission, but God always preserved a faithful remnant through whom He would send His Son.

Through judgement and discipline God dealt with Israel’s waywardness. He never gave up on them because Israel was His firstborn “son”. From the beginning He had planned and promised that He would send His Messiah to rescue them from bondage to sin.

But God’s promises to Israel extended beyond the boundaries of one nation. God’s love was for the whole world. His promises were made to the Gentiles as well. Not only did He call Israel His son; Egypt and Assyria, symbolic of the worst of Israel’s enemies, were to be included in the promise of blessing (Isa. 19: 24-25).

Can it be, then, that God has included the whole world, even those who reject Him and worship false gods, in His family? The Scripture concludes that all are potentially the sons of God, sons by birth and relationship but estranged from God through sin, rebellion and unbelief. Those who have received Jesus and believed on His name have been given the right to become children of God experientially (John 1:12), but the door is open for everyone to take their rightful place as His children through His mercy and forgiveness in Christ.

Through Jesus He set up His rescue plan so that those who are at enmity with Him may be reconciled through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. Those who refuse His offer of mercy must accept the consequences of their choice, but it is their choice, not God’s that they face eternal judgment and destruction instead of the love of God’s eternal family.

 

The Mystery Revealed

THE MYSTERY REVEALED

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that that you may not be conceited. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full members of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way 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

In the end they just can’t get away from God’s mercy!

Unlike the gods of human imagination who are mostly out to “get” their worshippers and are easily offended like their creators, the God of the Bible is big on mercy. No matter how Paul reasoned or argued, he always came out at the same place. Mercy! Unlike much of our erroneous ideas about God, He has no intention of destroying people if He does not have to.

The history and destiny of His people is inextricably tied up with the destiny of the Gentiles. Israel had no exclusive claim to God’s love. They were chosen to be His messengers and mouthpiece to the rest of the world. “For God so loved the world…” Why should He not love the world? Every human being of every nation is created in His image and for His glory, not just Israel, but He needed a specific group of people to model Him to the rest of mankind.

The fact that they failed does not cancel out their calling and God’s purpose for them. He did not “un-call” them because they failed just as no child can be “un-born” even if he disappoints his family. His parents may disown him but he is still a family member whether they acknowledge him or not.

Paul called it a mystery. There are many “mysteries” in Scripture – things we don’t understand because they are beyond human imagination or human experience; for example, the sovereignty of God. How can God carry out His will in our lives and yet, at the same time, hold us responsible for our choices? It’s a mystery!

But Paul is not talking about this kind of “mystery”. In the Bible, God hid truths which could only be revealed when all the facts were in place. One of the big mysteries, which only came to light after Jesus died and rose again, was the relationship of Jew and Gentile in God’s big story. The Jews thought they were “it”, but God had a different agenda for them. Through them He planned to bring the whole world into His story.

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6.

Unfortunately, because of their prejudice and bigotry, the Jews could not stomach the idea that God cared about the Gentiles as well but, in spite of their resistance, they were and will always be descendants of Abraham and God’s covenant people. And that makes them players in God’s story until the final chapter.

And what is the final chapter? They will take their place in the story, where they belong.

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake, but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.” Romans 11:28-32.

And how will it happen? Once again, in His own incomprehensible way, God will bring together His choices and man’s choices into perfect harmony to fulfil His will. The Jews, just like the Gentiles, will receive mercy through faith in God’s Son, when they finally recognise who He is.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son…On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” Zechariah 12:10; 13:1.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

Don’t Blame God!

DON’T BLAME GOD!

“What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly, they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear to this very day.”

“And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

“And again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Romans 11:7-11.

Paul is adamant that, although most of the Jews forfeited their place in the New Covenant because of their unbelief, God still has a remnant, as He had throughout their tragic history, who have not “bowed the knee to Baal.” Scattered throughout the earth today there are many Jewish people who have recognised and embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah. They are counted among God’s people as the spiritual sons of Abraham and members of the “Israel of God” because of their faith.

There is a serious warning in Paul’s words about the Jews. Before God endorsed their choices, He gave them many opportunities to listen to His entreaty and to return to Him, but they refused. He sent prophets time and again to both the southern and the northern kingdoms, calling the people back to God and warning them of the consequences of their stubborn unbelief.

They had the example of their ancestors who perished in the wilderness because they refused to trust God and obey His instructions. Their unceasing complaints and rebellion angered Him so much that He withdrew His protection, and left them to suffer the ravages of the desert. Fiery serpents bit them and many died until they cried out to God. In His mercy He delivered them and healed those who looked in faith at the brass snake He had commanded Moses to make.

No amount of miraculous intervention could convince them that God was real and that He meant what He said. They cried for help when the chips were down, only to pursue their old ways as soon as things were back to normal. As then, so now, miracles do not produce faith. Faith produces miracles. God purposely put them to the test, allowing them suffer hunger and thirst to see whether they would trust Him or not. Their hardships exposed their wicked hearts of unbelief. They tried God’s patience until He gave them what they confessed – death in the desert.

“Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:16-19.

In all of Paul’s discussion about the fate of the Jews, let us not miss the message meant for his readers. The Jews chose unbelief and hardness of heart in response to God’s grace. They could hardly blame God for the outcome since He confirmed their choice, not His, with blindness and deafness. We too, cannot blame God for what we get because the invitation is His but the initiative is ours.

Yet, for the Jews, the door of grace still stands open and will remain open until Jesus comes. As we read on, we shall learn of God’s purpose for them. But what of us? The Word of God assures us that, as long as it is still “today”, we have an opportunity to turn away from our man-made beliefs and receive, by faith, the gift of righteousness. There is still a rest from our own self-effort into which we can enter and receive what Jesus did for us. “It is finished!”

“Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:1; 3:13; 4:9-11.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.