God’s Promises to Israel

Lecture 8 of 11 on “The Hopes of the Church of God”

star of davidI say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. – etc.  Romans 11.

Israel’s First Entry into the Land was the Result of Promise. – J. N. Darby – a summary by Sosthenes

Israel Remains God’s People

In Romans 9  Paul explains how God has acted towards both the Jews and the Gentiles;  (vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles – v23-24).  Now chapter 11 starts with the question, “Hath God cast away his people?”

As we study the history of both the church and the four beasts, we see that the Jews are put aside.  The gospel has appeared in the world to save sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, in order to reveal the hidden mystery of a heavenly people.  Hence, “unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”  (Ephesians 3:10)

Although the Jews are enemies as to the gospel, they remain God’s people according to the flesh, and beloved on account of the fathers. (See Romans 11:28).  It is a national election.  Does God count the Jews as enemies? Paul’s answer is “God forbid.”(v.1)   God has not rejected His people.  “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance”.  (v.29)

Israel and the Church

In the present dispensation we have the calling of a heavenly people.  Consequentially, God puts aside His earthly people, the Jews.  The Jewish nation never enters into the church.  Indeed,  “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in“; (v.25).  This will be until all the children of God, forming the church in this dispensation, will have been called.

Israel will be saved

As a nation, Israel will be saved. “There shall come out of Zion the deliverer(v.26).  God has not cast away His people.  God has chosen Abraham, and his family according to the flesh.  Among Abraham’s descendants Israel serves as the depositary of God’s promises.

Adam and Noah

To understand the root of God’s promises, which are to Abraham, we must look at the preceding dispensations.

  • Adam – Man is left to himself after the fall.  The world is full of violence and corruption, and God purifies it by the deluge.
  • Noah – God makes a covenant with Noah and with the creation; and gives the rainbow as a witness. “The Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground” (Gen. 8:21).  This covenant is given to the earth immediately after Noah’s sacrifice – typically the sacrifice of Christ.

All these dispensations end in the failure of man.  But what is lost through human folly is recovered at the end in Christ; whether it be blessing to the earth, prosperity to the Jews, or the glory of the church.

The Origin of Idolatry

Satan presents himself as God, and makes himself the god of this earth.  It is written, “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God?” (Deuteronomy 32:17).  The Lord reminds the Israelites,  Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time . . . and they served other gods.” (Joshua 24:2).  This was the first time that we find God marking the existence of idolatry.

But the true God separated a people, so that the truth might be preserved.   All the ways of God towards men turn upon God’s calling of Abraham and his posterity to be the depositary of this one great truth: “There are none other gods but one” (Deuteronomy 4:35).

Promises to Abraham and Israel

The promises that God made to Abraham were without condition.  Under the law, Israel received the promises with conditions, and failed.  But this did not weaken the validity and the force of the promises made to Abraham four hundred years earlier.

In Genesis 12 and 15, Abraham receives both earthly and spiritual blessings.   He received an unconditional covenant, an absolute gift of the land.  He was told of a numerous posterity, like the stars (v. 5, 18); and even given the exact limits of the country.  This promise was renewed in Chapter 17, and re-confirmed to Isaac (Ch. 26:3) and Jacob (Ch. 35:12).

Hence God makes Himself “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob“,(Exodus 3:15), and His people the heirs of the promises, pilgrims upon earth.

Israel’s Relationship with God

In this name of “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob“, God made His boast on the earth.   The faithful in Israel were to find their confidence in that.  Until Exodus 19  the promise had been unconditional.  However, Israel placed themselves in relationship with God in a totally opposite way, namely in their own righteousness on the principle of the law.   As they acknowledged obedience to God, they undertook to do in their own strength.  The covenant at Sinai was founded on the principle of obedience. (Exodus 24:7)

In this covenant, we have an ‘If…’. “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation(Exodus 19:6).

The Israelites should have said, ‘It is true, most gracious God, we ought to obey Thee; but we have failed so often, that we dare not receive the promises under such a condition.’  Instead of this, what did they say? “All the words that the Lord hath said, will we do.” (Exodus 19:8).  They rashly bind themselves to fulfil all that Jehovah had spoken, and take the promises under the condition of perfect obedience. What happened? They made the golden calf before Moses had even come down from the mount.

Like Israel, we fail the first day, and we realise that we are lost because we have violated the covenant.  If as sinners we engage ourselves to obey God, we forfeit the blessing if we fail.  Our answer should always be, ‘We are lost’; for grace supposes our ruin.  Paul shows the entire instability of man under any condition, when he says, “A mediator is not a mediator of one.” (Gal. 3:20-21).  If there is a mediator, there must be two parties.  But God is not two; “God is one.” And who is the other party? It is man.

The law cannot annul the promises made to Abraham:

  • blessing to the nations
  • the land
  • earthly blessings to Israel.

 

So in Exodus 32 we see how the promises made before the law were the resource of faith.  However, after the fall of Israel, Moses beseeches God, for His own glory, to remember the promises made to Abraham; and God repents of the evil which He had thought to do.

In Leviticus 26:16-33 we have the threat of all the chastisements which were to follow the unfaithfulness of Israel. However in verse 42: “Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham; . . . and I will remember the land.”.  God returns to His promises made unconditionally long before the law; and this is applicable to the last time.

Two More Covenants in Leviticus 26

  • with Moses, as mediator.
  • with the people, in order that under it they might be able to continue to enjoy the land, if they were obedient.  They were not, so they were expelled from the territory.

The Promised Land

Now we get the principle on which they entered into the land of Canaan.  Before the law God had unconditionally promised them the land for a perpetual possession.  It is due to these promises, by the mediation of Moses, that Israel was spared, and at last enjoyed the land.

Israel fell in the promised land, and were expelled.  We now await their re-establishment to all the promises made to Abraham.  Although the people had failed in every possible way towards God, the prophets show us clearly, that God has promised to restore them and to re-establish them in their land, under the Lord Jesus Christ as their King.  Every temporal promise will have been fulfilled.

Conclusion

In all this we see the revelation of the character of Jehovah.   Israel is the theatre in which God has displays His character.  Though these things have happened to Israel, they have happened for our benefit.  We should think not only of the failure of Israel, but also of the goodness of God – our God,  the glory of God and the honour of His perfections.  Were God to fail in His gifts towards Israel, He could fail in His gifts towards us.

 

 

 

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