Lecture 9 of 11 on “The Hopes of the Church of God”
Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live … and ye shall know that I am the LORD. … Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. … So shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them. Ezekiel 37.
Israel’s Failure and Dispersion; Promises of Restoration. – A Summary by Sosthenes
The restoration of the Jews is founded upon the unconditional promises that God made to Abraham. However, their fall is a result of their having undertaken to obey God in their own strength. After God had exercised His patience in every possible way “until there was no remedy,” (2 Chron. 36:16) judgment came upon them only after extraordinary patience. But God keeps His promises.
We have a similar history. No sooner does God place us in a position than we fail. But behind our failure there is strength, that is to say, the revelation of the counsels of God, and consequentially His unconditional promises.
As Moses was the mediator for Israel (the type), we have the mediation and the presence of Jesus. In Him the promises are accomplished.
God’s Promises to Israel
Whenever God wanted going to show grace to His people, He reminded them of the covenant made with Abraham. However Israel took the promises under the covenant made in the wilderness. Unlike that made with Abraham, Israel put themselves under an obligation of obedience in order to enjoy the promises. They failed altogether; but notwitGod hstanding that, thanks to the mediation of Moses, God was able to bless the people.
Israel failed again after they had been given the land and established themselves in it. God raised up prophets to convict them of the sin into which they had fallen. The prophets also showed the faithful ones that the counsels of God towards Israel would not be put aside; for by means of the Messiah, God would accomplish everything that He had spoken about. It was when Israel failed, that the the faithful remnant of the people really valued the precious promises.
What it means to us
In the history Israel sinning under the law, we have the history of every one of our hearts. If we place ourselves before God, we recognise that it is only His grace that sustains us, and relieves us from the situation we find ourselves in because of sin.
The History of Israel
Joshua says to the people, “Ye cannot serve the Lord“, but the people say, “Nay, but we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:19,21) They had been led into the land of promise, enjoyed the fruits of grace, and now they undertook to obey the Lord in their own strength.
But in Judges 2 they are found in complete failure, and God says, “I will not drive out your enemies from before you, but they shall be as thorns in your sides. … And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel” (v.3,11). It is always the same – kindness on the part of God, ingratitude on the part of man.
Eli was the high priest, the judge and head of Israel. However the glory of Israel had been cast down to the ground: “The ark of God taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.” Eli himself died, and his daughter-in-law named her child, Ichabod, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:11,21)
Samuel was rejected: 1 Sam. 8:6, 7. “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” Israel had failed under king, prophet, and priest. They are now ruined under the king (Saul) whom they chose.
David and Solomon – God gave David, a type of Christ to Israel, as he is the father of Christ according to the flesh. Under Solomon Israel becomes rich and glorious. But the people transgressed under both these two princes. Royalty, raised up of God Himself failed, and judgment passed upon it.
Ahaz and Manasseh – As well as the ten tribes who became totally unfaithful Judah failed too. In the apostasy of Ahaz, who took the heathen altar from Damascus to Jerusalem, the last human stay of the hopes of Israel failed. Only God’s promises remained.
“And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers… but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:15, 16). This was the end of their existence in the land of Canaan. The name of Lo-ammi (not my people) is at last written upon them, and they were deported to Babylon.
The promises which sustained a faithful remnant
This is the promise: “I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more as beforetime … I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will establish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” (2 Samuel 7:10,13). In Hebrews 1:5, these words apply to Christ – “For unto which of the angels said he … I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” All the promises made to Abraham and to his seed are placed in the safe keeping, and gathered together in the Person, of Jesus, the Son of David.
“In that day (time of great trouble) shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.” (Isaiah 4:2-4). Judah and Israel will be re-united; and the nations will be assembled to the throne of God.
Happy Times for Israel
Happy times for Israel have not yet been realised. They certainly were not realised at the time of the return from Babylon.
Ezekiel 37 gives the history of the re-establishment of Israel – the joining together of the two parts of the nation and their return into the land. God gives a new heart to the remnant, the nucleus of the future nation.
There is a touching passage as to the thoughts of the Lord concerning His people in Jeremiah 32:37-42. Having given them the promises of blessing in grace, and assured them that He would be their God, the Lord says, “And I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.”
Israel must be renewed in heart to receive the promises of Canaan.
Israel must be born again to enjoy those terrestrial promises which belong to her. God must cause them to walk in His statutes by giving them a new heart, and then, but only then, they will enjoy the- blessings foretold for them.
The Lord spoke to Nicodemus about the need of being born of water and of the Spirit in order to enter into the kingdom of God. The words in Ezekiel 36:25-26 are almost identical. That is why He says, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John3:12) – about the glory of Christ exalted in heaven, and the church, His companion?
Is Zion the Church?
“Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me.” (Isaiah 48:14). It has been asserted, that in these chapters, Zion refers to the church. But this is impossible. The church will be with Christ. If Zion was the church, how could it be forsaken?
When it says, “All the nations shall be gathered unto it.” it does not refer to the return from Babylon, because it goes on, “In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together . . . to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.” (Jeremiah 3:17-18). This cannot refer to the church.
“Who is it that the Lord has broken down, thrown down, and destroyed? The same that He will build and plant.” (Jeremiah 31:28). It seems a little unreasonable to apply all the judgments to Israel, and all the blessings concerning the same persons to the church. We have the Holy Spirit; Israel will have the Branch.
We participate in the blessings of the good olive-tree; but our joy has not dispossessed the Jew (the natural branch) of that which belongs to him. We have been grafted into Christ. If we are Christ’s, we are Abraham’s children, and partake of all that is spiritual. The church has only one Father, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Now all these things happened to them [as] types, and have been written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 DBY) On one hand, the heart of man always fails, and on the other hand there is the faithfulness of God who never fails. He will fulfil all His promises, providing strength to surmount all the power of Satan and the wickedness of man.
As to us Gentiles, the execution of the judgment has been suspended for almost 2000 years. God is still drawing upon all the eternal resources of His grace to bring to light those who will listen to His testimony of salvation.
JND Concludes ‘Admirable patience! Infinite grace of Him who interests Himself in us, even after our rebellion and iniquity! To Him be all the glory!’