Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
From The Bible
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IT WILL seem a strange suggestion to most in these days, that there is any connection between the gospel hope and an event so local in its character as the restoration of the Jews to their own land (Palestine). Nevertheless, such a connection exists, if we are to be guided by the Scriptures, rather than by learned opinion or venerable tradition.
The interest taken by "Christians," as a body, in the Jews, is purely sentimental in character, and it is very weak and purely retrospective. It arises from the history of the Jews--from their national relation to the Deity in former times; from their ancient mediumship as the channel of revelation; and from their flesh-and-blood connection with the Messiah. It does not stretch into the future, except in the form of professed solicitude for the spiritual interests of the nation, in common with those of mankind in general. It recognises no connection between their future and the salvation to be manifested in the earth, but is rather in a mood to thank God for a future in which the Jew has no place as such.
Now, we shall see, before we get through this lecture, that the truth of God justifies an interest of a much more practical kind than this. We shall find that in the purpose of God, the salvation of the world is bound up in the destiny of the Jews; that apart from their national glorification, such salvation is a dream, to be realised neither by nations nor individuals, spiritually nor temporally,--and that the man who is either ignorant or skeptical of this coming future development, is darkened in his understanding on one of the essential features of Christian teaching.
We look at the evidence. Jesus said to his disciples, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. xv, 24). That he meant the Jews is evident from another statement:--
He further declared to the woman of Samaria, at Jacob's well, "SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS" (John iv, 22). These passages alone show the national restrictedness of the salvation proclaimed by Jesus and his apostles. Jesus was a Jew, born in the house of David as the God-appointed heir of David's throne, and the apostles who laboured with him were also Jews. They proclaimed a message which came from the God of the Jews, and which according to the original instructions of Christ was only intended for the Jews. Therefore, Paul could emphatically characterise the gospel as "THE HOPE OF ISRAEL," which he did in the words recorded in Acts xxviii, 20, "FOR THE HOPE OF ISRAEL I am bound with this chain." He could also make the following statement with peculiar emphasis, in defending himself before Agrippa:--
He could also say with a truthfulness not generally appreciated:--
Thus it is evident that the salvation proclaimed for acceptance in the gospel is intensely Jewish in its origin, its application, and its future bearing; and it is equally evident that this was the light in which it was regarded by the disciples after the day of Pentecost; for we read in Acts xi, 19, that "They which were scattered abroad . . . travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to NONE BUT UNTO THE JEWS ONLY." The reader will also remember that Peter required a special revelation to instruct him as to God's proposed admission of the Gentiles into the blessings of Israel, and even then he threw the onus of it upon God. He did not attempt to justify it himself, but apologised to his brethren for preaching to the Gentiles, saying, "What was I, that I could withstand God?" (Acts xi, 17). The fact is, the admission of the Gentiles was one of the "mysteries of the gospel." This is evident from the statement of Paul, in Ephesians iii, 4-6:--
But this opening the way for the admission of the Gentiles did not destroy the Israelitish character of "THE HOPE." The effect was just the other way. Instead of the Gentiles converting the hope into Gentilism by their reception of it, the hope converted them into Jews, conforming them to its essentially Israelitish character. Hence, says Paul, to those Ephesians who received it, "Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise... Now therefore ye are NO MORE STRANGERS AND FOREIGNERS, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God" (Eph. ii, 12, 19). He further said to the Romans, "HE IS A JEW which is one inwardly" (Rom. ii, 29), that is, he who, being a Gentile by birth, has become a Jew in heart, and taste, and hope, is more of a real Jew than the reprobate natural son of Abraham. Referring to the admission of the Gentiles, he speaks of it as a cutting out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and a grafting contrary to nature, into the good olive tree (Rom. xi, 24). Hence the Gentiles are "wild olive branches," without hope--without birthright--without promises--without a future portion of any kind; and if they would become heirs of the inheritance to come, they must cast off "the old man" of their Gentilism, and put on "the new man-" of true Jewism, "which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. iii, 10).
But to come to a closer consideration of the subject: Paul says he was bound "for the hope of Israel," which is equivalent to saying that he preached it, seeing that it was for his preaching that he was put in bonds. Now, if Paul proclaimed "the hope of Israel," it is clear that he did not preach the set of ideas which now passes current in the popular churches as the gospel; for in what sense can these ideas be said to be "the hope of Israel"?
What hope has the gospel of orthodoxy for them? It promises them no special blessings in connection with its final development. On the contrary, it takes from them what hope they have. It tells them that their Messiah is not coming, and that their hopes of national reconstitution and aggrandisement under him, in their own land, are carnal and delusive. This alone shows it cannot be the gospel which Paul preached, for the one which he preached was "the hope of Israel." Its essential feature was to be recognised in a Jewish national hope, founded upon certain promises made of God to the progenitors of the nation. Those promises on which that hope was founded, constitute glad tidings, or gospel proclaimed by-Jesus and the apostles for belief, and those who believed it derived a specific hope from the things so proclaimed. Now, as the one truly Christian hope arises from a reception of the doctrinal teaching of the gospel, and since that is the basis of a Jewish national hope, it must be very evident that there is an intimate connection between the Christian hope and the hope of Israel. It is the purpose of this lecture to point out that connection, and, in the doing thereof, to introduce certain matters relevant thereto, which are essential to be known by all who desire to attain to a true knowledge of what the Scriptures teach.
The Jews are a people whose origin and history are pretty well known to intelligent Scripture readers. Abraham, the member of a Chaldean family, was commanded to separate himself from his people, and go into a land "which he should alter receive for an inheritance" (Heb. xi, 8). He obeyed, and went out, "not knowing whither he went." He was afterwards informed that his descendants would become a great nation, with whom God should have special dealings, and who should be the special objects of His care. In the course of time Abraham's household went down into Egypt, and settled in that country as a friendly colony. In the course of events, the Pharoahs enslaved them, and subjected them to a bitter rule for more than two centuries. At the end of that time, they were delivered through divine interposition by the hand of Moses; and after various vicissitudes, they settled in the land of promise under a divine constitution, which provided that so long as the nation was obedient to its requirements, they would remain in the land in prosperity, but that so soon as they departed from the statutes of God who had called and constituted them, adversity would overtake them.
The subsequent part of their history is summed up in a sentence; they failed to observe the conditions of this national covenant, and were expelled from the national territory in disgrace, and scattered among the nations as fugitives, where they remain to this day.
Now, the intelligence of ordinary professing Christians does not go beyond this general outline of the history of the Jews. They look upon Jewish national history as consummated, and the national destiny as irrevocably sealed. They take no cognisance of any future in store for them, as affecting the world's interest in any form. They think that if the Jews turn orthodox Christians, and become the disciples of the missionaries sent to convert them, well, they may return to their land; but whether they do or not, it is no matter. "The Anglo-Saxons are the people leading the van--and destined to become the civilisers and enlighteners of the whole world. The Jews are nowhere; they are behind the age, and will very likely be absorbed by the dominant people, who are rapidly filling the word with fruit." This is a prevalent sentiment; and to suggest (as is done in the subject of this lecture) that the salvation of the world is in any way beholden to the contemptible race of the Jews, is to incur the displeasure of patriotism, and the patronising pity of the wise of this generation.
However, an intelligent regard for the Scriptures of truth enables a man to endure these unpleasant results. He is able to see the futility of human proposings when they come into collision with God's declared purpose. The great Disposer has said, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways"; and this principle we see illustrated in the matter in hand. Human "ways" would have extirpated the Jews from the earth centuries ago; but the Higher ways have preserved them amid the fall of Gentile dynasties, and the annihilation of Gentile races; and to this day they remain a distinct and indestructible people though scattered among the nations of the earth. Human "thoughts" have alienated the Jews, as a nation, from all further divine relationship; but the Higher thoughts, while having for the time cast off Israel for their sins, have decreed the ultimate disappearance of every other nation under heaven, and the eternal preservation of the despised nation in closest communion with Himself (Jer. xxx, 11). This will be brought into stronger prominence hereafter. Meanwhile, the reader's attention is directed to the following testimonies regarding the national standing of the Jews before God:--
It would be difficult to give more emphatic expression to the idea of a special, deliberate, and unconditional selection by God of the Jews as a people to Himself. Who may cavil at it? "Hath not the potter power over the clay?" Hath not the Eternal Creator, in His infinite wisdom, the right to develop His own plans in His own way? The selection of the Jews is one feature of the plan which He has conceived in relation to this world. This is incontestably proved by the testimonies adduced. Nothing can undo that selection. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." The Jews themselves cannot nullify the decree. They may bring upon themselves, as they have done, the divine displeasure and the divine affliction by their sins, but they cannot alter their position before God as His chosen nation. The very punishments which they have endured for many generations are proof of the divine speciality of their national character. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; THEREFORE I will punish you for all your iniquities." This is the language of Jehovah toward them in Amos iii, 2; the very calamities which have befallen them are proofs of divine supervision and dealing. At present, they are in dispersion, because of their iniquities, but not for ever cast off, as the common idea is. Paul says, in Rom. xi, 2, "God hath not cast away. His people which He foreknew." The testimony of Jeremiah is still stronger. In chapter xxx, 11, we read:--
The national sufferings of Israel are but the measured correction to which God is subjecting them; they are not evidence that God has finally rejected them. The language of Jehovah, in Jeremiah xxxiii, 24-26, would imply that some, in ancient times, took a contrary view, and contended, as many who call themselves Christians now do, that God had for ever disowned His people, and intended their destruction. The answer is sublimely emphatic:--
Again, in Micah iv, 11, 12, we read: --
Again, in Jeremiah li, 20:--
These are the very words of the Almighty. They show us that though the Jews are now in a very feeble and degraded condition, they are destined to be the breakers of all kingdoms under heaven. So that even Britain herself, with all her national sensitiveness and pride, will have to submit to them, or be shivered by the stone which shall then be made the head of the comer.
At present, the Jews are suffering as a punishment for their sins. This. was foreshewn by all the prophets. The predictions are too well known to require quoting. The evidence of their truthfulness is before our eyes. We see it in the wide-spread dispersion of the nation which. was once the sovereign people of the word; we behold it in the ignominy of their social position wherever they are to be found, and in the reproaches and insults which the mocking Gentiles heap upon them. Deep and heavy has been their draught of the cup of cursing and woe, at the hands of the Avenger. They cried, "His blood be on us and on our children," and with blood and fire has their terrible invocation returned into their bosoms. But are there no brighter days for Israel? Are their calamities to have no end? Is Jehovah's anger to burn against them for ever? Let us hear the prophet:--
Here is a complete answer to the question. Its affirmation is that good will succeed the evil which is now upon them, which implies that the present time of national adversity will come to an end. Let it further be noted, that the good predicted is declared to have been "promised ": "All the good that 1 have promised them." Now the question immediately suggested by the consideration of this statement is, "what good has been promised them?" In answer to this, we read in Jeremiah xxxiii, 14, 16:--
Here the "good thing promised" is briefly summarised. Its two main features are,--a king to execute judgment and righteousness in the land and the salvation of Judah and Jerusalem in his' day. This is neither more nor less than a promise of the Messiah to rescue them from their enemies, and to recover them from the oppressions to which they have been subject for ages, a promise which is repeated in the following words, in Ezekiel xxxvii, 22:--
It is important to note the second element in the good thing promised: "In these days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely." It must be evident to the most obtuse intellect, that these days are yet to come; for, at present there is no Messiah executing judgment in the promised land, and no dwelling safely of Judah and Jerusalem, and never has there been such a state of things. Yet the promise is that this "good thing" shall "come to pass," with all the certainty of the evil which has overtaken the nation; and this promise is not confined to this part of Scripture, nor restricted .to this language. We read in Jeremiah xxxi, 28:--
This is to be in the days of the Righteous Branch, when "he shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" for we find in Jeremiah iii, 17, 18, as follows:--
We further read in Ezekiel xxxvii, 21:--
Again in Ezekiel xxxvi, 24:--
There is no evading this language. It is too definitely worded to be spiritualised or misunderstood. As if to preclude such a thing, it is put in the following antithetical manner in Jeremiah xxxi, 10:--
In the sense therefore, in which the Jews were scattered, will they be gathered. They were driven from their own land, and dispersed among the nations; this was the scattering. They will be collected from the lands among which they are now distributed in disgrace, and re-settled in their' land as a great nation; this will be the gathering. Surely this is plain. The Jews are now a taunt and a proverb, according to the prediction of Moses; but in their restoration, it will just be the reverse. They will be supremely honoured in proportion as they are now despised. We read in Zeph. iii, 19, 20:--
Again, Zechariah viii, 23:--
This honour is connected with political supremacy. The Jews--the meanest, the weakest, the most despised people on the face of the earth, are to become the most powerful and renowned among the nations, having all people in subjection. This is evident from the following testimony:--
When this shall come to pass, the enemies of Israel will be confounded. Those who now deride them, and mock at their national hope, will be overtaken by the retribution to which they are rendering themselves liable. The approaching noontide of Jewish prosperity will be their destruction. The preliminary symptoms of the change will fill them with panic. This is the testimony of the following Scripture:--
And the fate they dread will overtake them, as is evident from the words of Isaiah, chapter xlix, 25-26:--
Again, in Isaiah xli, 11, 12, we read:--
Here, then, is certain doom for all who now take part against Israel; but there is a blessing in store for those who befriend them. "Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee." This was' the decree pronounced by Balaam under the influence of the spirit, and declared to Abraham centuries before. It is both individual and national in its application. Nations that have been least rigorous in their persecutions of the Jews will, in all probability, fare the best at the coming of Christ. England is first among this class. She was among the persecutors of the chosen nation in the early part of her history; but within recent centuries, she has loosened their bonds, and granted free protection to their persons and property, and latterly she has abolished their disabilities, and promoted them to the rank of citizenship, and even admitted them to Parliament. Individuals who have looked with interest and compassion upon the exiled race may expect a blessing when the scoffer's brazen voice is heard no more.
We look upon the Jews in their present condition, and find them destitute of much that is admirable. They seem the embodiments of sordidness and callousness. This is a difficulty in the case at which many honest minds stumble. They say, how is such a character to be reconciled with the coming blessing of Him who is no respecter of persons, and who gives to every man according to his work? There would be force in this inquiry if the restoration of the Jews were conditional upon the moral condition of the nation. That it is not is evident from Ezekiel xxxvi, 22, 32:--
At the same time, though national restoration as a purpose of God is not contingent upon national reformation, there will be a national purgation before that restoration is effected. Though they will be gathered from the countries irrespectively of moral condition, they will not necessarily obtain admission into the land. That admission is conditional with every individual of the nation. This is evident from Ezekiel xx, 34-38:--
In this we recognise a parallel to what occurred to them after leaving Egypt under Moses. They were then a rabble of untutored, unbelieving slaves; and a whole generation, with the exception of two persons--Caleb and Joshua--perished in the wilderness. They "entered not in because of unbelief," says Paul (Heb. iv, 6). So the Jews contemporary with the return of Christ, will be unfit to enter the land; the event will find them in their present degraded and perverse condition; and the purging described in the testimony above will be necessary. That purging will take place in the wilderness, as in the days of Moses, and may occupy the same period for its accomplishment, from what is stated in Micah vii, 15: "According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things." Possibly, however, this expression, "according to the days," may not refer to length of the time, but to the character of the days. Be that as it may, the following testimonies will, after the process, be fulfilled:--
It is sometimes objected that Palestine is too small to hold all the Jews. The objection, however, proceeds on the erroneous supposition that previous generations of Israel, according to the flesh, will be resurrected for restoration. We have no reason to suppose that there will be such a resurrection. The resurrection that occurs at the manifestation of Christ the restorer, is limited to classes that cannot be brought within the national category--one too high and one too low, to be comprised in the restoration of mortal Jews, namely (I), those who rise to everlasting life, and to reign with Christ over both Jews and Gentiles; and (2), those who rise to be condemned in shame to punishment and second death (Dan. xii, 2; Jno. v, 29). The promised restoration is restricted to the generation contemporaneous with the advent of the Messiah; and perhaps, even they, as we have seen, will only be gathered to perish in the wilderness like their forefathers in the days of the first exodus.
There is no injustice done to previous generations, for we must remember that the Jews are God's people, only in a national sense. They are His nation, whom He has chosen out of all other people on the face of the earth. He has not selected them with a view to special benefit individually. In respect of the salvation to be conferred through Christ, they are on equal footing with the Gentiles; yet nationally, their relationship to God is very special, as will be made manifest in the future age. Now from the testimony advanced, we learn:--
This is a summary of the things constituting "the hope of Israel," for which Paul was bound with chains: and who can fail to perceive that they are also the bases of the believer's hope, as set forth in previous lectures? The hope of the believer is the coming of Christ, and the establishment of the kingdom of God, involving the restoration of Israel. The hope of the Jew is the coming of Christ, and the establishment of the kingdom of God. Hence their hopes are identical, though their relation to it is, at first, slightly different. The apostolic gospel is truly "the hope of Israel." That gospel was, in reality, a proclamation of a coming re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel under the "greater than Solomon," and an invitation to all to become partakers of Israel's glory, on certain specified conditions. No one, therefore, can Scripturally understand the kingdom of God, which is the gospel hope, who is ignorant of the prophetic teaching concerning the restoration of the Jews, for that restoration is a most essential element of its establishment. Were it omitted, no kingdom of God, such as is revealed, could be set up in the future age.
Yet a certain class of well-meaning persons oppose the doctrine zealously. Taking their stand upon certain statements in the New Testament, they maintain, with great tenacity, that the restoration of the Jews is impossible. Now, we may accept it as a first principle, that any New Testament deduction which is diametrically opposed to the plain statements of the prophets, is erroneous, for the writers of the New Testament said "none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come" (Acts xxvi, 22), and appealed to them as their authorities. There can be no contradiction in writings dictated by one and the same eternal Spirit; and, in fact, there is none. The New Testament arguments against the restoration of Israel, are all based on misconceptions of the statements on which they are founded. One of these is Rom. ix, 6, 7:--
Now, this statement is in strict agreement with the prophets, without in any way diminishing the force of their teaching in reference to the speciality of the Jews as a nation, and their future natural restoration. It is absolutely true that all of Israel are not Israel--that thousands of the seed of Abraham are not CHILDREN--and that' the divine principle is to count "the children of the promise" for the seed; and this is exemplified individually and nationally. In the case of the Jews, requirements such as circumcision, sacrifice, reverence for the name of God, and numberless other things specified in the law, were laid down as conditions of citizenship in the nation, and transgression was visited with expulsion. The penalty attached to almost every statute was, "That soul shall be CUT OFF from his people." Transgressors, therefore, though of Israel, were not Israel, even under the law. A whole generation of such non-Israelites perished in the wilderness; but this did not nullify the national election of the seed of Abraham (through Israel). It only showed that fleshly descent from Abraham did not of itself constitute accepted Israeliteship--that it required Abraham's faith as well as Abraham's blood.
Individually, as well, in reference to the heirship of the kingdom, "the children of the promise are counted for the seed." No fleshly son of Abraham has a natural title to the honour, glory, and immortality of the kingdom, covenanted. These are reserved for a class developed on the principle of believing the promises. In this respect, "the flesh profiteth nothing "; and even in respect of mortal citizenship, it profiteth nothing, for, as we have seen, that privilege is not to be granted on mere fleshly title. "I will bring you into the bond of the covenant, and I will purge out from among you the rebels.." This is the prophetic declaration. Thousands of Jews will be gathered from the countries who will never enter the land. Yet this will not destroy their national relationship. Being Jews, whom God has specially chosen as a nation, with a view to the development of His ultimate purpose, they will every one be gathered in the preliminary restoration. This is the declaration of Moses, who says:--
Isaiah gives similar testimony; he says:--
Thus there will be an indiscriminate national restoration, without any reference to moral condition, just as in the case of the tribes when delivered from Egypt by the hand of Moses; because the nation, as a whole, is God's by sovereign election, and cannot alienate themselves from that relation, though they may be rebellious, and render themselves obnoxious to His destroying judgments. Yet, having been thus indiscriminately gathered, they are not' at once settled in the land, but, like their forefathers, in the day that they came out of the land of Egypt (see testimony already quoted from Ezekiel xx), are subject to an expurgating process in the wilderness, from which none who are morally unfit for the privilege of citizenship under the Messiah, shall escape.
Thus, even in the future national restoration of the Jews, the mere children of the flesh are not counted for the seed, but those of faith who shall be developed by the probation in the wilderness. It must then be obvious that it is a very short-sighted construction of Paul's words, indeed, which world use them to destroy the doctrine of Jewish national restoration. It is a construction to which he himself would strenuously object, were he now alive; for he has left his mind on the subject on record. Speaking of his "kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites" (Rom. ix, 3), he says:--
Here Paul contemplates an approaching Jewish "fulness," "a receiving again," a national change, "when the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," and warns the Gentiles in view of this not to boast against the Jews in the wisdom of their own conceit (verse 25). This lets us into Paul's views on the subject of the restoration of the Jews. The prophets and Moses as we have seen, foretell the glorious restoration and national restitution of the veritable nation that has suffered the vengeance of the Almighty for nearly twenty centuries. How then could Paul, who spake none other things than they (Acts xxvi, 22), inculcate principles entirely subversive of their teaching? It is only partial knowledge or positive ignorance that leads men to erect a system of doctrine on the New Testament that contradicts the plainest testimonies of the "holy men of God," who "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
There are other objections frequently urged of an equally baseless nature, but the limited space at disposal prevents the notice of them. Enough has been said to show that the restoration of Israel is one of the main features of the divine purpose to be developed in the future--that the kingdom of God cannot be established without its accomplishment, and that, in fact, it is an element in the grand event on which the world's salvation depends. "Salvation is of the Jews," nationally and individually. It is important then to understand this element of the truth of God, that by our enlightenment, we may be enabled to put off our Gentilism, and become related to a higher polity--even the commonwealth of Israel--in which, being "Abraham's seed," we shall be "HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE."
The Hope of Israel, or, The Restoration of the Jews,
A Part of the Divine Scheme,
And an Element of the Gospel of the Divine Scheme
And an Element of the Gospel