GOD’S HEART IN THE LAST DAYS
In this series we’ve looked at the chaos that has descended upon our world and wondered: Where is God’s heart in all of this? In the last installment we chronicled the beginning years of the history of the Church. What began on Pentecost as a primarily Jewish institution was soon transformed into a Gentile one. We saw what followed; the removal of Jewish practices and forms, the persecution and even violence that occurred. And then came the Crusades and the Church – the Roman Church by this time – claimed the Holy Land for itself – claiming they inherited the promises of the Old Testament made to Israel, when that nation rejected Jesus. In that, the Church violated the spirit of the scriptures.
PART III – THE ULTIMATE & SURE PROMISE
In Genesis 12, God had told Abraham – (then still Abram) – that “I will make of you a great nation.” In Genesis 15:18 confirms the covenant. “On that day the Lord mad a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land.” [He then gives the dimensions – and they’re much larger than present day Israel.] “…from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates.” But the noteworthy thing, for our purposes, is that the Abrahamic Covenant was an unconditional covenant. (It is chronicled in Genesis 15.) Now, a covenant, a sacred agreement, was sealed when the parties pass through the middles of a sacrifice. Then, “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” (Genesis 15:17-18) God alone, took the responsibility for keeping that covenant.
But the Church was so poisoned that it could no longer see the true sense of the scripture. The First Crusade devastated Jewish settlements in Germany. Jews were being murdered under the banner of the Cross. The Crusader leader Godfrey of Bouillon, ordered that no member of the Jewish race be left alive. On July 15, 1099, Crusaders herded Jews into a synagogue, locked them inside and burned them alive, all while singing “Christ We Adore Thee” as they watched. Anti-Semitism ran rampant.
The Middle Ages also saw the introduction of badges on Jewish clothing. The Muslims introduced the practice in the 8th Century – and certainly by 11th & 12 centuries, the Church had taken the lead in requiring distinctive markings on the clothing of Jews. In England, they had to wear both badges and hats.[iv] You can add the Spanish Inquisition in to the mix.In 1492 – (when Columbus sailed the Ocean blue) – Jews were driven out of Spain. In 1516, Venice established the first official Jewish Ghetto – where Jews had to live and were locked in at night.[i] While that was the first use of the word ‘ghetto,’ the concept had been around for quite some time. Hila Ratzabi writes: “Compulsory segregation of Jews was common in medieval Europe, and these Jewish areas were later referred to as ghettos. The Lateran Councils of 1179 and 1215 advocated for the segregation of Jews. A ghetto-like community existed in 1262 in Prague, and by the 1400s became more common in other European cities. In 1460 the Judengasse (“Jews’ Alley”) in Frankfurt was established.”[ii] Life was far from pleasant. Social prejudice and changing economic conditions led populations to blame the Jews, which often led to attacks. In 1614, the Frankfort ghetto was attacked and the Jews temporarily driven out of the city while the Jewish quarter was plundered. [In the event, they were returned under the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor.][iii]
Even the Protestant Reformation, which did so much to return the Church to biblical principles such as salvation by faith alone and reliance on scripture as the final authority, did not slow down the pace of Anti-Semitism. Leaders such as Luther and Calvin were anti-Jewish[v] – Luther, albeit, for theological rather than ethnic reasons. Later came the Russian pogroms and then of course the Holocaust, which took 6 million Jewish lives out of a total of possibly 17 million total. (Other targeted groups included Slavs, Gypsies and homosexuals.) Hitler even used a warped interpretation of Christianity to justify the Holocaust. “In defending myself against the Jews, I am acting for the Lord. The difference between the church and me is that I am finishing the job.”[vi]
Now what fed all of this – is at the root of all of this – is something called Replacement Theology. It teaches that the Church has completely replaced Israel in inheriting the promises of God; even those made to Israel. To that would nullify the promises of the physical restoration of Israel found in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament scripture. Romans 11 teaches the exact opposite of the lie of Replacement Theology. God’s heart is revealed in God’s Word. And God’s Word says Israel will be restored. [And in fact, we witnessed the down payment on that promise with the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 as well as the restoration of the control of Jerusalem to the Jewish people in 1967.] In Romans 11:25-26, Paul writes of Israel’s spiritual restoration. “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”
Replacement Theology would tell us that Israel’s reappearance is a theologically meaningless coincidence of history. But that is not what God’s word says. Deuteronomy 30:3 speaks to her physical restoration. “The Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you.” But not only will Israel be regathered – but the Land will be theirs. “Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it.” (Deuteronomy 30:4-5)
This is confirmed in passage after passage. If you want to see God’s heart, look at Isaiah 14:1. (Recall that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob.” God’s heart can be seen in Hosea 11:3-4, too. “I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” In Isaiah 62, God even addresses Israel as a husband would His beloved.
God’s heart in the matter is clear. It is for the love of His people. But it is also according to the shape of His character. Here are the words of Ezekiel 36:22-28, where he talks about the coming restoration of Israel. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My ordinances and do them. You will live in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you will be My people, and I will be your God.’’”
So what is God’s heart? It’s the heart of a God who will change us….cause us to walk….and give us a new heart. It is a God who will cause Israel to live in the Land. The Jewish nation was given as a gift to the Gentile nations. But the rest of the world doesn’t realize it. Isaiah 49:6 reads, “I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” That’s an expression of God’s heart.
Exodus 19:6 promised Israel they would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Recall that 1Peter 2:9 said of the Church: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Let us take that designation and Bless Israel. That is the Heart of God.
A Historical Summing Up
Let’s look at a little bit of history to put this in perspective. In AD 66 the Jewish Nation rebelled against Roman rule. That led to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Two years later, the last of the Jewish fighters were holed up in the fortress of Masada. They were besieged by the Romans – and possibly through suicide, all of them lost their lives. So Masada served as grave of ancient Israel’s soldiers. The Jews were banished almost completely from the Land in about 135 and there was no Israel till 1948. Sometime after that event, members of Israel’s modern army, the IDF, were aiding in the archaeological excavation of the ancient site of Masada. As they did so, one of them found a fragment of a scripture, buried in the diggings. It was from the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, the chapter of the dry bones. Here’s exactly the passage they found. The fragment was from Ezekiel 37:12. “‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’”
There it was – the prophecy of life hidden in the grave of Israel’s ancient soldiers – and found by her modern ones. It had been waiting for 2,000 years for the day when the prophecy would be fulfilled. It was a prophecy that proclaims the heart of God – as we sit on the edge of the onset of the Tribulation aka Jacob’s trouble. It declares: Hope from Hopelessness and Life from Death. No matter the chaos or the trouble or peril – GOD’S HEART DECLARES IT – HIS WORD DECLARES IT – GOD IS REAL! HIS PROMISES ARE TRUE!! HE IS COMING AGAIN!!!…..SOON!!!!
[i] Rebecca Weiner, The Virtual Jewish World, Viewed January 30, 2019
[ii] HILA RATZABI AND MJL ADMIN, Jewish Ghettos of Pre-Emancipation Europe, MyJewishLearning.Com, Viewed January 30, 2019
[iii] Rivka Ulmer, Turmoil, Trauma, and Triumph, Sehepunkte, Issue #2, 2002
[iv] The badge, hat and clothing laws for Jews in the Middle Ages, Encyclopedia Judaica, Viewed January 30, 2019
[v] Anti-Semitism of the “Church Fathers”, Yashanet.com, Viewed January 30, 2019
[vi] Editorial: Did Christianity Cause the Holocaust?, Christianity Today, April 27, 1998