Yes, we did skip last week because of the extremely important news coming out of Paris. But last time out we chronicled how during the first centuries of the Church, what had started as a primarily Jewish institution morphed into a Gentile one. In the process replacing its Hebrew roots with Greek philosophy and in some instances, outright paganism. We saw that over time, the Church became increasingly hostile to the Jewish people resulting in expulsion, persecution and murder. This was a course often approved and encouraged by the Church Fathers. This hostility led to the pogroms in Russia, and laid the intellectual foundation for the Holocaust. It also gave birth to something called Replacement Theology, which holds that Israel forfeited the promises of God – and that instead these belonged to the Church. That explains why the Vatican believes even today that it has the right to claim control over Jerusalem and the Holy Land. But that is NOT God’s plan as it is laid out in His Word. We ended last time by quoting Genesis 15:18: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’” That’s a physical promise that cannot be spiritualized. And that will serve as our starting point today.
ISRAEL & THE HEART OF GOD – 3
Replacement Theology teaches that the Church has replaced Israel – that the promises made to Israel now belong to the Church and that there is no real future for Israel – or the Jews – in God’s plan. This belief that was planted and fostered by the Church leadership bequeathed us myriad persecutions of the Jews, the first Ghettos, the Spanish Inquisition and their outright banishment from Spain in 1492. Then came the Reformation. Christianity was turned on its head. But Luther and the other leaders of this movement continued to embrace the Replacement lie. Modernity brought no relief either. Russia had its pogroms where villages were burned and Jews murdered – all with the semi-official of a Christ-confessing imperial monarchy. Even Hitler leaned on the writings of Luther when he launched is Final Solution, the Holocaust.
Now there are a couple of problems with that notion of the Church replacing Israel right on the surface. To hold to that view, first of all the Scriptures that address the geographic boundaries of Israel and the restoration of that nation must be allegorized and spiritualized. One has to get away from a literal interpretation of the Bible. Secondly, it ignores the actual reestablishment of Israel in 1948. S Michael Houdmann explains. “The view that Israel and the church are different is clearly taught in the New Testament. Biblically speaking, the church is completely different and distinct from Israel, and the two are never to be confused or used interchangeably. We are taught from Scripture that the church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the day of Pentecost…. God will restore Israel as the primary focus of His plan. The first event at this time is the tribulation (Revelation chapters 6-19). The world will be judged for rejecting Christ, while Israel is prepared through the trials of the great tribulation for the second coming of the Messiah. Then, when Christ does return to the earth, at the end of the tribulation, Israel will be ready to receive Him. The remnant of Israel which survives the tribulation will be saved, and the Lord will establish His kingdom on this earth with Jerusalem as its capital.”[i]
You see, all of this hinges on the Abrahamic Covenant. This is an agreement made by God with Abraham. Genesis 15 describes the scene. A sacrifice is prepared. Animals are cut in half – the halves placed across from each other. Now, regular practice would dictate that the two parties to the covenant both pass through the sacrifice. But instead, God puts Abraham to sleep – and only God passes through. We pick up the story there. “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.’” (Genesis 15:17-21) Through that action and declaration, God was letting it be known that only He was responsible for keeping this covenant. It was a promise without condition. God was taking full responsibility for maintaining Israel. He was giving His Word. So this was God’s promise alone.
It was just a little while later that her confirmed this covenant. “I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:5-8)
Now replacement theology holds that these promises have devolved to the church. They mean nothing to a physical Israel. But Paul dealt with this all the way back in his letter to the Romans. “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.” (Romans 11:25-26) Replacement Theology would tell you that the re-appearance of Israel in 1948 is a theologically meaningless coincidence of History. But that is not what God’s Word says. Deuteronomy 30:1-5 speaks to her physical restoration = “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that 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. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.”
You want more? You’ve got it. This is confirmed in Isaiah 11:11-12, an amazing passage. Written while Israel was out of the Land during the Babylonian Captivity – the first scattering…..it reads: “It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12 He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.” God speaks again through the Prophet Ezekiel 11:17. “Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’’
If you want to see God’s heart in the matter look at Isaiah 14:1. “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.” And in Isaiah 62:4, God addresses Israel as a Husband would His beloved. “It will no longer be said of you [Judah], ‘Azubah (Abandoned),’ Nor will it any longer be said of your land, ‘Shemamah (Desolate)’; But you will be called, ‘Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her),’ And your land, ‘Married’; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married [owned and protected by the Lord].”
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. Listen to the words of Ezekiel 36:22-28 as 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.’’”
I’ve written all of this to say this – Just a couple of points
- Israel was appointed to be a Light to the Nations – to lead them to salvation
- Isaiah 49:6 “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 His Heart
- God used Israel’s falling away to draw the Gentile Nations to Himself – That’s His Heart
- God promised to restore Israel
- He gives the geographical boundaries
- He names the countries that will come against them
- He talks about a restoration of the Temple – (There would be no Temple worship if the Church replaced Israel.)
- He promises their Spiritual Redemption after the Tribulation “All Israel will be saved.”
- The Spiritual & Physical Restoration is an Expression of His Word, a Vindication of His Name and the cry of His Heart.
- It is all about the Creation of One New Man – Jew & Gentile. That is God’s Heart
- It is ALL ABOUT the Total Restoration of the Relationship between the Creator God and His Creation.
- The Scriptures are a Love Story – of God yearning and working and engineering a reconciliation with His rebellious People
- His People Israel is the vehicle He has chosen to work out that Salvation
- And thus we are called upon to Bless Israel at every turn
- No matter what the Nations do ….No matter how our nation may turn on Israel – we are called to bless God’s People
- Exodus 19:6 promised Israel they would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
- 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
- His People Israel is the vehicle He has chosen to work out that Salvation
[i] S Michael Houdmann, Question: “What is replacement theology / supersessionism?”, monitored November 23, 2015