Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Creation of Israel

Of all the people who view the Church as being the true Israel, it seems that most assent that there was an earthly Israel, a race of people descended from Jacob/Israel who were used by God. But, they say that this ‘Israel ‘was only used by God as a picture or symbol of the true Israel , which is the church. The New Testament has revealed that the ‘true Israel’ (the church), is made up of the elect throughout the ages, which elect include both Jews and Gentiles.  On the other hand, the physical Israel, the Jews, who were merely a symbol of the church, are no longer needed because the reality of the church is now revealed. The type, physical Israel, has now been surpassed by the reality, the church. 

 Some of these people also view the promise that God made, to give Israel an earthly land, as being in actuality ,a promise of a spiritual land(Heaven) to the spiritual Israel(the church). They may affirm that there truly was a material land of Israel, but, as with physical Israel, this was only a temporary picture or symbol of the true land of Israel, which all spiritual ‘Jews’(Christians) will one day inherit.  They seem to connect both physical Israel and the land of Israel solely with the Mosaic covenant, which was only temporary, and with its temporary ‘types and shadows’ of the better Covenant(Col 2:16; Heb 8:5, 10:1), and thus Israel and their land merely served as the ‘types and shadows’ of the ‘true Israel’ and the ‘true promised land’.  Now that the reality is here, now that we have the ‘true form’ of these realities, the types and shadows are not continued, they are history.  Now we read the New Testament back into the Old to see what all of these symbols meant and how they apply to the church presently, we now have our ‘spiritual’ hermeneutic to see what the Old Testament really said/says.

Another way some look on the land promise is that it truly was a literal earthly land that was promised, but this land promise has already been fulfilled, Israel has already possessed their land (Joshua 21:43)but they lost it because of their disobedience.  Israel’s disobedience not only forfeited the land, but also their position as a distinct people before God. Therefore God has no more obligations regarding this physical land and people because He already fulfilled the physical promises;  whether the Jews would keep these physical blessings or not was up to them, they chose to disobey and therefore lost their privileges. 
Lastly, some will affirm that If the Jews have any eschatological future before them, as a people, it is soteriological only.  They will concede that, some day, God will regenerate and save all Jews, or the majority of them, living at a certain time(Rom 11:13-27) but that is all; their future as a people  has nothing whatsoever to do with the earthly land of Israel.

The Patriarchs

In this chapter and in the next one, we will see what the Bible says about Israel, the land of Israel and the Covenants, to see if any credence should be given to the views aforementioned:  First, how did ‘Israel’ come into existence?  The Bible says that God is the One who Created Israel(Isaiah 43:15), He is Israel’s Maker, the One who formed Israel( Psalm 149:2; Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 8:14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:2).  As was mentioned in the previous chapter, God chose to bring ‘Israel’ into existence through a specific physical line of people. God chose that Jacob, a specific descendant of Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob’s offspring would be ‘Israel’.  No one outside of Jacob would be ‘Israel’.  God also would give the covenant(s) that He made with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to the people of Israel.  The covenant that God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be passed down through Jacob’s  offspring, was that they would have an offspring that would be numberless(Gen 22:17,26:4,28:14), and that their offspring would have a specific land(Gen 12:7,26:3,28:13), that God would be their offspring’s God (Gen 17:7;Deu 29:13), and lastly that all the nations would be blessed through them(Gen 12:3,26:4,28: 14). The offspring that would inherit the covenant was not every single physical descendant of Abraham or of Isaac(which would include Ishmael and Esau), but offspring through Jacob was to receive the inheritance.

Again, I repeat, Abraham was not Israel, but Israel did come from him, and Israel was promised to him.  Abraham was promised that a great nation would come from him(Gen 12;2), later on, God declares that He will make Abraham the father of many nations(Gen 17:5) and Abraham was promised  offspring, and that his descendants would be innumerable(Gen 13:16; 15:1-6; 22:17). And yet, although Abraham had/would have several sons(Gen 16:16,21:3, 25:1-2), two of which were to be great nations with numerous descendants(Gen 17:2,26:4), only one of his sons would be the ‘heir’ of the promise to Abraham(Gen 17:3).  The covenant that God made with Abraham was promised to only one physical line from Abraham that being a line through his son Isaac.  To Isaac, God, as He had with Abraham, promised numerous physical offspring(Gen 26:4).  Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, both would become nations(Gen 25:23).  Only one of those sons and his subsequent descendants would inherit the covenant God made to his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham(Gen 28-13), that son being Jacob, who was ‘Israel’.  

The covenant God made with the Patriarchs was unconditional.  God swore by Himself that it would be done(Gen 22:16-17,Hebrews 6:13).  That’s a given.  The question is, are all of the elements of this covenant to be taken literally, as in a literal physical offspring, a literal physical land? Or are these elements merely symbolical of spiritual seed (spiritual children of the Patriarchs)and a spiritual land, as some people believe.  

The promised land: an earthly land

First , the land is definitely a physical, earthly, land.  God had Abraham leave the physical earthly land of Haran (Gen 12:1-4) to go the physical earthly land of Canaan(Gen 12:5).  When Abraham arrives at this earthly land God promises to give it to him and his offspring(Gen 12:7).  The land that God is giving Abraham is the physical land of the” Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites." (Gen 15:19-21 ESV) These people lived in an earthly land, not a spiritual one.

 After Abraham has dwelt in this land for a time, God tells him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you." (Gen 13:14-17 ESV; emphasis added)  So, Abraham was looking around at the land that God had promised to him, and he was also walking around in it...obviously an earthly land.  When Jacob receives the promise of the land, it is the physical land that he is sleeping on(Genesis 28:13).    Move down to the descendants of Jacob/Isreal and we see that just before Moses died, God showed  him the promised land: “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, 'I will give it to your offspring.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." (Deu 34:1-4 ESV) Again, this promised land is earthly, not spiritual.  If the promised land were Heaven,or the new earth,  whichever one is the spiritual promised land, then why is Moses told He will not be able to enter the land?  I don’t see how, based on this these passages, exegetically, the land that God promised to the Patriarchs and their offspring could be anything other than an earthly land. 

Israel: The physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Now, were the ‘offspring’ that God promised to the Patriarchs a literal physical people, or were they merely a spiritual people?  To answer this question, let us continue our look at Israel’s history.  God told Abraham(at the time Abram) that his offspring would be servants in an alien land and afflicted there for four hundred years(Gen 15:13), after which these descendants would return to the land which God had promised to Abraham(15:16).  And this happened to Abraham’s physical descendants from Jacob/Israel.
Jacob and his sons went to Egypt, being physically preserved from dying of famine by God’s use of Jacob’s son Joseph(Gen 45:5-7).  Joseph manifested that he believed that the ‘offspring’ spoken of by God was  the descendants of physical Israel, by asking that his bones be brought to the promised land when God would bring the people of Israel back there(Gen 10:24-25).  This literally happens to the physical descendants Jacob/Israel in the book of Exodus.  Thus indicating that the physical offspring spoken of that would inherit the land was a specific physical race of people, this race being the heirs of the promise through the physical line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  

Just as God had told Abraham, his physical descendants through Jacob, ‘Israel’, resided in a ‘land that was not theirs’(Gen 15:13) for a certain period of time, and after that time, just as God had promised, they were led out of that foreign land(Egypt), by a man chosen by God for that purpose, who was of course, Moses. In Exodus, God sends Moses to bring the physical descendants of Jacob, Israel(whom He calls “My firstborn son” Ex 4:22), out of Egypt and to the promised land.  

Note that in the Exodus account we see that God makes a racial distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites(Ex 11:7), the Egyptians were not the descendants of Jacob and thus were not the heirs of the covenant made to the Patriarchs. Israel was the race to whom the covenant pertained. 

As God is telling Moses that He is setting Israel a part from all the other nations, calling them out of Egypt to be His people, He makes known that these physical descendants of Jacob, ‘Israel’, were the descendants of Abraham who were to inherit the Covenant made to the Patriarchs.  “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'" (Exo 6:3-8 ESV)”
And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. “(Exo 13:5 ESV)

  God remembered His covenant with the fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and therefore He will take them to Himself for a people, and bring them to the land promised to the Patriarchs(Ex 6:3-8), which “He swore to your fathers to give you(physical Israel)...”(Ex 13: 5,11)  God brought the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of Egypt and into the earthly promised land. God regards the race of Israel as the heirs of the promises to the patriarchs.  So far, Biblical evidence indicates that  the people of ‘Israel’ are a specific race of people. 

The Covenant….. fulfilled? 

So, Israel is a race, but didn’t God already fulfill the promise that He made to the Patriarchs of their offspring(Israel) being given a physical land?  Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. “(Jos 21:43-45 ESV) And also, since the people of Israel gave up the land by their disobedience, doesn’t this mean that God has no more obligations regarding the land of Israel to the race of Israel? 

 To start to answer these questions, let us continue looking at Israel’s history.  When we look again at God’s promise of an earthly land to Abraham and his offspring, we see that it was an everlasting covenant, an everlasting ‘possession’.  There are no ‘ifs’ in these promises, only statements of fact: “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. “(Gen 13:14-15 ESV; emphasis added)And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God." (Gen 17:8 ESV; emphasis added)  And not only was it ‘everlasting’, but it was blatantly unconditional.  At the beginning of Genesis 15 God reiterates His promise to give Abraham innumerable offspring through a son of his own; this is where it is declared that Abraham, ”believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. “ vs. 6 . And then, in the verse immediately after this one , vs. 7, God says, “"I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess." (Gen 15:7 ESV)  After God makes this statement, here, it seems surprising that, after having ‘believed God’(vs.6) about his offspring to come, Abraham seems to ask for proof that He will possess the land.  “But he said, ‘O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’”(Gen 15:8 ESV) Whatever the reason for Abraham’s question, God answers by having Abraham set up the ‘makings’ of a covenant(Gen 15:9-10).  After Abraham has set these things up, God causes him to fall asleep, and makes the covenant Himself.  Instead of letting Abraham have anything to do with the fulfilling of the covenant, God obligates Himself alone to fulfill it. In this covenant, God places no conditions upon Abraham or his offspring , He simply declares what HE WILL do, there are no ‘ifs’ in this promise.  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, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites." (Gen 15:18-21 ESV) 

So, we can’t say that the people of Israel’s  disobedience to the law after being brought out of Egypt nullifies this unconditional promise of land. This promise of land was unconditional, it was not related to the conditional Mosaic covenant. "…in terms of roots, the OT as a whole always originally identifies the land with the Abrahamic covenant, but never the subsequent Mosaic covenant.  Certainly the Mosaic covenant draws on the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (Exod 3:6-8, 15-17; 13:5; 33:1-3; Lev 20:24; Num 13:27), but the Mosaic covenant can never nullify that which was inaugurated with unilateral finality 430 years earlier (Gal 3:17).  While the NT frequently describes the Mosaic old covenant as being comprised of shadows and types, this terminology is n ever directly applied to the promise character of the Abrahamic covenant, despite its sign of circumcision (Col 2:16-17; Heb 8:3-6; 10:1).  Circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham, but the land was never regarded as a sign of the covenant; rather, it was intrinsic to that covenant, and this is a most vital distinction to keep in mind (Gen 12:1,7).  This is the reason the land is distinguished from Mosaic typology - it is an abiding reality in itself.[1]"  

Therefore, as God’s promise about giving an earthly land to Israel is unconditional and permanent, the passages in Joshua that speak about God’s fulfilling His word to Israel do not meant that His promises are finished, or nullified.  God’s covenant that was eternal and unconditional did not become temporary and conditional. God doing what He said He would do, does not mean that He then stops doing what He said He would do. God, having acted as He said He would act, does not change that the covenant He made is eternal.  He will continue to fulfill it….the ultimate ‘means’ that God chose to fulfill His covenant with Israel was the New Covenant, but we’ll deal with that more later.

So, no amount of rebellion on Israel’s part could cancel the covenant, and God having done what He said He would do, in regards to the covenant, does not cancel the covenant. 

The Law: Blessings and Curses

Well then, what about the law? Wasn’t THAT temporary? And didn’t the law give CONDITONS to the people of Israel, including conditions about the Israelites possession of the promised earthly land?  Yes, the law was temporary, and the law did give conditions to the Israelites, and the law did in fact give conditions as to whether or not Israel could stay in the land.  But, let’s get this straight, the law, or the ‘Mosaic covenant’ as some like to term it, was not the covenant that God made with the Patriarchs.  Or, to put it another way, the imposition of the law did not fulfill the covenant God made with the Patriarchs and their offspring .  The Mosaic covenant is intrinsically and vitally NOT the same as the Abrahamic covenant.  The Mosaic covenant was temporary and conditional and was there to show sin “because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.”(Rom 3:20 ASV).  The Abrahamic covenant is eternal and unconditional and gracious.  

To further see that the Mosaic covenant was not the same as the Abrahamic covenant, let us look at the blessings  and curses that would come upon Israel in regards to whether or not they obeyed or disobeyed the law. As we learn in Romans, the purpose of the law was to show sin (Romans 3:20; Rom 5:20. In a sense, the law, and the conditions imposed upon the Israelites, placed the fulfilling of the Abrahamic covenant upon them, which, of course, guaranteed failure.   Under the Abrahamic covenant Israel would everlastingly possess the earthly land that He gave to their forefathers(Gen 17:8), as we have seen, this would happen unconditionally.  Under the Mosaic covenant they would stay in their land if they would obey God’s law(Deut 5:33).  If they disobeyed His law God would remove them from the land and scatter them among the nations(Lev 26:33; Deut 28:36-37,63-64). Under the Abrahamic covenant God would greatly multiply Israel’s numbers(Gen 22:17), again, unconditionally.  Under the Mosaic covenant, if the Israelites would obey the law they would be multiplied (Lev26:9; Deut 28:11).  If the Israelites disobeyed the law, instead of multiplying the Israelites, God would reduce their number (Lev 26:22; Deut 28:62-63). Under the Abrahamic covenant Israel would be God’s people and He would be their God(Gen 17:7-8).  Under the Mosaic covenant Israel would be declared God’s people only if they obeyed His law(Lev 26:12).  We see in Hosea that because they did not obey God’s law they were declared “not My people” and it is stated that “I am not their God”(Hosea 1:9). Under the Mosaic covenant God would confirm, or establish, His covenant (Abrahamic) with them if they obeyed Him(Lev 26:9; Deut 8:18).

So, we see that the Mosaic covenant was not the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.  The Mosaic covenant, the law, could not fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.  It placed conditions upon Israel that they could not keep, the Mosaic covenant guaranteed failure on Israel’s part.  

It is important to notice that the cancellation of the Abrahamic covenant was not a part of the curses.  The Abrahamic covenant would still be intact, it is eternal and unconditional. There was never a limit for the amount of sins/falling away set that, if reached, would nullify or terminate the promises to the Patriarchs about their offspring(Israel). There was always room left for the Israelites to repent of their sins, and the certainty that God would still acknowledge the Abrahamic covenant(which, of course, includes the land): “If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against ME – I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies - or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.  For the land shall be abandoned by them, and shall make up for its Sabbaths while it is made desolate without them.  They, meanwhile, shall be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statues.  Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.  But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations that I might be their God.  I am the LORD.” (Lev 26:40-45NASB) Even when(as was inevitable) the curses took place, there was mercy/grace offered as the Abrahamic covenant was still intact: “"And 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 has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deu 30:1-6 ESV)

Rebellion Certain, Grace Certain – The song of witness

As a matter of fact, God even told Moses that the Israelites would be rebellious, and had Moses teach the Israelites a song about their future: And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. "Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give." (Deu 31:16-22 ESV)

Let us take a look at this ‘song of witness’ to the Israelites.  In this song, the Israelites see their future, God here shows Israel His plan for them as a people. The song starts out by  ‘ascribing greatness’ to God, that He is good, just, and His ways are right, He does nothing wrong, He is faithful: :"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! "The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (Deu 32:1-4 ESV)

In contrast, Israel is wicked, unjust, and unfaithful, Israel has ‘corrupted themselves’(LITV):  “They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. “(Deu 32:5 ESV) Kiel and Delitzch comment “His people Israel, on the contrary, had acted corruptly towards Him. The subject of “acted corruptly” is the rebellious generation of the people but before this subject there is introduced parenthetically, and in apposition, “not his children, but their spot.” Spot (mum) is used here in a moral sense, as in Pro_9:7; Job_11:15; Job_31:7, equivalent to stain. The rebellious and ungodly were not children of the Lord, but a stain upon them[2]Which fits with Romans 9:6 “not all Israel is Israel”.  As was discussed earlier, not every single descendant of Jacob/Israel is elect to salvation.  Not all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are  ‘children of Abraham/of faith/of the promise’(Rom 9:7-8), part of the ‘Israel of God’ who will receive the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in the New covenant.  This ‘generation’ spoken here in the song, are not ‘God’s children’.  There would be a ‘generation’ of Israelites, Israelites living in a specific period of time, who would be declared as ‘not God’s people’.  As God’s word through Hosea confirms  ‘And the LORD said, "Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God." (Hos 1:9 ESV).  As to whether Israel’s status as ‘Not My people’ was to be permanent, we shall see later on in this song. 

The song continues, asking “Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people?  Is not He your Father who has bought  you? He has made you and established you…”(Deut 32:6)  God created Israel, established them. The Israelites are directed to remember the ‘days of old’, God’s setting the people Israel apart, they being His ‘inheritance’, giving them  abundant food, guarding them and guiding them(verses 6-14).  Israel is shown, having grown prosperous(‘fat’), forsaking the “God who made him”, scoffing “at the Rock of his salvation”(vs.15).  The Israelites “stirred Him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger.  They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known...(vs.16-18).  Then God tells Israel what He is going to do in response, as it were, to their rebellion “I will hide My face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. They made Me jealous with a not-a-god; they made Me angry by their vanities; and I shall make them jealous by a not-a-people; by a foolish nation I shall make them angry. (Deu 32:20-21) This of course happened(and still is happening) when God turned to the Gentiles, the ‘not-a-people’.  So, we see here that turning to the Gentiles was all a part of God’s plan, part of ‘plan A’.  

The song goes on to say that God’s anger will be demonstrated against Israel: “For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. "'And I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them; they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured by plague and poisonous pestilence; I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with the venom of things that crawl in the dust. Outdoors the sword shall bereave, and indoors terror, for young man and woman alike, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs. (Deu 32:22-25 ESV)

But God would not completely destroy the children of Jacob:  “ I said, I would scatter them afar, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men; Were it not that I feared the provocation of the enemy, Lest their adversaries should judge amiss, Lest they should say, Our hand is exalted, And Jehovah hath not done all this.”(Deut 32:26-27ESV) Although God would scatter them abroad, this would not be the end of Israel/Jews as a distinct people: "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. “(Mal 3:6 ESV)See also Jeremiah 31:35-36. 
For they are a nation void of counsel, And there is no understanding in them. Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Except their Rock had sold them, And Jehovah had delivered them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, Even our enemies themselves being judges. “(Deu 32:26-31 ASV) The only reason Israel’s enemies would defeat her is because God let them, the enemy has no reason to boast, God delivered Israel up to them.  The enemy’s ‘rock’ is not like Israel’s Rock, ““For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison; their clusters are bitter; their wine is the poison of serpents and the cruel venom of asps. "'Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries? Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.'. “(Deu 32:32-35 ESV)
 
God would not make Israel completely disappear when scattered among the nations. God has concern for His Holy Name(Ezek 36:17-38). "For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place! See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.  Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever, If I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me.  I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword will devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy. Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people." (Deu 32:36-43 NASB[italics added])

God would atone for ‘His land(material) and His people(physical Israel)’.  Israel, despite being declared ‘not my people’ earlier in the song (vs.5), would again be called ‘His people’ because God would have compassion on them when He sees that their strength is gone, and would atone for them(vs.36)and their material land.  This interpretation is supported as being exegetical by Isaiah, that God would “again choose Israel”(Isaiah 14:1) and set them in their own land; Also by Hosea “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." (Hos 1:10 ESV)

Plan A – high level look at the song

It is important to keep in mind that the events described in this song were not conditional. These descriptions are prophetic, not contingent.  This song was a description of God’s plan, and, as Jerry Bridges has said: “God’s plan is sovereign. It includes our foolish decisions as well as our wise ones[3].” Even Israel’s rebellion was a part of God’s plan. As this prophetic song shows, God had a plan for this rebellious people, as a race.  This plan included, not merely punishment of Israel for their inevitable rebellion, but also, later on, atonement for their rebellion, and the restoration of Israel to the land promised to them.  Albert Barnes comments on this song:Exhibiting as it does God’s preventing mercies, His people’s faithlessness and ingratitude, God’s consequent judgments, and the final and complete triumph of the divine counsels of grace, it forms the summary of all later Old Testament prophecies, and gives as it were the framework upon which they are laid out.[4]”  

Also a part of God’s plan was the blessing of the Gentiles. The covenant that God made with Abraham was that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed through him.(Gen 12:3; 22:18). This happened through Abraham’s offspring, Christ. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed…… that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. “(Gal 3:8 and 3:14 ASV)

God chose a specific plan of events that He ordained would bring about the blessing(salvation) of the Gentiles.  What was this plan? The prophetic song reveals it: “I will hide My face from them(Israel); I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. They made Me jealous with a not-a-god; they made Me angry by their vanities; and I shall make them jealous by a not-a-people; by a foolish nation I shall make them angry. (Deu 32:20-21) Paul quotes these verses in Romans 10, and explains them more later on: “...through their (the Jews/Israel’s) trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” (Rom 11:11 ESV) Israel’s disobedience was ordained by God. Their rejecting the Gospel when it was first offered to them was a part of that ordained disobedience. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect(of Israel) obtained it, but the rest(of Israel) were hardened, as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day." And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever." (Rom 11:7-10 ESV)  

Again, why was this ordained? So that salvation would come to the Gentiles(vs.11).  Did God have to bring about salvation to the Gentiles in this manner? No.  Aren’t there other ways God could have brought salvation to the Gentiles? Yes. But the fact is that God chose to do it this way.  Chafer well says:“Could the imagination of man picture a situation before any creative act of God was wrought, when God, as it were, had before Him an infinite variety of possible plans or blueprints from which to choose - each and every one of which represented a possible program of divine action as far-reaching and elaborate as the one now being executed -, it would be reasonable and honoring to God to conclude that the present plan as ordained and as it is being achieved is, and in the end will prove to be, the best plan and purpose that could have been devised by infinite wisdom, consummated by infinite power, and that which will be the supreme satisfaction to infinite love ……the present plan is as perfect as its Author.[5]

And yet, The blinding of the majority of Jews, the acceptance of the Gentiles, and the merging of Jews and Gentiles into one body, the church, was not the end of Israel’s story as a nation, as a people. Again, as the song goes on to say, "For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. …..Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people." (Deu 32:36-43 NASB[italics added]) The Abrahamic covenant has not been nullified, and God will not break it, it is still awaiting ultimate fulfillment, which will certainly come. God will fulfill His covenant with Israel.  “… when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.  But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations that I might be their God.  I am the LORD.” (Lev 26:40-45NASB)



[1] Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H,), 227.
[2] Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
[3] Jerry Bridges. Trusting God(1988, p. 170.
[4] Albert Barne’s Notes on the Bible 723
[5] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI;  Kregel Publications 1976) 225. 


Scripture quotations marked 'ESV' are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


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