Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who is a God Like You?

Here God has written out His glorious name. In this Jewish people we see every divine perfection in act and operation. Omnipotence raised them up at first….Wisdom watched over, led, and guided them unerringly. Faithfulness fulfilled every promise uttered by the lip of Truth. Goodness established them in a noble land, gave them holy laws, divine and instructive institutions, sent among them prophets to teach and priests to minister. Holiness warned, cautioned, and exhorted them, and when they rebelliously spurned the gentle tones of love, how long did Patience bear with them; how often did God return and have mercy on them! When they had sinned "till there was no more remedy" [2 Chr 36:16], when they had consummated the rebellions of fifteen hundred years by that unparalleled deed of blood, the murder of the Son of God, then, after some yet further lingerings and invitations of insulted Mercy, did awful Justice arise, bare his arm for the battle, and strike down the terrible and crushing blows. Now, in what state do we behold them? Even as they have been for the last eighteen hundred years, like a burnt mountain on the plains of Time, scorched and splintered by the lightnings of diving wrath.
Yes! Still preserved in all their woe, still unconsumed by all these penal fires! Preserved! And for what? Let a thousand glorious prophecies answer! That burnt mountain shall yet be clothed with lovely foliage; down its sides shall streams of living water gush; and the nation that now witnesses to the truth, justice and power of God, shall sing till the ends of the earth shall hear and echo back the song, "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love"(Mic 7:18). Then shall the Lord be glorified in Israel, and all His attributes displayed in full-orbed glory, when He shall "call her Hephzibah, and her land Beulah" [Isa 62:4]. What a glorious Jehovah is the LORD God of Israel! With what awe, what love, what fear, what hope, should this character, as exhibited towards Israel, Inspire us!”[1]

The people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, are still in existence. And, after almost 2000 years, they even have some of the Promised Land back in the form of a state called ‘Israel’.  This they did not have when Bonar wrote the above excerpt.  The question arises, why are they here? Why haven’t they been dissolved among the nations?  As Bonar explained, it is for God’s glory, God has graciously chosen to be glorified as the God of Israel. He has chosen to put His attributes on display in His dealings with this race that He has chosen.  

God could have wiped the race of Israel off of the face of the earth any of the numerous times that they provoked Him to anger by their sin.  He could have annihilated them during the first destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, or at the second destruction of Jerusalem(after they rejected their Messiah) by Titus Flavius Vespasianus.  He could have allowed the nations amongst whom they were scattered to dissolve them.  And in recent times, He could have let Adolf Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews be successful.  But He didn’t.  God doesn’t change,  "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”(Mal 3:6 ESV)  God will glorify Himself by doing the good things He promised to Israel, despite their badness.  God will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob.

From Harlot to Virgin
An objection arises:  Yes, the race of Israel exists, but hasn’t God divorced them? Called them “Lo-Ammi/Not My people”?  Yes, this is true.  Thus says the LORD: "Where is your mother's certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.”(Isa 50:1 ESV) God uses the picture of Israel being an unfaithful wife, a prostitute(Ezekiel 16). He had His prophet Hosea make a literal illustration of this by having him take an unfaithful woman as a wife(Hosea1). God told Hosea to name one of his wife’s children “Not-My people’:”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) Israel was, as it were, divorced by God on account of her adultery, her idolatry.
But this is not the end of the story of the race of Israel.  God’s love for His chosen race has not ended, His love is eternal.  God has promised to take back the wife He divorced, He will “ have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land…”(Isa 14:1 ESV) God is going to remarry, as it were, Israel, declaring them His people.  He will take back his unfaithful wife.  He will change her faithless nature into a faithful one: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. "And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, 'You are my people'; and he shall say, 'You are my God.'" (Hos 2:14-23 ESV) “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) The people of Israel shall be changed, they will loath themselves and weep, “God will perform a miracle, He will change Israel from a Harlot, to a Virgin, set apart for Himself, bringing her back to the land He gave her.  "At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people." Thus says the LORD: "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. …Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn”(Jer 31:1-9) Who but God could or would do this?

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, 'These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.' But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. "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 the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.(Eze 36:16-33 ESV)

He was wounded for our transgressions…[2]
How will Israel be a Virgin? Isn’t a ‘virgin’ one who has never been immoral, one who is pure?  We have already observed that Israel was in fact a Harlot, adulteress, she was impure.  How can she change? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jer 13:23 ESV)How can one go from being a defiled, impure prostitute to a pure virgin?
How does one go from being a sinner to a saint? How does one go from being guilty to innocent? We know the answer: by Christ’s work! "God will keep His word to Israel, not because of their righteousness or their ability to keep conditions, but because of the promise He made Himself, to Abraham.  God will not keep HIs promises to Israel on the basis of their acceptance of Christ He will cause them all to recognize their Savior because they are heirs to the promise!"[3] The nation of Israel will be saved the same way individual Christians are saved, by God’s New Covenant. Which New Covenant was promised to them specifically as a people(Jer 31).  The race of Israel will be saved by the very Messiah that they rejected(which rejection was decreed as we have already seen).  They will be saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. God has provided atonement for Israel. The punishment for Israel’s guilt of adultery, her sin, will have been born by her Messiah.  And not only has her sin been atoned for, but God will also change her heart, just as He promised(See New Covenant Jer 31)."No longer will Israel be an adulteress, a sinner, she will be spotless, virtuous, righteous.  She will have Christ’s purity, His righteousness. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Rom 11:26-27 ESV) Israel’s sin will be forgotten, she will be justified, not only the ‘just as if I’d never sinned’ part of justification, but also the ‘just as if I’d always obeyed’ which is also a part of the justification that Christ makes.
"Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the LORD, your Redeemer. "This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isa 54:4-10 ESV
"And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. ….And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.”(Zec 12:7-14 ESV) God will “atone for His land and His people.” (Deut 32:43)

Israel’s Husband will not leave her forever, Her Husband will take her back, will call her with an effectual call, and His wife will come willingly; Israel’s Maker will remake her.

The LORD will be glorified in Israel
Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”(Isa 44:21-23 ESV) God has chosen to be glorified in the sight of the nations by His dealings with the race of Jacob.  He has chosen to be glorified by His condemning and scattering of Israel for her sins, and He has chosen that He will also be glorified by His saving Israel from her sins confirming the Abrahamic Covenant with her. He will be glorified by His bringing all Israel back to the Promised Land. "And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel…….. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them. ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD." (Eze 39:21-29 ESV)(Eze 39:7-8 ESV)

 He will be glorified in His giving grace to Israel just as He was glorified in His condemning of her.  He will be glorified in His gathering of Israel back to the Promised land just as He was glorified by His scattering her among the nations. “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age. You shall suck the milk of nations; you shall nurse at the breast of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”(Isa 60:15-16 ESV) “Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. "For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. “(Jer 32:37-42 ESV) "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.”(Jer 16:14-15 ESV)
Just as God was glorified in His treating Israel as she deserved, so He will be glorified by His not treating her as she deserves; His demonstration of His being faithful to His promises, His word. “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD." (Eze 20:42-44 ESV)

God wants the nations to see His faithfulness to Israel, He will bring salvation to Israel in full view of the nations of the earth:"Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.' For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.” (Jer 31:1-11 ESV emphasis added)

“Of them(the Jews) God thus spake hundreds of years before the destruction of Jerusalem: ‘I will scatter you among the heathen:’ ‘Thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among the all nations, whither the Lord shall lead thee:’ ‘Among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest.’ Jerusalem has been ‘trodden under foot,’ literally and terribly, till now, by the iron heels of western Christians, who deluged it with blood, by the hoofs of Arab and Moslem horsemen, and by the bare feet of Greek, and Roman, and Armenian monks.  Each sect spared its rival in order to crush the Jew.  To plunder and maltreat the Jew was regarded as the expression of a piety singularly acceptable to God.  No experience of man can explain this.  The Jew is a living mystery, which prophecy alone clears up.
Many other predictions, intimate the destinies of this mysterious race till Christ come.  All nations have homes in Jerusalem, - the Jew has none.  They have been sifted through all nations, and have taken root in none.  They  are the subjects of every dynasty - the victims of every tyranny - the scoff of the infidel - the scorn of the great.  From the Thames to the Tiber, and from the Tiber to the Ganges, and from the Ganges to the Missouri - from ‘Greenland's icy mountains to India's coral strand’ - they are found insulated from the sympathies of all men, indicating affinities with something above and before, but with nothing around.  That once great nation has been poured down upon the earth like quicksilver - it has split into innumerable scattered and disintegrated globules, which the Great Proprietor will yet collect, and form into a mighty mass that shall glow with imperishable splendor and reflect his glory.  Many thousand years ago, God in prophecy pronounced the future dispersion and doom of the Jews, and God in history has kept them like the bush on Horeb - burning and not consumed - till that day come when the glory shall return from between the cherubim, and the dry bones rush together from a thousand lands, and the groans of creation, and the oppression of the Jew, and the travail of the Christian, cease together.  Do we not hear every morning a deep-toned voice in our streets? It is the echo of the voice of God in prophecy - evidence to a skeptic world that God's word is truth.  No man can read the history of the Jews, and the prophecy of which that history is the shadow projected into many years and lands, and not conclude that the prescience of God pronounced the prediction, and that the presence of God in history superintends its fulfillment.”[4]

So, what have we learned in this study? We knew that God has chosen to be glorified by taking a people for Himself from among the Gentiles, but we must not stop there.  We must accept all that God’s word tells us, we must recognize that He has also chosen to be glorified as ‘the God of Israel’, the ‘Savior of Israel’, the ‘Righteousness of Israel’, the ‘Faithful One of Israel’.  He has chosen, not merely to be glorified by the salvation and sanctification of Individuals, but also by the salvation and sanctification of a race of people.  God has chosen to deal differently with a race of people than He does with other races and other individuals.  So be it.  He is God. 

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, "Where is the LORD your God?" My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets. A day for the building of your walls! In that day the boundary shall be far extended. In that day they will come to you, from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the River, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain. But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their deeds. Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them marvelous things. The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the LORD our God, and they shall be in fear of you. Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. "(Mic 7:8-20 ESV)

[1] Horatius Bonar
[2] Isaiah 53:5
[3] Jim McClarty
[4] John Cummrich(?)

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