Australian Bible Church – December 3, 17, 2006 Matthew 14-16
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND
BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
Three Tiers, Many Tears, and One Triumphant
Israel and You
The Jews back to the Lord! Never, decreed the knowledgeable one. Yet he was wrong. Just as that so heavily testified race, the Lord Himself witness, have fallen from their trillion dollar Temple and international Kingdom days, in the power of God, to the declining phases and dis-fosterings of disfaith, as they separated from the Lord, as if a fragment broke away from a space-craft and they were it, so are they to return to the bounty of the Lord, the blessedness and the consummation of the contract. Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 30, 32, Micah 7, Joel 3, Habakkuk 3, Ezekiel 36-37, Jeremiah 30-31, Isaiah 40-55, 61-66, Luke 21, Romans 11 describe these things in intense detail*1A.
Today we will briefly review some of the most obvious points where the Bible affirms their return both to their land and their Lord, and then note our position as Gentiles while these events on the declared divine calendar, the first already accomplished in 1948-1967, are completed.
Do not mistake, the divine calendar is clear (Acts 1:7), but while the date for Christ's death was predicted some 6 centuries before it happened*1, in Daniel 9, and duly fulfilled, the date of the Lord's own return is a carefully guarded secret. As with D-day for the landing in Europe, it is expected; but those who are to be challenged MUST not know, and the Lord has kept this date from all, preferring to charge His people to be READY. He did as we know, however, give a series of signals so sure in their total depiction, that it is quite certain that His return is near (Matthew 24, Luke 21, Revelation). One of these was the repossession of Jerusalem by Israel (Luke 21:24).
When He came the first time, it would have been an amazing privilege to be there; when He comes the second time, it is apparent that the world will be whipped up, like polluted cream, or tainted spray, and His rescue of His believers will be dramatic (Matthew 24:15ff., Revelation 11, I Thessalonians 4). Today, then we look at Israel first, and believers second.
The Grand Awakening of Israel (Romans 11)
Romans 11 presents the famous olive tree parable. At first, Israel abides in the tree and the tree in Israel, but it severs from the Saviour, rather dramatically by murdering Him by national authority, and is ripped out or pruned (11:12,17-18). The charge to the covenant people at that time: LACK OF FAITH. Without faith you CANNOT please God (Hebrews 11:6). The Gentiles are then grafted into that tree (not another, the root system is unchanged - 11:19-23), but being multi-national they are en masse charged not to gloat but to seek grace, for Israel fell for a reason: let them not duplicate it.
However in nation after nation they are doing so, and the Gospel having skipped across the globe as it had to do before the Lord would return (Matthew 24:12), we come to the next phase. If the casting away of Israel, says Paul, were the occasion for the reconciliation of the Gentiles, as in masses over the centuries they have come to the Lord, in swathes of souls, even in governments at times, through missionaries, through radio, TV, but always by the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Bible, the word of God: then what would be felt about the RETURN OF ISRAEL! Would it not be like LIFE FROM THE DEAD! Paul exults (11:15).
There is a time (11:25), known to God, when the blindness which has been so much the national heritage of Israel as a nation (unlike the wonderful light which illuminated the hearts of so many Jews in the Church of the first century!), will cease. Paul is keen that we should NOT BE IGNORANT OF THIS FACT (11:25). Just as God undertook to foretell to Israel the scope of His actions, so He has provided vast tracts of truth for the Gentile and all, in the New Testament. Then, says Paul, when this blindness-stoppage happens, then ALL Israel will be saved. Thus the full complement of those to return will come in a sudden unblinkering, and sight will be returned in the nation. It is not stated by any means that ALL of them will come (for example, see Isaiah 59:20, where the Lord relates to those who turn from iniquity); yet it is a movement so vast as to constitute a national event of the first magnitude (cf. Zechariah 13:1).
In this last verse, we find that "a fountain for sin and for uncleanness" will be opened "for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem." It is a vast national movement, literally an awakening from blindness, and metaphorically "life from the dead."
The Two Phase Recovery of Israel (Ezekiel 36-37, Luke 21:24)
In Ezekiel 36-37, you see that the desolation of poor Israel, like dry bones scattered throughout the lands, will be met by a CALL to bring them back and assemble them. Then in the vision Ezekiel hears the further command that they should live, and the spirit enters them and they do live. This signifies the return of Israel first as a nation (command one), and then the coming mass conversion also to come (command two), and this is made very clear in 37:24-26, in terms of the New Covenant.
Already they have the land and Jerusalem (as foretold in Luke 21:24). As the pressures mount (as in Zechariah 12:1-4), so does the time of the Lord's return grow nearer.
The Lord's Action Soon Afterwards (Romans 11, Isaiah 59, Zechariah 14)
Those are the two phases of Israel's return: to the land and then to the LORD. It is a two-tiered thing.
In Romans 11, Paul cites from Isaiah 59, one of the most painful descriptions of utter human corruption and moral desolation, a divine indictment on Israel, but then comes the Lord's intervention and deliverance for Israel, associated with this transforming work of pardon, power and peace in the Messiah, whom now at last they find (as in Zechariah 12:10). In Zechariah 14 and other texts, we learn that the Lord will act in delivering power as in the days of Pharaoh (cf. Micah 7:15, Deuteronomy 32:36ff., Joel 3, Habakkuk 3), and then return with all His saints, Himself coming to the Mount of Olives, which will split. Great will be the disease amid those who fought (it sounds like radiation sickness - 14:12) against Him. II Thessalonians 1 shows the burning devastation of the whole antichrist power, as does Revelation 19.
Not So Bright after All -
their Unstarry Sky (Romans 11)
but for some, the Inward Lighting
(II Corinthians 4:6)
Fascinating in our reference to Deuteronomy 32 above, is the fact that the Lord intervenes at last for the rebellious nation "when He sees that their power is gone." Here is today's personal message. Here is the third tier, the Gentile partial parallel.
It is when the Lord sees that your power is gone, that self-trust, nation-trust, family-trust, culture-trust, personal thrust is no longer the criterion of your life, that He acts. It is then that you lie open to conviction of sin and repentance, to encouragement to faith in the God who made you and the Lord who came not that the world should be judged, but rather saved (John 3:17). This world has declined like the barometer before storm; but the individual, brought to the end, may indeed find the beginning which comes to a life that does not end (John 3:16, Micah 3:7). It is the time of conjunction, restoration, regeneration and relief. It is here that many tears can shine in rest and joy, as Christ is relished. This is however, for Jew as for Gentile, an individual matter.
If you are experiencing such a time, as a Christian, when like Paul in II Corinthians 1, it seems that your power is gone, your nice orderly system is disrupted, your hopes are dashed, then turn as Paul there does, to the Lord, remembering that even he had to be RE-taught not to trust in himself, though he had long known it. Like barnacles on a ship, weighing it down and dirtying it, so sins of temporary aloofness from the Lord may tend to distort and disturb the Christian. Then, like Israel in its coming time, and for people as they first come to the Lord out of darkness, you may be stirred to renewal of life by becoming utterly dependent on Him, once more, rather than on this or that system of thought or action; and relying on Him, find the power to move mountains and live abiding in His goodness and strength. In this, let Israel speak to us all.
If any does not know the Lord, here is the intriguing opportunity to call on His name, remembering this, that "it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
It is empirically as it is historically, for the Lord is one Lord, unchanging, challenging, available on His own terms ALWAYS while this Age of Grace lasts, and it is
not His desire that any perish,
than that any
His scorn for scoffers (Psalm 2) is great; His rebuke to folly is profound (Proverbs 1): but His availability for sincere entreaty on the basis of the Saviour, defaced but unfazed, is neither reduced by umbrage, for He loves mankind and delights in mercy (Titus 2-3, Micah 7:19ff), nor defiled by disgust (Romans 5:8-10), for He who was able to bear sin, can well embrace the returning to Himself, among sinners!
LOVE IN ACTION
Before and Beyond Christmas is CHRIST DECEMBER 17,2006
Today, we complete certain matters from Part I, and provide the perspective that follows.
I The LOVE behind the CHRISTIAN INCARNATION
We saw something of that in Ezekiel 34, where the Lord makes clear two things: He detests slack work and spiritual greediness by which ‘shepherds’ USE the sheep, without caring. In view of this, He is determined to come as the GOOD SHEPHERD Himself, as seenfulfilled in John 10.
This love flowers in the rocky soil that underlies the Cross of Calvary and leaves behind a mountain of strength and one for deliverance in the resurrection of that same body which once was that of a babe! In Ezekiel 36, we see one result. In their season, Israel is brought back from its long isolation and divorce from the Lord, not for their sakes (36:22), but for His name’s sake who promised, and find their Messiah, whose repulse to all foes delights the eyes. From Him no more do they depart, we read in Ezekiel 37, following the famous two-phase parable of their return to the land first, a geographical thing, and to the Lord Himself second, a spiritual wonder.
II The REPENTANCE that REALISES
A third result is this. As shown in Zechariah 12, not only does Jerusalem to which Israel was slotted to return, become a heavy burden to those nations who try to interfere with its place and function, a thing now historically notorious since 1948, but Israel wins triumphant wars against vastly unfavourable odds, in a striking manner. This comes, as it did come, before … the Spirit of God is poured out (as in phase 2 of Ezekiel 37’s parable) and they repent, realising what as a nation they have done, and they LOOK UPON HIM whom they PIERCED. So was the news, some 6 centuries before Christ was so much as killed, and some 25 centuries before their final return it is proceeding as specified.
This Zech. 12:10-13:1 reminds us all that there is a repentance not to be repented of (II Cor. 7:10), and in this is eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12); for it realises who Christ is (as in Matthew 16), what He has done and one’s own guilt in putting love through such paces for one’s redemption!
III The CITY that SPEAKS
This takes us to see perspective as in Luke 21:24, where after the predicted dispersion (as in Leviticus 26:33), they are brought back as in Ezekiel; and when their strength is gone (Deuteronomy 32:36), the Lord intervenes to deliver and destroy their enemies’ position (32:36ff., Zechariah 14, cf. Ezekiel 38-30, Micah 7:15ff.), and in mercy brings them a repose which sin can no more break (37:23-26). When they have regained Jerusalem, the slot of the Gentiles finished (fulfilled), the ground with the Christians upon it looks up for the return of the Lord, which is then all but imminent (Luke 21:28). That regaining came in 1967. Israel is a simple TEST and CHECK-POINT, just as the power of Christ was the centre-piece, and all is now fulfilled.
IV The FAITH that goes where the SAVIOUR comes
This narrative of Israel and the Gentiles, in perfect parallel illustrated in Romans 11, shows all the world guilty before God, and the outcome of His love. HE CAME, and did what was required, not as if an automaton, but with personal relish and the very light of life flowing freely (John 8:12); HE CARRIES like lambs, those who come to Him, like an eagle bouncing and training its eaglets (Isaiah 40:10, Deuteronomy 32:11-12); HE BUILDS His people like living stones into a temple of praise (I Peter 2, cf. Ephesians 2, 4), and HE OPENS doors of opportunity for the performance of His will on the part of those whose heart is open to Him (Revelation 3:8.Mark11:23ff.), whose ear is bent to His word, whose spirit is repentant and seeks to be filled with His grace, guileless, guilt covered by His blood (Ephesians 1). His goodness is their delight (Psalm 27, Ephesians 3:17-21). Jew and Gentile alike are swept into His presence as in Romans 11, the former being grafted back into their own tree, which is STILL HERE and with the latter making one holy assembly, rich in grace, ready for His coming.
When He is ready, His arrival is our departure to the Wedding of the Lamb (Rev. 19, Mat. 22), a prelude to the devastation of evil dynamics and the eternity of His blessedness. It all is consummated, which came when He arrived. In the interim, it is a life lively testimony to His light and His truth and His attestation to and in our hearts (Romans 8:16).