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The Worm that Turned
Cf. Ch. 16 and Ch. 2 above, &g
Vol. 10, Ch. 14 of this series
One day the Professor was walking along with the worm, albeit its was actually a wormy investment of his imagination, but he took it as real, and relished it. Perhaps it was a dream.
Why, asked the worm, in this wormy world ...
Wait a bit! said the Professor, that is an unqualified assertion ...
Lots of people of the MOST unqualified situation speak sense and of the highly qualified do less, said the worm.
True, O worm, said the thoughtful Professor, but I was about to make an observation.
The best sort of observation, in my opinion, said the worm, is what is observable.
In the mind or the eye ? replied the academic.
Either, said the worm, so long as it breaches neither logic, nor investigatory honesty, nor the researched testimony of the senses.
Well getting back to biblical interpretation, pursued the Professor.
We never reached that point, replied the slower one.
Getting on to it, then, somewhat irritably, resumed the learned man.
Í wish you would, ungraciously mouth the worm, although not literally.
The fact is, raising his voice, continued the academic, that there are many things that appeal to man in the Bible's multiple discourses, references and adversions to the things to come, especially concerning what is called Israel.
What is called! said the wriggling one, why does it have to be put like that ?
Because the term may be used metaphorically.
So does 'bruiser' though they do not all ever impart precisely a bruise.
What does that show ?
This, that there is nothing so special about being adaptable to metaphorical use.
Yet in this case, there
are profound emotions, and the recipient of the term has gone through
phases and stages of very different kinds.
So have you, said the worm, and your body has some more awaiting it.
There is no need to be lugubrious, said the ageing man.
Where is your faith! expostulated the wriggler! The resurrection is not lugubrious.
Certainly, returned the man of years, certainly.
But go on ...
Yes, well Israel as a term ...
Not as a nation ?
As a term of fame because its first promissory recipient, Jacob, became in his descendants, according to promise concerning the same, an icon, emblem, not to mention current possessor. What God gave to him, as to his father and grandfather, bore far more important information than what any scientist can hope to find.
Why is that ?
It is because the God of creation conferred it.
You mean it had a sort of copyright, being first of all, affirmed concerning that usage; and God is not like some who breach copyright ?
Yes, and furthermore, it retained it because the promises made to the one first bearing it, and the preceding generations, were specifically without end.
I suppose ...
You do not need to suppose, but to heed Genesis Chs. 12 and17, with 15.
I have now done so, said the assiduous worm, and I see what you mean. In terms of successive generational promises going on to the end of the Age, there are things determined for Israel, the Messiah and the land, the site of operations of central usage, one that helped to confirm Israel as a thing, not a dream, with a history, not an ideal.
That is the basis, like 'a Brit', which has normative reference to person of Great Britain, but could conceivably means a person of grit, for example, the context assisting.
Then Israel was punished, disciplined and blessed at different times (as in II Chronicles 36 in its coverage), and seemed to have a gift for rebellion and trivia, as well as profundity in some at times, and faith soaring, victories glorifying God and purging the nation not seldom.
Well, some children take a lot of bringing up; but their name is the same, their father the same; and some accomplish great things with great faults, and some...
Quite! responded the not so slightly impatient man of learning. However, though this happened and led to travail for the nation, as you see recounted in such persons as Daniel and Nehemiah (both Ch.9), it did not, despite violations of the blessed way provided, lead to an end to the promises. Like physical premises, they continued anyway (cf. Ezekiel esp. 36:22), God being both faithful and reliable, as He often declares, and not going back on His word. You can do that rather readily when history is yours, and your heart is such; and you can even use the free decisions of some to evoke prepared results (cf. Isaiah 44-45 with Cyrus).
So, said the worm, they were kicked out and brought back to their land, I suppose ... the worm communed.
Of course, said the Professor, as in Ezekiel 36-40, Jeremiah 23-33, in Micah 7, Deuteronomy 32, where they are back at the ultimates of the Lord's actual defence of their identity as that nation to which the promises were made. He so acts as the Age ends, and they spiritually return (as in Zechariah 12) , protecting their territorial and national integrity. If this leads to the crushing of arrogant Gentiles, types of Sennacherib the prototype (cf. Isaiah 36ff., with Micah 6ff.), so be it! Now as the end of the Age draws near, those same Gentiles had grown used to picking on Israel, and had made a vicious practice of it in the Inquisition, in Spain, also in France and with severe emphasis, later in Russia, with its programmatic seeming progroms.
This persection of the Jews, still pursued by a number of Arab countries, who excel above all in this inflammatory and discriminatory anti-Israel dynamic, and in the case of Iran, genocidal talk, at the very time God has been involved in teaching them a lesson. That added burden has been, on the part of those aroused to murder, now aspiring to a mass exhibition of it, a pretty miserable thing to do. When Isaiah refers to Israel therefore as a very CRITERION of blindness, as he does in Isaiah 42:18ff., as He brings them from afar back to their place, he is not referring to the metaphorical ideas, such as the Christian Church (not the fraud but the fact - II Peter 2). This after all is inhabited by the Christ, crucially, as the light of the world, and the disperser of darkness (cf. Isaiah 8:20 - 9:7). That would be like using the term 'Brit' as in the illustration, to mean 'milk-sop', something requiring some more thought! Saying yes for no, stroke for blow, decease for life, these are not good bases for metaphorical application, being not similar but rather opposites.
Yet there is a period when they were out! Israel was dismissed from its place, mused the worm.
According to the covenant in Leviticus 26, out as a discipline, dispersed as a confrontation, since they appeared to want that. With God, what is within is crucial, and it is useless to make things a mere matter of form (as in Isaiah 29:13),like someone checking race results while proposing marriage, because his heart is in the former, and only the speciously with the 'loved' one.
As worthless as heartless, chimed the worm. In that period, he said, worming his way towards the light, they no doubt had a temporary replacement for any essential work, testimony, or that sort of basic and warranted work ?
Sure they did, said the Professor who had just completed a lecture tour of the USA. Thus in the spiritual field, the light that was turned off in Israel, in the crucifixion of the One who is it (cf. Micah 5:1-3), was the very same one which was turned on (as in Isaiah 65:1ff.), in the other peoples (as foretold in essence in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6), in the Gentiles; and they carried on the specialised and specific testimony which had been one of the jobs of Israel (as in Isaiah 43:21).
Is there something in Romans ?
Of course there is, responded the Professor with a little relish. There was a tree, Israel a chief bough, and characterising it, at best. It acted as noted, and so was cut off; but the other nations being suddenly exposed to the most direct income of the Lord, responded where the first chosen and endlessly to be sustained Israel, the nation, throughout this entire Age from the time on earth of Christ, did not. Theirs then was the majestic song in the coastlands (Isaiah 24:16), they could even be referred to as "the Israel of God". Now the adopted believers amid the Gentiles were doing far more to the point, and actually received the underlying Gospel of grace, when Israel AS A NATION, still did not (Galatians 6).
There is more ? asked the worm.
Indeed, came the response, sometimes the term "Israel' could obviously be used in a deeply metaphorical sense, referring to those who being imbued with the Gospel, and being deeply involved in the truth, were the current beacon bearers for the mercy and exhortations of the Lord, a special people by current function as in I Peter 2. Indeed, to them came the New Testament, and Covenant, which had been foreseen for Israel as in Jeremiah 31:31ff.. As with Moses, so with Paul, for example (cf. I Cor. 2:9-13), it came with personal bond and propositional presentation, in words to be heeded, the divine no dunce at words, man himself created by them (as in DNA, for example), and in that case, repeatedly produced over the generations by the same means.
Well what is all the trouble ? asked the astounded work.
Well some people see the references past Israel, to spiritual things which in type were often marked out as special and to come for Israel (as in Jeremiah 31-33), as if the Gentiles alone could have them, and all reference to the Lord's multiplied promises and premises for Israel could simply be disregarded.
Disregarding the word of God is a fool's play.
It is certainly popular, and in this, it resembles the most poetic insertions of the Liberal theologians of the 19-20the century, who by deceit and deviousness, then by tradition, created another Bible, reminding one of the kind Hitler tried to foist on the people, in his deadly day. In both cases, violence was offered to the Church, to the Lord and to the truth. It is not the Jews only who were straying!
So as in Isaiah 60, it can be made obvious that God, in referring to Israel may be indicating chiefly the spiritual depths and the meaning of salvation, as if it could be a wall. Israel may be conceived of like a reminder of its former place and place to come; so that both as former exhibit and future inclusion, it appears as an aspirant in time to come. Indeed, in sites like Isaiah 61, you see focus on the Messiah whose coming, as specified in the Nazareth synagogue case, is the basis of any help for any, Jew or Gentile (cf. Isaiah 41-42, when no one is suitable to do the work of the Lord, but the one in whom the Lord delights, who IS His salvation, His covenant and His chosen one (as in Isaiah 49 also).
Then, mused the worm, first Israel was given promises and premises, made specific and non-rescindable by the word of God, and then the Gentiles carried on with the substance of the matter, the underlying symbols at all times, with the emphasis on that point of substance that Christ repeatedly gave, and then, as in Matthew 24. Then these too, they failed as the Jews had done, and what had been accomplished started to disappear at a startling rate, as predicted, so that just as a remnant of the Jews had to come for the restoration of Israel, according to its promises, especially in the 20th century, though still hindered as a nation, by their continuing rejection of the Gospel, so the Gentiles, with things falling as if gravity had suddenly trebled morally and spiritually, leaving only a remnant of for themselves also. These remained, increasingly counter-culture for an abusive and unnatural world.
The Jews suffered; now the imposers of suffering have a turn, they also.
The wheel turns.
When Israel is back, as in 1948-1967, that begins to occur (Zechariah 12:4), but with its promised return to its zone, site of salvation's payment by the Lord (cf. Isaiah 2, Micah 4), then as in Zephaniah 3, a spiritually awakened Israel will have its own part in the Christian rejoicing in pardoned sin and intimate grace from God; but no more will Old Testament symbolism be in force (as clear from Isaiah 30:8-11, and this becomes a key for all interpretation, just as the ensuing 30:23-33 points out the fulfilment of the divine yearning over Israel, to follow this highly specific historical dealing that precedes). Israel THEN, following the massive conversion within it, specified in Zech 12:10, has closeness to the Lord with affinity, and protection of divine proportions. Now the nations can reflect on their abrasive obtuseness amid their own due desolation, those who cannot refrain from brutal assault (Ezekiel 39).
What is the current position ?
Now, at this phase, Israel the term, could be used as normative and traditionally awarded of that nation, when the word of God is speaking of the detail and history of the same as frequently in Isaiah; or it could be used of a Gentile intermission, in which the term could metaphorically be made to refer to the nations who had taken spiritual things up in their own era, when the context signifies the metaphorical. When THAT was over*1, as Christ announced in Luke 21:24, so that NO MORE was Jerusalem to be under Gentile control, THEN that would be a signal for the only God with the only salvation and who is the only Saviour, to return in the Person of His Son, and rule on this earth (as in Revelation 20-21, Isaiah 59, 11, 32, Micah 4ff., Matthew 25). As Israel surges home spiritually (yet to come), so the Gentile remnant surges on despite suffering, and the waves of their mutual delight in the Lord, and His in them, mingle as waves do (Isaiah 66). Jerusalem back in Jewish control is the signal of nearness.
Does He require a signal then ? asked the worm
Of course not! said the aged man, but it is for us, so that we may know something.
How do you know that, O knowledgeable one ?
It is because He said so in Luke 21:24. Is that too hard ?
You would almost wonder in view of the crowding and crowing going on at the thick theological level, I gather.
It also declares in that Christ would not return UNTIL Jerusalem received Him. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, they would say then, nailing that concept, rather than nailing its proponent (Matthew 23:39).
That is rather different from saying that they would NEVER make this cry, isn't it! reflected the worm. He does not state that His return was never going to be near, but that it would be so WHEN a particular nation, which had long been suppressed or occupied, or at any rate trodden down in Gentiles control, was once again in charge of that city, with all that this involved.
Yes, after all, UNTIL specifies a time to come when the event in question happens, responded the Prof., now a little wearied.
So where's the problem ? asked the worm.
There are times, said the Prof, when I could almost bear hearing you talk of this wormy world, said the aged one.
No doubt, said the worm, but of course there are no worms in heaven!
Incidentally, he added, the term 'worm' can be used in various ways.
Yes, said the Prof.
It CAN mean ...
Of course, came the reply, but we know what it means according to the context. I mean if you said, the term worm MAY means a lion, we would know you were simply deluded ...
Or if we said a lion meant a worm, we would similarly be ridiculous. Using a term metaphorically does not confer liberty to make its use contrary to all comparison, the opposite in character to what is signified.
I should have thought that was obvious, said the worm.
Blindness is not compatible with sight, yawned the Professor, feeling it really was getting too slumbrous. When opposites are conceived as apposite, then time is not well spent pursuing it.
WHen, as Christ indicated, the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, their replacement duty and day no more signalised, for Jew and Gentile, mingling racially in the Gospel before, now may do so even in terms of national alignments, perfected when the reign of Christ on earth comes (as in Isaiah 11).