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CHAPTER EIGHT

JERUSALEM

DOES NOT FOLD BUT HAS A FOLDER

cf. Department of Bible ... Volume 11, Ch 16, World Amiss, Mercy Outdistances ... Ch. 9

 

Some cities were great for a season and, in measure,  for a reason, but changed and perished - like Nineveh, warned by Jonah and initially repentant, but then grief arrived. As foretold by Nahum, it became not only lost but abhorrent, and in this, not only for time but for ever, its very location a mystery for a time.

Some cities, like London, are great, and may even have great evangelical emphasis (as well as other!), are bombed or blighted almost to bits, and survive for their season.

But Jerusalem, an earth centre of the testimony of the Lord, failed her divine appointment (cf. Isaiah 43:21, 44:1-8, Micah 5:1-3). First for 70 years in exile they were warned and chastened as foretold by Jeremiah 25, but also as foretold, and in divine mercy, they were then returned and helped in times of chastening and comfort alike, till the walls and temple were rebuilt. They even became a great civil power under the Maccabees, as foretold in Zechariah 9:11-16. The major Chapters and sub-Chapters, God knew and foretold.

Yet again, her irresolution, idolatry and above all, her rejection of her King (which even the Roman judge insisted on calling so (John 19:20-22), as in Micah's prophecy, 5:1-3, Psalm 2, 22, Isaiah 50-55, these in the name of the Lord, led to their own rejection by God until by His Spirit He should again awaken them (Micah 5:3, Isaiah 32:14-20, Zechariah 12:10ff.), first in restoration to their unconditionally granted land (subject to temporary dispersion for culminating disobedience) as in Genesis 15:18-21, Ezekiel 36:5-35, 37:21ff., and with this ensemble stand out three features.

When this happens

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i) there is to be no more dispersion

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ii) the Messiah will be part of the scenario, back on earth and

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iii) there is allegiance to a new covenant.

Back in 1948, 1967, 1973 in three giant steps, as predicted for them, Israel now awaits the next - the dower of the Spirit, the opening of the eyes and the repentance in graphic vitality, and enormous scope, specifically of what they did to Christ, a large scale national-sized conversion. Thus they come to Himself in heart so that the nations will realise why the land was so disciplined, and how it was restored (Ezekiel 36:36).

This is the divine answer to the human sludge of surrender to the forces of this world, which delight in assailing Israel, still for all its sins, an emblem of relationship to God. Though in much it is past, it is never passť, and their history and restoration is like bombers in the sky above, a constant harassment to those who relationship to God is that they seek His death, whether by inane substitutions, or more forceful means, as they did when Christ was here in Person, though the resurrection blighted it and instead led to the massive spread of the Gospel throughout the world.

As to indicator, Israel, "so shall the ruined cities of Israel be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the Lord," Ezekiel 36:38.It is so and has been now seen to be so, for the simple reason that God said so and does what He says in delicious contrast to the treacherous among men, whom one at times almost seems to have specialised in meeting! This action was to come and in first and categorical measure has come. Indeed Jesus the Christ made it clear that it would do so, not in passing procedural action (as at the first in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, long past), but not only past Christ's first advent, but when the age following it was past, as the end at last flowed over to its place and portent (Luke 21:24, Zechariah 12:10ff., Micah 5:1-3).  So did HE speak and so did the prophet Ezekiel in Ch. 37. where both the King of the Covenant and the New Covenant would come to operate (Ezekiel 37:36), as part of the nexus (Jeremiah 31:31ff., Ezekiel 37:9-14,23-24). Despite distraints from many nations (Zechariah 12:1ff.), Israel would be established, as it has been, and not be dispersed any more.

Thus the restoration soon comes into the scope not only following His first saving advent, but in the day of His reigning power, which comes like the glory of the sunset at dusk, as the long day of trial ends (cf. Romans 11:25ff.).

Further, this is to be a lesson to the nations (Ezekiel 39:21-29), as to Israel. Then is seen what He does to once the world-scattered remnant of disciplined Israel, in regrouping it on promised premisses in the promised reconciliation (cf. Deuteronomy 32). As in seen in Ezekiel 36:21-29, even for His own name's sake, for His is a love and a mercy which is not underneath peremptorarily seeking to dump the bad, but to redeem it (Colossians 1:19ff., Ezekiel 33:11). What the Lord does for His name's sake is subject to no negotiation, de-registration or defilement. The coming conversion is not only to the Messiah, but to be accompanied with a sprinkling not of blood but with water, for a new blood has been shed to cover once for all, all whom He receives, who receive Him, and this fits the Messianic matrix in what is now called water baptism, performed by sprinkling, the usual, former cleansing mode.

But what further does Ezekiel 36-37 tell us ? It is this. Like dry, scattered bones, they in their world dispersion will be re-assembled as to physical location, in their land from which they were scattered, but still without life, which thing has happened in three vast stages within the world and its wily ways, as clear as the morning sun.

So as the exiled Israelis (millions were held in potently guilty USSR), mourning, come to a happy return from their exilic non-state, to their former address, they will turn to Him and then find Him returned to them (Zechariah 14, Ezekiel 37:24, Jeremiah 33:7-15, cf. Isaiah 11), to be given the Messianic leadership under Christ (Micah 4, Isaiah 2), that covers indeed the entire world (Jeremiah 33:15, Isaiah 11:8-10, Psalm 98), with one Gospel, one Lord, many challenges having led many to Him through different histories to one pardon, one peace, one property in Christ, one equality in Him (Galatians 3:23), not to disturb His word, but to fulfil it, for to none is He a liar, to none a fraud, to none does He break unconditional promises, but to all what He offered through one, has come to pass.

For Israel, as one component of this call, a greater dispersion follows the first one, a greater devastation of the temple, the first one, again ends in the same people, same nation, same death-and-resurrection site of Christ site, as was its beginning. The Messiah is to rule in this conversion to the same Lord, and the gift as to the Gentiles, is not for their sakes, not for any performance criteria for any, but by grace to be received by faith (Ephesians 2).

When they return, soon is the Messiah to rule, as in the progression in Zechariah, and the testimony of the nature of the case, in Jeremiah 33:12-16. Indeed, He who speaks swears to this continuity of Israel so defined, with such a plethora of pronouncement that it is staggering, yet most clear; and not only so, He does it twice! (Jeremiah 31 and 33). Those who can re-draft the heavens are invited to contest the matter with Him, as to His intention! in an irony of humour vast in its origin and in its challenge.

What then ? Deserved indeed was the desolation (as in Ezekiel 36:22), but vast indeed will be the resolve of the Lord to effect the resolution for Israel (Jeremiah 24:6, 31:28), in a direct and implacable reversal of the judgment and ruin formerly poured on them, so that what He cast down, now He builds up. Jeremiah 31:21 apostrophises Israel to turn back, back... and in 31:23, we see as in the restoration of former haunts, that again there will be heard in the land of Judah and in its cities, the sound of blessings, the work of farmers, yes, this amongst those brought back from their captivity, which had followed their lapse from the Lord.

Thus the Messiah, soon to rule, to be established in the matrix of this scenario as in Jeremiah 33:10-15, will be found as the BRANCH, one of righteousness. Yes "in those days and at that time" their long and deserved desolation will be assiduously downgraded, their restoration likewise upgraded, the Branch their inheritance, even the one who would bear the glory as in the famed Zechariah 6:13ff. prediction, and rule as in the vast world-wide reign shown in Isaiah 11:1 and the verses in that casement on coming events. 

 Will He indeed reign over His own people, yes and over the whole world as in Psalm 72, Isaiah 11:1-10,16, Psalm 98, Matthew 28, Jeremiah 33:15.

Showing Himself then most honourable, most merciful, most reliable, in smaller things as in greater, but the more so when His protestations of His intentions for Israel were so drastically emphasised, with His very name involved in these things, He who magnifies His word above all things, for whom jot and tittle matter however much substance and basis are to be discerned, acts. He IS the God who ACTS for those who wait for Him, as in Isaiah 64. Back to the stricken city they go (as in Luke 21:24), and even in Jerusalem comes the all but hilarious injunction, call, in Zechariah 12:6 it will be. Speaking of the governors of Judah, and their dealing with the peoples all around, the Lord indicates this.

1) Jerusalem will be inhabited.

2) It will be inhabited AGAIN.

3) It will be in ITS OWN PLACE.

4) That place bears the name 'Jerusalem'.

'The strength of the unique background of Israel on the one hand so categorically unique, and of the designation of the site of His interest on the other in this fourfold manner of delectable emphasis is so acute that to ignore it requires the shutting of the eyes. That ANYTHING may be said and done; but the practice is not recommended in principle (Matthew 13:14ff.). The Jerusalem in view is even exhibited further when its people repent of murdering Christ, as a people, in this, that they even pierced Him! It was not in San Francisco or Paris that this occurred but in a place ... what was it ? Oh yes, as the text states, "Jerusalem will be established in its own place - Jerusalem." The OWN place which was taken away only emphatically and dramatically and irresistibly to be restored by the Lord, is in a word, Jerusalem, in an idea, the stricken one, in its history, the lost city and in theology, the site of piercing, where at last the blood could atone, the blood they themselves shed (with some  help from Rome).

Christ having indicated they would be wrest from Gentile rule in due course, went further, and indicated that this event, unique in kind, would herald the nearness of His return in regality, which indeed fits with the precision of all the other signals which our present world is fulfilling in the context of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, their own place. This is the famed city of the famed people, both for good and for evil, the site of exclusion after inclusion, of restoration after being debarred, the gloating capital of other religion, the site once by announcement of God and action, destroyed like a sediment, and in a stated reversal process, brought with just the same determination, and that for a stated reason, and that by word of prophet and King, Jesus Christ. This city is unique of all cities, the site of the saving actions, also unique, of God, not a spiritual contributor, but a spiritually significant site, where grace destroyed the reign of death, God made of His unique Son, a sacrifice for sin.

Thus Jerusalem is unique not only in its repeated high and low position, blooming and blundering before the Lord, its eventual restoration, its cultural continuity, its relationship to the prophets whose words have with singular reliability come to pass; it is unique also for an even more important reason. So far from being a particle of sand in a dune, in its ancient history, it is like the  moon in the sky, obvious, constantly showing itself and if for a time, it becomes obscured, yet even in its doldrums, it still occupies space, causes contention and has majestic significance. What extremes it has seen, the Lord the proponent!

How sure its theme before the Lord! The Messiah is seen first His sufferings, not least at their hands though His works for their healing and help were more than phenomenal, being in power and pity like a 200 foot wave and a lustre of loveliness. But He was met by odium and disdain on the part of many - BUT on the part of others, surged in their desire for Him to become according to plan, the origin of the Christian Church(cf. Isaiah 55:1-11, 42:1-9, Matthew 28:18-20).

Here in the very midst of defined corruption, even for the Temple and its administrators, God having taken the form of man to suffer as and die for man, offered to all, ransoming all who received Him for who He is and for what He did (Matthew 20:28 and Romans 8:22, John 10:8,27-28), He gave a profundity of peace to all willing on His terms to receive it. Here in Jerusalem He traced the impact of regality, redemption, ransom and the fourth item, repentance. Here is a city heralded by God for its blight and its blessing, a microcosm of man, blessed and disobedient, beautiful and broken.

God did not make use of mere metaphors in speaking of the restoration of the place of His own sacrifice, for the people of His own provision (Micah 7, Isaiah 66, 49:13ff., Zechariah 12:1-13:1, Deuteronomy 32). In the last, the Lord's delivering action being applied in a direct personal declaration (32:42) of shattering power against the persecutors, it is declared that He "will provide atonement for the LAND and the PEOPLE" (bold caps. added). God does not say what He does not mean (Proverbs 8:8). In covering the one, He covers the other, in delivering the one, also the other, in restoring to norm, one, so the other, in bringing back the one, so the other.

It is the same practical reality which is emphasised in Isaiah 49. The Lord will have mercy on whom ? why, "on His afflicted." Accordingly, she as Zion replies, "my Lord has forgotten me." It is the nation, so placed, not any church or body of the triumphant Christ. On the contrary, this very limited land is going to be too SMALL for those crowding back into it , as readily imagined and practically found in this, the day of verification, for this as in Ezekiel 37 is one grand restoration from the very vale of sad history. By contrast with what is human confusion, with those becoming Christians, the very opposite is found - yet there is room, go to the byways and find more, more! (Matthew 21). In that grand post-Messianic reception of returning Israel, there is amazement: from  where in view of the vast losses of the Jews, have ALL these returnees ever come from! such is their exclamation.

As in Isaiah 49:20, the returnees, having known joy with the Lord in the land, and then been desolated, "will again say in your ears, the place is too small for me." AGAIN!

It is a miracle, a recrudescence,  a restoration, a taking up of what was lost, a return to the plentiful pressures of abundance. It is unheard of, staggering in its proportions in the rescue of what had seemed abandoned, filled with guilt, abandoned for ever by the Lord. Not so!  The laid waste people are back in their land, the ruined site, teeming with numbers, just now all but unthinkable. "Your waste and desolate places and the land of your destruction," are now visibly and astonishingly back to the pre-destruction abundance. The people who "abhorred" their Messiah, are yet to be covered (49:16). Having lost their former children, the desolated populace, now they will have more! (49:20).

God did not speak and act like some mere visionary; but as in the Exodus, as He states in Micah 7:15, with such power will He act for His blighted people to restore them and overwhelm their baying enemies, exhibiting the prodigy of mercy and grace which is His to manifest. This is not only to the land of His unconditional appointment (Genesis 15:12-21), but in heart and spirit to one as to all those who are willing to follow and not dictate to Him, to find His love and not play the potentate, as if blind to creation as to salvation, to love as to mercy, to peace as to power, and unwilling for ever (Romans 1:17ff.).

In His mercy, He defined and declared the continuity of His love (cf. Jeremiah 31:18-20) through and to this race, but with this as exemplar to all to receive the plan of His provision for their lives wit the four R's, regality, redemption, ransom, and repentance, to receive Him who sent to earth His plan, His purge, His provision and His remedy of restoration. Whether to this or that, nation or individual, for what He wanted, how He wanted it in the milieu of His mercy (cf. Romans 11), He acted, fulfilling promises whether of covenant or premisses, to heart or to soil, and bringing all back to one spiritual triumph in one spiritual Victor, in nothing reluctant to act (Psalm 2), in everything gracious and patient. Wait for it! He challenged (Habakkuk 1 and 3), till the time would come for the resolution of all, for all, by Him who made all.

Thus not only did He give the sequence and manner for the grace, race, place, at last to become one new people when all is done, but He even provided reasons for His coming, reasons for His prodigies of pity and power (Isaiah 51-55). Brilliantly and mercifully, He made the very recipient of His incarnated Saviour, that very land and people which would sacrifice Him, in their very act of iniquity, gain mercy through misrule and mistake. On display, His tenacity of mercy, on His profound mission, to be as many more, a site of sin transformed into a site of wonder (Ezekiel 39:21-29). They went out for sin and came back despite it, we read.

Yes, in the end, He would act, but how exceedingly challenging the tests. God is not up for sale after all; but turned the tale of betrayal to the Gospel of redemption as predicted.

The land the site of His first terrestrial birthday, the city of Jerusalem that of His human death and resurrection was not forgotten like grape seed, spat out. On the contrary, He first rose, providing immortality for His own people, who did receive Him, brought back many to their lost inheritance in Him from the day of their first fall in Adam and Eve, with His nation to its promised inheritance amid a repentance deeper than the city walls (Zechariah 12-13), consummating all in the predicted rise of the promised Messiah.

It is thus the site not only for this removal of defilement, but of its worthless attempt at subversion, and then becomes as well, the site for the removal of defiance, and this by order of the the Maker of the universe (Zechariah 12:1-13:1), and the marvel of the atonement. MAN has sought to end its contribution, the continuity, the significance, the particularity, as always in general with the things of God, preferring unwise waffle. But God had one cross in one city on one occasion with one purpose and with one result, and has one scenario for one people concerning these things, and a more generic one (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6), also occasioned in that one city, which using the One as example, makes for all Christ to be the Exemplar, both in truth and in grace, in peace and in pardon, in determination and in development; and both the Lord (Romans 14:12) and Saviour.

This is one of the most marked features of His sovereignty: He cannot be diverted either by falsetto gospel or poetic lands or barren barbs. When He defines, jots and tittles matter; He despises legal sophistries that jar on truth, and requires no help in fulfilling every last feature that He enunciates, promise that He makes and word that He gives. He has a plan, states it, carries it out in the Saviour, in the land, for the high and for the low, and the last stages of the Age have it to declare.

Israel is observably back in the land, the warning visibly underlined while the onset against the Lord's word and will still rages. The accompanying signs are likewise observably in their place, juxtaposed as predicted (Matthew 24, Luke 21), Jerusalem is back with Israel; the world harasses her (Zechariah 12:1ff.), merely securing more and more trouble for itself as we await the coming magnitude of the repentance to come for the nation, and as millions come to the Lord on the Gentile channel of the one Gospel, available to all, resisted by many: for while narrow is the way to salvation, broad is that to destruction (Matthew 7).

It is good to know God, to appreciate Him and to leave once and for all the odious, "Has God said ?" of Eden.

It is imperative to any biblical theology to realise these things, and salutary to remember the difficulties of "experts" in religion, even allegedly the Old Testament religion, had in recognising the Lord when He was there in person. Traditions as Christ pointed out (Mark 7:7ff.), can be immensely misleading, and can become virtually addictive, as well as an additive to the scripture, at which Rome has become adept*1, but not Rome alone. Many are stricken with blindness even as God has acted to do with Israel, precisely what He said, and blindly stumble on towards the chasm of sanctified unbelief, knowledgeable but not in this, in the ways of the Lord, blighting their own hearts with various levels of unbelief, just as in Christ's day on earth, they could not because they would not open their eyes and SEE the signals, signs of the scenario, of the Lord.

"Why," asked Christ (John 8:43), "do you not  understand My speech ? Because you are not able to listen to My word."

Just as of sin one must repent alone, so of His word one must take for doctrine, this alone (Proverbs 30:6, Psalm 119). If some saints contribute much, this does not make them oracles, whose least thoughts must be mirrored, and indeed this is heavily condemned by the epistle of Paul (I Corinthians 3;1-11). Of salvation, one has one offer alone (Acts 4:12), through one Saviour in one Trinity, who being one Lord, needs no help from Man (Isaiah 40), whose thought and word is above all from man as heavens above the earth (Isaiah 55, Psalm 138), even to His very thoughts, His ways (Jeremiah 23).

Our vaunted finesse is but bumble before Him, and His truth and when we seek to expound it, neither addition nor subtraction nor ideas can replace it. A city of course, that is rather greater than a jot ... He has much to say on the city of the soul (Mansoul of Bunyan), and of Jerusalem, just as He had much to do there, and does not resile from His word whether for greedy paws, blinded eyes,  graceless hatred, genocidal lust, the ultimate in bullying grandiosity or the longing to falsify His word. He is MOST aware and freely speaks of His plans on all sides (cf. Isaiah 51:21-23, Isaiah 66). Micah 7might make good morning tea reading for the UN. Here is ONE personal Being whose word is always true. Wait for it: It will surely come! Behold, like a dam bursting, it is coming already, surging on despite every "impossibility". With God, that is a specialty, as Pharaoh found, and Hitler likewise, as Mary learned and Peter found (Acts 12).

For the Christian, that is one of the delicious delights of knowing God, though HIS delight in showing mercy ascends even higher  (Micah 7:18ff.).

 

 

NOTE

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See SMR pp. 1032-1080