God’s Unchangeable Purpose with Israel, part 6
It’s all about timing
In previous blogs in this series, we were showing how the entire Bible was written to Israel, by Israelites (primarily), about Israel, and for Israel.
At the same time, we went to some length to show that the Bible was not for Israel only and for all time; but that it is all about timing. God chose Israel for a special purpose—many purposes, actually—but it can be summed up in the term “servant people.”
Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
God chose Israel to be the instrument through which He would bless all the people of the earth. In doing so, He deals with Israel first. He gives them His Word—the holy Scriptures—which contains His Law: the commandments, statutes and judgments. We quoted Psalm 147 to show that He gave His word and His law to Israel alone.
But then we showed from other verses that God’s purpose in giving His Word to Israel was so that they would serve Him by carrying the Good News and administering His law to all the families of the earth.
God’s purpose did not change with the coming of Jesus Christ. God’s purpose with Israel is unchanging and unchangeable, because His Word decreed it. Just because the Messiah was rejected by the Jews does not mean that God’s Plan got all messed up and that He has to alter it now.
No, God is still working with Israel. He did not have to set them aside for 2,000 years, and put His time clock on pause, and work with some non-Israelites, some so-called Gentiles, for the past two millennia. Not at all.
He has been working with and through Israel in a major way for the past 2,000 years—even though Israel has not known it, because we lost the memory of our identity as Israel. Our Christian Israel people think they are non-Israelites.
But Peter, James, John, Thomas, Philip, Paul and all the other apostles knew what Jesus had commissioned them to do. To go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And thus we contend—and we are going to continue to prove—that the books of the New Testament were written to Israel.
Someone who knows their Bible (somewhat) will immediately object by saying that, “No, James, the apostle Paul went to the Gentiles.”
Okay, let’s examine that objection. In doing so, let’s go to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 18. In our last lecture, we showed from a number of verses within this book that it was primarily about Israel and it was primarily addressed to Israelites.
I qualify that by saying “primarily” because the door of salvation is always open to non-Israelites as well. We also addressed that at some length last time. Now, here in Acts 18, we find Paul running into some opposition to the gospel in the city of Corinth. And we want to notice very carefully from whom that opposition was coming.
Acts 18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
I deliberately began here because I wanted to introduce you to Aquila and Priscilla, because we will find them in our study several times. We see that Aquila is described as a Jew. We also note that the Roman Emperor Claudius had decreed that all Jews had to leave Rome. So here they are in Corinth, a city in Greece.
3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Let’s stop there and think about this a minute. Where was Paul preaching? Answer: In the synagogue. And who was inside the synagogue? Jews and Greeks. Hmmm. The Jews there in Corinth were obviously living in Greece, but yet they are distinguished from other people. They are not called Greeks; they are called Jews.
When we think of synagogues, we think of Jews. So what are those Greeks doing in the synagogue? I always thought that nobody was allowed in a synagogue unless they were…ah, not just Jews who claimed to be from the tribe of Judah, but a synagogue would be open to Israelites from any of the 12 tribes, wouldn’t it?
So what I am suggesting is that the Greeks in the synagogue were Israelites from tribes other than Judah. They had a right to be in the synagogue. And those "Greeks" still knew who they were at that time in history.
And that’s why we don’t find Paul and the other apostles trying to persuade them they were Israel. They had not yet lost the memory of who they were. We will see this fact clearly when we get to the epistles of James and Peter.
5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
6 And when they opposed themselves [i.e., set themselves against Paul], and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
So what we see here—and it is a common theme throughout the New Testament—is that the gospel is preached to Jews, and among them there seem to be two prominent reactions. One, either they become believers; or two, many times, they have this almost spontaneous and emotional reaction of hatred towards Christ and the gospel.
Turn to Acts 28, the last chapter in our Book of Acts, and we will see another example of two reactions by the Jews. Let’s begin at the end of the chapter, because that’s where we find Paul speaking of going to the Gentiles, and then we’ll back up and get the context. Paul says:
Acts 28: 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
So there again is Paul talking about going to the Gentiles. Now let’s back up to verse 16.
16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
There it is—that two-fold reaction again. We can picture the scene there: all the chief Jews in the area have been listening to Paul preaching of the coming of the Messiah.
It gets to a point where among some of them, the light bulb goes on and they say, “Yes, I see it. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. He is indeed the long-promised messiah of Israel. I believe in Christ Jesus.”
But some of their fellow Jewish leaders are shaking their heads and perhaps mocking, “You guys are out to lunch; you’re not really buying into that fairy tale, are you? The guy’s dead, for heaven’s sake! He was just another phony messiah; we’ve seen them before.” And so the believers and the scoffers begin going back and forth disputing with each other. But now listen to how Paul characterizes these Jews who did not believe.
Acts 28: 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word,
So Paul is saying, “Alright, I can see it’s not going to do any good for me to keep on trying to make you see what you obviously cannot see.” He continues: “Let me close by reminding you that this is exactly what Isaiah predicted would happen.”
Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
Now, let’s analyze the words of Isaiah. In the past, I had a very simplistic answer to the two reactions to the gospel. I am no longer convinced that the answer is so simple. Before I share my formerly simplistic answer, I need to explain a historical fact which many people new to this ministry or new to the birthright and kingdom message may not know.
That fact is that roughly 150 years before the birth of Jesus, the Judah people, under their leader, John Hyrcanus, conquered the Edomite people and gave them a choice: convert and assimilate with us or die.
Needless to say, most of the Edomites chose to become part of the Judahite community. They intermarried and they followed the same religion, and so by the time of Christ, the nation of Edom had been swallowed up in what is now called Jewry.
To restate that for further clarity: ever since approximately 150 BC, the Edomite people have been part of the Jewish people. So the Jewish people ever since then have had people who were from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, which are three of the 12 tribes of Israel.
But also among the Jewish people are found the people of Edom. And who were the people of Edom? They are descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob-Israel. Therefore, they were not Israelites, were they?
And from the very beginning of the birth of these twins, there has been mortal hatred for Israel by the Edomites. But now, for over 2,000 years, Edom has been swallowed up within the Jewish nation. As I said, this assimilation of Edom with Jewry is historical fact. It is admitted by both Christian and Jewish scholars alike.
Now, formerly, I had thought that whenever we read in the New Testament of Jews who did not believe the gospel, that I could rightly conclude that the reason was because they were Edomites. After all, Jesus had said “My sheep hear My voice and they follow me.” So because the Edomites were not God’s sheep, they could not hear His voice, and Edomites could not become Christians.
And every place we find a Jew who refuses Christ, I concluded that it was because he was of the Edom faction of Jewry. Here is why my thinking has been modified on that. In the days of Isaiah, the Kingdom of Israel had already been long split into two separate nations, or kingdoms, or houses. There was the northern, 10-tribed House of Israel and Kingdom of Israel. And there was the two-tribed, southern House of Judah and the Kingdom of Judah.
Isaiah was called to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah. Now, here in Acts, Paul is quoting from Isaiah (chapter 6, verses 9 & 10), and that passage was prophesying to and about what people? Answer: The House of Judah, which would include the tribe of Benjamin and some of the Levites.
So here in Acts, in verse 26, where it says “Go unto this people” and in verse 27 where it says “this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed,” Paul is applying that prophecy to these Jews in Rome who did not believe.
In other words, Paul is not telling them that the reason they refuse to believe is because they’re Edomites. Paul is telling them they are Judahites who are fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.
Incidentally, Jesus had quoted this very same prophecy in Matthew 13 when He was teaching the multitudes in parables. If you recall in the gospel of John, at about John 6, verse 66, Jesus had lost almost all His disciples; and certainly no one will assert that every one of those non-believers was an Edomite.
Because, on the day of Pentecost, when Peter stood up and preached to Israelites, he addressed the fact that many of them had been among the rabble calling for the crucifixion of Jesus. And yet they were then pricked in their hearts and ultimately became believers, didn’t they?
So the point of all this is to caution you not to become simplistic like I was in concluding that every Jew who does not believe must ergo be an Edomite. It’s just not that simple. Stay tuned next week for the next blog continuing this series.