Chapter 3 - God's Dealings With Israel and the World

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The Old Testament promises are, as we have seen, earthly in their character. Their accomplishment is in the Second Man, but not in Christianity, which has a heavenly and not an earthly portion. The earth, however, was man's original sphere, the scene for which he was created, and God has not abandoned it to the dominion of sin and Satan, but will carry out to the full all the purposes He has formed concerning it. Let us endeavor, then, to see, from the Scriptures, what is God's scheme with respect to this earth and the man whom He has set upon it.
In the world before the flood man was left simply to his own guidance. The murderer was punished by God, but no punishment by his fellow-man, as God's instrument of righteous government, was permitted. After the flood the sword of government was entrusted to man, and Noah was commanded to execute the judgment of death on the murderer. In this way civil government, as a direct trust from God, had its origin. At Babel the compact organization of mankind, leading to presumption and self-will, was broken up, and thus nations were formed to be the instruments, in God's hands, of checking the arrogance and self-assertion which would otherwise have burst through all restraints (Gen. 11:66And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. (Genesis 11:6)). But God had in His thoughts a special nation, concerning which His purpose was long afterward thus revealed. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, for Jehovah's portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance” (Deut. 32:8,98When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. 9For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:8‑9)). Thus long before Abraham was born. God had this people in His thoughts. In process of time a country was assigned to them, from the river Euphrates to the river of Egypt, which they were to hold “for an everlasting possession”; there planted, they were to “possess the gates of their enemies,” those who blessed them were to be blessed and those who cursed them to be cursed. God's scheme of earthly government, then, as far as it was yet unfolded, was to exalt one nation as the administrator of His righteous judgments.
This plan, which will be perfectly carried out under the Second Man, was originally entrusted to the first, not fully indeed, but sufficiently to prove his inability to accomplish God's purposes. Israel entered on the land, charged to execute God's righteous judgment on the Canaanites, to keep His law, and to hold the first place among the nations. The people were in these matters God's instrument for the righteous government of the earth. If they were to destroy the Canaanites, it was as the ministers of God's just judgments. If in their law they were to exact “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:23-2523And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:23‑25)), it was as the executors of God's governmental righteousness. If their enemies were to flee before them, and they were to be the head and not the tail, it was because they were the instruments of God to maintain His authority on the earth. No intelligent Christian can look at this trust committed to Israel, without seeing how completely contrasted it is with the position in which the believer is now placed. Is this, as has been argued, because the world has been educated to a higher point? Let us ask one question—Has God been educated? Has He discovered that things once thought to be right, are really wrong, and therefore abandoned them? The very suggestion is shocking. Whence, then, the difference? To an open eye it is plain at once. The Israelite was the minister of God's righteous government on earth; the Christian is the exponent of God's grace on earth. God's people are called to be the living manifestation of the principle on which God is acting. He is now acting in forbearance and long-suffering, and His people must exhibit forbearance and long-suffering also. In His dealings with the nations through Israel, He was acting in righteousness and judgment, and His people were bound to carry out righteousness and judgment as His instruments.
In this, however, they failed, and their failure brought out another portion of God's plan. As Israel was to be God's instrument for maintaining righteousness among the nations, there must be one able to maintain righteousness in Israel. Kingly authority, therefore, was established, and perpetual dominion was promised to the seed of David. But here again, the promise, put into the hands of the first man, only proved his inability to receive the blessing or to execute the purposes of God, and it is not until the Second Man, the true Seed of David, appears that this promise will have its fulfillment.
God's purposes of earthly government, then, are that the nations of the earth shall be ruled by a righteous earthly people under a righteous earthly sovereign. All this, entrusted to the first man, failed of accomplishment, the seed of David after the flesh, the seed of Abraham after the flesh, man after the flesh in every form, having proved his unfitness to enter into or carry out the thoughts of God. The Israelites “did not destroy the nations concerning whom Jehovah commanded them; but were mingled among the heathen and learned their works; and they served their idols, which were a snare unto them” (Psa. 106:34-3634They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them: 35But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. 36And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. (Psalm 106:34‑36)). The descendants of David did not carry on God's righteous government in Israel. The kingdom was divided, and became the prey, instead of the head, of the surrounding nations. Instead of maintaining God's glory in the earth, through them His name was blasphemed among the Gentiles.
Everything went to ruin and confusion, and after a history marvelously illustrating the enmity of man towards God, and the long-suffering of God towards man, they were at length cast out. Israel was carried into captivity by the Assyrians, and Judah by the Babylonians. The scepter of earthly government, abused and abased by the kings of Judah, was transferred to Nebuchadnezzar, and has ever since remained in the hands of the Gentile powers.
And here the history of Israel closes, until the times of the Gentiles are ended, and the scepter is once more brought back to God's chosen people, in the hands of the Second Man, the true Seed of Abraham and of David, who alone is worthy or able to carry out the earthly purposes of God. Not so, however, the history of Judah. They were brought back, after seventy years' captivity, to their own country, few in numbers and feeble in strength, the servants of the Gentiles from whose dominion they were never afterward delivered. What, then, was God's purpose in restoring this weak remnant to their own country? He was going to try man, and especially the Jews, by another test. The first man had been entrusted with God's designs and had failed. God was now bringing in the Second Man, and He was to be presented in grace to His chosen people, as well as to the world, for their acceptance or rejection. The result is well known. He in whom all God's promises centered, He by whom all God's purposes are to be carried out, the Maker of the world, the rightful Lord of the Gentiles, and the predicted Messiah of the Jews, appeared on earth attested by God as His Beloved Son, and the world crucified Him between two thieves. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:10,1110He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:10‑11)). The world's ignorance was culpable and deplorable enough, but the guilt of the Jews was enormously greater. Already deprived for six centuries of their proper position as a nation on account of their rebellion against God, they had now added to their guilt the fearful crime of murdering God's Son, and the fearful folly of rejecting Him in whom all their own promises and blessings were to be fulfilled. Mercy, indeed, still lingered, and the testimony of the Holy Ghost was once more presented, but the nation remained deaf to His voice, as it had done to the voice of the Messiah, and overwhelming judgment was the inevitable result.
God's plan of earthly administration, then, though revealed, has not been carried out. The people which was to be its instrument has been divided, part of it has been lost among the nations on account of its idolatry, and part of it dispersed, though not lost, on account of its rejection of the Messiah. The righteous ruler has been brought forth, but refused and crucified. But has God's purpose failed? It was not carried out by the Jews before their dispersion and captivity. It cannot be carried out by the Gentiles, for this, instead of being a fulfillment, would be a denial, of the promises to Abraham and David. It is not in consistency with the design of the Church, whose sphere of action is altogether different, whose portion is heavenly and not earthly, and in which, as we have seen, the promises cannot have their complete fulfillment. What, then, follows? Either God's purposes concerning the earth and man upon the earth must prove boastful failures, or they must be carried out by the restoration of Judah and Israel as the center of government, and the establishment of Christ's dominion as the ruler of the kings of the earth. Can any believer doubt which alternative is true? I shall prove in the following chapters that all this failure was foreseen of God, and that, in spite of it all, His own purpose has never changed, but that He has foretold the accomplishment of these schemes by His own Son, when man's wickedness and folly had reached their crowning height and the misery of His chosen people its lowest depth.
To question that God will do what He has said is the grossest unbelief. What are difficulties to Him? Man talks of impossibilities, and rightly enough if lie measures circumstances by his own power. But the things which are impossible with men are possible with God, for with God all things are possible. There may be some, however, disposed to ask, why this long delay in the carrying out of God's purposes? Simply because until the Second Man was brought in, God was putting the first man to the test, and seeking to find some good in him. But when the Second Man was brought in, why was not the scheme perfected at once? To those who put this question I would ask—where would you have been, if this had taken place? If Christ had not been rejected, how would you have stood now before God? Or if the Holy Ghost's testimony had been accepted after the resurrection of Jesus, and He had been sent from heaven to restore Jewish dominion, where would have been the room for the Church? What would have become of that wondrous interval in which we now live, when God is gathering a people to a rejected Christ, and making known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, by the Church, His own manifold wisdom? No, these delays are ordered in wondrous grace, as well as in wondrous wisdom, and surely we, the most favored objects of His love, can only stand aside in adoring wonder as we gaze upon the unfolding of that mystery in which the very heavens behold the wisdom of God.