The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew/Chapter 16
ISRAEL'S MISSION TO THE WORLD, AND THE CHURCH'S MISSION TO ISRAEL
" Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen ; that ye may know and believe Me, and under- stand that I am He; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and beside Me there is no Saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed when there was no strange God among you ; therefore ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God." ISA. xliii. 10-12.
" Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." ACTS i. 8.
ISRAEL'S MISSION TO THE WORLD, AND THE CHURCH'S MISSION TO ISRAEL *
AS we look at the passage quoted from Acts i. " Ye shall be witnesses unto Me," we cannot but be reminded of the very similar words addressed by God through the prophet Isaiah, to Israel as a nation, and we may well ask how is it, that instead of Israel at the present time witnessing for God among the nations, it is necessary that witness should be borne to Israel about their own God, their own Messiah, and their own Scriptures ? The answer is given by the Apostle Paul in Rom. xi. 25, " Blindness in part is happened to Israel." It is true that certain leaders among modern Jews claim still to have a mission, even at this present day, in their dispersion among the nations a mission, as they say, to bear witness to the unity of God. But if we examine this supposed witness that the modern Jew gives to the unity of God, we find it very defective ; for it is not a testimony to God as He has been pleased to reveal Himself in His word that is, as the infinite,
1 The first part of this chapter was an address delivered at the Mildmay Conference in June, 1897, the subject that year being "The Evangelisation of Our Own Generation." It was afterwards written out in full for the Missionary Review of the World, from which excellent magazine it is reproduced here.
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yet personal, triune, holy, loving God but a testimony to an abstract formula with regard to the unicity of the Godhead. Of a personal, living God, modern Judaism knows, alas, very little. As a matter of fact, it is not due to the testimony to the unity of God, as given by the synagogue, that Gentiles have been brought to believe in one living and true God, but to the more truly Jewish testimony as given by the Jewish Apostles of the New Covenant, who went about preaching one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ; one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ the righteous ; and one Holy Spirit, by whom the know- ledge of God is communicated to man ; and these three, one blessed Trinity.
But, speaking generally, it is the boast of modern Jews that they are not a missionary people. Thousands of times have I had it thrown in my teeth by Jews in various parts of the world, who have said, "Why do Christians trouble themselves with trying to convert us ? We do not try to convert anybody." My reply usually is : " Why don't you ? If you boast of the fact that you are not a missionary people, you simply boast of your shame ; you simply testify to the fact that you are not now answering the purpose for which God called Israel into existence. Was not the very purpose of God in creating the Jewish nation that they might be wit- nesses for Him, to make known His name among the nations ? The fact that you are not now a missionary people is accounted for by the reason that you have no mission. In this respect it is true that the Kingdom of God has been taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. If you had a message you could not be silent, even if you tried, for you would find the word of God like a burning fire in your heart shut up in your bones, so that you would weary in for-
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bearing to run and communicate it to others." Israel at the present day has no message. The Jews do not, and cannot, bear witness for God, excepting that passive testimony which the diaspora gives to the righteous severity of God a testimony which, would to God Christendom took to heart, because it contains the solemn lesson to them, that they also, if they continue not in His goodness, shall be cut off.
But has the purpose of God in relation to Israel in this respect, that they should be His witnesses, been frustrated, or has it been already accomplished in the testimony that the Jews gave in the past ? No ; the Jew has yet a future of testimony for God on the earth. "Blindness in part," as the Apostle Paul says, "has happened unto Israel," and it is "in part" in a double sense. It is partial in its extent, for there is the remnant, according to the election of grace, who are not blinded, but can behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ even now, and it is partial also in its duration. There is a great contrast in the Word of God in this respect, between the condition of the Jew now, and the condition of the Jew in the future. "Blindness in part has happened unto Israel," says the Apostle Paul in Romans xi. ; but we read of a wonderful transformation that is to come over the Jewish people. " Then," says the prophet, Isaiah xxxv. 5, 6, "the eyes of the blind shall be opened." The very nation that has been destined by God to point all the other nations to the Sun of Righteous- ness, has been itself struck blind, but it is only for a time.
The present condition of Israel may be very beauti- fully illustrated by a touching incident which I heard not long ago. It was about a child who met with an
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accident and suddenly lost his eyesight. At first he did not know what had happened to him, and used to follow his mother about the house, crying : " Mother, mother, when will it be day? When will the sun shine?" The poor mother had not the heart to tell her child all at once that it was day, that the sun was shining, but that something had happened to his eyes. This is the condition of the Jews to-day. " We wait for light, but behold obscurity ; for brightness, but we walk in darkness." But "the eyes of the blind shall be opened." Soon the cry will go forth, " Arise, shine, for thy light has come ; the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee." And then " the Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising."
The prophet continues: "Then the lame man shall leap as an hart." I never read this verse in Isaiah xxxv. without being reminded of Acts iii., where we have the account of a notable miracle that was wrought in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We read there about a poor man who was carried every day to the gate of the temple called Beautiful, where he begged for alms of those who were going to worship God. One day Peter and John came along, and he asked alms from them also ; but Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said : " Look on us ! " expect something different from us than you would from others ; and we read that he gave heed to them, expecting something from them. But Peter said : " Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I unto thee : in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk ! " and he took him by the right hand, and the lame man, leaping up, stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.
My dear friends, that lame man is a type and parable of Israel. Israel is that lame man. Beautiful upon
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the mountains should be the feet of Jewish evangelists and preachers bearing the glad tidings of Messiah's Gospel to the nations ; but Israel is lame now and out- side the temple of God ; that is, out of communion with God, because the temple was the visible symbol of fellowship with Jehovah. They are like the poor lame man also in this respect, that all their thoughts are fixed on money. Money, money ; alms, business. I do not wish to say here, because it would not be true, that the Jew is exceptional in this respect. It is the tendency of the human heart that knows not the treasure that is at the right hand of God, to cleave unto the dust, and the Jew and Gentile are alike in this respect. I am only touching upon the fact that the Jew, like the Gentile, is at present occupied with worldly things, and he will readily deal with Christians in business. Peter and John have come to Israel and have said, " Look on us," and, blessed be God, there is a remnant whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God to see that power to heal lies only in the name of Jesus, and they are leaping and rejoicing. But as far as the nation is concerned, Israel is still sitting lame, incapable of going on an errand for God among the nations. For centuries it has been in that condition ; but will it always remain so ? Oh, no ! There is a greater One yet than Peter and John to pass Israel again. We sometimes sing a hymn, " Jesus of Nazareth passeth by." He passed by Israel once, and Israel was then already sick ; but Israel let Him pass without as much as touching the hem of His garment, and Jesus returned unto His place until they acknowledge their offence and seek His face. When He departed, He said : " Your house is left unto you desolate, for I say unto you, ye shall not see Me henceforth, until ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the
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Lord." Yes, Jesus will yet pass Israel again, and they will assuredly use the words of the prophecy from Psalm cxviii. which He quoted. Jesus will say to Israel, " Look on Me," and the spirit of grace and supplication will be poured out upon the Jewish nation, and they shall look on Him whom they have pierced. Jesus will again take Israel by the hand. " I will build again the tabernacle of David, which has fallen ; I will build again the ruins thereof;" and then "shall the lame man leap as an hart," and a tremendous sensation will be created on the earth. This is the hope of missions, and of the evangelisation of the world. When this national lame man is healed, all the peoples of the earth will see this wonderful miracle performed by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We read in the same prophecy that at that time in the wilderness shall waters break out. This is a picture of Israel's present condition a wilderness, a howling desert, spiritually ; but God has said that out of this wilderness rivers will spring up for the refreshing of the whole world.
Now, in the interval between Israel's rejection and Israel's reception of Christ, when the Jews shall be reinstated as the witnesses of Jehovah on the earth, the Church, which is made up of Jews and Gentiles, is put into the very position of Israel, both in relation to privilege and to responsibility, (a) In relation to privilege : " Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people . . . and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," was God's word to Israel in Exodus, the Book of Redemp- tion : " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased possession," says Peter, to all who have been redeemed with precious blood, whether Jew or Gentile.
(b*} In relation to responsibility: "Ye are My
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witnesses," saith Jehovah, " and My servants . . . This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise," are God's words to Israel : " Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth," were the parting words of the ascending Christ to the Church : " That ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
Yes, one of the chief ends of the Church's existence on earth is, that she may bear witness to the nations ; and in her witness she dare not lose sight of the Jew, for, as the late Professor Franz Delitzsch once said, at a great missionary meeting, " Gentlemen, if you speak about the evangelisation of the world, and forget the Jew, you are like a bird that tries to fly with one of its wings clipped."
But generally I find that in speaking to Christians about the Jew, it is very easy to carry them with you if you speak of the Jews of the past the Jew of Bible history or the prophetic Jew of the future ; but when it comes to the actual Jew of the present day, and you want them to enter into the thoughts and mind of God in reference to Israel of the present, that is a most difficult task. Let me illustrate it practically. At the present day there is, perhaps, no country in the world where such a lively interest is taken in the Jew, and where so much is done in proportion for Jewish missions, as in Norway, although in Norway itself there are scarcely any Jews. You will ask how this interest in Israel originated in Norway. Well, it originated, for the most part, in the prayers and devotion of a noble-minded Christian lady. About fifty years ago, when the cause of foreign missions was taking hold of Christians in Norway, this lady's heart was
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moved by the Spirit of God with compassion for Israel. One day, as the pastor of her church was coming down from the pulpit, she said to him : " I am very glad to hear you always pray for the heathen, but I wish you would also include poor scattered Israel." The pastor turned round rather hotly, and said : " The Jews ! We have nothing to do with them. They have been cast off, and now it is the time of the Gentiles." She tried to reason with him, but it was of no avail. But one day she called on her pastor, and said to him : " I have a very sad story to relate to you, and I am sure it will draw out your sympathy." He said : " What is it ? " She replied : " Not far from here there lives a good man and his wife. They have one son, whom they love as their own lives. They did everything possible for him, but the son turned out most unworthy of his parents' love ; he returned it only with disobedience and ingratitude. After a time, when his conduct became no longer tolerable, with great grief of heart, they let him go, and he is now a wanderer. Instead of this son of theirs they adopted a poor gipsy boy. Him they put in their own son's room, gave their own son's clothing and books in fact, they treated him in every possible way as their own child. The boy was very happy, but the parents could not forget their own child. In the evening sometimes a mist steals over the mother's eyes, and a sigh escapes from the heart of the father, and when the boy asks, " What is the matter ? " the father answers, " Oh, our son, our son ; would that he would come back ; there is room in our hearts for him as well as you." But this the boy does not like, and now it has come to this, that every time the parents mention their son, he gets into a temper. What do you think of it ? " The pastor stood up and said : " Oh, the ungrateful youth ; if I were the parents, I would let him go ; he is not a
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bit better than the other." The lady paused a minute or two, and then said : " Dear pastor, forgive me ; Israel is that wandering son, and we are the gipsy boy ; and although God was obliged to send the Jews into captivity, and has ' given over the dearly beloved of His soul into the hands of her enemies,' His heart has not ceased to yearn for them, and His 'hands are still outstretched all the day long to His disobedient and gainsaying people.' Hearken ! ' Is Ephraim my dear son ? Is he a pleasant child? for, since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore my bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have mercy on him, saith Jehovah.'"
The pastor's heart was won, and the result was the first society that was established in Norway for the evangelisation of the Jews.
May God give us the same spirit of compassion, that our hearts may go out in pity with His for this poor national Prodigal Son !
Our testimony to-day to the Jews is with regard to Jesus Christ, that "this Jesus," whom they crucified and think to be dead, is Israel's true Messiah, exalted to the right hand of God, a prince and a Saviour. If time permitted, I should like to speak of the peculiar methods which we should adopt in our testimony to the Jew ; and also as to the right kind of witnesses who should be sent forth by the Church, because I believe that, to this day, God has His instruments adapted for this work, and for that work, and it is not every one who is called of God to be a missionary to the Jews.
On this point it will not be out of place if I quote from a report of Professor Gustaf Dalman of the Leipzig Institutum Delitzschianum, as to the necessary qualifications of a properly equipped missionary to the Jews, with which I most heartily concur.
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" i. The missionary among the Jews must have a thorough knowledge of their languages. This com- prises not only a knowledge of the languages of Jewish literature, Hebrew and Aramaic ; and, if possible, a good practical acquaintance with the former, which is most extensively used by the Jews in their written communications, but also ability at least to speak German, and to understand Hebrew-German, or ' Yid- dish,' the vernacular spoken by two-thirds of the Jewish people.
"2. The missionary must be acquainted with the religion of the Jews. Without this knowledge he will find it impossible to set forth our holy religion to Jews in such a way as to commend it to them, or even to be understood by them, much less to bring it home to heart and conscience. Those who are not cognizant of the world of Jewish religious thought, cannot conceive how unintelligible the terminology of our holy faith is to the Jew. Even the great scriptural key-words of Christianity Sin, repentance, faith, righteousness, Re- deemer, Christ-Messiah have a different meaning to the Jew, while, of course, all ecclesiastical terms are utterly incomprehensible to him. And thus experience has shown that the plainest and most heartfelt Gospel message coming from an untrained, though earnest Gentile Christian, will sound as a dark riddle in Jewish ears.
" 3. The missionary should have studied the doctrines and sacred documents of the Christian faith in their bearings on Israel. Tracing the history of Israel through the Old Testament, and viewing their election and future in the light of law and prophecy, and noting the differences between the Jewish and Christian con- ceptions of Bible doctrine and statement, he should seek to obtain such a grasp of the Scriptures as to
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be able to meet and answer any difficulty or objection that may be propounded by the inquirer or caviller.
"4. The missionary must be conversant with the history of the mission to Israel, its nature, aims, and methods, and the lines on which the work has hitherto been carried on. Practical knowledge and insight is best obtained by commencing work under the super- vision of experienced missionaries.
"Even for the Hebrew-Christian candidate special training is most desirable and necessary. As a rule, his knowledge of Jewish and Hebrew matters is insufficient and incomplete, in spite of his former sur- roundings, and though his own faith be firm and clearly evinced, yet in the nature of things his grasp of Scripture truth cannot be such as to fit him, without any further training, for the work of an evangelist among his brethren. We cannot fix a high enough standard of attainment for those who desire to devote themselves to this work. A training that may fully qualify a man to go out and proclaim the Gospel to the uncivilised heathen world, is utterly insufficient for a worker among the Jews, although we would never have ourselves or others forget, that technical qualifica- tions and even Scriptural knowledge are worthless, unless accompanied by a living faith and the burning desire to promote the interests of Christ's kingdom among His brethren according to the flesh. Better to send out no missionaries at all than to send out such as are spiritually and intellectually unfit for their task."
Tremendous injury to the Jewish mission has resulted from two causes :
(i) The putting into the work of "workers," both Jews and Gentiles, who were utterly unfit for the holy and delicate task of holding up the banner of Christ before the Jews ; sometimes mere novices, whose cha-
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racters were not sufficiently tested ; or even brilliant impostors, who captivated the hearts of some whose zeal for the Jewish cause is not according to knowledge. In this part of the Lord's vineyard more particularly, we need not only the spirit of love and of wisdom and power, but also of a sound mind, a spirit of Scriptural sobriety, not dissociated from a true Holy Ghost enthusiasm, for the salvation of a people in whom is bound up the hope of the world, but in whose midst Satan is entrenched more powerfully at the present day than in any other nation.
(2) There is also a great lack of knowledge of the peculiar people, and of God's present and future purposes in and through them, which is accountable for certain methods in some Jewish missions, which, how- ever much momentary sensation they may create, and however much interest they may arouse among Gentile Christians, can only work disastrously as far as the Jews themselves are concerned. I am not speaking as a theorist, but from knowledge and experience. After being permitted to serve the Lord in the evangelisation of my people for over twenty years, I am more and more convinced that in the Jewish mission, as in the Lord's work generally, it is not sensation, but self- sacrificing hard toil, and patient continuance in well- doing that will accomplish anything of permanent value for the glory of Christ.
Then, as to the manner of presenting the Gospel to the Jews, a great deal might very usefully be said. For instance, Jewish opposition is sometimes owing to the fact that Christianity has been presented to them as a system, altogether detached from, and, to some extent, opposed to Moses and the prophets. Now, in order to remove such impressions, it is of the utmost importance in dealing with Jews to show them that the
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New Testament is in historic continuity, and true order of sequence to the Old Testament, and that there is not a single essential doctrine in the New Testament, the roots of which are not to be found in Moses and the prophets. This will not be successfully accomplished by always pointing the Jews to a few well-known Messianic passages, but by a methodic unfolding of Scripture as a whole. Indeed, if there is one need greater than another in the Jewish field at the present day, it is that of men mighty in Scriptures, who, in the power of the Spirit, can show to Israel how that, not only an isolated passage here and there, but that in the whole " scroll of the book it is written of Him"
It is not my intention to enter into a review of Jewish missions, and into what has been accomplished within this century, so eventful in the history of Jewish emanci- pation and evangelisation. All I can do now is just briefly to remark on the great change in relation to the Gospel which is at present undoubtedly passing over the Jewish nation.
Putting aside the vague, exaggerated reports based on no solid foundation, which lead those unacquainted with the facts of the case to believe that untold thousands of Jews are now pressing into the Church, and that we are on the verge of the entire nation becoming Christian, I have no hesitation in saying that the tone and attitude of large numbers of Jews in relation to Christ, in coun- tries where hard, persevering Gospel work has been carried on for some time, have undergone a remarkable change.
It is a great thing in itself that the Christ-question is becoming familiarised in the minds of Jews, and that Talmudic Judaism is putting out its hand, however tremblingly, to receive the New Testament, and listening, though as yet with hesitating ear, as to who this Jesus of
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Nazareth, whom it has hitherto hated without knowing why, really was.
To an eagerness on the part of many Jews in all parts of the world to hear of Christ and to receive the New Testament, I can bear personal testimony. In Ger- many, Austria, and the Balkan States, North Africa, in many places on the Mediterranean coast as well as in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor, we have had Jews flock to us in some places from early morning till late at night to hear and dispute about Christ. Even in centres of Chassidic Jewish bigotry, in Galicia and Roumania, we have had our rooms packed with Jews in their long kaftans and peyoth, eagerly and respectfully discussing the claims of Christ, some of whom gratefully accepted the New Testament, which but a few years ago they would not even touch with their hands because they regarded it as an unclean thing. I cannot here enter into the causes which by the overruling providence of God have brought this change about, but I may just mention two.
I. It is the outcome of nearly a century's prayerful toil on the part of Jewish missions and societies, some of whom, alas ! have not continued long in their first love and zeal, and are now in danger of degenerating into mere " organisations." What she has sown in tears more than half a century ago the Church of Christ is now permitted to reap in joy. It is a remarkable fact that however much interest in the Jewish mission cause has lacked in quantity, it has not lacked in quality. The sympathies of some of the holiest as well as the ablest of the servants of Christ within this century, have been enlisted in this truly Christ-like work, so full of hope for the world and in reflex blessing to the Church itself.
While painfully conscious of the inadequacy and questionable means and methods which have sometimes
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been adopted, I am struck, in studying the history of Jewish missions, with the amount of self-sacrificing love, devotion, and sanctified ability which have been brought to this task.
We sometimes hear it said that the most notable con- versions from among Jews my friends Joseph Rabino- witz and Rabbi Lichtenstein for example are not the results of missions to the Jews, but of the study of the New Testament. Every conversion, if true, is directly the result of the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God ; but how came it that Rabinowitz and Lichtenstein had New Testaments to read ? Until this century, until the Jewish mission saw to its translation and printing, there was no Hebrew New Testament for use among the Jews.
II. Secondly, anti-Semitism and the grosser forms of persecution to which the Jews have been subjected in Russia and other countries, have contributed indirectly to bring about this spirit of change in the Jewish world in relation to the Gospel. Our God ever brings good out of evil and causes the wrath of men to praise Him. The whole movement, based for the most part on shallowness, lies, and inhumanity, by which these already apostate nations are hastening the filling of the cup of their iniquity, has nevertheless served to remind backslidden, apostate Israel of the long-standing con- troversy between them and their God, and has caused some to ask themselves what the sin can be which has brought upon them the retribution of so many long centuries, and in this indirect way their hearts have been to some extent prepared to listen to the claims of Christ.
As may be said of all missions, so may it perhaps more especially be said of the Jews, the present is un- doubtedly a great day of opportunity for the Church of
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God. A door is open as never before, and, blessed be God, the Church is awaking to a sense of her duty to the Jew, for never before has there been such an interest manifested in missions to the Jews.
What is needed at this juncture above all things are the right kind of labourers men of God and with the fitness and ability for this peculiar work ; men with the faith of Abraham, and with the sincerity, and missionary zeal, and unquenchable love for Israel which charac- terised the Apostle Paul ; men who from the present darkness can look to the coming dawn when " all Israel shall be saved " and " the glory of the Lord cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."