The Jewish Problem - Its Solution or, Israel's Present and Future/Chapter 06
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V. A Dark Picture: Or, a Contrast Between the Human and Divine Side of the Jewish Problem
|Appendix: Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel→|
FOR thus saith Jehovah, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with a wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased. Why criest thou for thine affliction? Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee" (Jeremiah xxx. 12-15).
But, lest the Gentiles should mix themselves in God's controversy with His people, and say, as they have done: "God hath cast them off; come, let us destroy Israel from being a nation," there is put in, as a parenthesis, the warning:
"Therefore, all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all they that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah; because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after" (Jeremiah xxx. 16, 17).
What a picture of Israel! Some people are fond of drawing gloomy outlines of the present state of the Jews; and this may suit their tastes, for surely they could not present a darker one than what is here portrayed by God's own hand. The Jew is represented here as in a helpless and hopeless condition. He is helpless. The figure is that of a sick man lying, bruised and wounded, and having no remedy within reach. I say, "a sick man lying," because the words translated, "thou hast no healing medicines," may literally be rendered: "Thou hast no medicines to raise thee up."
Behold this bruised and wounded man, O church of Christ; and may God give you the heart of the Good Samaritan and the compassion of Jesus! Do you realize the present helplessness of poor Israel? We sometimes hear the Jews spoken of by Christians of a certain stamp, after this manner: "After all, they are not so badly off as the heathen. They are a moral, God-fearing people; they have the Old Testament Scriptures in their possession. They are intelligent, clever, influential, and certainly not so low and degraded as the heathen."
The answer of God to all this is: "Thou hast no healing medicines." The Jew has the Scriptures; but what if they testify not to him of Jesus Christ, in whom alone, and not in the letter of the Scriptures, is eternal life?
And, think of it, whoever you are, who have some such thoughts as the above in your mind! Is not the Jew a sinner? Has not God said: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die?" Has not Jesus Christ said: "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins?" Must the Son of God come down from heaven to die on the cross in order to save you, and can the Jew be saved by morality? Must you have a Saviour to comfort you in your sorrow and in the hour of death, and can the Jew do without Him?
Out of Christ, it is not a question what a man has; but what he has not. If a sick man were lying in a room fitted up with shelves full of bottles of all sorts of drugs, what avail would it be to him if the only remedy which could alone save him were wanting? "He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son" (be he never so moral, wise, and influential), "hath not life."
You say: "Granted Israel's case is helpless; but have you not just said that it is also hopeless?" Does not God say: "Thy bruise is incurable; thy wound is grievous": and again, in the fifteenth verse: "Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity!"
Yes, altogether hopeless, as well as helpless, from the human standpoint; but search and see: you will not find either of these words in the vocabulary of God. Helpless! Hopeless!—"Is the arm of Jehovah shortened at all that it cannot save?" "Behold," says God, through Jeremiah, in relation to this very subject, "I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?" "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty (or "hidden," "fortified," or "inaccessible") things, which thou knowest not." "Thy bruise is incurable, thy wound is grievous," says man. "I will restore health unto thee, and will heal thee of thy wounds," says Jehovah.
Is not the Church of Christ guilty in this matter of limiting the "Holy One of Israel"? Has it not been guilty of scepticism and unbelief in the declaration of the inspired Apostle to the Gentiles, that "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation . . to the Jew first"? Who speaks of hopelessness on God's part in the matter of a sinner's salvation? Search and see! Has Christ ever sent away any case because it was beyond His power to cure? There were many hopeless incurables who came to Jesus when He was on earth. There were many such at the Pool of Bethesda. I suppose that poor woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, and who spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, was as hopeless a case as you might wish; but she only touched the hem of His garment, and immediately she was healed.
Look again at Israel. In this chapter which we are considering, he is likened to a hopelessly sick man. When you come to Ezekiel xxxvii., the sick man has died; and, like Lazarus in the grave, by this time he not only stinketh, but his flesh has rotted away and all there is left of him is a heap of dry bones strewn over the open valley.
"Son of man, can these dry bones live? . . . So I prophesied as He commanded me; and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
Look at another figure of unbelieving Israel, in Romans xi. They are compared to broken-off branches of the brittle olive-tree. Can these broken-off fragments be made once again to live and bear fruit? Yes,—
"God is able to graft them in again. For if thou (Gentile) wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wert grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive tree, how much more shall these (Israelites) which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!" (Romans xi. 23, 24).
"For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah. Because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after" (Jeremiah xxx. 17).
Those not acquainted with the original lose very much of the force of this last verse. Some Christians are very fond of the term "Zion" as a name for the Church, and they speak of "our Zion." They may be surprised to learn that "Zion" in the Hebrew means a "desert," "barrenness," or, as it is translated in Isaiah (xxv. 5) "a dry place." Now, note the force of this taunting reproach. "They," (the Gentiles), "called thee Zion"—a barren desert, good for nothing, and which therefore, "no man seeketh after." Now, just because it is so unpromising a plot of ground, God is going to take it in hand, and once again "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose." Blessed be God, it is just like Him! He always takes the most unpromising materials to accomplish most glorious ends.
Look at Israel in the past. Why did God choose them? Was it because they were more in number than other peoples? Was it because of their goodness or righteousness? No: they were the fewest of all people; and as Moses solemnly testifies to them:
"Understand therefore, that Jehovah thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people" (Deut. ix. 6).
But Israel's very stiff-neckedness and barrenness gave occasion for the greater display of God's power and the infinitude of His grace. All the greater glory and credit to the great Husbandman, that the unpromising vine which He brought out of Egypt flourished so wonderfully, that
"She sent out her boughs unto the sea, And her branches unto the river. The hills were covered with the shadow of it; And the boughs thereof were like cedars of God." (Psalm Ixxx. 10, 11.)
Can any good thing come out of Zion? Yes: an Abraham, a Moses, a David, an Isaiah, a Paul—a CHRIST!
Alas! in a moment of God's righteous anger, this garden of the Lord has become withered, as if smitten by some sirocco blast. "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." They called thee "an outcast," saying, "This is Zion, whom no man sceketh after; "but the miracle of the past will yet be repeated and intensified. Zion, in God's hand, is yet to be turned into the very "perfection of beauty;" and the barren fig-tree shall again "bud and blossom, and fill the face of the earth with fruit."
"But," some will say, "Israel's restoration and conversion, according to your own showing, is a work which can only be accomplished by the power of God. What then ought to be the attitude of the Church in relation to this matter? What can we do? "True, Israel's restoration depends not on anything man can do, "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." We may well leave this in the hands of Him in whose power alone are the times and seasons, and whose counsels and purposes shall stand for ever, and are independent of all human strength and human means. Although God specially proclaims the fact of Israel's restoration to the Gentile nations, and in the isles afar off, showing that it is most important for them to know it, yet He nowhere commands them to bring it about.
Again, the work of conversion&mdashwhether of individuals or of nations, whether of Jews or of Gentiles—is always a work which only the power of God can accomplish; but that does not mean that the Church of Christ is to fold her hands as she has done for many centuries, and do next to nothing. What your attitude to Israel should be, is plainly shown in the Word of God.
- (1) It should be an attitude of prayer. Do you
aspire to be one of Jehovah's remembrancers? Then hark to His command:
"Ye that make mention of the Lord [or, ye that are Jehovah's remembrancers] keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah Ixii. 6, 7).
Let there be the heart's desire and believing prayer unto God for Israel that they may be saved.
And lest you should not know how to pray about this matter, God Himself has condescended to supply you with a form of prayer for Israel:
"For thus saith Jehovah, Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Jehovah, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel" (Jeremiah xxxi. 7).
Has compassion, has gratitude for the wonderful blessings which you have received through them as the channel, yea, has God's clear word of command, ever made your heart to go out after this manner in the prayer of faith for poor sick Israel?
- (2) It should be an attitude of service. When
Ezekiel was made by the Spirit of God to pass through and round about the "dry bones" in the valley of vision, the Lord put the question to him, "Son of man, can these dry bones live?" And the prophet's answer was: "O Lord God, Thou knowest!" as much as to say: "It is certainly beyond the power of man to do anything in such a case. The giving of life, whether physical or spiritual, is Thy prerogative and in Thy power; Thou alone must do it—O Lord God, Thou knowest!"
But there followed a command from the great God which must have seemed strange to the prophet. "Yes," said Jehovah, "life is My prerogative, and I am going to bestow it: 'Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, . . and will put My spirit in you, and ye shall live.' But, son of man, there is something which you must do, so that the life which I alone can give may come to these dead bones. 'Prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah'"
Now, this is precisely what the Church has neglected to do; and yet it wonders that there has been no noise, no mighty shaking, or many signs of life among the dry bones.
O ye Christians who are fond of speaking of "Jewish unbelief," and have a pious aversion to poor Israel, because he calls not on the name of Christ, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher"? Know ye not that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God? And know ye not that for centuries and centuries the gospel of their own Messiah has been withheld from them; and the name of the Blessed Saviour was made to be blasphemed among them by the terrible cruelties which have been perpetrated on them, and the awful caricature of Christ which has been presented to them by those who have professed His name; and that to this day, in spite of a few recent, inadequate, and not always wisely-directed efforts, the great mass of the Jewish nation is left in perfect ignorance of the holy name of Christ, and of the very existence of such a book as the New Testament?
You believe that Gentiles can only be born again by the Spirit of God: yet you do not expect those to whom the gospel has not been preached to believe and call on the name of Christ! Those among Israel who have heard the glad tidings of salvation through their crucified and risen Messiah have not all disbelieved it; and it is a matter of fact—which, however, those not informed on this subject may be surprised to hear—that, in spite of difficulties and terrible disappointments, there is no modern mission so hopeful, or which has produced such glorious results in conversion, or the converts from which have, by their usefulness and service to the Church universal, so abundantly rewarded all the efforts put forth, as the Jewish field.
But how, some may ask, does this advocacy of the evangelization of the Jews tally with what has been shown in an earlier chapter—that Israel, as a nation, will not be converted until after their restoration and the re-appearance of their Messiah upon whom they shall look and mourn?
Why, in the same manner as the evangelization of all the Gentile nations is consistent with the plain teaching of the Word of God: that not one of them, as a nation, will be converted before Christ's return, and the conversion of Israel.
Our commission is not to convert any one people or nation, but to evangelize all to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"; and the results of this work of universal evangelization have been already foretold. As far as Israel is concerned, "a remnant according to the election of grace" will be called out to call Jesus "blessed" now; while all Israel shall be saved by and by, when the Redeemer comes out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And, as regards the Gentiles, God has visited them in this dispensation by the preaching of the gospel, "to take out of them a people for His Name"; while "all the Gentiles" are left over to the time when the same Jesus who was taken up into heaven shall so, and in like manner, come back from heaven.
Oh, fellow Christian, time is short! Already there are abundant signs that long scattered and long neglected Israel is hastening back to his land to pass through ere long that fiery ordeal and furnace awaiting him in Zion. Perhaps the most significant fact in this connection, is the formation of the Jewish, almost universal, "Chovevi Zion Association," which seems destined, after centuries of dispersion, to bind all the scattered fragments of the people into one national force, with the ostensible aim of regaining possession of the land of their fathers. The following are the chief objects of the Association, which I copy from their book of "Rules for Members," printed in Hebrew and English: "(a) To foster the national idea in Israel, (b) To promote the Colonisation of Palestine and neighbouring territories by Jews, (c) To diffuse the knowledge of Hebrew as a living language." "The Land" also is now being rapidly opened up, after all these many centuries, during which it was kept locked, and in its desolate condition as a stereotyped Commentary on "The Book." The nations of the earth—buried beneath the loads of vice, ignorance, and superstition—are now opening their gates and doors, and inarticulately, without even the power to express their need, beckon to you to come over and help them. The distant sounds of our Master's chariots are already heard, and Jesus Christ is coming quickly to render to every man according to his work.
"If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?" (Proverbs xxiv. 11, 12).
Who will be up and doing? Who will rise to the Lord's help against the mighty? Who by their prayers and substance will help to carry the gospel message to poor scattered Israel? "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
"After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord" (Acts xv. 16, 17).
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (Romans xi. 33-36.)
- Jer. xxxii. 27.
- Jer. xxxiii. 3.
- Romans i. 16.
- Psalm l. 2.
- Jeremiah xxxi. 10.
- Romans x. i.
- Romans xi. 5, 26.
London: Morgan & Scott, 12, Paternoster Buildings, E.C.