The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew/Chapter 6
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II. IN RELATION TO ISRAEL.
Let us now briefly examine the section devoted to the Jewish nation, consisting of verses 7-16.
It begins with a solemn address : " Hear, O My people," and in the very form of this address we can read the promise of grace, for it shows that the " Lo-Ammi " period (Hosea i. 9, 10) is at an end, and that Israel has again become "Ammi" (" My people ").
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When God is displeased with them He says, " This people " ; or speaking to Moses with reference to their sudden apostasy, He says, " thy people " ; but when- ever He speaks of them in grace, He always acknow- ledges the covenant indissoluble relationship that has been established between Him and the nation, and says, " My people."
If we want to know the exact prophetic point of time when Israel as a nation will truly become " Ammi," God's own acknowledged people, we must go to the Book of Zechariah. There we read how that in the midst of their final great sorrow, when " it shall come to pass that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die, but the third part shall be left therein," and when even this third part shall be brought into the fire to be refined as silver is refined, and to be tried as gold is tried, then " he shall call on My name, and I will answer him ; I will say, Ammi Hu ('it is My people') ; and he shall say, Jehovah Elohoi (' Jehovah is my God.')"
The address continues, "O Israel, I will testify against thee," or " protest unto thee."
The form of speech implies a strong desire on the part of the speaker, to obtain at last Israel's ear and heart for His message. The words translated " I will testify against thee " is a form of speech used for God's gracious reasonings with man with a view to bringing him to Himself. Thus we find the same words in Neh. ix. 29 : " And testifiedst against (or ' to ') them that Thou mightest bring them again unto Thy law.' But the subject of His solemn testimony or protestation to them in this psalm is not the law, as in the passage just quoted, but chiefly and foremost concerning His own glorious Person. " I am God, even thy God," or, as in the Hebrew, where the order of the words is more
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forcible, " God, thy God, I am." But we might ask, What does it mean ? Did not Israel know all along that God was God ? Alas ! no, never yet has Israel as a nation truly known or understood Him ; never yet have they fully entered into the blessedness or responded to the obligations implied in the relationship, " Thy God" This blessing of full knowledge and recognition of Jehovah or Elohim as their own, is ever held out in the prophets as the yet future experience of Israel. It is the constant refrain which runs through Ezekiel's visions of the future : " And they shall know that I am the Lord " ; even as it is the climax of the visions of the son of Amoz that in the day in the which the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, Israel and all flesh "shall know that I Jehovah am thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer the Mighty One of Jacob." But there is a special secret here which Israel in particular has yet to learn. He who appears here in Divine power and majesty is the long-rejected Messiah. It is the greater than Joseph discovering Himself at last to His own brethren, saying not only, " I am Joseph " (Gen. xlv. 3) ; not only in His human character, " I am Jesus " ; but, " I am God."
In the days of His flesh, when He claimed to be the Son of God, or when He said, " I and My Father are one," the Jews took up stones to stone Him, and when He appealed to them for which of His good works they were ready to stone Him, they replied, "For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God." Alas ! their eyes were holden then, and they knew not that His name was Immanuel, and that veiled in flesh there stood among them One whose goings forth are from of old, even from everlasting, and in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily ; but " in that day " when
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the spirit of grace and of supplications is poured upon them, and Messiah appears to them, saying, " God, even thy God, I am," Israel will respond, " This is our God ; we have waited for Him, and He will save us ; this is Jehovah ; we have waited for Him ; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
Yes, long-doubting Israel, like doubting Thomas, shall yet look up with adoration to the crucified, risen Jesus, and say, " My Lord and my God ! "
Having revealed to them His glorious Person, He proceeds to instruct them in the subject of true spiritual worship and service. These two ever go together. Only He who knows God aright as Spirit, can worship Him in spirit and in truth. The temptation of Israel in the past, as alas ! of so many in Christendom at the present day, was to trust to outward form and mere ceremonial. Now these God puts aside as secondary in their nature. " Not in reference to thy sacrifices," He says, "will I reprove thee, and as to thy burnt- offerings, they are ever before Me. I will take no bullock out of thine house, nor rams out of thy folds." Do you think you put the great God under obligation to you because you bring Him an animal sacrifice ? " Behold, every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are ready at My hand." Even that which by My appointment of grace you bring to My altar is out of Mine own bounty. Or, have you sunk to the degradation of the heathen, who thought that their gods needed to be supplied by them with food and drink ? " Behold, if I were hungry I would not tell thee, for the inhabited world is Mine and the fulness thereof: will I eat the flesh of strong bulls, or drink the blood of rams ? " The very idea of such a thing is blasphemous. Nay, I will tell thee the
sacrifices which refresh the heart of God : " Sacrifice to God praise," or thanksgiving in acknowledgment of His mercies, and " pay thy vows " of national obedience and loyalty to the Most High. Or in the words of another Messianic psalm, " Praise the name of God with a song, magnify Him with thanksgiving (or ' by con- fessing ' His mercies) ; J this shall please Jehovah better than an ox or bull that hath horns and hoofs." These verses contain nothing against the truth, pro- claimed by Moses and the prophets, of the Divine appointment of animal sacrifices as a means of approaching God ; but they preach against the per- version and misuse of that blessed institution, and the trusting to mere outward form and ordinances, without exercise of heart, which is always a sign of apostasy from the living God a feature which is, as already remarked, noticeable in Christendom of the present day as it was in Israel of old.
The significance which God intended that Israel should see in the Levitical sacrifices was a threefold one, i.e., a moral, a symbolical, and a typical one. Symbolically that animal led forth to death by the offerer, and slain on God's altar, was meant to teach him that this is just what he himself deserved, but that God in His infinite mercy accepted the death of the innocent victim instead. And this again with a heart rightly exercised, would have the moral effect of impressing him with the holiness of God and the awfulness of sin. Apart from these there was also the great typical truth continually set forth by the whole sacrificial and ritual system of the sufferings and substitutionary death and the various aspects of the character and redeeming work of the Messiah, who,
1 This is the significance of the Hebrew word. Todo also means confession (Psa. Ixix. 30, 31).
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already in the Old Testament, is the Lamb who should be led to the slaughter, and who by His righteousness would justify the many (Isa. liii.). But when these moral and spiritual truths were lost sight of, then sacrifices became a form of mere outward ritual, and in that case were "vain oblations," and highly dis- pleasing to God.
But in the day when Israel shall recognise Christ, and in Him learn to know God, and the true meaning of the sacrificial system, they will also know what it is, with or without divinely instituted ritual, to worship God in the spirit and truth, and by Him they will offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of their lips by giving thanks, or " confessing " His name (Heb. xiii. 15).
The address to Israel concludes with an exhortation which is at the same time a prophecy and a promise : " And call upon Me in the day of trouble ; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me."
This is often used by Christians with reference to themselves, and with perfect right, for in principle the exhortation and promise is true to every child of God. " God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." No one who trusts Him has ever called on Him in trouble without being delivered or " succoured," as the word in our psalm also means. It is true we may not always be delivered from the trouble, but, blessed be God, there is such a thing as being delivered in it ; and to receive for an answer, " My grace is sufficient for thee " (even with the thorn in thy flesh) ; " for My strength is made perfect in weakness." In view of the relation of the sufferings of this present time " to the glory which shall be revealed in us" by and by, we do not always know which is the greater deliverance, whether to have God specially near and present with
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us in the trouble (Psa. xci. 15), or to have it removed from us. But He knoweth our frame and remembers the weakness of our flesh, and graciously permits us to ask that, " if it be possible," the cup of suffering may pass from us, though, in the power of His Spirit we too should ever be ready to add, " O, my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, Thy will be done." And He will deliver us, if not by removing the burden, by sending an angel from heaven to strengthen us to endure it, so that we shall be able all the more to glorify Him. But, though there is this general principle in this passage applicable to the saints of God in all ages, it has primary and special significance in relation to Israel at the climax of their national history, and is in strict harmony with all the rest of this sublime prophecy which deals with the great events of the time of the end.
As we have shown elsewhere, there is a culminating sorrow for Israel after a representative section is back in the land. " For then shall be the great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. xxiv. 21). "Alas! for that day is great, for there is none like it ; it is even the time of Jacob's trouble ; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. xxx. 7). For, in the very midst of that great day of " trouble," or " tribulation," or " affliction," ' the spirit of grace and of supplications shall be poured on the saved remnant, and, as we have already seen, Israel shall call on the name of their Redeemer and " be saved" not only from outward trouble, but also from their sin and unbelief.
- The word is the same as in Deut. iv. 30, Hosea v. 15, and
other scriptures which bring us up to the same prophetic point of time when Israel's sorrows come to a climax after their restora- tion to the land.
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It is to that blessed event that the prophecy and promise of this verse in our psalm primarily refers. Israel on the day of his greatest trouble, shall call on the name of Jesus and be delivered, and then from that " day " on, throughout the remaining years of their separate national existence on earth, " they shall glorify Him," or, as the word literally means, " honour " Him with that filial loving regard that a son owes to his father. 1
Then shall the chief end in Israel's call as God's first- born son among the nations be realised, and "this people " which He has " formed for Himself" shall in a special manner show forth His praise.