Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Calling of the Jews, as Described in Jeremiah

In Question 191, the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, "What do we pray for in the second petition [of the Lord's Prayer]?" The answer says, in part, "In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in..." And the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, under the heading of "prayer," directs that prayer be made, among other things, "for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles..." That is almost a direct quote from the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25-26: "a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved..." It is these promises on which the catechism answer is based.

Did this concept originate with Paul? Is this a Christian imposition, and to be considered offensive by Jews? I answer no to both questions.

In Jeremiah 31:3-4, we find, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!" This promise appears after long passages protesting the apostasy of Israel, which God would judge with the seventy-year exile in Babylon (e. g., Jer. 25:18). The prophet continues in verse 6, "For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.'" Verse 9, "With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back..., for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn." And 13-14, "I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, declares the Lord.

"Don't these verses refer to the return of Israel after the Exile?" someone may ask. Modern Jews limit it to that application. On the other hand, dispensationalists apply it to the modern State of Israel. The problem for either interpretation is further down the passage.

In verses 18-20, the prophet tells us, "I have heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he My darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord." This is a description of the repentance of Israel, and return to faithfulness to her God, which certainly has not happened. Ancient Israel continued in apostasy, even rejecting and killing her Messiah, so that God destroyed their nation, city, and temple, in 70AD. And today's State of Israel is overwhelmingly secular. Under her laws, a Jew can be religious, agnostic, atheist, or even Buddhist or New Age. What he cannot be is a follower of Jesus the Messiah.

And in verses 33-34 (part of the same New Covenant passage quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12), God Himself says, "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."  This is what Paul talks about, when Israel repents of her apostasy and turns, as a nation, to her Messiah, Jesus Christ. The key is found in Jer. 30:9: "They shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." The restoration prophesied by Jeremiah isn't geographical or political, but rather a restoration through Jesus, the Davidic king (compare Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jer. 33:14-26). That has, demonstrably, not happened yet.

That same event is described by the Prophet Zechariah (Zech. 12:10): "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him Whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn." Their God, Jehovah, promises to send His Holy Spirit to change their hearts, so that they will finally recognize Who Jesus is, and what they did to Him 2,000 years ago. And He shall receive them (Rom. 11:26-27, Isa. 59:20-21): "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins." Thus, both Old and New Testaments prophecy of a time when the Jews, en masse, will repent of their hardheartedness, and turn to their God and Savior Jesus Christ.

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