Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Prophecy of the Calling of Israel


"In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea."
- Isaiah 11:10-11 

I often get caught between the dispensationalists on one side, who talk breathlessly of the founding of the modern State of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy, and so-called "replacement theologians" on the other, who claim that God has no further plan for ethnic Israel, because the only Israel under the New Covenant is, they claim, the church. Each end wrongly puts lumps me with the other.

Let me start by saying that I do consider the church to be the true, spiritual Israel, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, consisting of all elect Jews and Gentiles. I deny that there are two peoples of God. That alone excludes me from the dispensationalist camp. However, I also deny that God has finished with His purposes for ethnic Israel, as a group, so that excludes me from the "replacement theology" camp.

These verses are part of why. They begin with a reference to "the root of Jesse." That phrase sounds odd, but it is merely a poetic reference to Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul applies the phrase exactly in the same way in Romans 15:8-12. Thus, these verses are a prophecy of something that will happen in Christ. That excludes the dispensationalist, literalist use of the following verse, verse, 12, which tells us that "[God] will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." This cannot be a reference to the 1948 gathering of the Jews in the modern State of Israel, because that is not, emphatically not, in Christ. Rather, it must be a reference to the gathering of the Jews into the church, as they repent of their rebellion and turn to Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

We see this described beautifully in Zechariah 12:10: "I [God] 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." And also by Paul in Romans 11:25-28: "'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.' Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: 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, as it is written, 'As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.'"

God certainly has a plan for the remnant of ethnic Israel. Though they have been hardened, as a group, for their rejection of Christ two thousand years ago, a day will come when they will repent of that rejection, and be received again as God's people, not separately from the church, or from the Gentiles in the church, but as one people of God, the church!

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