The Ways of God: 6. 1. The Judgment of Israel and the Nations Introductive of the Kingdom

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VI-The Judgment of Israel and the Nations Introductive of the Kingdom
In the opening subject of our considerations of the ways of God, we mentioned that the prophetic scriptures are occupied with earthly events, and embrace five great leading and distinct subjects, some of which, if not all, are often found grouped together in the same prophesy. It is with the fourth of these subjects we shall now be specially occupied—the crisis, or short period of judgment, which cleanses the world of all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom— “the hour of temptation which comes upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:1010Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)); “the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jer. 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7).) The nation of Israel is most prominent during this period, and is the subject of judgment, in which the Gentiles are sharers. The testimonies of Scripture are very full on this subject; and to help to clear it in our minds, I have classified them into three points, as follows—
1. The promises made of restoration to Israel, after their failure, and in view of it, besides the unconditional promises made to the fathers, both of which will be fulfilled to a remnant of the nation, who will be established in the kingdom under Christ in the land.
The testimonies of Scripture that Israel would be set aside for a long timeless period, known only to God, and again taken up to be restored.
That when this timeless period shall have run out, the nation will be restored by judgment, which not only falls on the apostates amongst them, delivering a remnant, but is a universal judgment on the nations of the world as well, and is introductive of God's kingdom in Zion, and the millennial period, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
As to the first point, we will turn to Lev. 26, where we find the result put before Israel consequent on their observing the conditions they had accepted as the terms of their relationship with God, and retention of their blessings in the land, and the alternative in ease of the non-fulfillment of these terms— “If ye will walk in my statutes.... then I will give you rain,” &c. (ver. 3-13); “But and if ye will not hearken.... I also will do this unto you.” &c. (Ver. 14-39) It goes on assuming that the latter would be the case, till the cities are wasted, and the land and her sanctuaries brought to desolation, and the nation dispersed amongst the heathen, in their enemies' land; and then, even when in the enemies' land, God says, “I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God.” The Lord then turns back to His own unconditional promises to their forefathers, alter they have destroyed themselves: and when in their enemies' land, He forgets them not, nor casts them off utterly. “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers.... and that they have walked contrary to me.... then will I remember my covenant with Jacob... also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the land.” (Ver. 40-42.)
Turn now to Deut. 30:1-101And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, 2And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. 8And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. 9And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: 10If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 30:1‑10): “And it shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind amongst all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.... and bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it: and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers,” &c. This is not so striking as Lev. 26, where the promises to the fathers are alluded to. Deuteronomy is more the principle of their acceptance as a nation after failure, and when “Lo Ammi” had been written upon them. It also lays down the principle of their acceptance at individuals in the interim by the gospel, and righteousness by faith. See the use made by the Apostle Paul of Rom. 10:11-1411For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:11‑14).
There are other promises in view of their restoration, especially that to the house of David, to be made good in Christ. We read in 1 Chron. 17:11-1411And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. 13I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: 14But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore. (1 Chronicles 17:11‑14), “And it shall come to pass, when the days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee, but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established for evermore.” This passage is applied to Christ in Heb. 1:55For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Hebrews 1:5).
We find the promises to the fathers alluded to in view of their full deliverance in the end. See Mic. 7:19, 2019He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. 20Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:19‑20). The prophet expresses the adoration of his heart in contemplating the goodness of God in their deliverance; he says, “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old.” We must ever remember that if God were to fail in fulfilling those earthly promises to Abraham, we have no reason to suppose that He would not also fail in His spiritual promises to him, which latter come to us. Consult Gal. 3:6-146Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:6‑14). Neither, we know, can ever fail.
Again, when Christ came, “As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:54, 5554He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:54‑55).) In verses 69-74, when both the promises to the fathers and to David's house are recalled, “He hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.... to perform the mercy premised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he aware to our father Abraham.” It is almost needless to say that the earthly blessings were deferred, because of the rejection of Christ by the nation.
Turn now to Isa. 49 We find that Israel having failed as God's servant, is set aside, and Christ presented as the true servant; and yet He says, “I have labored in vain;” for we know that Israel rejected Him. The answer of God comes in verse 5, &c. It was a light thing to raise up the tribes of Israel, but He should be exalted and given as a light to the Gentiles. In verse 8, He is given as a covenant to the people to deliver them in the end. The language of the prophecy is very beautiful: “Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains, for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” Zion, apparently forsaken, then learns that the Lord's faithfulness is greater than a mother's towards her sucking child. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls (Jerusalem) are continually before me.” Her children make haste to return to her, and her destroyers go forth from her. “Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold all these (the restored and gathered remnant of the people) gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee as a bride doeth. For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold I was left alone: these, where had they been? Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people, and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall he carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee, with their thee toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” The thought of applying this to the Church is almost too over-strained to need a remark. When does the Church ever say, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me” and that at the very time when the blessing is complete?
In Rom. 11 the Apostle Paul deals with this subject, showing that God hath not cast off His people; and he gives three leading reasons as his argument. First: there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Secondly: through the fall of his nation, salvation is come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy (See Deut. 32:2121They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. (Deuteronomy 32:21)), and not to reject them. And, thirdly, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” at the time that all Israel (that is, as a whole, or nationally), shall be saved.
When we consider the third point proposed, many of those promises of restoration will come before us, connected with the judgment of the apostates of the nation, and the Gentiles.
As to the next point, we will turn to Dan. 9:24-2724Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:24‑27), where we find the answer to the prayer of Daniel, who was one of the captives of Israel in Babylon. Naturally the subject of all others most dear to his Jewish heart and affections was the restoration of his people; and the subject of most importance was to ascertain the length of time they would be subject to their captors, under whose yoke they were reaping what they had sown when owned of God. In the beginning of the chapter we find that, like any godly man, Daniel was a student of Scripture; and in the first year of Darius the Mede, who took the kingdom after the fall of Babylon, he had ascertained from the book of Jeremiah that the seventy years of the desolation of Jerusalem were now past. Faith was at work in his soul, and he set his face to wait upon God and to humble himself before Him about his nation with prayer and supplication, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. He puts himself in the position of the nation according to its sins before God, and identifies himself with them. (See Lev. 26:40, 4140If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; 41And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: (Leviticus 26:40‑41).) His heart owns the God with whom he had to do, as One who never changed—a merciful and gracious God. God Himself is his confidence. “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.” It is something beautiful how his faith calls Jerusalem “thy city,” and Israel “thy people,” as Moses did when the people made the golden calf, and God could not own them. We read, “Whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel the man Gabriel informed me,” &c; and in the communication which follows—that is, the prophecy of the seventy weeks—the answer to his prayer. We may remark that God speaks of the people to Daniel as “thy people” —as to Moses on the occasion to which we have referred; and the prophecy relates to the Jewish people, and to Jerusalem. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (place). Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after (the) threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off and shall have nothing (marg., which is correct): and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm a (marg.) covenant with many for on week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Here then is a clearly defined period mentioned, at the end of which a remarkable change would be brought to his people, the Jews, and to their city—their return and complete re-establishment in grace—transgressions pardoned, sins made an end of, iniquity forgiven, and everlasting righteousness introduced, the vision and prophecy sealed up, and the most holy place anointed. Now let us call to mind the state of Judah and Jerusalem, as we saw when examining the past history of the people of Israel, at the time that Judah went into captivity to Babylon, in the closing chapters of 2 Kings. The king of Judah and the nation were brought into captivity (Israel, or the ten tribes, had long before been brought into captivity by the Assyrian), the city was broken up, and the house of the Lord burned with fire, and a few of the poorer of the people left to be vinedressers and husband men in the land. And let us compare that state with what is here, in Dan. 9, where we find a complete and perfect restoration and re-establishment promised.
During the continuance of those seventy weeks of years (490), it assumes, or declares, that the people or a remnant of them, will be in the land; but not yet owned as God's people, and still under the power of the Gentiles; the temple rebuilt, and the city restored. This is of much importance, so let us bear in mind those three points which characterize the continuance of the seventy weeks.
1. The people (or some of them) are in the land, but not owned of God.
2. The temple rebuilt, and the city.
3. The Gentiles still in possession of the throne of the world, or in other words, the “times of the Gentiles” not run out.
These three things do not characterize the present time.
The seventy weeks are divided into three periods, or divisions: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. The first division of seven weeks, or forty-nine years, counts from the going forth of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, this was the starting point. “Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” First this rebuilding goes on for seven weeks of years. We read in Nehemiah that it was a time of great distress and trouble. “But it came to pass that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?” &c. Then we have sixty-two weeks of years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem unto Messiah, in all sixty-nine weeks of the seventy. Messiah is then cut off and rejected, and does not get His kingdom. “After the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off and shall have nothing.” Christ presents Himself to the nation as their King, and instead of getting His kingdom, He is crucified after the threescore and two weeks; and the counting out of the seventieth week ceases for the time. Then the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. This was accomplished under Titus and the Roman armies at the destruction of Jerusalem, after the rejection of Christ. The people whose armies accomplished this were the Roman people. In John 11:4848If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (John 11:48), we find the fears of the Jewish leaders absolutely prophetic of this event. “if we let him (Christ) thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” And the Lord Himself predicted when He beheld the city, and wept over it, “For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground.” (Luke 19:4343For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, (Luke 19:43).) And again, “And some spake of the temple how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:5, 65And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, 6As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Luke 21:5‑6))
Messiah having been cut off after the sixty-ninth week, the chain of events with the Jewish people ceases (absolutely, when the city was destroyed), and time therefore ceases to be counted from that period to the present. God, as we have seen, becomes occupied with other things. The seventieth week was to bring in and establish in full prosperity and blessing the people, according to verse 24; but instead of the blessing, the cutting off of Messiah after the sixty-ninth week, the city and sanctuary trodden down, and a long nameless period of desolations to the people and city follow. Evidently, as we have seen, it was the Roman people who were to do what is stated in verse 26. “The people of the prince that shall come,” &c. The prince was not there, only the people are named, but the prince himself was not come. He is brought before us after this long timeless period of desolations, still running on, “He shall confirm a covenant,” &c.
The rejection of Christ, therefore, suspended all relations and dealings of God with the Jewish people, as His people, and this allotted period of seventy weeks ceases to run on. And when the Jews are the objects of God's dealings again in the short period of judgment before He owns them as His nation, the period which remains of the seventy weeks will be counted out and will bring in the full restoration. This short period is, therefore, as we may easily see, synchronical with the closing events, or crisis of the history of the world, introductive of the kingdom.
We find the same thing in many other scriptures either assumed or declared. (See Isa. 8:1414And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 8:14)—22; 9:1-7) Christ becomes a stone of stumbling to the nation—the testimony is confined to His disciples—the Lord then hides His face from the house of Jacob for a long, timeless period, and the prophet passes over to the last days, which introduce the kingdom by judgment. Again in Isa. 61:1, 21The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (Isaiah 61:1‑2), when the Lord announced His mission in the synagogue of Nazareth, He stops short in the middle of verse 2, which is separated from the next clause already for more than eighteen hundred years, and which clause announces the “day of vengeance,” and the comforting them that mourn, the remnant of the nation in the kingdom.
(To be continued.)