"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."Matthew 23: 38, 39.
THE bush upon which Moses reflected as he saw it burning but not consumed was a perfect symbol of the persecution yet persistence of God's chosen people. What the phenomenon suggested to the patriarch we are not told, but certainly it is true of the Jew that while ever in the furnace of affliction he is never destroyed. The great Semitic races contemporary with him are no more; he remains. The mighty nations who have oppressed him--Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, have surrendered their power; Russia that has held so many Jews in bondage is in the turmoil of her own destruction, but the Jew goes on. The Jew persists as no other nation in the world. He is without king or country and yet, while compelled to live amidst the nations none can absorb him. He may be a Russian Jew or a Polish Jew, but he is always a Jew. Where he is oppressed the judgments of God fall upon his oppressors, and where he has liberty, the blessings of God are conferred upon those who give it to him. There is no doubt that great Divine favours have been granted to our own country because of its charter of liberty to the Jew in our midst. He is the object of God's special solicitude and God does not intend ever to forsake him.
The history of the chosen race is familiar. When God called Abram out of Ur he encouraged him with a great promise: " And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee : and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12: 2, 3). Believing God, Abram went forth. The story of Isaac and Jacob is familiar, as also that of the circumstances in which the sons of Jacob, with their families, found themselves in Egypt. When another king arose who knew not Joseph, the Egyptians enslaved God's people, and they were delivered through the hand of Moses. The weary trekking through the desert, prolonged through their unbelief, ended at last in a partial possession of the land, partial because of their tendency to compromise.
After Joshua, came that period during which they were rescued from the results of their sin by the raising up of mighty saviours like Gideon and Jephthah. Catching the spirit of the nations about them they demanded a king and finally, after the disastrous experience of Saul, God gave them one after his own heart in David. Under his grandson, Rehoboam, the ten tribes revolted and formed the Northern Kingdom with Jeroboam as their king. In Samaria, a line of kings without exception provoked God by their wickedness and in B.C. 7I9 Samaria was taken by Shalmaneser and the people carried away into captivity. In Jerusalem the kings were not all bad but wickedness prevailed, and in B.C. 597 King Nebuchadnezzar " took Jehoiachin and carried away vessels, princes and 10,000 captives " to Babylon. Left as a puppet king in Jerusalem, Zedekiah was foolish enough to intrigue with the Egyptians, and ten years later Jerusalem was besieged and sacked. That marked the beginning of "the times of the Gentiles." With the exception of a period under the Maccabees, Jerusalem has never been free from Gentile domination, and as a state it suffered final annihilation in A.D. 70 under the onslaught of Titus.
But while the history of the chosen race is familiar, the prophetic utterances seldom receive the attention they deserve. The first promise to Abram, to which reference has already been made, was later amplified: " In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." (Genesis 15: 18). That was a dear, unconditional promise which has not yet been fulfilled. The oath of God cannot be broken, and therefore this declaration is of the utmost importance. In Isaiah 60: 21, we are assured " they shall inherit the land for ever." The return of the people of Israel to "the glorious land" will not be an intrusion; they have by the fiat of God a greater right to their boundaries than any other nation on the face of the earth. Jeremiah, in chapters 30 and 31 foresaw the restoration of the chosen race to the promised land in unbelief. It would be a wonderful restoration, so much so that no longer should they regard the exodus from Egypt as God's greatest work for them. It would be surpassed by the wonderful way in which He should bring them " from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither He had driven them." (Jeremiah 16: 21). No unprejudiced mind can study the meaning of those words without realising there is yet to be accomplished for God's people a wonderful restoration to their own land. Amos concludes his prophecy with the declaration that God's people shall be planted in their own country and shall no more be pulled up. It is evidently yet to be. If words have any meaning, if the Bible is entitled to the least respect, then we are facing developments of the greatest importance. Let it be noted these promises have nothing to do with the Church. Too many of our commentators have the tendency to heap all the blessings of the Jew upon the Church, and slip all the curses back upon the chosen race.
In Ezekiel 37: by the interesting parable of the two sticks, we are assured that the lost tribes will be reunited with those whose ancestors were left in Jerusalem at the time of the revolt under Jeroboam. It is fervently believed by many that that re-union is now taking place in Palestine, but that is not a matter upon which the writer is able to express an opinion. But that re-union will take place in the land there can be no doubt.
The Old Testament is so full of these prophetic utterances that it is difficult to select one but Hosea 3: 4, 5, cannot be overlooked: " For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod or teraphim." How literally that has been fulfilled. It is the condition of Israel to day. But notice the next verse: " Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." The writer extends a friendly challenge, with all deference, to any minister who reads this book, to preach a sermon, on expository lines, on this text. It may fairly be claimed that a true exegesis will compel him to preach a coming restoration of God's chosen race in their own land. Nothing is plainer to day than that the most religious nation on the face of the earth is also exercising the least religious influence, as Hosea declared. Nothing is more certain than that spiritual and political ineffectiveness must come to an end.
Consider now the advent of Christ as foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Our Lord declared He was in the Old Testament ("these are they that testify of Me") and if the critics say He is not, so much the worse for the critics! He is anticipated as a Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 and typified in the sacrifice of Isaac and certainly in the Passover. The Jews were blind to that side of the picture. He is also portrayed as a Reigning King: in Isaiah 9: as "Prince of peace" with "the government . . . upon his shoulder." Joseph in Egypt may stand as a type of Christ reigning and ruling. This aspect gripped the minds of those who longed for Messiah. His disciples asked our Lord " Wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" The question was not condemned as being a misconception, but they had to be content with the reply, " It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power." And since these words were uttered after our Lord was raised from the dead there will be none to question the authority and knowledge possessed by Him. Neither can there be any doubt that, if the disciples had entirely misconceived the situation, the Master would at once have corrected their ideas, for the moment was vital for the future.
This then is the position. The prophecies of the Suffering Messiah have been fulfilled, the prophecies of the Reigning King have not. The Jews were so certain of the Crown that they refused Him on the Cross. What mistakes are we making to day? Nothing is more certain than that every word both as to suffering and reigning will be fulfilled.
All this fits in with New Testament history. St. Luke tells us our Lord came to Nazareth to the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah at what we know as chapter 61. He found the place where it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." No wonder " the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him, " for He was declaring Himself Messiah as he added, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." And it was the acceptable year of the Lord if they would receive Him as the promised Messiah, but without a doubt, "it was the day of vengeance of our God," if they would not. So He proclaimed, " the acceptable year of the Lord " and closed the book, giving them, if they would, the opportunity of blotting out forever, " the day of vengeance of our God," but they were blinded by their unbelief. Instead of rising to acclaim Him Messiah, they quibbled " Is not this Joseph's son?" Just as so many to day divest Him of His Deity and regard Him as merely " good."
Another opportunity was given when our Lord entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9: 9. The Pharisees who knew the Messianic significance of the prophecy desired Jesus to rebuke His disciples. They believed Messiah should so come, but they would not have HIM for Messiah. It must at least be said for them that they did believe the prophets as to the coming of a personal Messiah. Rejected again it is no wonder that our Lord wept over Jerusalem. He knew it meant " the day of vengeance," and He saw the terrible results as He looked down the vista of the years. What emotions must have swirled within His breast as He saw the purpose of God in conflict with the sin of man! The house was left desolate and they should not see Him henceforth until--! He did not say they would not see Him again, but not until--. Are those who rejected Him to see Him again? When they shall say, " Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."
All too briefly we have reviewed the history of Israel, the Old Testament prophecy of Israel, the Old Testament prophecy of Messiah and the New Testament record of our Lord in its relevant parts. We can now proceed to sum up. Israel will return to the land in unbelief. As we previously observed, they will welcome Antichrist as false Messiah. The ancient worship will be restored and the temple, as prophesied by Ezekiel, will be re-built. But the prosperity of the people in the land will provoke the envy of Antichrist, the treaty under which they have had protection will be broken (Daniel 9: 7), and then there will he a time of dire persecution such as they have never known. Jeremiah 30: 7, declares, " Alas! 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." Daniel 12: 1 declares, " for there shall he a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book."
Our Lord declares, (Matthew 24: 21, 22) " For then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." In each case it is a tribulation known neither before nor since: hence it is reasonable to suppose that all three refer to the same event. The deliverance to which they refer is unmistakable. For immediately after the tribulation of those days, " shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His hosts will end the tribulation under Antichrist. Israel will recognise her Lord, and the prophecy of Zechariah 12: 10, will be fulfilled: "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." That will be the beginning of nationhood again, for " After this I will return, and will build again the house of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up." (Acts 15: 16).
Are there any indications that this is the end to which God is working? Palestine is free from the Turk. That is certainly a step towards it. Jerusalem is to be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. There is ground for the belief that the time is running out. The Jews are returning to their own land. In I923 there were 7,294 immigrants, in 1924, 13,553. The latest official census estimates on September 1st, 1926 a population of 158,000 Jews; almost one in six of the total inhabitants.
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree, said our Lord. When its branch is tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that He is near, even at the doors." We believe our Lord, and by the grace of the Spirit we will learn the parable so rich in its teaching. The branch is tender, the leaves are beginning to appear, and we wait for the world's SUMMER TIME. May it come soon, for the winter has been dreary and long!
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