ISRAEL, THE CHOSEN PEOPLE

How many times have you ever heard; “the Jews are God’s chosen people?” Most likely, you have probably heard it a time or two, and quite possibly repeated it yourself at some point; but have you ever heard anyone qualify that statement by explaining what it really means?

Why was Israel chosen?

Israel was chosen by God to fulfill God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless all the families of the earth.  God’s original plan was to make Abraham the father of MANY nations and He chose Israel to be the vessel through which He would do this. God gave Israel the Law, and it was through keeping His covenant (the Law) that Israel would be a blessing to the nations; but Israel failed in her commission.

However, God is faithful.

In Romans 1:16-17 Paul introduces the gospel of Jesus Christ by declaring;  “it is the power of God unto salvation TO EVERYONE that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, for in the gospel of Christ, the righteousness of God is REVEALED!

Yet, Paul leaves us hanging beginning in the very next verse, as he now speaks of the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against ungodliness. From Romans 1:18- Romans 3:20 we hear no more about this “righteousness of God” which is revealed through the gospel of Christ.

Romans 1:18 begins with the wrath of God being revealed from heaven and Romans 3:20 ends with not only the Jews but the whole world standing condemned in the sight of God, because of the Law – Israel’s covenant – which has brought forth the knowledge of sin.

Israel did not keep the Law, and consequently, failed in her commission to glorify God in the midst of the nations. Rather than being a holy nation and a blessing to the whole world, Israel’s disobedience has caused the nations to blaspheme against God.

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? FOR THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES THROUGH YOU, as it is written.  For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision (Romans 2:23-25).

Through Israel’s disobedience to God’s law, wherein she was unfaithful, she had become no different than the godless nations around her. Like those nations, she too was under the power of sin!

Beginning in Romans 3:21 Paul now picks up where he left us hanging in chapter one and says: “BUT NOW THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD WITHOUT THE LAW IS MANIFESTED, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST unto ALL and upon ALL them that believe: for there is NO DIFFERENCE…”

In Jesus Christ, God has revealed His righteousness (His covenant faithfulness as N.T. Write puts it) and God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth would be blessed.

Jesus is the true seed of Abraham, and the embodiment of what Israel was called to be. Through Him alone the promises made to the Fathers have come to fruition. In Jesus Christ, Israel’s calling to bless all the families of the earth is fulfilled, and in Him the righteousness of God (God’s covenant faithfulness to do what he promised) is revealed.

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, TO CONFIRM THE PROMISES MADE TO THE FATHERS: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust (Romans 15:8-12).

God in Christ has accomplished what he had chosen Israel to do.

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THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT ON MY RIGHT HAND UNTIL I MAKE THY ENEMIES THY FOOTSTOOL

In Acts 2, Peter interprets the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God as the FULFILLMENT of the scriptures that the Messiah would reign from the throne of David. Notice carefully how Peter articulates this:

Therefore BEING A PROPHET, AND KNOWING that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, HE WOULD RAISE UP CHRIST TO SIT ON HIS THRONE; HE SEEING THIS BEFORE SPAKE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD EXALTED, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT ON MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THY FOES THY FOOTSTOOL. *** THEREFORE**** let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:30-36).

In the texts above, Peter is quoting David from Psalm 110 when he says, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.”

First, notice the words “the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand.”

Peter quotes this in reference to David as a prophet knowing that God would raise up the Messiah to sit on his (David’s) throne. So as a prophet, foreseeing the enthronement of the Messiah on his (David’s) throne, David said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, SIT ON MY RIGHT HAND.” As a prophet, David foresaw by the Spirit of God that the promise of the Messiah reigning on his throne would not be an earthly enthronement, but a heavenly one, at the right hand of God.

Secondly, notice the next part of the text that Peter quotes from David: “till I make your enemies your footstool.”

These very same words are employed by the author of Hebrews in describing the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:13; 10:13). In 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 the apostle Paul applies them to the exalted Jesus as well.

Also Psalm 110 is the Psalm which testifies that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews expounds on this and tells us that Jesus the exalted King at the right hand of God, is also our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was a King and priest and Christ enthroned at the right hand of God is our King-Priest.

The exaltion of Jesus upon the throne of David is not something in waiting which is yet unfulfilled. Rather, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David became a reality when God raised Him from the dead and highly exalted Him at His own right hand.

When he had by himself purged our sins, (He) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… (See Hebrews 1:3).

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom (Hebrews 1:8).

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man(Hebrews 8:1-2).

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

(I, Paul) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:17-23).

Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God is not a temporary enthronement as He awaits the lesser one in Jerusalem, Israel. Rather, Jesus entered into His glory after His resurrection (Luke 24:26; John 17:5, 24; Acts 2:33; 3:13) and was enthroned at the right hand of God, where the New Jerusalem is – the true Holy City of God. From there, Christ will reign forever!

When Christ returns He is not taking a lesser throne. He reigns forever, being highly exalted at the right hand of God, and in that power and authority He will come again!

ISRAEL’S REDEMPTION AND GOD’S LOVE FOR THE WORLD

Does God have a love for Israel that surpasses or is independent of His love revealed in and through Christ Jesus? On the other hand, was the love that God revealed in Christ the fulfillment of His covenant promises to Israel?

Consider the words of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist was 8 days old he was brought to the temple by Zacharias and Elisabeth to be circumcised according to the instructions given in the Law of Moses.

Zacharias had been unable to speak since the announcement by the angel Gabriel that God had heard his prayers and his wife Elisabeth would have a child. Since Zacharias could not speak, the people decided to name the young child after his father thinking this was right.

However, Elisabeth spoke up and said, “Not so; but he shall be called John.” The people replied, “there is none of you kindred that is called by this name.” They then signaled to ask Zacharias asking him what the child would be called. Zacharias asked for a writing table, and wrote, “His name is John.”

The Bible says “they all marveled” and immediately Zacharias’ tongue was loosed, and he spoke, and praised God. The scripture says, “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying…”

Before telling us what Zacharias’ prophesied, Luke gives us this interjection – “Fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea, and all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, WHAT MANNER OF CHILD SHALL THIS BE! And the hand of the Lord was with him.”

With a causal reading, it is very easy to miss the impact this had on Israel. The sign of Zacharias not being able to speak, and then his tongue being suddenly loosed at his child’s circumcision ceremony along with the words of his prophecy caused the fear of the Lord to come on the people. They talked among themselves holding these things in their hearts and asking the question – “What manner of child shall this be!”

Now consider the words of Zacharias’ prophecy which spread throughout the region, and the impact these words must have had on those who were looking for hope in Israel.

Zacharias prophesied the following:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swear to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:68-79).

Through Zacharias’ prophecy, the Spirit of God was interpreting what the redemption of Israel as foretold in the Old Testament scriptures would actually look like.  God was was visiting His people to save them, and this child John, was the forerunner who would reveal their Savior to them ( John 1:31).

God”s love for Israel -His saving grace, His mercy, and His redemption – is revealed in Jesus Christ. In the land God gave them (the land in which they were now servants to others because of the curse of the Law), in that land, the Messiah came and redeemed them with His precious blood. He did this not to restore them to their physical inheritance. He did it to bring them into their true spiritual inheritance. Through repentance and faith in Jesus, God fulfilled His purpose in the calling of Israel by giving them their true inheritance in of the Kingdom of God and as citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is above.

He offers the same to all, both Jews and Gentiles alike; for God SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON!

PAUL AND HEAVENLY VISIONS

A lot of people will quote that Paul was taken to the 3rd heaven in an effort to support their claims of visions and heavenly experiences, but have you ever noticed the context of Paul’s description of being caught up into the third heaven?

In second Corinthians 11 and 12 the apostle Paul is correcting the Corinthians for allowing false ministers, especially false apostles, to take advantage of them. During his rebuke Paul uses sarcasm at times and that’s one reason why we should never a take any single verse out of its setting.

With regards to Paul’s “heavenly experience,” he mentions it reluctantly. He doesn’t share it to provide proof that he was sent by God. That’s the tactic of false apostles. Paul tells about this experience to show the Corinthians that these kind of things are not what we are to boast in.

Notice what he says in context:

“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him. “This boasting will do no good,” but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” (2 Corinthians 11:30-12:4)

I find it interesting that Paul didn’t describe his experience as a spiritual Disney World or fantasy land like so many of those who make such claims.

Paul goes on to say the following:

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

The difference in a true minister and a false one is this – A false minister will boast in his “supernatural experiences,” but a true minister will only boast in his weakness so that power of the Lord will rest on him and Jesus will be glorified.

CONVERTED JEWS AND ISRAEL

Under the Old Testament ancient Israel consisted of those who were physical descendants of Abraham, as well those who were Gentiles who became Jews by conversion.

Allow me to give you one example from scripture: During the time of Esther, King Ahasuerus  reigned over 127 provinces reaching from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1; 8:17) and many Gentiles in those provinces converted and BECAME JEWS.

There are also other examples in scripture of Gentiles who became Jews, and there are instructive scriptures in the Old Testament which address how the Jews were to accept those Gentiles who would be grafted into Israel from the outside.

Many Christians who hold to unwavering support of the modern state of Israel do so because they think the Jews in Israel are the direct descendants of Abraham and consequently are in covenant with God, yet they never consider the question: “What about the converted Jews?”

Did you know the modern state of Israel recognizes and grants citizenship to converted Jews? Many never think this one through.

If you believe that modern Israel in the Middle East is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, allow me to ask a very simple question and give you something to consider: What about converted Jews?

Do you consider converted Jews (formerly Gentiles) to be real Jews and in covenant with God?

If not, why? They were in scripture and If you are going to claim that modern Israel is in covenant with God you must go all the way and accept converted Jews (formerly Gentiles) because converted Jews were in covenant with God (via Israel’s covenant) in the Old Testament.

If modern Israel is in covenant with God then converted Jews are as well, which would mean that Gentiles have a route into covenant with God WITHOUT Jesus Christ!

Such theology ought to alarm you, for there is no covenant relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ: not for the Jew or the Gentile.

BOUND WITH THE CURSE

“The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples FOR THE SAKE OF THE LAW OF GOD. together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and BIND THEMSELVES WITH A CURSE AND AN OATH to follow THE LAW OF GOD GIVEN THROUGH MOSES the servant of God and TO OBEY CAREFULLY ALL THE COMMANDS, REGULATIONS, AND DECREES of the Lord our Lord” (Nehemiah 10:28-29).

Why did these Israelites, who were returning for the Babylonian captivity, bind themselves with a curse? It is because they were dedicating themselves to God and to the covenant God made with their fathers through Moses.

The Law of Moses was accompanied with a curse (aka, the curse of the law). The Law of Moses was a binding covenant on the nation of Israel and being a partaker of that covenant meant being subjected to the curse for not doing all that the law demands.

This is precisely why Paul warns the believers in Galatia not seek justification by the works of the law, because the curse accompanies the law. The law demands the continuation in the works of the Law to all who are under it and therefore all who do not continue in all things contained in the law are under a curse.

You cannot separate the curse from the law covenant given through Moses. Those who attempt to do so are guilty of trespassing the very law they claim to obey. They claim they are not under the curse, while at the same time claiming that the law is still binding. Yet, the law itself says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Those who teach such error by putting others under their private interpretations of the law often excuse themselves for not keeping all the Law which the law itself actually demands. In this they reinvent the law with the portions they deem enforceable.

The Law of Moses was a unit, and not some divided up thing that some have made it into. Yet some have turned it into something that the Bible never reveals it to be. It was never a broken up dysfunctional system. According to the Holy Scriptures the Law Covenant was first ratified with the blood of animals, then the Law was given, then the priesthood, the sacrificial system, the various statutes and ordinances including the festivals were put in place and served as rule of life and constitution for the people of Israel in the flesh.

These were all interlinked and you cannot have one without the other. If any part of this covenant is obsolete, it is all obsolete. You do not, and cannot have the Law covenant without the blood of animals, the Levitical priesthood, the tabernacle/temple, the brazen altar, the laver, the lamp stand, the table of shew bread, the golden altar, and the Ark of the Covenant.

Jesus died and rose again, not to keep a remnant of the Law covenant in place, but to give us a better covenant established on better promises.

THE LAW WAS OUR SCHOOLMASTER

I once read a caption on a Hebrew Roots site which said; You need faith first, but you are also required to keep His instruction (aka the Law or Torah).

Those who make an issue of “keeping the Torah “actually know very little about the Torah and purpose for which it was given.

Galatians 3:24 says, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The whole purpose for the giving of the Torah (the Law) and its instructions was to bring us to Christ and to justification by faith. We are, therefore, to live by faith in Him.

Yet the message of the Hebrew Roots movement is that Christ and faith brings you to the works of the Torah as indicated in the citation quoted above.

It is this sort of ideology of which Paul warns the Galatians when he tells them “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

The yoke of bondage referred to here is the works of the Law as opposed to living by faith. God did not save you to bring you under the Law of Moses, but He gave the Law through Moses to point men to Christ and once you have found Christ the Law is fulfilled by Christ living in you.

When the scriptures speak of the Law being our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal 3:24), it is referring to the knowledge of sin which comes by the Law. The Law was added because of transgressions (v. 19).

These transgressions are the many sins that resulted from “THE TRANSGRESSION” of Adam’s sin. Through one man sin entered the world and death was the result of sin. In Adam (through our union with Adam) we were all sinners because – in Adam – we are all under the sentence of death. Therefore, the Law was given so that “THE OFFENSE” might abound (Romans 5:20). The offense is sin and the Law causes sin to abound so that it’s apparent to all.

In Galatians 3:22 Paul says, “the scripture has concluded all under sin.” This is a specific reference to the Law. It is the Law that brings to light the knowledge of sin and declares all guilty in the sight of God. Paul says something similar in Romans 3 when he says, “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin.”

Fallen humanity was represented by the nation of Israel under the law and by Israel’s failures to obey the Law, God has declared (from a judicial standpoint) all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. The Law (though it was given to Israel) was God’s way of declaring ALL guilty in His sight. This is why Romans 3:19 says, “we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are UNDER THE LAW: that every mouth may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD may become guilty before God.”

Through the Law all are declared guilty in the sight of God so that all may be freely justified by faith in Jesus Christ. This is how the Law was our school master; not to show us how to live righteously but to show us how unrighteous we are so that we might rely totally on Him and His righteousness.