Israel in the Remembrance of God
April 17th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
ISRAEL IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Israel in the Remembrance of God. In the middle chapters of the Book of Romans, chapter 9:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself, I, my soul, were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
And this is the way he began chapter 10: "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" [Romans 10:1]. Then, as he began chapter 11:
I say then, Hath God cast away His people?
God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew.
Then beginning at verse 25 in chapter 11 of the Book of Romans:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be without knowledge of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes:
but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without turning, without changing, without repentance.
As Numbers 23:19 avows:
God is not a man that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should turn: hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?
Israel in the Remembrance of God.
A key of interpretation of this Bible, and a tremendous key – – a key in the interpretation of this Bible is our identification of that word "Israel." If we identify the use of the word Israel in the Bible as one thing, then all of our understanding and all of our interpretation thereafter follows a certain course. If we identify the word Israel in the Bible as some other thing, then thereafter all of the things that follow take an altogether different meaning and significance.
Now I am thinking mostly of this: shall we identify Israel as the church? Are the promises and the prophecies made concerning Israel fulfill in the church? Is the church now the spiritual Israel? Is there no longer an Israel in the purpose, and promise, and prophecy of God, with no future, no unfolding? Has the Lord done away with His people? As I read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, "Hath God cast away His people?" [Romans 11:1]. And is the church now the successor? Are we the heir to all of the prophecies and the promises God made to Israel? Are we to identify the church with Israel in the Bible?
Now I have, for me, a very certain answer to that question. No one time in the Word of God, never – not in the Old Testament, not in the New Testament, not in any Bible book in the Old Testament, not in any Bible book in the New Testament, not in the mind of God, is there ever – is there ever an identification of Israel with the church. In the mind of God and in the Holy Scriptures, they are always two separate and distinct entities. When the word Israel is used in the Bible, it always and without fail refers to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel-Jacob. And when the word "church" is used in the Bible, always it refers to that body of Christ, an election, an ekklēsia, a called-out company composed of Jew, Gentile, Scythian, barbarian, provincial, Greek, Roman, all who will in this age of grace turn in saving faith to our blessed Lord.
There was only one passage in the Bible that ever gave me pause concerning that conclusion, that the word Israel is never used with reference to the church, and that one passage was this: in the latter part of the sixth chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul writes, "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" [Galatians 6:16]. For a long time that troubled me. Maybe there is an instance in the Bible where the word Israel refers to the church, the household of the faith. And this was it. "Peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
Then as I studied, the best I knew how, this book of Paul to the churches in Galatia, the whole substance of that book concerns Judaizers, Judaizing. Those who rejected our Lord among the people of Israel, and those who accepted our Lord among the people of Israel, that’s what he is talking about; the heresy of the Judaizers, who sought to fasten on to the gospel of the Son of God all of those rituals and legislation of Moses. And I came to the very definite conclusion that, even in this passage in Galatians 6:16, Paul is referring, in that phrase "the Israel of God," Paul is referring to the children of Abraham, to the elect, to these, the remnant of Israel, who had found in Christ their Savior and their promised Messiah. All the way through, without exception, whenever the word Israel is used in the Bible, it refers to the seed of Abraham. And when the word "church" is used in the Bible, it refers to us in this elect day of grace. Isn’t that an amazing and a strange inexplicable thing, that Paul calls it a mustērion? And the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians is an exposition of that mustērion hid in the heart of God [Ephesians 3:1-12].
Isn’t it an amazing and an astonishing thing that no prophet of the Old Testament and no seer of the old dispensation ever saw the church, never? It was hidden from their eyes. The old prophets of the dispensation of the old covenant, they looked forward and they saw the glorious coming of Messiah. And sometimes they would look and see Messiah coming; a Suffering Servant offered for the sins of the people, the Lamb of God slain that we might be saved [Isaiah 53:2-11]. And then another prophet or the same one sometimes would look and see the glory of Messiah coming, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the great pantokrator of this whole universe. They describe His glory in words and language that could hardly bear the marvel of the vision [Isaiah 66:12-23]. And yet, and yet, even though they saw the conversion of the Gentiles [Isaiah 66:19] – and yet, they never saw this church nor this age of grace. Like a man looking at a great mountain range, and he sees this peak – this the Servant, suffering for our sins, Messiah, "by whose stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5] – and then they’d see that glorious peak, the marvelous crowning of the Lord God as King of the earth and of the universe; but they never saw this valley in between. They never saw this age of grace. It was hidden, Paul says, from their eyes; it was a mustērion kept secret in the heart of God and only revealed in the days of the apostles, and to us [Ephesians 3:1-11]. So in the Holy Scriptures, Israel is always Israel, and the church is always the church. And in our interpretation of the Word of God there is a new vista opened for us if we will keep those distinct, significantly separate.
Now this morning we’re going to turn to the prophecies and the promises of God to the people of Israel; Israel in the remembrance of God. The Lord does not forget; and most, God does not forget His people. The story of Moses begins, "And it came to pass": "And it came to pass in the process of time, that this wicked king of Egypt died" [Exodus 2:23], under whose surveillance Moses had fled away after he had slaughtered that Egyptian taskmaster [Exodus 2:11-15]:
, and the children of Israel sighed by the reason of their bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of their bondage.
And God heard their groanings, and God remembered –
and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
[Exodus 2:23, 24]
Israel in the remembrance of God.
I turn to the sixth chapter of the same Book of Exodus:
Then the Lord said unto Moses, This thou shalt do as you stand in the presence of Pharaoh . . .
And God spake unto Moses, and said . . . I am the Lord:
I appeared unto Abraham, and unto Isaac, and unto Jacob . . .
And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land where they were a pilgrim and a stranger.
Now I have heard the groanings of My people . . . and I have remembered My covenant;
Israel In The Remembrance Of God.
Then I turn to the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus, and when the Lord said to Moses, "Now Moses you just stand aside here, and let My wrath consume these people, and out of thy loins will I raise me up a nation that will do My will" [Exodus 32:10]. And Moses stood before the Lord . . . and interceding before God, Moses said, "Remember, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel Thy servants, to whom Thou swarest by Thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land will I give thee and to thy seed; remember? Remember?" [Exodus 32:11, 13]
And in the Book of Leviticus chapter 26, Moses, delivering the message of God, says to His people:
And when you stand, and when you are scattered abroad, then,
says the Lord, will I remember, then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies and scattered over the face of the earth, I will not cast them away.
[Leviticus 26:33, 42, 44]
As Paul said, "Hath the Lord cast away His people?" [Romans 11:1-2]. "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 [Leviticus 26:44], I change not" [Malachi 3:6].
The gifts and calling, the promises and prophecies of God are without fail [Romans 11:29], "but I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors [Leviticus 26:45]; and all of these promises will I fulfill in them" [Jeremiah 33:14]. And in the one hundred fifth Psalm, the psalmist sings,
He hath remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commended to a thousand generations,
Which covenant He made with Abraham and His oath unto Isaac, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant.
[Psalm 105: 8-10]
Israel in the remembrance of God.
And the mercies of the Lord God in heaven shall extend to His people to this marvelous and great fulfillment. God will yet do some great and marvelous thing for His people, His elect and chosen people. Look, look! When the Savior was in the earth and walked among men, He was born, made flesh [John 1:14]. He was born in a family circle, and in that family circle were other boys growing up, brothers. And when the Messiah was presented to the nation, those brothers did not believe on Him. The seventh chapter of the Book of John expressly says it: "And neither did His brethren believe on Him" [John 7:5]. They looked upon Him as an imposter. When our Lord was crucified, and was nailed to the cross, and died for our sins [John 19:16-30] – when our Lord died on the cross, He never delivered His mother into the hands of His brethren, for His brethren did not believe on Him; they rejected Him. They looked upon Him as a deceitful and misguided man. And when the Lord died on the cross, He delivered His mother into the love and care and keeping of John, the sainted and beloved disciple [John 19:26-27].
But would it not have been one of the saddest things that you could ever have thought for in the Word of God, for the Master, our Savior, to return back to heaven and His brethren be left in unbelief, and blasphemy, and rejection? In the goodness of God and in the mercies of our Lord, before He returned back to glory [Acts 1:9], raised from the dead [John 20:1-18], the Bible says that our Savior appeared unto James, the eldest of the brethren of our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:7], and possibly to the circle of the family. And when next we see that little band praying together, waiting for the outpouring at Pentecost, the Scriptures expressly say that in that upper room praying besides the apostles there were Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brethren [Acts 1:13-14]. And in our Holy Bible, two of those boys have written books, James and Jude. What a mercy, and what a kindness, and what a blessing for which we all are so humbly grateful. Before the Lord went back to heaven, He won to Himself James, and Jude, and Joseph, and Simon. What greater thing could God do for His elect than to win them to Himself?
So many years ago, when I was pastor of a little country church, I went to another community to attend a funeral service for a man by the name of Will McKelvie. The senior Mr. McKelvie – the father of this man – long, long time ago, the senior Mr. McKelvie had befriended a young fellow by the name of Craig Davidson. And Craig Davidson was a great Christian man and a deacon in the church. And as the years passed by, the senior Mr. McKelvie had died, been translated to glory. And he had left in this earth a son by the name of Wil McKelvie, and the young man Will was not saved. He was not a Christian. And upon a day Mr. Craig Davidson, seated in his home, round the broad acres of his farm that spread before him, upon a day he began to think of the kindness of the senior Mr. McKelvie to him when he was a young man, and what he could do to repay the kindness of the senior Mr. McKelvie when he was a young man. But Mr. McKelvie senior was in heaven, and what could he do? And it came to his heart, "Why, his boy is not a Christian, his boy is not saved. This will I do, this will I do. Out of remembrance, out of remembrance of what Mr. McKelvie did for me, this will I do. I will win his boy to Jesus."
He was a very wayward, and obstreperous, and worldly young man. When revival meeting time came, under the tabernacle where I preached for so many times, there did Craig Davidson bow, and pray, and weep, and ask of God for the salvation of Will McKelvie, the young man. And upon an evening in the days of that revival, he walked all over that community, and said, "Neighbors, be sure to be at meeting tonight. Young Will McKelvie is going to be saved. Be sure to be present. Without fail, be there. Will McKelvie is going to be saved tonight."
Well, when the meeting was held and the people were there from the ends of the earth, and the heads of the hollow up and down the creek, while the preacher preached his sermon the appeal was made and the young man, Will McKelvie, made a mad dash out of the tabernacle into the night. But Craig Davidson had a promise of God. And he followed the young man into the night, and found him, and talked to him, and pled with him, and prayed with him, and came down to the aisle and to the altar there in the tabernacle, and they knelt together. And there the young fellow, Will McKelvie, was gloriously saved, marvelously saved. And they told me that people shouted and everyone rejoiced. It was like "heaven come down our souls to greet, and glory filled the mercy seat" ["From Every Stormy Wind that Blows," Hugh Stowell]. And thereafter he was one of the finest, noblest men of God in all central Texas. That’s why when he died – Will McKelvie died – I went to his funeral, just to live through again God’s mercies in His remembrance of His people.
That same thing will God do for the children of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. God will not close this age nor bring these days to their ultimate and final consummation until God hath won to Himself these children of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. God will remember His promises, His covenant. The Lord will not forget. And even the prophets described it. In those days, said Zechariah the prophet, God
, will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and they shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
They shall turn and repent.
And in that day there shall be a great mourning,
And in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
And I will bring the third through the fire, and will bless them and save them; and I will gather them, and I will say, These are My people; and they will say, And the Lord is my God.
[Zechariah 13:1, 9]
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east,
, and the Lord God shall come with all of His saints.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth,
And in that day, there shall be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.
Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts,
in the day when the Lord appears to His brethren.
Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad? The Lord will not leave His people in unbelief and in rejection.
And, my fellow saints, that is what Paul refers to in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians when he says, "And when the Lord was raised from the dead He appeared to Cephas, and He appeared to the twelve: and He appeared to five hundred brethren at once, and then He appeared to James His brother; then last of all, He was seen of me also" [1 Corinthians 15:4-7], and the King James Version is, "as the one born out of due time" [1 Corinthians 15:8], hosperei to ektrōmati. Hosperei – hosperei – hosperei, "as it were." As it were to ektrōmati, as it were "in an abortion," in an abortion. Ektrōma; we have an English word "trauma," "trauma." "Trauma," a wound by forcing; a hurt by an outside infliction, trauma, that’s where the word trauma comes from; trauma, a wound made by, say, a human hand; wound. An ektrōma is an abortion.
Well, what does Paul mean saying He was seen of Cephas, and then of the twelve: and then of the five hundred at once, and then He was seen of James, the Lord’s brother . . . and then last of all "He was seen hosperei, as it were, to me, an abortion, as the one born out of due time"? [1 Corinthians 15:5-8]. Why, it’s very evident what he means. There is a day coming, Paul believed, when the Lord would appear to all of His people. But He appeared to Paul before that time; born before that time, as an abortion, before the date.
Oh, the mercies of God to His people! How much they have suffered! How many have laid down their lives! How much they have offered unto God in these millenniums and centuries past! And the Lord will not forget them [Hebrews 6:10]. Here is an election and a remnant on this platform. And someday, someday, the Lord will appear to His people and show them His hands and His feet [Zechariah 12:10, John 19:37]. And there will be a great mourning in the house of Israel [Zechariah 12:11], and they will turn to their Lord, and that will be the time when the whole earth is filled with the glory and the knowledge of Christ Jesus [Isaiah 11:9]; when even the pots and the pans in the house are as holy as the golden instruments on the altar before the Lord [Zechariah 14:21].
God hath not forgotten, nor hath the Lord forsaken His people [Romans 11:1]. But the Lord hath purposed some glorious, heavenly, precious thing for them. And we shall rejoice together in Jesus. You will rejoice, and I will rejoice, and the whole earth and heaven above will join in the incomparable songs of praise, and thanksgiving, and gratitude to our living Lord. Oh, what a day, what a day!
Now we must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. In this balcony round, this throng on this lower floor, somebody you, give himself to Jesus. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, on the first note of the first stanza, come. In a moment when you stand up to sing, stand up coming: "Here I am, preacher. I make it today. I give my heart in trust to Jesus." Or, "I am bringing my family, and all of us are coming." Or a couple you, or just one somebody you, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Make it this morning, while we stand and while we sing.