God’s Faithfulness to Israel
February 1st, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-1-76 10:50 a.m.
And now the first part of this week for us, this day through Wednesday’s day, we are in a conference on prophecy, and our chosen family of God, the seed of Abraham, the house of Israel. And in keeping with that week, the pastor is delivering a message entitled, The Faithfulness of God to Israel.
And having come to the forty-third chapter of Isaiah, the reading of the text is this:
But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine . . .
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth;
Even every one that is called by My name: for I have created him—
for My glory, I have formed him—
yea, I have made him.
[Isaiah 43:1, 5-7]
There is no greater sorrow, nor could there be a greater confusion of interpretation than the tendency on the part of practically all of Christendom to identify the church with Israel and Israel with the church, that it would be Israel in the old covenant and the church in the New Testament, the new covenant, and that these are the same, all the way through—Israel/church, church/Israel. Such an interpretation of the Bible finally brings a student to such confusion that he becomes like the liberal. He turns aside from the Word of God, saying that it is nothing but a mass of confused contradictions.
If we will let the Bible say what it says and mean what it says, it will enmesh together like a beautiful and perfect mosaic. For the Lord God who inspired the first verses inspired all the way through to the last verses. And the Holy Spirit of wisdom is the author of it all [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. And if we will let the Bible speak to us just as it says and mean just as it says, the Bible will be for us an open and a marvelous Book.
For example, I have in my hand as beautiful a Bible as money could buy, given me by a dear member, a sainted member of our church. It is the Holy Bible, appointed to be read in churches, authorized King James Version. So, I open this Holy Book, and I look at the captions at the top of the text, written by the publisher. And preaching through the Book of Isaiah, I just look at the Book of Isaiah. And it says here at the top: “God’s promises to the church.” So I look here in the text to see what God says to the church. Instead, this is what I read: “But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend” [Isaiah 41:8]. I don’t see anything of the church. What I read about is Israel and Jacob and the seed of Abraham, God’s friend. I turn the page of the book, and it says: “The church comforted.” So I look down to read about the church, and instead this is the text: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel” [Isaiah 43:1].
I turn the page again to chapter 44. And I read up here at the top: “God’s promises comforting the church.” So I look down at the text, and this is what the text says: “Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, My servant; for thou, Jesurun”—that’s a pet name of God for Israel, “‘and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen” [Isaiah 44:1-2].
I turn the page again in my Bible, and I come to Isaiah 49. And the caption above reads, “The restoration of the church.” And I look down to see about the restoration of the church. And in the text, thus I read: “Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles . . . and they shall bring thy sons, the children of Israel, in their arms, and thy daughters, the daughters of Israel, shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers” [Isaiah 49:22-23].
I turn the page again to the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah, and I read here: “The church’s joy in Christ’s redemption.” So I look down here to read the church’s joy in Christ’s redemption, and the text says: “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem” [Isaiah 52:9].
I turn just again to the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah. And the caption at the top reads: “Christ’s mercy towards His church.” Then I read in the text: “I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord [hath] bestowed upon us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel” [Isaiah 63:7].
He remembered the days of old—Moses and his people; God that led them by the right hand of Moses with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them to make Himself an everlasting name [Exodus 14:15, 21-31]. Did you ever hear of the church being led to the Red Sea? And Moses, guiding the church through the divided waters of the Red Sea? Moses was leading Israel. And Israel passed through the divided waters of the Red Sea, and yet, my Bible captions every reference as though it were the church. No wonder men who are of a liberal persuasion finally junk the Bible as being a curiosity, a piece of antique literature that makes no sense.
By inspiration the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of Ephesians that the church was a mustērion, a secret kept in the heart of God until He revealed the church to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:2-12]. The prophets never saw it. They never dreamed of it. They never prophesied about it. They never mentioned it. They knew nothing of it. For the church, the third chapter of Ephesians says, is a mustērion, a secret that God kept in His heart until that day when He revealed it unto His holy apostles. So you can read the Old Testament, every syllable of it, front, back, middle, and both ends, and you will never, ever find the church in the Old Testament. It is a secret, a mustērion God kept in His heart.
Now, these people who avow that Israel is the church and the church is Israel—they say there is no longer any Jew, nor is he anything in God’s sight. He has disappeared from the elective purpose and family of God. And a man listening to me preach wrote me a castigating letter, and in it he said: “For the Scriptures say there is no longer in God’s sight a Jew.” And he quoted for me in his letter Romans 2:28-29: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise”—Judah means praise, it’s a play upon the word “Judah”— “whose Judah, whose Jew, whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
And that is his text. All Paul is saying in that text is that there are Jews who are not spiritual, and there are Jews who are spiritual. And he is a true Jew who is one in his heart and not outwardly. And the same can be said about a Christian. I’ll read the text and use us; “For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is that baptism which is in water, but he is a Christian which is one inwardly. And baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
The apostle Paul is not disavowing the presence of a Jew; what he’s saying is that there is a shallow outwardness among some of them, and there is a deep spiritual inwardness among others of them. And we could say the same about us. Among Christians, there are some who are shallow and outward and peripheral, while there are others who are deeply committed and sensitively spiritual.
Now, the same apostle Paul who wrote that in the second chapter of Romans also wrote in this great doctrinal epistle to the church at Rome a mighty parenthesis, Romans 9, 10, and 11. And it has to do with the mystery, the mustērion, the secret of Israel’s unbelief. And in that, he avows the presence of the Jew: “I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid! For I am an Israelite. I am a Jew of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” [Romans 11:1].
Then writing about the Jew, he says, “If you who are a Gentile, being not in the natural branches of the olive tree, if God grafted you in, how much more shall these who are the natural branches someday be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, have you without knowledge concerning this mustērion, this secret in God’s heart, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the plērōma, the full number of the Gentiles be come in”[Romans 11:24-25]—until the last one elected, whose name is written in the Book of Life, comes down that aisle. “And so, all Israel shall be saved: as it is written” [Romans 11:26]. Then he quotes Isaiah: “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is My covenant with them . . . For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:26-29; Israel 59:20].
God doesn’t change, and God doesn’t break His promise. And His promise is that Israel will be delivered from their iniquity and their unbelief and their sin. “And so all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26]. Now, how is it, that Jew? And who is he, and how does the Bible say concerning the seed of Abraham and the seed of Isaac and Jacob? What is a Jew? First of all, the word itself “Jew,” is a “Judah.” And as language sometimes does, if a fellow is named William, they’ll call him Will. If his name is called Robert, they’ll say Rob or Bob. Judah, and they shortened it to Jew. And after the Babylonian captivity, because Judah so preeminently presented the cause of the Jew before the world, the whole family of God was called Judahs or Jews.
Now, of the “seed of Abraham,” there are three ways that word is used. The descendants of Abraham, the “seed of Abraham”—there are three ways the word is used in the Bible. And the Bible is very consistent in presenting those three nomenclatures of the descendants of Abraham. Number one, it is used in the singular: the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of the woman, and it refers to the great Redeemer, Christ our Savior. In Genesis 3:15 the author writes, “The Seed of the woman”—as of one—“the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head.” In the introduction of Abraham, in Genesis 12:1 the Lord says, “And in thy seed”—as of one—“shall all the families of the earth be blessed” [Genesis 112:2-3, 22:15-18]. And in the third chapter of the Book of Galatians, the inspired apostle says, “It is not seeds, as of many, but Seed, as of one,” that in Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed, and that Seed is Christ [Galatians 3:16]. Now that’s one way that the word is used in the Bible; singular, the Seed of Abraham—referring to the great messianic hope of Christ our Redeemer.
The second way that word “seed” is used, the descendants of Abraham: it refers to all of the saved of all ages. The redeemed of God are the descendants spiritually of Abraham, all who are in the blessed kingdom, from the days of Abraham to the days of the millennial kingdom. For example, in the Book of Galatians, in that same third chapter, the apostle Paul will write: “There is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: but you are all one in Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, ye are Abraham’s seed, and heirs of the promise” [Galatians 3:28-29]. He does not mean that in actual life, there is not a woman and there is not a man. We’re still men and we’re still women. Here is a row of men. And there is a row of men. Right back there is a row of women, all except two men. And if you fellows would put on dresses, I could say, “And there is a whole row of women!” Yet, Paul says that “In Christ, there is neither male nor female, there is neither Jew nor a Greek.” He doesn’t mean there’s not a Greek, nor does he mean there’s not a Jew, or there’s not a man and there’s not a woman. He is saying that spiritually, in Christ, we are all one [Galatians 3:28]. And being one in the Lord, we are the descendants of Abraham and the heirs of the promise [Galatians 3:29]. Now that’s the second way that word is used in the Bible.
The third way that “seed” of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the descendants of Abraham—the third way that word is used in the Bible is to refer to the descendants and the children of Israel. And the Bible is very faithful and constant in that reference. The Jew, for example, James in the first verse, says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes” [James 1:1]. That doesn’t sound as though ten of them are lost. Nor does it sound as though there’s not a Jew any longer, “James, a servant of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes of the diaspora, those that are scattered abroad, greeting.”
And Simon Peter does the same thing. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners of the diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” [1 Peter 1:1]. The Jew in the Holy Word is here and very much in our midst and in the eye of the sovereign purpose of God. And the Lord is not done with him until he is perfected and in the kingdom. So as I pick up this Holy Scriptures and as I read them, I see in the Bible unconditional promises that the Lord God made to Israel.
And I have a corollary. It is this: if God breaks His promise to Israel, I have no persuasion but that He might break His promise to me. If He is a God that does not honor His Holy Word, then He is not a God in whom I can trust with rest and assurance. But when I read this Book, if I see that God is keeping His promise to Israel, then I have assurance that God will keep His promise to me.
So the subject of the message, God’s faithfulness to Israel, let’s look at it: those promises the Lord made to the house of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Number one: God said unconditionally that until the end of the age and forever, Israel should be a nation of people before Him. I read just one—we could spend hours on each one of these because they are so oft reiterated. I read one, Jeremiah chapter 31:35-36: “Thus saith the Lord that giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars by a light for the night; if those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord”—that there is not a sun to shine by day and there is not a moon and a star to shine by night—“then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.” “As long as the sun shines, and as long as the moon and the stars shine, just so long,” says the Lord God, “will Israel be a nation of people before Me” [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
Now, you don’t have any problem verifying that. Just look around you. Have you run into any Ammonites lately? Any Jebusites? Any Moabites? Any other of those
“-ites”? Have you run into them lately? Did you ever hear of anybody who ever saw anybody who ever heard of anybody who ran into an Ammonite, or a Jebusite, or a Moabite, or a Girgashite, or any other of those “ites?” Did you? I see the Jew all the time. I see them every day. Yesterday in my hospital visiting, I stumbled into Rabbi Saul Vesser out at Temple Shalom. He and I are bosom friends. We’re like blood brothers. I love that rabbi, and he loves me. I was out there at the hospital with him yesterday.
What’d God say? “As long as there is a sun that shines in the sky by day and a moon that shines in the sky by night and a star to twinkle by its side, just so long will there be a nation of Israel before Me forever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. That’s God’s unconditional promise. And I see it, am encouraged by it. He is faithful who wrote it.
All right, another promise: God said to the seed of Israel, “The land of Israel, the land of Canaan, is yours forever.” By an unconditional promise, the land belongs to them. Out of a multitude of passages I can read, I read Psalm 105, verses [8-11]: “God hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He hath commanded 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: saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance” [Psalm 105:8-11].
The lot of America is here. The lot of England is in the British Isles. The lot of France is in the Western Europe. The lot of Angola is in western Africa. And the lot of Israel, by an unconditional promise of God, is the land of Canaan. It belongs to them [Psalm 105:8-11]. And the rest of the world, we can divide up among ourselves. Egypt can have a part. And Saudi Arabia can have a part. And Persia, the Iranians, can have a part. And the Turks and the Greeks can have a part. But the lot God has unconditionally promised to Israel forever is the lot of Canaan. And that’s why the trouble and the trial and the bloodshed in the world, and we will never have peace until there is peace in Jerusalem. God gave that land to them in an unconditional promise, and He said, “Forever.”
A third thing: God said that they should have a King, and he would reign forever and ever. In the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel, God said to David, “Thou shalt have a Son, and He will sit upon your throne, and His dominion shall be forever and forever” [2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16]. In the second chapter of Matthew, there came Magi from the East saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” [Matthew 2:1-2]. King of the Jews. And when He was crucified, Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, wrote the subscription of His accusation above the cross, and it read, “this is Jesus the King of the Jews” [Matthew 27:37]. He was born a King [Matthew 1:20-25]. He died a King [Matthew 27:32-50]. And He is coming again, a King [Revelation 19:11-12]. There’s no such thing as the king of the church. The nomenclature, the imagery, is not in the Bible. He is the head of the church [Ephesians 5:23]. This is the great intermission.
But there’s coming a day, a glorious day, when the clouds shall part, when the sky shall be rolled back like a scroll and on the shekinah glory of the Almighty, the great King shall descend from heaven, His saints coming with Him [Jude 1:14; Zechariah 14:5]. And every eye shall see Him [Revelation 1:7]. And at the sounding of the seventh trumpet in the eleventh chapter of the Apocalypse, “I heard a great voice, saying, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” [Revelation 11:15]. King of kings, King of Israel, King of the nations, King of all God’s creation; He is a coming King. God promised to Israel a King. And the day is coming, according to the promise of God, when the nation will accept their Messiah and their King, and be converted [Romans 11:26-29]. A nation shall be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. My brethren, this is a mustērion, a secret in God’s heart.
“Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the plērōma of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25], until the last elected soul to be saved comes down that aisle; “and then all Israel shall be saved. For it is written,” and the Scriptures cannot be broken [John 10:35], God said, “There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My covenant that I made with them. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:26-29].
“O God,” he said, “who hath known the mind of the Lord?” [Romans 11:34]—it’s too much beyond us. “Who has been His counselor?”—to tell God what of the tomorrow. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him be glory forever and ever” [Psalm 11:36]. “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of the God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33].
There is coming a day, there is coming a day when Israel is back in her homeland [Ezekiel 20:41-42]. And according to Zechariah, the prophet, chapters 12 and 13, the Lord will appear to His brethren [Zechariah 12:10; 13:6-9], just as He appeared to James His brother [1 Corinthians 15:7], and His brothers with whom He grew up in Nazareth, and won them to faith in Himself. And just as He appeared to the apostle Paul [Acts 9:3-5], He will appear to His brethren, His people. And when He does, they will look upon Him and they will ask Him those nail prints in Your hands and Your feet, where did they come from? And He will say, “I was crucified by My own people” [Zechariah 13:6].
And they will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as a man would mourn if his eldest son died.
And there shall be a great mourning in Israel as the mourning at Haddad-rimmon when the people cried and wept over the slaughter by Pharaoh- Necho of Josiah, the good king of Judah.
And in those days, there shall be a fountain of cleansing opened for the house of David and for the house of Israel and for the chosen people of God
[Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1].
And they will turn to the Lord. They will accept their Lord King Messiah [Matthew 23:39].
No wonder Paul, reading the prophet, said: “O the depth of the riches and mercies of God, His ways are past finding out!” [Romans 11:33] Someday, they will be saved. They will look upon their Lord and accept Him as their Savior Redeemer [Romans 11:26-27; Zechariah 12:10]. And that is happening now. The apostle Paul writes here in this eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans: “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” [Romans 11:1].
“I am a Jew; a Hebrew Christian. Not just at the end of the age, but now.” This whole Bible I hold in my hand was written by those Jewish people, everyone of them. It’s from their pen. Peter was a Jew. James, John, our Lord Messiah and Redeemer was a Jew. And through the ages since, there have been great numbers of Hebrew Christians, mighty men of God, like the apostle Paul.
There has never lived a man who wrote of the life of our Lord like Alfred Edersheim. Many, many, many years ago, those two volumes: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, it has never been excelled. It never will be. Alfred Edersheim was a Hebrew Christian. There has been great and beautiful music written. There is none more exalted than that of Felix Mendelssohn. You sang from Felix Mendelssohn this morning in our offertory. He was a Hebrew Christian.
One of the great architects of the British Empire was Benjamin Disraeli who under Queen Victoria, prime minister built the vast extent of the British Empire. He was a Hebrew Christian. And today, a flaming evangelist, Hyman Appleman, he’s a Hebrew Christian. Or Charles Feinberg, a brilliant and gifted theologian, he’s a Hebrew Christian. On our platform this morning, the distinguished Dr. Daniel Fukes from New York City, heading this conference on prophecy this week, he is a Hebrew Christian.
And you may not know it, seated by your side today, the man, the woman who’s close to you, may be a Hebrew Christian. They are on our board of deacons. They are superintendents of our Sunday school. They are spiritual leaders and soulwinners in the church. “Hath God cast away His people? God forbid, for I also am of the seed of Abraham, an Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin” [Romans 11:1]. So through the years and the years, God gives a harbinger, an earnest of what ultimately He is going to do with the whole family of God. There are those who turn to Jesus as Messiah and Lord now, as someday the whole nation will accept Him as their King and their Redeemer [Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:26].
Oh, the mystery of the work of God in the earth! Sometimes we have the feeling the earth is without direction, and human history has lost its purpose, and all of it is a jungle labyrinth of frustration and contradiction. Not so. Up there in glory there sits a great and mighty God. And He guides through every day, through all time and tide, through the nations and their history, through the conflicts that Satan oversows down here in the world. But God is sovereign, and He shall lead us yet to that ultimate and final victory that He has promised to the Seed of Abraham, the Messiah Redeemer Christ Jesus. And to the seed and descendants of Abraham, those whose spiritually look in trust to our Lord and also to the chosen family, seed of Israel who live in our midst and shall till Jesus comes again: God’s faithfulness to Israel and God’s faithfulness to us.
Thus to give your heart to the God who saves and keeps or thus to present your life with us in the communion and ministry of this dear church, if the Holy Spirit has whispered words of appeal to you, today, will you answer with your life? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” And the great multitude of you, by the thousands who have watched and listened to this service on radio or on television, today, would you open your heart to the truth of God revealed in this blessed Book and in our great Redeemer Christ Jesus? [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Would you kneel where you are? Would you tell God all about it? Ask Him to forgive your sin [1 John 1-9], to write your name in the Book of Life [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20], and to walk by your side, a friend in the pilgrimage that remains in this earth. Wherever you are today, would you give your heart to Jesus? God hear your prayer, and the Lord save you to the glory that is yet to come. And in the great throng in this vast auditorium, you, “I feel God calling me to faith, to membership, to discipleship, and I’m coming today.” Make the decision in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.