God’s Faithfulness to Israel
February 1st, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-1-76 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this service with us on the radio on the radio of the city of Dallas, on WRR. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled, God’s Faithfulness to Israel. In our church, beginning with the message of the pastor this morning, and then tonight with Daniel Dukes, a Hebrew Christian, and then each day and night through Wednesday we are in a conference on the Holy Scriptures. In these days, I have been preaching through the Book of Isaiah and have come to the forty-third chapter, and in keeping with the subject introducing our week of study, isn’t it amazing that the passage in front of me should be the exact text that the pastor ought to use? Isaiah 43:1:
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, Israel, for My glory, I have formed him, Jacob; yea, I have made him, the seed of Abraham.
[Isaiah 43:1, 5-7]
I do not know of a greater sadness in the interpretation and understanding of the Word of God than the almost universal willingness of the church to identify itself as Israel. They are two different things, Israel and the church. But practically all of Christendom seeks to identify the two. Even though in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians the apostle expressly writes, and at great length, that the church was a mustērion, a secret, God kept in His heart until the day that He revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:1-6].
The prophets never saw the church. They never, therefore, prophesied of the church. They never knew of the church. It was the secret, Paul says, God kept in His heart until that day when He revealed it to His apostles [Ephesians 3:5]. And yet, and yet, practically all of Christendom will identify the church with Israel and Israel with the church. And the result has been an almost hopeless confusion and frustration in interpreting the Word of God.
For example, I hold in my hands a very beautiful Bible given me by a sainted member of our congregation. Beautifully bound and it is the Holy Bible, “appointed to be read in churches,” authorized King James Version [e.g., The Illuminated Bible, 1846]. Then I turn to the Bible to read here from its sacred page, and at the top are captions, and I look at those captions.
- Isaiah, through which I am now preaching, the forty-first chapter of Isaiah, the caption, “God’s Promises to the Church.” Then I seek to read God’s promises to the church but the text says: “But thou, Israel art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend” [Isaiah 41:8].
- I turn the page again to the forty-third chapter, my text. The caption: “The Church Comforted with God’s Promises.” So I look to read about the church, comforted with God’s promises, and the text says, “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 to the next chapter, chapter 44 and I read the caption again, “The Church Comforted with God’s Promises.” And I look down, underneath to read about the church and instead, this is what I read:
“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; and thou, Jesurun”— a little pet name for Israel, God’s pet name for His people—“and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen [Isaiah 44:1-2].
- I turn the page again to chapter 49, and I read “The Restoration of the Church, The Restoration of the Church.” Then I read, below “The Restoration of the Church,” and this is what the text says: “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they, the Gentiles, shall bring thy sons, the sons of Israel, in thy 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,” talking about Israel [Isaiah 49:22-23]
- I turn again, to the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah and it says “The Church’s Joy in Christ’s Redemption.” Then I look before and below to read the church’s joy of Christ’s free redemption, and this is what I read in the text: “Break forth into singing, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem” [Isaiah 52:9].
- I turn, just once again, taking these as typical, in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah this Bible reads, “Christ’s Mercy Towards His Church.” So I look to read about Christ’s mercy towards His church, and this is what I read: “I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness of God toward the house of Israel” [Isaiah 63:7]. “Then He remembered the days of old, Moses and his people…Moses, and God led them by the right hand of Moses with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make Himself an everlasting name?” [Isaiah 63:11, 12].
Now do you think that God ever went before the church and divided the waters at the Red Sea in order that He make for Himself an everlasting name? When you do that you, plunged the whole Word of God into endless confusion. And no wonder that the liberals that try to teach the Word of God, with an interpretation like that, finally say, “It is nothing but a confused mass of contradictions.” Then they turn aside to teaching ethics, or history, or some other economic or political or moral subject.
The Bible will always say what it means, and it will always mean what it says. And if you will follow the Word of God and let it say what it says, and mean what it means, you will have a system of theology and interpretation that will fit beautifully as a glorious mosaic from the beginning to the end.
Now somebody who knows how I feel about the interpretation of this Holy Book wrote me a letter, and in that letter he said to me, “You say there is Israel, and then you say there is the church. There is no longer an Israel, and there is no more any Jew.” Then 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, and not in the letter; whose Judah, Jew, praise is not of men, but of God” [Romans 2:28, 29]. It’s a play upon the word Judah, praise, “whose praise, who Judah, whose Jew, is not of men, but of God” [Romans 2: 29]. Now, what the man who wrote me doesn’t realize is, the apostle is making a distinction between a spiritual man who is committed to God and an unspiritual man who is not committed to God.
Now I can read the same thing about a Christian. Let me substitute “Christian.” “Now he is not a Christian which is one outwardly; neither is that baptism, which is outward in the water: But he is a Christian, which is one inwardly; and true baptism is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” [Romans 2: 29]. What he’s talking about in the passage is, the difference between a formal outwardness of profession and a deep inwardness of true commitment to God. And that’s true with the Jew. There are some of them that are devout. There are some of them that are atheists, and avowedly so. It is so in the Christian church. There are some who are deeply spiritual, and then there are Christians who are a travesty upon the name of our Lord.
Does that mean that there is no Jew? For in that same epistle, the Book of Romans, Paul expressly says in the great section, Romans 9, 10, and 11—that’s a marvelous parenthesis in the doctrinal dissertation called Romans about God’s dealing with Israel’s unbelief—“I say then,” he begins the chapter:
Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of [Benjamin].
Then he says to us [Romans 11:1]:
If you Gentiles a wild olive, were grafted into the family of God, how much more shall these, the true olive branch, the seed of Abraham, be grafted into their own olive tree?
I will not have you, brethren, ignorant of this mustērion—
a secret, God kept in His heart until He revealed it here on the sacred page—
I would not have you ignorant of this mustērion lest you be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness, the plērōma, the last one that is to be saved of the ten tribes, 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, he says, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, without change.
[Romans 11:1, 24-26, 29]
God does not change [Malachi 3:10]. Not in the great elective purpose by which He guides and guards the elective purpose of God in the world.
Well, then, who is a Jew? And what is a Jew? The word refers of course, Jew is shortened for Judah, a Judah, a Jew. And after the captivity when the people came back from Babylon, practically all of them belonged to the household of Judah. So they took the word Judah, Jew, and applied it to the seed of Abraham over the whole earth. They used the word Jew for an Israelite.
Now there are three ways in the Bible that that word Jew is used, the seed of Abraham, the descendants of Abraham. Number one: the Seed refers to Christ. That’s one way that the Bible uses it. For example, at Genesis 3:15, the great Protoevangelium, the first announcement of the gospel, “the Seed, the Seed” singular, “the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head” [Genesis 3:15]. And then, beginning the story of Abraham in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed” [Genesis 12:3], all the families of creation be blessed. And in the third chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul expounds upon that verse, and he says, “The Lord said not seeds as of many, but Seed, as of one, and that Seed is Christ” [Galatians 3:16]. That’s what Paul says. So, the Seed of Abraham; the descendant of Abraham is used first to refer to the great Messiah Christ. “And in thy Seed, as of one, as of the Lord Redeemer, shall all the families of the world be blessed” [Acts 3:25].
Now the second way that word the descendants of Abraham, the seed of Abraham is used is to refer to all of the redeemed of all ages: from the days of Abraham to the end of a millennial kingdom, the children of Abraham, the seed of Abraham referring to all of the redeemed of all the centuries [Galatians 3:7]. For example, Paul will write in the Book of Galatians, he will write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; but you are all one in Christ. And if you be in Christ, then are you Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise” [Galatians 3:28-29]. There he is talking about the great spiritual family of God. There’s not a Jew in Christ. There’s not a Greek in Christ. There’s not a bond in Christ, or a free in Christ. There’s not a male in Christ, or a female in Christ, but we are all one in the Lord. And if we are in Christ, we are Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise.
That’s the second way that word is used, the descendants of Abraham. We are the spiritual family of God, whether in the Old Covenant, whether in the New Testament, whether some of us are alive in this world, or some of us are with the Lord in heaven: we’re all one in Jesus Christ.
Now the third way that word is used is to refer to the literal descendants of Israel, namely the Jew. When he says there’s neither male nor female in Christ, does that mean that in this actual life there’s no woman and there’s no man? Look around you. There’s a whole row of men. Here is a whole row of men. Were it not for Wilmer, there’d be a whole row of women right there. You put on a dress, I’d say there’s a whole row of women right there. You see, there are great spiritual truths, but that does not do away with the realities and the facts of human life and existence, and this is one of them.
Now I want to show you. James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, begins his epistle, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes of the Diaspora, greetings” [James 1:1]. The Diaspora is scattered here, scattered abroad, the dispersion, the Diaspora. After the Jews lost their homeland they were scattered abroad, but they never ceased to exist. “James, a servant of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes.” So, they’re still here [James 1:1]. There’s not ten lost, all twelve of them. “To the twelve tribes of the Diaspora, greetings” [[James 1:1]. All right, look again, the way Simon Peter began his first epistle, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers, to the sojourners of the Diaspora throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” [1 Peter 1:1]. And of course, in the Book of Romans, chapters 9, 10, and 11 are directed to the unbelieving Israelite, the unbelieving Jew [Romans 9-11].
So the word Jew not only refers to the Seed, Christ [Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16; Acts 3:25], and to the redeemed of all ages, those that are won in God, in our Lord, saved, washed [Galatians 3:28-29]; but it refers also, the Jew, to that man who is a descendent of Israel and is called an Israelite, a Jew [James 1:1].
Now the subject of the message is God’s Faithfulness to Israel. “Thus saith the Lord” to Jacob, “and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: I have called thee by thy name, and I have redeemed thee [Isaiah 43:1] and I will gather thee from the ends of the earth [Deuteronomy 30:3-4]; thy sons and thy daughters.” Now a great basic corollary and assumption: if God breaks His promise to the Jew, how do I know but that He will break His promise to me? If He doesn’t keep every word that He said to the Israelite, how do I know but that He will break His word to me? When I read what God has said to Israel, it matters because God also has made some promises to me and to us. And I depend and believe in God that He will keep His word. But if He breaks it, I have no hope and no ultimate salvation.
Now what does God say to the Jew? God’s faithfulness to Israel. Number one: God says that he will be a nation of people before Him forever. There is a promise that you can read and substantiate in history. Is that true? In Jeremiah chapter 31 verse 35 and 36 [Jeremiah 31:35-36], “Thus saith the Lord, the God that giveth the sun for a light by day, And the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night… If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord,” that there is not a sun to shine by day and no moon and stars by night, “then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. “As long as there is a sun that shines and moon and stars that come out at night, just so long,” says the Lord God, “will there be a nation of Israel before Me.” Now there’s a promise that you can verify or see it’s false premise. Do you see any Amorites today? Do you see any Moabites today? Do you see any Gergisites today? Do you see any Jebusites today? See any Moabites today? Man, I never saw anybody who ever saw anybody who ever heard of anybody who ever saw anybody who ever heard of anybody who ever thought of anybody who ever saw a Moabite or a Jebusite or an Ammonite or any of those “ites.” But God said the Jew would be here and walk up the streets of Dallas. I meet them every day. God said they will be here until the end of the age. And they’ll be a people before me. And they are. I read about them every day in the headlines of the newspaper; God’s faithfulness to Israel.
Now again, God says by unconditional covenant and promise that the land of Israel belongs to him. I won’t take forty dozen passages, I’ll take one. Listen to Psalm [Psalm 105:8-11].
God hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He 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.
All over this earth the Chinese have that and the Americans have this, and the French have that, and the English have that, and the Black Angolans have that, but this is the lot of the inheritance of the seed of Israel forever [Psalm, 105:8-11]. And the land of Palestine by the promise of Almighty God, in unconditional covenant, belongs to Israel. And the rest of the world we divide up among ourselves, but that God hath given in unconditional promise to the seed of Israel, to the Jews [Psalm, 105:8-11].
Number three, God’s faithfulness to Israel: God has promised Israel they shall have a king forever. In 2 Samuel chapter 7 [2 Samuel 7], the Lord God said to David, “Thou shalt have a Son, and He shall sit upon thy throne for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” [2 Samuel 7:13-16]. They have a King. In the second chapter of the Book of Matthew there came magi from the East saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” [Matthew 2:1-2] What? “King of the Jews.” And in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Matthew, “And Pilate wrote over His head the superscription of His accusation saying, This is Jesus the King of the Jews” [Matthew 27:37]. He died a King [Matthew 27:45-50].
Now the great intermission, the age of the church, the mustērion, in the heart of God that the prophets never saw [Ephesians 3:3-11]. And someday, the intermission shall pass. This day of grace and evangelism shall pass, and it shall come to pass that the clouds will part and the heavens be rolled back like a scroll [Revelation 6:14] and He, the King of Glory, shall descend [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. “For,” said the Apocalypse, “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of our Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” [Revelation 11:15]. He is a coming King. There’s no such nomenclature in the Bible as the king of the church. He is the head of the church [Ephesians 5:23], this great intermission. But He is the King of Israel and He is the King of the nations and He is the King of all kings [Revelation 19:16]. He is the Lord God pantokratōr. That’s a part of God’s faithfulness to Israel. He is their and our King, and He has a coming kingdom [Revelation 11:15]. God’s faithfulness to Israel; there is coming a time when they shall be converted [Romans 11:26-29]. A nation shall be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8].
Romans 11:25-26, this mustērion, “Blindness, in part has happened to Israel, until the plērōma, the last one elected among the Gentiles, be come in,” come down that aisle. And when that happens, “All Israel shall be saved, as is written, There will come a Deliverer out of Zion that will turn away unbelief and ungodliness from Jacob, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:29]. He does not change [Malachi 3:6].
And in Zechariah chapters 12 and 13, there is described the conversion of Israel, “They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and they shall say, Where did You get those wounds in Your hands and in Your feet? and He will say, I received them from My own people [Zechariah 13:6]. I was nailed to the tree. And there shall be a great mourning in Israel such as the mourning at Megiddon at Hadad-rimmon” [Zechariah 12:10-11], mourning over the slaughter of King Josiah by Pharaoh Neco. There will be a mourning in Israel like that. “And in that day there shall be a fountain open for cleansing” [Zechariah 13:1]. And they shall look upon Him, and they will receive their Lord Messiah and Savior. So all Israel shall be saved [Romans 11:26], in a day, at the great last moment, at the end of the age.
In the meantime, God is saving some now. “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]. There are some who have accepted the Lord now. And Paul says, “I am one.” All of this New Testament was written by Jews. Peter was a Jew, John was a Jew, James was a Jew, our Lord was a Jew. And the whole Bible is given to us from their gracious hands, and Paul mentions it, that God cast away His people? “No. For I am a Jew of the seed of Abraham of the tribe of Benjamin” [Romans 11:1].
I wish I had time to expostulate and expound on 1 Corinthians 15:8. “And last of all He was seen of me, as one born ekrōma before the time,” in an abortion, before the time. What is Paul saying? “And last of all, after He had appeared to the apostles [John 20:19-29], and after He appeared to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], and after He appeared to the five hundred brethren at once [1 Corinthians 15:6; Matthew 28:16], then last of all He was seen of me. He appeared to me on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:2-5]. He appeared to me as ekrōma, one born before the time” [1 Corinthians 15:8]. What he’s talking about is, there is coming a time when the Lord will appear to His brethren, His people. And they will believe in Him and accept Him and worship Him. And He will be their King and Lord Messiah as He will be ours. “But I was introduced to the faith ekrōma, before the time, before the time” [1 Corinthians 15:8].
And all through the generations are those who have accepted the Lord as their Savior and their Messiah. The greatest church historian in the life of Christ who ever lived is Alfred Edersheim. He wrote two great volumes entitled The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. It has never been rivaled. I don’t think it ever will be. Alfred Edersheim was a Hebrew Christian. Once in a while, our choir will sing from the glorious pen of Felix Mendelssohn; he was a Hebrew Christian. The man who was the architect of the great world-covering, world-spreading British Empire under Queen Victoria was named Benjamin Disraeli, a Hebrew Christian.
And in our day, Hyman Appleman is a flaming evangelist, a Hebrew Christian. Charles Feinberg is one of the greatest theologians who breathes today; he’s a Hebrew Christian. And you might not realize it, but all through this church, there and yonder and there, are Hebrew Christians. They’re on our board of deacons; they’re superintendents of our Sunday school. They are out here visiting and knocking at the doors. They are Hebrew Christians.
I’m so glad. I praise God for His faithfulness. For if He does not keep that promise to Israel, He may break it to me. But as I read and as I study, every word and promise of God in Christ is everlastingly Yea and Amen [2 Corinthians 1:20]. And in that promise I find rest and peace for my soul, both for me and for them.
Here we’ve far passed our allotted time. In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, to give your heart to a God answering, promise-keeping Lord, to accept Him as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13], to come into the fellowship of our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. Make it now. Decide now. When you stand up, stand up walking down one of these stairways, coming down one of these aisles. “Pastor, here I am, to be with God and the Lord’s redeemed people, I’m coming.” And welcome, while we stand and while we sing.