Israel in the Remembrance of God
October 31st, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
ISRAEL IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-31-82 10:50 a.m.
Would you like to know something? This is the oratorio, the song, aria they just sang. Can you see whose picture is up there in the corner of that? Can you see that? You can’t see that? It’s too small. Well, that’s my picture up there. And the song they just sang is a translation that I made of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 33 to 36 [Romans 11:33-36]. Now you didn’t know that I did that, did you? A most deserved applause, I assure you. Orchestra and choir, you’re the ultimate; you’re the best; you’re the maximum; nobody like you.
And the passage for the background of the message this morning is in that same eleventh chapter in that Book of Romans [Romans 11] just above where you sang. In these years now, of preaching the great doctrines of the Bible, the many messages are divided into fifteen sections. And the section in which we are now engaged, involved, preaching, is called berithology. That’s a name that I have invented for it; berith is the Hebrew word for covenant, and berithology is a name that I put together describing the study, the doctrine of the great covenants of God, the promises of God to Israel.
Two Sundays ago, the message was entitled Has God Cast Away His People? That is the beginning of the discussion of these covenants in Romans 9, 10, and 11 by the apostle Paul. Last Sunday, the message was entitled The Problem of Israel’s Unbelief. Next Sunday the message will be entitled Israel’s Agony and Glory. The following Sunday, which will be the last of this section in berithology Peace Between Arab and Jew. And the message today is entitled Israel in the Remembrance of God.
Reading from Romans, chapter 11, beginning at verse 25:
For I would not, my brethren, that ye should be without knowledge of this mustērion—God’s secret—that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the plerōma, the fullness—
the last number of the elected among the Gentiles—
be come in.
And then all Israel shall be saved: as it is written—
in Isaiah 59:20-21—
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins—
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
[Romans 11: 29]
They are without change; they are forever; they are eternal. What God has said, He will do. What God hath purposed, it will come to pass; Israel: in the remembrance of God. The phrase, the clause, “God remembered” is so oft times found in the Holy Scriptures.
- In Genesis 8:1: “And God remembered Noah.”
- In Genesis 19:29: God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the cities, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.
- In Genesis 30, God remembered Rachel . . . and gave into her arms a little son whom she called Joseph [Genesis 30:22-24].
- In 1 Samuel 1:19, God remembered Hannah, and the Lord gave her a little baby whom she called Samuel, “asked of God” [1 Samuel 1:19-20].
In the same way, the Lord God remembers the covenant and the promises that He made with Israel. In Isaiah 49:13:
Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon them.
But Zion said—
the people said—
The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, that mother may forget, but I will not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; and thy walls are continually before Me.
Israel in the remembrance of God. In [Numbers 23:19], the great lawgiver Moses said, “God is not a man that He should lie . . . but what He saith, He will do. And what He speaks, He will bring it to pass.” Thus it is that the story of the Book of Exodus begins in the remembrance of God. Exodus 2:24: “And God heard their groanings”—their servitude, their slavery in the land of Egypt—”And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God remembered them” [Exodus 2:24-25].
In that awesome day of judgment, when the people danced naked around the golden calf [Exodus 32:19], and God said to Moses, “You step aside and let My wrath consume these people,” Moses spoke to the Lord in Exodus 32:13: “Remember, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to whom Thou swarest that ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give it to you . . . and you should inherit it.” And the Lord remembered that covenant. “And the Lord repented”—He turned—”from the evil which He thought to do unto His people” [Exodus 32:14].
In the Book of Leviticus 26:44, the Lord says that when the people are scattered abroad because of their transgressions and disobedience [Leviticus 26:33], beginning at verse 42:
Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
And when they be cast out, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly . . .
But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.
[Leviticus 26:42, 44, 45]
Israel in the remembrance of God. There is in the Bible what we call the Palestinian covenant. It has two parts. The first part is delineated in the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy:
If thou will observe to do all of the words of the law, then you will inherit the land. But if you disobey the law of God, you will be dispersed and plucked up out of the land because of your disobedience. Ye shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of the heaven . . . And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, to multiply you; the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, to bring you to naught; and you shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest . . . And the Lord shall scatter thee among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other.
[Deuteronomy 28:1, 15, 62-64]
And the rest of that chapter, God says to Israel, “You obey My voice and the land is yours to dwell in. In prosperity I will multiply My blessings upon you, but if you depart from My law, I will pluck you up and scatter you over the earth” [Deuteronomy 28:63-64]. But there is another part to that Palestinian covenant: the same Lord God that said, “I will pluck you up and scatter you abroad” [Deuteronomy 28:63-64], also said, “I will visit you; I will deliver you; and I will faithfully restore you” [Jeremiah 27:22, 29:10].
Then the Lord thy God—
in Deuteronomy chapter 30—
will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it.
[Deuteronomy 30:3, 5]
This returning to the land on the part of the nation Israel is repeated so many times in Holy Scriptures that we would be here the rest of the day reading those faithful unchanging promises and covenants of God; found in Isaiah 11:11-12, in Jeremiah 23:3-8: in Ezekiel 37, the whole vision of the valley of dry bones is the resurrection of the nation of Israel from the grave and the nations of the world in which she has been buried [Ezekiel 37:1-28]. The Scriptures say that Israel will be restored as a nation in their own land: Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Jeremiah 31:35-36; and Amos 9:14-15, among a great multitude of other prophecies.
And this part of the prophecy we are also beginning to see come to pass. Not only in the Babylonian captivity did God send them out of their land, but He did so again in judgment in 70 AD, when Titus destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. And they flooded the slave markets of the world with Jewish captives. And for almost two thousand years, the nation, the people were buried among the countries and inhabitants of the globe. But God said, “The day will come when you will return to the land as a nation.”
And in May 1948, we saw that prophecy come to pass. Israel returned to her home and is returning to her home—a nation once again with a national political life. And we read of her in every issue of every paper of the earth. That is God’s faithfulness to His covenants and to His promises. But the prophets also say something that to me is one of the most amazing developments in human history. When Israel returns, she will return in unbelief, in rejection, and she will return as in a fiery furnace.
She will return in unbelief. In Ezekiel 36, verses 24 [Ezekiel 36:24] and following:
I will take you from the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then—not until—then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean.
A new heart will I give you, a new spirit will I put within you: I will take away that heart of [stone] . . .
. . . And I will cause you to walk in My statutes and My judgments . . .
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
Israel, according to the prophecy, returns to the land in unbelief. And it is only after she is in the land that she is converted, and a nation is born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. And the prophet says in Ezekiel 22 that when she returns, she returns in a furnace because of her rejection. If you don’t believe Israel is in a furnace, just read the headline of any newspaper in any nation in the world.
Ezekiel 22, beginning at verse 19:
Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, ye are become dross when I gather you in the midst of Jerusalem.
As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you, in My fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.
I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst thereof.
As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and you shall know that I the Lord have poured out My fury upon you.
Now I say that’s one of the most amazing prophecies, and it is one of the most unbelievable developments in human story. The Jew, practically all of them in the nation in Israel, is an atheist. He is there in unbelief. There is a little, tiny, infinitesimal percentage of them—a little handful—that are orthodox. But the average, most of the Jews in the nation of Israel are atheists. That is astonishing! That’s just what God said. They will return in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28].
When I was visiting Russia the first time, there was assigned to the five of us preachers touring the nation—there was assigned to us the Intourist guides which is wholly controlled by the government, and they were Jewish, the young man and his wife. Her name was Svetlana. She was the more forward, the more vigorous, and the more garrulous, talkative, of the two. I don’t know whether that’s unusual for a wife to be or not, but anyway she was.
So spending days and days with them and being so interested in them because they were Jewish, I talked to them; did so hours on end. And they were very emphatic and proud of the fact that, even though they were Jews, they were atheists. They were communist; they were humanist; they were secularist. They didn’t believe in God.
Well, I asked them about father and mother and about grandparents. Yes, they were devout Jews, but not they. And they said to me, “My grandparents on both sides—our grandparents attend the synagogue, but when they die, there will be no one to attend the synagogue, and the synagogue will be destroyed. It will cease to exist.” And they said that to me not with great sadness. It made me sad. They said it with great pride and triumphant joy. It’s hard to believe.
The greatest scientist of the twentieth century was Albert Einstein, a Jew. And Albert Einstein said, “I want you to understand that I am an atheist. And when I die, I want my body cremated; I want it burned”—which violates Jewish tradition—“I want my body burned, and I don’t want a service of memory,” a memorial funeral hour. “And after my body is burned, I want the ashes scattered to the four winds of the earth.”
And when Albert Einstein died, there was no memorial service. They cremated his body. They burned it and they scattered his ashes to the four winds of the earth—our greatest human scientist in this twentieth century, a Jew, an atheist. It is unbelievable. It is astonishing what the prophet says; they will return as a nation in unbelief, and they will return in a furnace, in a fury, in a fire [Ezekiel 22:19-22].
Don’t you ever persuade yourself that any Camp David accord or any Sadat concordat will bring peace to the Middle East. There will be no peace there until the sermon after next: Peace between Arab and Jew. God has a lot to say about that between Arab and Jew.
Now the Holy Bible says, God’s sacred Scriptures say that when Israel is in the land, Israel is going to be converted. She’s going to be saved; she is going to be changed; she is going to be delivered. God is going to visit her [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. And Isaiah describes it as a nation born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. That is, the conversion of Israel is not an historical process over the ages, over the centuries. But it is a fiat of God; it is a direct intervention of God in the same way that the Lord Jesus, God incarnate, visited His brother, James, and won him to the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:7]. James became pastor of the church at Jerusalem [Acts 15:13].
And He visited His brethren, all of them in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. All the brethren of the Lord with their mother, Mary, are there worshipping the Lord Jesus [Acts 1:14]. In the same way that the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus and won him to the faith [Acts 9:1-18]—in that same miraculous, wonderful way, the Lord will appear to Israel [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. And the nation will be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. This is what God says.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, the text that we first read, when that last Gentile comes down this aisle, when the plerōma, when the full number is brought in [Romans 11:25], then:
All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer. The Lord will come and turn away ungodliness from Jacob:For
this is My covenant with them, when I shall save them. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.
[Romans 11:26-27, 29]
Now one of the discerning men in the congregation came to me after this last sermon and said, “Pastor, are there two ways to be saved? Does God save us in one way and is He to save Israel in another way?” Is the salvation of Israel any different from our salvation? Or are they going to be saved as we are going to be saved? Is there a difference in our salvation, the way we’re converted; and Israel’s salvation, the way they are converted? Oh, we turn to the Word of the Lord. How is a man saved, whether he’s a Gentile like us or whether he is a Jew like them.
How is a man saved? The Scriptures avow that there is only one way of salvation. Through all the revelation of God it never changes; it’s one way. In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, under the law, under grace—no matter where we are in the pages of the Bible, all of us are saved the same way, no difference. We are saved by repentance, by turning and by acceptance of the grace and mercy of God—by casting ourselves upon the mercy of God. In repentance and faith, all of us are saved alike [Acts 20:21].
Now the Scriptures faithfully portray the conversion of Israel. When the end time comes and the consummation of the age is reached, the Scriptures distinctly and pronouncedly delineate the conversion of Israel. And it goes like this: at the end time—Zechariah 13:8-9:
It shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: that one third shall call upon My name, and I will hear them: I will say, You are My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.
And the Lord spoke through Ezekiel saying there in the land as a nation:
As I pleaded when you came forth out of the land of Egypt, so I will plead with you again in that land.
And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me.
[Ezekiel 20:36, 38]
And these that turn and repent and believe, these shall be saved; “and ye shall know that I am the Lord” [Ezekiel 20:38].
Well, how does the Lord do that? When He says that “I am going to take the nation of Israel and two-thirds of them will not accept,” they will not believe. They will not turn; they will not repent. And two-thirds of them will be cut off and die [Zechariah 13:8]. “But the third that are left will repent and believe and be saved, and they will say, ‘You are my Lord,’ and I will say, ‘You are My people’” [Zechariah 13:8-9].
Now how does God do that? In the same way that He does it with us—in the exact and precise way. Zechariah chapter 12, beginning at verse 10:
I 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 Me whom they have pierced—
One shall say: What are these wounds in Thine hands? [Zechariah 13:6]—
And they shall mourn, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
And in that day there shall be a great mourning—a great repenting, a great sorrowing, a great weeping—as the mourning in Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
When good King Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Necho in that plain of Esdraelon at Megiddo, where Armageddon is going to be—in that place where good King Josiah was slain, there was a great mourning on the part of Israel [2 Chronicles 35:20-24]. There’s going to be a mourning in Jerusalem; a lamentation, a weeping, a bitterness of confession, as in Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
All the families that remain—that one-third—all the families that remain, every family apart and their wives apart.
You see, we’re never saved by globs, and by bucketfuls, and by oceans full, and by cities, and by nations. We’re saved one at a time: the family of David over here apart, weeping before God; and the family of Nathan over here apart, weeping before God; and the family of Levi, and the family of Shimei, each one, and even the wife apart—not even the man and his wife together. He can’t believe for her. She can’t believe for him. He can’t repent for her. She can’t repent for him. Each one apart—they are mourning before God, having seen Him whom they have pierced [Zechariah 12:10-14].
Now what God does: “And in that day”—this is the next verse—”there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” [Zechariah 13:1].
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One.
All hail to the Father, all hail to the Son,
All hail to the Spirit, the great Three in One.
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One.
[“Saved by the Blood,” S.J. Henderson]
In that day there shall be a fountain opened for uncleanness to wash our sins away [Zechariah 13:1]. I have spoken in prophecy here of the way Israel is saved. It’s the same identical way that we are saved [Titus 3:5].
William Cowper, a young fellow came up to me and said, “Is that William Cow-per?”
“Yup. They just pronounce it Coo-per; you pronounce it Cow-per.” William Cow-per, William Cowper wrote of that fountain. Do you remember it?
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plung’d beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
[“There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” William Cowper, 1771]
In that day there shall be a fountain opened in Jerusalem for uncleanness that we might be washed from our sins, that we might be saved [Zechariah 13:1].
Now William Cow-per, William Cowper had a wonderful friend and companion and they lived in Olney, an English town, in the same house; those two marvelous English poets and hymn writers. The other one was John Newton, who wrote, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
John Newton was born in the early 1700s. His mother died. And he went to seed; a sorrier spectacle of humanity never lived than the worthless, loathsome John Newton. He was debased; he was given to blasphemy; he was a deserter from the Navy. They flogged him; they beat him; they put him in prison. He finally sold himself as a slave to a slave trader in Africa.
Then he was miraculously and marvelously and gloriously saved. How was he saved—this John Newton who wrote “Amazing Grace” and who lived in the house in Olney with [William] Cow-per, [William] Cowper?
He describes it; he wrote:
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood.
He fixed His languid eyes on me
As near His cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair.
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
Alas, I knew not what I did
But now my tears are vain.
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I, my Lord have slain.
A second look He gave which said:
I freely all forgive.
This blood is for thy ransom paid
I died that thou mayest live.
Oh, can it be upon a tree
My Savior died for me?
My heart is filled,
My soul is thrilled to think
That He died for me.
[“O Can It Be Upon a Tree,” John Newton, 1779]
The same way that Israel is saved: “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn . . . in repentance as a man might mourn for his only son [Zechariah 12:10]. And in that day shall a fountain be opened in Israel for uncleanness” [Zechariah 13:1]. All of us saved alike, looking to Jesus [John 3:14-17; Numbers 21:8-9].
On his tombstone in the churchyard at Olney are these words:
John Newton, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.
And over the mantelpiece in the Olney vicarage, he placed this inscription, and it is there today. It remains there now. Deuteronomy 15:15: “But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee.”
I just got interested in him; at age 82, still preaching at 82, the Bible in one hand and a hymnbook in the other, his mind was failing, and sometimes as he preached he had to be reminded what he was preaching about. Very typical of modern preachers, don’t you think? When someone suggested he should cease his preaching, he replied, “What? Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he still can talk?” And on another occasion he said, “My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things: one, that I am a great sinner; and second, that Christ is a great Savior.”
Here the conversion of Israel; saved by looking upon Him whom they had pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and a fountain opened for cleansing [Zechariah 13:1]. Here saved, saved by the glorious vision of Him who died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]; who poured out the crimson of His life that we might be washed, clean and white [Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7].
There with Israel, here with us. All alike. Saved by looking to Jesus [John 3:14-17].
There is life for a look
At the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee.
Then look, sinner, look unto Him
And be saved and unto Him
Who was nailed to the tree.
[“There Is Life For a Look at the Crucified One,” A.M. Hull]
O Lord! Look and live. My brother, live. Look to Jesus Christ and live. ‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah! It is only that you look and live.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so the Son of Man must be lifted up [John 3:14]. God’s Son, that whosoever looks to Him, lifts up his face to Him, reaches up his arms and hands and heart and soul to Him, might never perish but have everlasting life [John 3:16].
Wash and be clean [Revelation 7:14, 2 Kings 5:9-14], look and live [John 3:14-17; Numbers 21:8-9], believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Lord, Lord, the gracious goodness of our wonderful Savior. May we stand together?
Our Lord, with infinite grace our covenant keeping God never forgets; the same Lord God that remembers Israel remembers us; a godly father who prayed for us, a precious mother who interceded for us, and the Lord remembers those tears and those prayers, and God bares His arm to save. I know all about that, Lord, because I was saved. And in this half a century and beyond that I have been calling Thy name in the pulpit, how many have I seen, “Look to Jesus” [John 3:14-17] and they were saved [Romans 10:13]. And our Lord, in turning, in repentance, in confession, may there be many this day who find Thee precious, as did John Newton, as has David, and Nathan, and Shimei, and Levi. O God, the wonderful graciousness of our Lord toward us!
In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisle, “Pastor, we have decided for God and we are on the way.” That first step will be the greatest decisive step you will ever make in your life. “Pastor, God has spoken, and I am answering with my life.” A family, a couple, or just one somebody you, “Pastor, we are putting our lives in the circle of this dear church, and we are coming” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. “Pastor, my wife and I,” or “my friend and I, the two of us are coming.” Or just that one somebody you, “I am coming, pastor. I want to belong to this dear church.” Or, “I want to accept Christ as my Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]. Or, “I want to be baptized as God has written and commanded in His Book [Matthew 28:19]. I want to go all the way with Jesus. In the pilgrimage of this life, I want Him to stand by me in the hour of my death, and I want Him to be my Savior in the great judgment, to open heaven’s gate for me. Pastor, I’m coming. I’m on the way.”
And our Lord, may we rejoice no less with the angels of heaven [Luke 15:10] in the sweet harvest You give us this hour, in Thy saving name, amen. While we sing this song, a thousand times welcome; as you come, welcome.