Israel in the Remembrance of God
October 31st, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
ISRAEL IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-31-82 8:15 a.m.
And no less welcome to the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is the middle sermon in the five sermons on berithology: berith, the Hebrew word for covenant, and berithology, the presentation of God’s faithfulness in His promises and in His covenants to Israel. The first sermon two weeks ago, Has God Cast Away His People?; last Sunday, The Problem of Israel’s Unbelief; next Sunday, The Agony and the Glory of Israel; and the last of the five messages, Peace Between Arab and Jew; and today, the message is entitled Israel In the Remembrance of God.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans – Romans 9, 10, and 11, Paul is discussing Israel and the covenants of God with His people. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, beginning at verse 25: "I would not, brethren, have you without knowledge of this musterion" – this secret in God’s heart – "lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness" – the pleroma, the full number – "of the Gentiles be come in. 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" [Romans 11:25-26]. Then quoting Isaiah 27:9: "For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" [Romans 11:27].
Israel in the Remembrance of God. The phrase, the clause "God remembered" is so oft time used in Scripture. In Genesis 8:1, God remembered Noah, and every living thing in the ark; in Genesis 19:29, God remembered Abraham, and saved Lot, because of His covenant with Abraham; in Genesis 30:22, God remembered Rachel, and gave her a son whom she named Joseph [Genesis 30:24]; in I Samuel 1:19, God remembered Hannah and placed in her loving arms a little boy named Samuel, "asked of God" [1 Samuel 1:20]. Those same marvelous words are applied to the nation Israel. "Sing, O heavens," writes Isaiah in the forty-ninth chapter:
Be joyful, O earth; break forth into song, O mountains: for the Lord has mercy upon His people.
Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, that mother may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; and thy walls are continually before Me.
God would not be God if He did not keep His promises and if He were not faithful to His holy covenants.
Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a man, that He should lie; but what He speaks will come to pass, and what He says will surely be done." And the remembrance of Israel in the covenant of God is the whole story of sacred Scripture. The beginning of the Exodus is in the remembrance of God. Exodus 2:24: "God heard their groanings in the land of Egypt, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." And when the people worshiped around the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-9], and God said to Moses, "Stand aside, that My wrath may consume them," Moses replied, "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel Thy servants to whom Thou swearest by Thine own self, and said, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of, I will give to you for an everlasting inheritance" [Exodus 32:10-13]. And the Lord God no less has promised in Israel, "I will remember My covenant with Jacob . . . I will remember the land . . . and for all these that they have done, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them to destroy them . . . for I am the Lord their God. 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 26:42-45].
The remembrance of God in His covenants with Israel is something everlasting. The covenants and the promises of God are without changing. They are without turning. They are without repentance [Romans 11:29]. The conversion and the deliverance, the salvation of Israel is a constant theme in the Holy Bible. [In] what is called as the Palestinian covenant, presented in Deuteronomy 28 and 30, God says to His people, "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of the law . . . then I will leave you few in number [Deuteronomy 28:58, 62, 30:17-18]. And it shall come to pass that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you go nought; and you shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth to the other" [Deuteronomy 28:15-68].
The Palestinian covenant: "If you do not obey Me, the Lord will pluck you up out of the land and will scatter you over the earth" [Deuteronomy 28:620-64]. That we have seen, but there is another part of this Palestinian covenant: it is one of deliverance and restoration. In Deuteronomy chapter 30, "Then the Lord shall 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 will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shall possess it" [Deuteronomy 30:3-5].
And the Scriptures describing the return of Israel to their Promised Land, which we are seeing fulfilled in our day, those Scriptures are almost numberless.
· Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:3-8;
· Ezekiel, the whole chapter of Ezekiel 37, the vision of the valley of dry bones that God raised from the dead [Ezekiel 37:1-28];
· Jeremiah 16:14-15;
· Jeremiah 30:10-11;
· Jeremiah 31:35-36;
· Amos 9:14-15.
All of these Scriptures and a thousand others, the prophecy of the scattering of Israel from the land if they disobeyed God, and no less the promise of deliverance and of conversion as they turned their faces back to the land promised their fathers and to them forever.
We learn in the Holy Scriptures that Israel is returning to the land in unbelief. They will not be a converted and delivered people when they return to the land of Israel.
· In Ezekiel 36, the Lord says, "For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land" [Ezekiel 36:24].
· Then after they are in the land, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean" [Ezekiel 36:25].
· After they are in the land, "I will give you a new spirit and put a new heart within you . . . and you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God" [Ezekiel 36:26, 28].
· When Israel returns to the land that God has promised them [Genesis 13, 15; Exodus 23:31-33], they will return in unbelief. The Lord, in Ezekiel 22, prophesied thus: "Thus saith the Lord God, ye are become as dross, therefore will I gather you into the midst of Jerusalem [Ezekiel 22:19].
· And as they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin in the midst of the furnace to blow the fire upon it to melt it; so will I gather you in the land, and I will melt you" [Ezekiel 22:20].
· This thing we are seeing come to pass before our very eyes; Israel is in the land, but they are in a furnace, a fiery furnace. "I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of My wrath, and ye 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: ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out My fury upon you" [Ezekiel 22:21-22]. When Israel returns to the land, she returns in unbelief.
I made the statement in one of these sermons a Sunday ago. My impression of the Israeli is that he is an atheist. This is the most astonishing discovery and development that I think I have ever seen in the world. The Hebrew University has a beautiful insignia and around the seal of the great school are these words: "The earth shall be filled with knowledge" – and then it lops it off. Why don’t they quote the entire Isaiah verse: "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord"? [Isaiah 11:9]. Israel is returning in unbelief.
One of the astonishing things to me in that world was upon a time going through Russia, Intourist had given to us – the government had given to us a Jewish couple to be our guides. She, the Jewish girl, young woman, was the most outspoken of the two, and her name Svetlana. And she constantly talked to us about atheism. These are two Jewish people in Russia. They are avowed atheists and avowed communists. They are avowed materialists, they are secularists, they are humanists, and I, being with them days and days, I spoke often to them about their Jewish ancestry and about their atheism. And they were confident in the fact that their grandfathers and grandmothers attend the synagogue, but when they die – so they said to me – there will be no one to attend the synagogue, and the synagogue will be torn down and perish.
Albert Einstein was the greatest scientist of this twentieth century. He was a Jew, and Albert Einstein said, "I want it understood that I am an atheist, and when I die, there is to be no memorial service, but my body is to be burned" – which is so antithetical to the Jewish faith – "my body is to be burned, and it is to be scattered, the ashes are scattered to the four winds of the earth." And it was exactly as he had directed. When Albert Einstein died, they burned his body, they cremated his physical structure, they had no service, and they scattered his ashes to the four winds of the earth. God said in His book that when Israel returns to the land, she will return in unbelief [Ezekiel 22:21, 36:24-25].
There is a small group that are orthodox, but they are infinitesimally small. The nation as such, and the people as such, are unbelievers: the most astonishing thing, I say, that I have ever seen or heard of in human history. But there is another story to that. There is another chapter. God isn’t done with Israel. They may be in a furnace because of their unbelief, but the Scriptures multiplied no less avow there is coming a day, there is coming a time when Israel will be converted; when she will turn in faith and in repentance to the Lord. And as Isaiah 66:8 says, "A nation shall be born in a day."
Now may we look at that in Holy Scripture? One of the men in our church who listens so discerningly came to me and said, when the Bible avows, "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 take away their sins . . . For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" [Romans 11:26-27, 29]. Now, that’s what Paul writes in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans. There is coming a day when all Israel shall be saved, the nation born in a day. Now this man asked me, is Israel going to be saved in any other way than we are saved? Is there something unusual or special about how Israel is delivered, how she is converted, how the nation becomes a follower of our wonderful Lord? Is Israel saved in any other way than we are saved?
According to the Word of God which we are going to read now, no, Israel is not saved in any different way than we are saved. There has never been but one way for a man to be saved. There is only one way of salvation through all of the centuries, the millennia, through the ages, there is just one way to be saved. We are saved by turning, by repenting, and by casting ourselves upon the mercy of God by faith in the Lord, revealed to us in Jesus Christ [Mark 1:15]. And that is the way that Israel is going to be saved.
When the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus, who is an ektrōma, who is an abortion, who is converted in the way Israel is going to be converted, but before the time; when Saul was saved, he is saved as we are: by repentance and by faith in Jesus Christ [Acts 9:3-18; Acts 20:20-21]. When James, the Lord’s brother was saved, the Lord appeared unto him, and he was saved in the same way that we are saved [1 Corinthians 15:7].
There has been only one way that we have ever been saved, and that is through turning, through repentance, and through faith in our great merciful God, revealed to us today in Christ Jesus [Acts 20:20-21]. Now you listen to the Word of the Lord. Zechariah is going to describe how Israel is saved. At the end of the age, at the consummation of history, Zechariah says in chapter 12 beginning in verse 10:
I will pour 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, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day, there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
When Josiah was killed by Pharoah Necho [2 Chronicles 35:20-24], there was a great mourning in the valley of Megiddo, where Josiah was killed [2 Chronicles 35:25].
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, every family apart, and their wives apart.
Mourning in repentance, in bitterness of soul as they look upon "Me, whom they have pierced." Now the next verse:
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 they shall say, What are these wounds in Thine hands?"
[Zechariah 13:1, 6]
And they shall weep and mourn over the Crucified Son of God; looking upon Him whom they have pierced, as they are saved in looking to Jesus, beholding His crucifixion, His sufferings, His hands and His feet, His cross, His blood poured out; that’s the way Israel is going to be saved. Two-thirds of them will not turn. "It shall come to pass" – in Zechariah 13:8-9 – "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 will refine them as silver is refined, and they shall try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My name" – the third that repent – "they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, they are My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." Ezekiel prophesied the same thing: "When the Lord shall appear, I will cause you to pass under the rod . . . and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me . . . and ye shall know that I am the Lord" [Ezekiel 20:37-38].
It is exactly as today. When we preach the gospel and present Jesus our Savior, most of the people will not accept Him; but always some will, and thus it is in the story of Israel according to the prophets. Two-thirds of Israel will reject the Son of God when He appears; only one-third of them will turn in repentance and in faith, but those that do turn will be saved, just as we are, and they shall cry, "Thou art my God," and the Lord shall reply, "You are my people" [Zechariah 13:8-9]. "In that day shall there be a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" [Zechariah 13:1].
William Cowper wrote:
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.
["There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," William Cowper]
That’s the way we are saved; that’s the way Israel will be saved. In that great mourning and repenting, each house apart, the man separate from his wife, each one mourning for his sins, the fountain of forgiveness open in Jerusalem; just as we are saved. Isn’t it a strange thing? Isn’t it an amazing thing that the man William Cowper, who wrote "There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood," had a friend – and they lived together – by the name of John Newton. John Newton you know as the wonderful Christian convert who wrote "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound."
William Cowper and John Newton lived together in the same house. This man, John Newton, that we are going to look at and see how he was saved – this man John Newton, early in life, because his mother had died, joined the British Navy, and he was a reprobate of the deepest color. He proved untrue to his seamanship, became a traitor. He deserted. He was flogged. He was imprisoned, and he finally sold himself to a slave trader. He went to the depths in debauchery and blasphemy and red, scarlet sin. Then he was miraculously and marvelously saved. How was he saved? This African slave trader who sold himself to the shipman, how was he saved? He describes it in one of his famous hymns; listen to it: "I saw One hanging on a tree in agony and blood." "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced": how a man is saved, how Israel is saved, how John Newton is saved:
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 till 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 to do,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid,
For I the 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 may’st live.
O, can it be, upon a tree
My Savior died for me?
My soul is thrilled,
My heart is filled,
To think that He died for me!"
["O Can It Be Upon a Tree," John Newton, 1779].
That’s how John Newton was saved. That’s how Israel is saved. That’s how all of us are saved; by looking to Jesus. On his tombstone in the churchyard at Olney where he and William Cowper lived, on his tombstone are written these words:
John Newton, [Clerk,] 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.
"They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10], and they shall mourn each one apart [Zechariah 12:12-14]. Over the mantle piece in the Olney vicarage, John Newton had placed this inscription, and it’s still there: Deuteronomy 15:15, "But thou shalt remember the remembrance of God. But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee." All of us saved alike. At age eighty-two, still preaching with a Bible in one hand and a hymnbook in the other, his mind failing, sometimes John Newton had to be reminded what he was preaching about. A lot of preachers are like that. When someone suggested that he should cease his preaching, he replied, "What? Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can still speak?" 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." We all are saved alike. It was that God in His mercy appeared to Saul, and he turned and accepted Jesus [Acts 9:3-18], then preached the faith that he once destroyed [Galatians 1:23]. James, in the [seventh] chapter of the Book of John, and his brothers, the Lord’s own family, didn’t believe [John 7:5]. And the Lord appeared to James and Jude [1 Corinthians 15:7]. And in the first chapter of Acts, there they are worshiping the Lord [Acts 1:14]. James became pastor of the church at Jerusalem. Thus it is with Israel in the remembrance of God. He will appear to them, pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and out of that fountain of blood, there will be cleansing for the house of Israel, all who turn in repentance and in faith, just like us [Zechariah 13:1].
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,
Unto Him, who was nailed to the tree.
["There Is Life for a Look at the Crucified One," A. M. Hull]
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.
["I’ve a Message From the Lord," William Augustine Augden]
They shall look on Him whom they pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and a fountain of cleansing is open whereby we guilty sinners might be saved [Zechariah 13:1]. ‘Tis a glorious gospel; it is one of love and grace abounding. And that’s our appeal to your heart this sacred hour: look, look, and you’ll never be the same again if you will look.
And in this moment that we sing our appeal, in the balcony round, a family you; on this lower floor, a couple you; there and here a somebody you: "Pastor, today I look. In turning, in repentance, in acceptance, and in faith, I look to my dear Savior. I accept Him now. In the pilgrimage of this life, I will look to Him in the hour of my death, and it will be in His grace and mercy that I face the great judgment day of Almighty God. And I’m answering, pastor, with my life. Here I stand." Make that decision now in your heart, and when we sing this appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come. That first step will be the most meaningful you’ve ever made in your life. "Pastor, today I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I look in faith to Him," or "We are coming into the fellowship of this wonderful church," or "I want to be baptized in an open confession of my commitment of soul to Him." As God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with you life. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing. God bless you as you come. A thousand times, welcome.