The Rising of Israel
July 21st, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
THE RISING OF ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-21-85 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message. It is an exposition of the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. The title of the sermon is The Rising of Israel. I suppose it is no exaggeration to say that one of the tremendously dramatic, significant, and meaningful prophecies in all the Bible is this one found in the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel. And if you would like to follow the message in your Bible, you prepare it, and let’s turn to it, all through the sermon.
The thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel is the vision of the valley of dry bones. If we had opportunity, we would read the chapter or read a part of the chapter. But the message is so extended, it is kind of like preaching on the subject of the Bible and all that is in it. The message is so extended that I have struggled to shorten it so that it could be encompassed in so brief a time as we have in this worship hour.
God brings Ezekiel to a great valley full of bones and he is invited by the Lord God to prophesy to them, to preach to them, dead bones [Ezekiel 37:4]. I suspect many a preacher has that experience, preaching to dead boneheads. He is invited by the Lord to preach to them. "Prophesy" is preaching. And the Lord told him to address the breath of God, the wind, the spirit of God [Ezekiel 37:9]. All those are the same words: breath, spirit, wind. He is invited to address the breath of God. And the breath of God comes into those corpses that are dead, and they live, a great army to the Lord [Ezekiel 37:10]. Then the Lord says to him that this is the whole house of Israel, dead [Ezekiel 37:11]. But God will open their graves [Ezekiel 37:12-14]. Then the third part of the chapter concerns the restoration of united Israel to the land of their fathers [Ezekiel 37:15-28].
The chapter therefore is divided into three parts: from verses 1 through 10, that’s the vision of the valley of dry bones; from verses 11 through 14, there is the meaning of the vision, God’s interpretation of it; then from verses 15 to the end of the chapter, verse 28, there is the prophecy of the united Israel, the reconstructed Israel, replaced in their own land – there to live forever.
Now as we look at this, the first thing that comes to my heart and my mind, as I read it, is the election and the sovereign purpose and choice of the Almighty God. Only God can raise the dead. Only God can resurrect this lost nation. And it is the elective purpose of God to do it. It is entirely a work of the sovereign purpose of the Lord. These are dead. The nation is buried among the Gentile peoples of the earth. But God’s purpose, God’s election, is that they be raised out of their graves and restored to their land as one united people. That’s God. Only God can do that. And only in the choice and the election of God is it done.
The whole entire account and story of Israel is one of God’s election. God does it. It was the Lord God that called Abraham and sent him away from his family and into a nation, into an area, into a land that he should afterward receive for an inheritance. He didn’t know where he was going. By faith, he left his father’s house and journeyed into a land that God had promised him [Hebrews 11:8]. That’s the election of God; God did it. God promised him that land for an everlasting possession [Genesis13:14-18]. God did it. And all of the promises that God made to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to Israel were unconditional. It was there possession and their calling forever [Psalm 105:8-11].
In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis is the one of the most dramatic of all of the passages in the Bible. In those days, if two men made an unconditional covenant in blood, they took a sacrifice and slew it and divided it; one on this side, one on the other side, a piece on this side and a piece on that side. And the two who were making the covenant walked between those severed pieces of sacrifice. That’s what God did in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis when He took Abraham out under the stars and showed him the vast multitude of the heavens, and said, "This shall be your people. They shall number like the stars" [Genesis 15:5]. Then that famous verse follows, "Abraham believed God; and it was counted unto him for righteousness" [Genesis 15:6].
Then follows that marvelous and unusual, dramatic covenant. God takes a heifer and divides it into two parts. God takes a she-goat and divides it into two parts. God takes a ram and divides it into two parts. God takes turtledoves and pigeons and slays them and places them on either side [Genesis 15:9-10]. Now when they made a blood covenant, two of them walked between it. But in that dramatic covenant, only God walks between it. He is pictured there, in the King James Version, as a smoking furnace and a burning lamp [Genesis 15:17]. Only God walks between it; not God and Abraham, but only God. That is, the great promises of the Lord God to Abraham and to Israel are unconditional. Not conditional on Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Israel or anyone else; they are unconditional. It is the elective, sovereign purpose of God. God walked through that blood covenant of those sacrificial animals, and He did it alone.
Now what happened here in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, looking at verse 11; "The people say our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are completely cut off in all of our parts." They answer in hopelessness and in helplessness. They are destroyed as a people. They are enslaved as a nation, and they are carried into captivity.
And the people cry out in helplessness, and hopelessness, and despair, and dejection, and destitution, "Our bones are dried, our hope is lost: we are completely cut off from all and in all of our parts" [Ezekiel 37:11]. That’s a great change as we read through the Book of Ezekiel. When the Book of Ezekiel opens, the people are proud, and they are stiff-necked, and self-willed, and impenitent, and rebellious [Ezekiel 3:7-9]. But when we come to the thirty-seventh chapter of the book, they are completely destroyed. They are bowed down in despair and grief: "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost" [Ezekiel 37:11].
And in that the prophet does not minimize their condition. It starts off with, "The Lord caused him to pass through that valley of dry bones, and they were very many, and lo, they were very dry" [Ezekiel 37:2]. They were a destroyed people; they were a buried nation. But in that desperate condition, the Lord asks Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?" [Ezekiel 37:3]. Now I would think that Ezekiel would have answered by – oh, in the days of his youth, he would have answered, "No! No!" That’s what I would have said. "No. These bones are dead and dried. No, they cannot live." But Ezekiel now has had a long journey and a wonderful pilgrimage and a deep experience with the Lord God. So he does not answer no. Ezekiel answers, humbly and correctly and reverently, "Lord, You can do anything. All things are possible with God." And Ezekiel answered, "Lord, Thou knowest" [Ezekiel 37:3].
Presumption could have said, "Yes, they can live." Infidelity and unbelief says, "No, they cannot live." But faith says, "All things are possible with God [Matthew 19:26]. Lord, You know. You know. It’s in Your hands and in Your sovereign purpose." All Israel is a nation and a people of sovereign and elective purpose; all of them. The whole story, the whole generation, their past, their present, and their future, it lies in the sovereignty of God.
Now we’re going to break that down into two parts. The first one is this: the land of Palestine, the land of Israel, is theirs forever. Would you like to turn to Genesis chapter 13? Genesis chapter 13, and we’re going to read verses 14-17. Genesis 13, beginning at verse 14:
And the Lord said unto Abram … Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place which thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.
I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Now, out of a multitude of passages, turn with me to one other, Psalm 105. Psalm 105; we’re going to read verses 8, 9, 10, and 11. Psalm 105, beginning at verse 8, Psalm 105, verse 8:
God hath remembered His covenant forever, 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 – Israel – 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:
The land of Canaan, the land of Palestine, belongs to Israel forever. It is theirs. The elective sovereign purpose of God in covenant has given it to them. Now the rest of us have the rest of the world. That includes the Arabs, that includes the Egyptians, that includes the Syrians, that includes the Americans, and the Russians, and the French, and the English. We have the rest of the world. But Palestine, Israel, the land of Canaan, belongs to the seed of Israel forever. It is theirs. And the trouble that we have in the world today is a violation of that holy covenant and sovereign elective assignment of God. The land of Israel belongs to them forever in an unconditional covenant in the elective purpose of God.
All right, number two: it is the sovereign purpose of God that the Lord will raise up and reunify and restore the nation of Israel. Now turn with me in the Bible, turn to Leviticus chapter 26, Leviticus chapter 26. We’re going to read verses 44 and 45. Leviticus chapter 26, beginning at verse 44; Leviticus 26:44:
Yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, when they are cast away, I will not abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with 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.
"I will not destroy them utterly" [Leviticus 26:44]. Have you ever seen a Moabite? Have you ever seen an Ammonite? Have you ever seen a Jebusite? Have you ever seen a Hittite? Have you ever seen a Gergashite? Have you ever seen any of those other "-ites"? I never saw one; and I never saw anyone who ever heard of anybody who ever saw one. But God said, "I will not destroy utterly the Jew. He will be here forever; forever." Our Lord said that. Our Lord said, "This genea shall not pass away" [Matthew 24:34]. Genea, generation, this species, this kind, this tribe; he is here forever. God said that.
We must hasten. Will you turn to the Book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah, Book of Jeremiah, chapter 32. Jeremiah chapter 32, I’m going to begin reading in verse 37, Jeremiah 32, verse 37:
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in Mine anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
They shall be My people, and I will be their God:
And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.
Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land with My whole heart and with My whole soul.
For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.
God hath promised to Israel everything that is good as they are gathered together and replaced in the land.
May I read one other, Amos, the Book of Amos. This is a passage that’s quoted by James, pastor of the church of Jerusalem, in Acts 15:15. "I will bring again," the Book of Amos, the last chapter, chapter 9, verse 14:
And I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit.
I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord God.
The Lord God says, "I am going to gather Israel and put them in their land, and when I finally do that, they will be there forever. That is their possession forever" [Amos 9:14-15].
And that is the passage that you read in the Book of Romans, chapter 11: "I do not want you without knowledge, my brethren, that ye be without knowledge of this mustērion, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the plērōma" [Romans 11:25], until the last Gentile comes down that aisle, until the last Gentile is converted. They’re scattered and they’re in unbelief until the last Gentile that God has elected comes down that aisle. "Then all Israel shall be saved, as it is written" [Romans 11:26], and he quotes from Isaiah [Isaiah 59:20-21]. "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, without change" [Romans 11:29].
I wish I had five more hours. I have about five more minutes, and that’s all. Let me summarize it; let me conclude it. God says Israel will be gathered together and placed in their land. God says in the thirty-sixth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel that while they’re in the land in unbelief – they’re not Christians, they haven’t accepted their Messiah, their Lord – in unbelief, they’re going to return to the land; they’re going to be gathered back from the ends of the earth, out of the greatest nations of the world. In unbelief Israel is returning to the land [Ezekiel 36:24-28].
If you’ve ever been in Israel, they impress me as being atheists. Outside of a small little orthodox Hasidim, they’re all agnostics; they’re all atheists. They are returning in unbelief, according to the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 36. But while they’re in the land, they’re going to be converted. The Lord Jesus Christ at the end of this dispensation is going to appear to them, and you read that in Zechariah chapters 12, 13, and 14. They’re going to look on the eldest Son, their Brother that they have pierced, that they crucified, and they’re going to mourn for Him as one would mourn for his only son that had been taken away, destroyed, killed, murdered [Zechariah 12:10]. And there’s going to be a fountain of cleansing opened in Israel [Zechariah 13:1], and in that fountain they’re going to wash their sins away. It’s an amazing, unbelievable, marvelous intervention of God.
Then, that’s going to come to pass after and in the days of the great tribulation. In those days of the tribulation, the great evangelists of the world are going to be Jews. Going to be twelve thousand from Judah, twelve thousand from Reuben, twelve thousand from Simeon, twelve thousand from Levi, twelve thousand from each one of the tribes; one hundred forty-four thousand of them, Jewish evangelists [Revelation 7:1-8]. One Jew can do more than forty Christians proclaiming the gospel of Christ. They’re just born that way. There’s going to be a great, great revival in the tribulation.
And at the end of that tribulation, Jesus is coming back to reign in this earth in the millennium [Matthew 24:29-30]. And in that glorious millennium, the Lord’s seat of empire will be in Jerusalem. The temple will be rebuilt in glory and honor to Him. And out of that Zion will proceed the wonderful message of salvation, and hope, and quiet, and peace to the ends of the earth. And at the end of that millennium there will be a rebellion, when Satan is loosed for a season [Revelation 20:7]. And then the Lord brings them and all of us into an ultimate and final kingdom, to love and worship and adore our Savior world without end forever and eternally [Revelation 21:1-22:21].
Now what does all of this have meaning to us? I can sum it up briefly. God has made these covenant promises to Israel, and if God breaks His covenant promise to Israel, how do I know but that He will break His covenant to me? If He doesn’t keep His promise to Israel, what persuasion would I have that He will keep His promise to me, that He will save me? But the Bible is so emphatic concerning that. For example, in Psalm 89:34, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of My lips." God does not break His promise; God does not cancel His covenant. He doesn’t do it. If He makes that covenant and that promise, He will keep it. He will do it; He is doing it for Israel, and He will keep it for me.
Now I wish I had time to recount an experience that I had, a soul-searching one. As you know, for eighteen years, I preached through the Bible. And in the midst of those eighteen years – I wasn’t taught any of this that I preach – I began preaching the Bible, and preaching the Bible, I began preaching the Word of God, and people said, "He’s a premillennialist." And people said, "He’s a dispensationalist." And people said, "He preaches about these people going back to Palestine and about Israel belonging to the people of the chosen family of Israel." That’s what I was preaching. I was preaching the Bible.
So one of the tremendously gifted and learned leaders of our communion and of our denomination and of our people, he spoke to me about what I was preaching, and he said to me, "The Jew is no more than anybody else. God is done with the Jew, and there’s no future for him." And he was reflecting practically everybody that teaches in the convention. And he’s talking to me about my preaching. "The Jew is done for. God is done with him. And there’s no future for him. God has cast him aside."
Well, I was preaching the Bible, had been for years when that happened, and here is one of the great leaders of our communion and of our faith, and he’s telling me that what I am preaching here, as I was just preaching the Bible, is not true. "God is done with the Jew. He has cast him away."
Well, I entered a soul-searching period that is hard to describe. Dear me, here is a learned man and a great man and a gifted man, and he’s telling me that as I preach the Bible, these things are not right; they’re not correct. I entered into a deep soul-searching period in my life, and here’s what I came up with. Number one: if God is done with the Jew, all of the prophets were dreamers and patriots, and their words were not inspired. All of these pages – I could read them here by the hour; wish we had hours to share it together. I could read by the hours. As Jeremiah says, "God, the Lord God says as long as there is a sun that shines in the sky and as long as the moon that shines at night, so will My covenant with Israel be forever and forever" [Jeremiah 31:35-37]. Jeremiah says that. But if that’s not true, he was just a dreamer. He was a man taken with fancy. He was a patriot, he was enthusiastic for his people, but he wasn’t speaking for God! All right, that’s the first thing.
Second thing is this: as I read the Word of God, if God has cast away His people, then that is a direct contradiction of Romans 11:1-2: "I say then," Paul writes, "Hath God cast away His people?" No! Mē genoito, "No!" God forbid! "God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew." Second thing: if God has cast them away, if He is done with the Jew, then it is a contradiction of the very avowal of Paul in Romans 11. "God hath not cast away His people, whom He elected, whom He chose, whom He foreknew."
And then a third thing: I came to the conclusion, if God is done with the Jew, the gifts and calling of God are not without repentance. Yet Paul says, "All Israel shall be saved. There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" [Romans 11:26, 29]. God does not change. You can count on that! "Well, what does that mean to me?" It means this to me. When the Lord God says, "I give unto them," to us who believe:
eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand.
My Father, who gave them Me is great than all;
and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I give unto them eternal life
I can count on it that if I trust Jesus as my Savior, I’m saved! And God is going to keep me forever. He is going to save me, and when the time comes for me to appear at the judgment seat of Almighty God, He will be there as my Mediator and my Intercessor and my Savior. I can count on that! God says that! He doesn’t change. He hasn’t broken His promises to Israel; He is not going to break His promises to me.
Just let me say one final word. The nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the Lord has come again, and there at the great appearing and glory of the coming of Christ, there is the marriage of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9]. Who is at the marriage supper of the Lamb? Who is there at that wonderful bridal consummation? One is His bride. That’s His church; that’s we. We’re there, the bride of Christ. But the friends of the [Bridegroom] are also there; John the Baptist was one of them. He lived before the Christian dispensation. He died before Jesus was crucified and raised again. He died before the era of the church. He belonged to the old dispensation. John the Baptist says, "And the friend of the bridegroom rejoices in the bride" [John 3:29]. The friends of the Bridegroom are going to be there; that’s Israel, saved Israel. We’re all going to be there. The bride’s going to be there, the saved of Israel are going to be there, and we’re going to rejoice in the wonderful triumph of Jesus, who is King of the earth and our Lord and Savior forever and ever. That’s God. That’s the elective purpose of God, and that’s God’s wonderful goodness to us.
My brother, as you read the Bible and as you see God’s hand in history, it just confirms the wonderful purposes, the sovereign elective goodnesses of God, that He had purpose for us and His people.
Now we’re going to sing us a song. And while we sing our hymn of appeal, while we sing our song of invitation, to give your heart to that wonderful Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, to follow the Lord as He speaks to your heart, make that decision now. And when we stand and sing this song, on that first note of the first stanza, take that first step, and may God’s Holy Spirit guide and attend you the rest of the way. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
RISING OF ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The elective purpose of God
A. Power of resurrection belongs to God alone
B. Israel in despair
1. God’s question
2. Ezekiel’s answer
II. Israel, a people of promise and election
A. The land forever belongs to them
B. Their national life and resurrection
1. Gathered back in unbelief
2. They are converted in the land
III. Meaning for us
A. God’s promises to Israel, and to us