Allen Jackson - Israel and the Purposes of God - Part 2
I wanted to start in Zechariah, one of the prophetic books near the end of your Old Testament; and the concluding chapters of Zechariah present us with a series of presentations, and it it's helpful to me there are several ways you can imagine it. Let me suggest this. Let's think of a series of Polaroid pictures that have been taken. You're given a snapshot of a fixed point in time, and they're introduced to us in that way. The language varies a little bit translation over translation, but typically it'll be something along, "on that day". "On that day," that's what you'll see in the picture. The challenges they're not arranged chronologically.
So it isn't just immediately apparent the sequence of events, but God has given us the snapshots. He says, on that day, you will see this. You'll see this happen in the earth. I would submit to you it's as much a certainty as where the sun will come up tomorrow. Perhaps more so. The other question that comes along is why. Why wouldn't God just give it to us as plainly as he could like a Dr. Seuss book? I do not like green eggs and ham. Well, there's a God, and you can ask him, ultimately. I'll give you my opinion. He's sovereign and he doesn't reveal his purposes to the casual inquirer. I have found that if you will seek God sincerely and persistently, that God is remarkably faithful to give you the insight and understanding you need to navigate what is before you.
But he will never surrender his sovereignty to us throwing a temper tantrum 'cause we don't like our circumstances any more than I could change my parents' ideas about when I should have dessert. I could exhaust myself in throwing a fit, but I still didn't get the cake until I ate my vegetables. And some of us spend enormous energy throwing a fit with God because we don't like his timing. And I would invite you to a more mature response. Get up out of the floor, wipe your tears, blow your nose, and say, "How may I serve you in this season"? But I brought you two or three passages from Zechariah. I think it was helpful. We'll start in chapter 12, verse 1. "This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel".
God has an opinion about Israel. God promised a strip of land at the end of the Mediterranean to Abraham and his descendants forever, and I believe that. I believe it literally no matter what the UN says, no matter what the Islam says. "The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him..." That's an important set of statements you should have tucked in your heart about God. He stretched out the heavens, he laid the foundation of the earth, and he forms the spirit of man within him. There is an Almighty God the creator of heaven and earth and he created us. We're his creatures. You're more than a collection of DNA contributed by two human beings. You are a design of Almighty God created with a purpose in his sight, designed to have a relationship with him, and ultimately fulfillment and contentment in the earth will not come until you reconcile that relationship with the Lord.
Verse 2, God said, "I'm going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling, and Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem". Judah is the region surrounding Jerusalem, much as the way Rutherford County would surround Murfreesboro. "On that day..." On what day? "When I've made Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding people's reeling, and Judah is besieged as well as Jerusalem". To be besieged is to be surrounded. "On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations". In spite of all the angst, in spite of all the international pontification, in spite of all the opinions and all the threats and the weight of all the nations standing against you, God said, "I will see that they're immovable".
And I would submit to you that if God says something's not going to move, it's not going anywhere. But then he says something even more important, I believe. He said, "All who try to move it will injure themselves". Literally, all who try to move it will rupture themselves. Some of you understand once you have a rupture your days of heavy-lifting are over. And we could do... I won't take the time, but we could do a pretty quick survey of history. Those nations that have decided to oppose the purposes of God concerning Jerusalem and the Jewish people, their days of heavy-lifting were over. The British betrayed a commitment they made to the Jewish people about their homeland and they won a world war and lost their empire in a very short period of time. Now, that's just one example. I'm not picking on them. I could give you many.
Verse 4 God says, "On that day..." Again, we're going to get another snapshot. Now we got one snapshot of Jerusalem surrounded and those who try to impose their will. It makes me very anxious when our nation starts delivering peace plans to the Jewish people. I have friends that live in a neighborhood just outside Jerusalem. I say neighborhood. It's a community of 30,000 people. So it's not like one street with a cul-de-sac. They have shopping malls and schools and doctors and dentists. Thirty thousand people live there, and they awakened one morning. Our president at the time was George Bush, W., and he forbid there to be any construction in that community, and my friend said to me, "Your president says I can't add on to my garage".
Can you imagine? Imagine if you got up in the morning and Putin said nobody in Murfreesboro can add on to your house. We'd all be headed to Home Depot. Right? Even if we didn't want another room and we didn't know how to build it, we'd be like, "What am I going to do? I'm not listening to him". But we threatened economic sanctions and political sanctions and withholding military support because we were trying to win favor on the Muslim street. So it's a very significant point of prayer with what's coming in the next few days. We weren't the ones directly attacked. We will be, it's inevitable. We've had an open border for how long now? We should disband the Department of Homeland Security. It's a joke. They're focusing it on American citizens, and they're not defending us.
Verse 4, I got to go, I know. "On that day", I don't have any opinions, "'On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness,' declares the Lord. 'I'll keep a watchful eye over the house of Judah, and I will blind all the horses of the nations. And the leaders of Judah will say in their hearts, 'The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God.'" God said, "I'll intervene, I'll intervene". And he will. But it's worth noting there are lessons we can learn by how God deals with people. God will intervene, he watches over them. He doesn't watch over them while they're distracted. They're mobilizing tonight, 800,000 of them. Parents and grandparents are sending their finest young men and women into the most impossible of circumstances. They'll have to go door to door in Gaza. They're walking into a trap and they know it, and they're willingly calling their children back to send them into that circumstance.
We've had a fanciful notion of what it means to serve the Lord in our nation. We've thought suffering was from the sermon was long or the line at the food truck was too great or something else. We didn't like the worship style or... I mean, we have lived with so much comfort and convenience that it's almost impossible for us to even reconcile what would happen to a believer in the northern part of India, or what would happen to a Christ follower in Tehran, or what it would mean to be a Christ follower in Nigeria or dozens of other places in the world. And to be candid, we're not even certain we care that much. I mean, we know it's awkward and we wish it weren't so, but we've got vacation. It's fall break. And we need to be reminded that God said, "I'll intervene, I will watch over you". But he doesn't remove us from the arena.
It's why Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "Endure hardship like a good soldier. No soldier," he said, "gets involved in civilian affairs. He holds himself separate". There's a different kind of discipline when you enlist in the service of the Lord. There's a different kind of discipline to being a Christ follower. We can't live like the world lives. Our values have to be different. Our dreams have to be different. Our aspirations have to be different. Our ambitions for our children have to be different. We are in a different kingdom with a different set of values, aspiring for a different set of rewards. We're not competing for the same things or trying to achieve the same things that the secular culture around us is.
Zechariah chapter 12, verse 10, "I'll pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They'll look on me and the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and they'll grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo". They will weep because of the position they've held towards Jesus. There's a day coming when the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem will understand who Jesus is with clarity. Hallelujah.
I gave you those really as the preamble to chapter 14 because I believe what we're watching is the prelude to what Zechariah described in chapter 14. I'll tell you not everybody would agree with me. There are some very well-trained people who would tell you this passage is already fulfilled and it's not relevant, but I would tell you there is not unanimity of opinion and from my vantage point I think this is still before the people of the land. "A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you, and I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; and the city will be captured, and the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city".
It seems to me that what we've witnessed in the last few days is a foreshadowing of what Zechariah said would happen to the city of Jerusalem. We've seen women abused, families abused, children abused while the world looked on. No one rushed in with the solution. They began to protest against what the Israelis were doing, blaming the Israelis for what happened. Can you imagine? Our politicians dither. The church is awkwardly silent. I believe that is still before us. We need to continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
I brought you two passages. I think they're helpful and they're important. Psalm 121 it says, "He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep". How do you reconcile difficulty and abuse and evil with the watchfulness of God? Well, not easily. But if you're doing the Bible reading with us we've just been working our way through the Book of Job, and Job is not an easy book. Neither is job, either one of them. But there's a couple of big picture ideas. Job, to me, shouts at me about the sovereignty of God. He can do what he wants, when he wants, the way he wants, and he doesn't need anyone's approval. And you may not like it, but he's still God all-powerful, all-knowing, the creator of heaven and earth.
And we are a creature. Our perspective is so limited, and I can tell you this. The ending of Job is better than any point prior to that. The ending of Job is better than the beginning of Job. "Well, why did he have to", I don't know. I can give you some opinions, but at the end of the day I don't know. I do know this. God says he watches over us, and he calls us to be overcomers. It's the message of the Book of Revelation. Every one of the seven churches are told they have to overcome. They're told what they have to repent of, what they have to turn away from, where they've lost their way.
Do you live with the imagination that you could have been converted, born again in the journey with the Lord and lose your direction to the point that you could forfeit what you have? I'm not... forget questioning your salvation. You can forfeit your reward. It's very clear. And the rewards at the end of the Book of Revelation go to those who overcome. Overcoming presumes, dictates, opposition, difficulty. It's the nature of the journey through time. But we have an advocate. We have someone who watches over us. We have a God who's a deliverer, who will forgive and redeem and restore and renew and refresh. He is just. Justice does not come from governments. Nothing in human history suggests a government will be just. There's no such creature. Justice comes from God; and the further we remove God from our government the less just our government will be, the further we remove God from our schools the less just our schools will be, the further we remove God from our churches the less just they will be.
Jeremiah 31, "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; proclaim it in the distant coastlands: 'He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.' For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they". I promise you today the Israelis know no one's coming to help, and they're mobilizing and they trust God in a way that's difficult for me to even understand. In all the... they read their Bible like it's their family album. Jeremiah to us is some shadowy character from the past. In our academic settings, you know, Jeremiah is a school of thought. He's not a person. It's a collection of prophetic writings that they formulated around a common set of ideas. And to the typical Israeli, it's like Uncle Jeremiah.
Now, they may not live by the standards of Scripture, but they don't doubt the authenticity of the individual. The church would gain some strength with a bit more personal approach to scripture. There's two frequently asked questions, and I'll do this really quickly while we're talking about Israel and the Jewish people that are widely discussed in American evangelicalism. The first is, were the Jews rejected by God? They rejected the Messiah. They cooperated with the crucifixion of Jesus. And so the story is told that God rejected them, that they were rejected as God's people. So everywhere you read Jewish or Israel in the Bible you can pencil in church. It's a curious thought. It isn't biblical. The technical label for it would be replacement theology, that God replaced the Jewish people with all the promises of his covenants with the church because they stumbled so badly.
Well, I won't develop it fully, but I'll give you Romans chapter 11. Paul's writing, and he said, "I ask then: did God reject his people"? And it says, "By no means". In Greek it's much stronger than that. It's the most emphatic way to make a statement. "By all means, no". I mean, he's shouting it at us. "God forbid," he said. "I'm an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew". That's about as plainly put as you could have it. It was about 1000 BC when the monarchy was established in Jerusalem. So there's about 1,000 years between when Jerusalem becomes the capital and David is king plus or minus until Jesus is born, and the Jewish people did not fully... many of the Jewish people embraced Jesus.
Peter said, "You're the Messiah". The disciples followed him. They stood in the streets of Jerusalem. There was a group who did not. Well, the Christian church has had 2,000 years to share the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gentile church, the non-Jewish church. So if we're going to point at them and say they failed, I think we could look at Christian history and say we have stumbled with a much broader period of time to communicate the message we've been given. If God rejected them and the covenant was withdrawn from them, what makes us think we're standing on solid ground? This really, the argument is a fallacy based on pride and arrogance. The New Testament says that God didn't replace them. We've been grafted into their tree, and it's only through the roots of that heritage that we have any story to tell and we shouldn't be so arrogant to not understand that we've been grafted into that tree that existed before we got to the story.
So no, I don't believe God has rejected the Jewish people. That's a much broader story. We may talk about it some more in another session. The other question that comes along and it's frequently... you'll find it in a lot of Christian literature and you'll find it amongst people who want to be friends with the Jewish people, and it has to do with this idea of whether or not the Jewish people have to deal with the person of Jesus. And there are those that would suggest that there's a different covenant for them. They have an Abrahamic covenant and we have a new covenant and they're different. Well, to that I would read Acts chapter 4 and this is being delivered by our friends, the apostles Peter in the streets of Jerusalem.
So this is Jewish people talking to Jewish people. "You know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved". The message that was preached in the streets of Jerusalem to the Jewish people was the only point of salvation is the person of Jesus. It was true in the 1st century, and it's true in the 21st century.
Now, it's a stumbling block because of 2,000 years of abuse from the Christian church towards the Jewish people. The greatest persecutor of the Jewish people was not the Nazis. It's not the Muslims. It's consistently been the Christians. The average Israeli on the street is far more comfortable dealing with a Muslim than they are with a Christian. We have a much poorer track record. Now, we don't know our history well enough to understand that. It seems bizarre when we say it out loud. It's changed a bit in the last decade or so as Israel has become aware that there is a segment of the Christian community who are their allies, but prior to that I assure you they had little to no trust in the Christian community.
You say, "Well, how can that be"? Well, they know some simple facts of history like Hitler was a baptized Catholic, and we would say, "Oh, well, he wasn't a good one". But you'll forgive them if the subtlety of that is lost on them. Or that Christian Europe didn't stand up for them, or the Christian West didn't stand up for them through the Holocaust or that the Spanish Inquisition was run through the church, or that the Russian, I mean, the story goes on and on and on. So now we find in the contemporary setting this desire to befriend the Jewish people and to overcome the awkward discussion around Jesus and we say, "Well, you don't really have to deal with him". But they do, but not to convert to Christianity.
We're not trying to make them into non-Jewish Christians. We want to introduce them to their Messiah to fulfill their scripture. So when you pray for your Jewish friends, don't pray they'll become Christian like you and worship on Sunday morning. Pray that they will recognize Jesus as their Messiah because they'll... that day is coming. We see it happening. It's amazing what is happening. Unprecedented in our life and since the modern state of Israel we've never seen happening what's happening these days. Tragically, there are some real pressure in front of them and they need our prayers. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our Lord Jesus is watching over them. There's an archangel assigned to the Jewish people, but they need your prayers. They'll need your voice.
Talk to your friends. Tell them what you know. Acknowledge what you don't know. But the next few days are not simple days and they're not easy days, but the church needs to be praying. My time's gone. Big print didn't help me. I want to close with a prayer. It's from the Book of Romans. It's a doxology, which means it's a spoken declaration of the glory of God, and that seems appropriate to me tonight. There's turmoil in the world, all over the world. Our attention may be focused on Israel, but I assure you for the Christ followers around the world tonight there are multiplied hundreds of thousands living under duress. So I brought you a prayer. It's a declaration to our God. Why don't you stand with me? It's taken from Romans 11. I took out the verse numbers, but I didn't change anything else. You can check me later. Let's say it together as a proclamation:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
If you're stressed in the next few days, I would get that out and say it till the peace of God came to me. Amen? Bless you.