God of Jacob, God of Israel (Part 1)
By Dave Hunt
According to the latest Fox News polls updated June 26, 2006 (other polls basically agree), "fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God"; only 5 percent say they don't, while the remaining 3 percent are not sure. In How We Believe, Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine, claims that "Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the [American] population, believed in God. Not only is God not dead as Nietzche proclaimed, but he has never been more alive."
This statistic, however, is not as encouraging as it sounds. When we ask what respondents mean by "god," very few believe in-much less know-the God of the Bible. Yet belief in a false god is no better and could be even worse than believing in no God. For many, "God" is simply a "higher power." Higher than what? Power? What kind? And how could a "power" of any kind have the infinite intelligence (or any intelligence) to design the atom, the universe, imprint the written instructions in a coded language on DNA for constructing and operating every cell, and create intelligent, personal beings with a moral conscience and a passion for purpose?
The very thought of a "power" creating anything is ridiculous! Then why is belief in a "power" so appealing? Did the Star Wars slogan, "May the Force be with you," have that much influence? It went a long way toward changing movie fans' thinking, especially among American youth. Of course, this has always been a popular idea because a power/force can't impose moral laws, demand obedience, or judge and punish anyone-instead, it can be used for one's own ends. Clearly, the true God who created us for a purpose holds mankind responsible for creation's witness to His existence and for obedience to the moral laws He has implanted in every conscience (Rom 1:18-25; 2:14-16). He will not be used.
Furthermore, just as human beings are jealous of their individual identities, obviously the true God would insist on being properly identified. He will neither reveal Himself to, nor enter into a relationship with, anyone who will not acknowledge Him as He truly is. Nor will He look with broad-minded favor on those who call Him a "higher power." To do so is an insult to the true God! The God of the Bible (whose existence we have infallibly proved in prior articles) declares to wayward Israel, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer 29:13). Those who hope to find a god that suits their imagination will not find the true God.
It is common sense that the true God would only reveal Himself to sincere and earnest seekers who want to know Him in truth in order to obey Him. The first prerequisite to knowing God is the willingness-indeed, the passion-to know Him as He really is, not as one imagines or would like Him to be. It is no less idolatry to create an imaginary god in one's mind than to make one out of clay, wood, or stone. So, who is the true God who proves Himself by unfailingly foretelling the future in the Bible? As we have seen in past articles, the Bible identifies Him as "the God of Israel" 203 times, "the God of Jacob" 28 times, "the God of Abraham" 17 times, and "the God of Isaac" 13 times. Never is He called the "God of any other ethnic group." These designations are foundational to everything the Bible teaches, including the very character of God. To profess to believe in God and at the same time to hold a prejudice against God's chosen people, the Jews, or against Israel, which turns these clear biblical identifications into meaningless titles, casts doubt upon whether one really knows the true God.
In His refutation of the Sadducees' denial of the resurrection, Christ's primary argument was based upon God's statement to Moses: "I AM...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob...this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Ex 3:14,15). Clearly, this was the identity of the true God then; it is now and will be forever. God never changes.
Notice Christ's reasoning: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God....[H]ave ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Mat 22:29-32).
Christ is saying that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not live eternally through a resurrection, then it would be a mockery for God to be identified with them eternally. He would be the God of, and have identified Himself with, beings of limited existence-scarcely a blip in eternity. To be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if they no longer existed, would demean God.
If the nation of Israel is dead, or has been replaced by the church and does not have an eternal future, then the very term "God of Israel" would not be to God's glory but a slur upon His character in view of His many promises that Israel would never cease to exist. Yet that is the position taken by those who say that Israel has been replaced by the church. In The Last Disciple (p. 88), Hank Hanegraaff has a key character say, "The covenant between God and Israel was broken with the rejection of His Son."
Hank gives no explanation how an "everlasting covenant" could ever be broken, nor how Israel's rejection of Christ could break a covenant that was not conditional upon her accepting Him, for which there were never any conditions Israel had to fulfill, and which God said He would bring to completion in the last days.
Indeed, at the same time that God promises eternal blessings to Israel in a full restoration in the last days, He also recites her unfaithfulness to Him without a hint that the many sins of Israel and the Jewish people would be any deterrent to His fulfilling all of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
...the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them...the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever....I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen...be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel...in the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities....For I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD....I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. (Deut 1:8; Jer 7:7; Eze 36:11, 22-26, 32-36)
Here again, as elsewhere (as we have said), it is quite clear that there are no conditions for Israel to fulfill, but God will, for the integrity of His name, fulfill every promise in spite of Israel's rebellion against Him. Furthermore, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be rejected by Israel and crucified, yet in all of those prophecies there is never a suggestion that because of this rejection God would break His everlasting covenant with Israel. The covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-not with their descendants (Gen 12:1-3; 15:7, 18-21; 17:7-8, 19, 21; 26; 28:13; 1 Chro 16:14-18, etc.); it was never conditioned upon the obedience of their descendants, and therefore could not possibly be broken by anything those descendants did or failed to do. It is a slap in the eternal God's face to say that Israel has been replaced!
Scripture records literally hundreds of promises from God that Israel as a nation would never cease to exist (Jer 31:35-37, etc.). These cannot be annulled even by God himself. To do so would make Him a liar. Nor can they be spiritualized away as though the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel, could simply mean the heavenly inheritance of the church.
It is irrefutable that Israel once possessed a physical, historical land that was given to her by God's eternal decree. It is equally an historical fact that she was expelled from this land by God himself for her rebellion. And it is no less an historical fact that Israel became a nation once again, May 14, 1948, and that millions of Jews have since returned to that Promised Land from more than 100 countries, just as Scripture foretold. This can be nothing less than the beginnings of God's promised restoration of Israel so that her latter end would be better than her beginning. A very few of God's many promises follow:
Unto thy seed will I give this land...forever...from the river of Egypt unto the...river Euphrates....I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee...for an everlasting covenant.... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed...all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession...for unto thee [Isaac], and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father...the land whereon thou liest, to thee [Jacob] will I give it, and to thy seed.
Be ye mindful always of his covenant...which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant....Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance....(Gen 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7,8; 26:3; 28:13; 1 Chro 16:14-18).
Citing the hatred of Israel's neighbors at that time, Psalm 83:3,4 foretells the Muslims' openly and oft-stated plan to wipe Israel off the map: "They have taken crafty counsel against thy people....Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation...." In the same effort to destroy her, Christian denominations have initiated a boycott against companies that do business with Israel. Replacement theologians such as D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, and many others allied with them have rejected modern Israel as of any significance in the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In "An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel," they declare:
The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham...do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel....The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the "Holy Land" cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. [See Judgment Day, pp. 276-77]
An everlasting covenant fulfilled under Joshua, who only lived 110 years?! Hundreds of "promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament" had not even been foretold by Israel's prophets until centuries after Joshua died! Even the prophecies made by Moses during the lifetime of Joshua that Israel would sin and be cast out of the land were not fulfilled "under Joshua." This declaration by Kennedy, Sproul, et al., is such a defiance of the God of Israel that one finds it unbelievable coming from biblical "scholars"! Here is the Word of the Lord:
Therefore, behold, the days come saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, the LORD liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt [in Joshua's day]; But, the LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country [Russia et al.], and from all countries whither I had driven them....(Jer 23:7,8)
This is being fulfilled in our day. When God told Moses that He would destroy Israel and make of him a great nation, Moses reasoned with God that He would be going back on His Word if He did that, and His critics would say that He was not able to keep His promises. If even one failed, it would reflect on all His other promises. (Ex 32:9-14). Yet today, growing numbers of those who claim to be Christians are declaring that God's eternal covenant with Israel has been annulled!
If the everlasting covenant that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob swore to these patriarchs of Israel is not kept, then God has denied Himself. The same holds true for the literally hundreds of promises God has made that He would restore Israel fully to her land. If just one fails, then God has denied Himself and is not worthy of our trust. Here are a few of the many that could be cited:
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock...so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered...and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel...in a good pasture....I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away...therefore, will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey....I will set up one shepherd over them...even my servant David [i.e., the Messiah]....And I the LORD will be their God...there shall be showers of blessing...they shall be safe in their land...no more be a prey to the heathen...none shall make them afraid...And...I will...do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD...neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more...for I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...that I have given unto Jacob...and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes...and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore....(Eze 34:12-16, 22-28; 36:11, 15, 24, 27; 37:25-28)
If "everlasting," concerning Israel, doesn't mean everlasting, then how can we trust the promise in John 3:16 of everlasting life to those who believe on Christ? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, is the only true God. The Messiah promised to Israel by Jewish prophets of God came 2,000 years ago. He is the Savior of all who believe on Him as the one who, in fulfillment of what the Hebrew prophets foretold, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father's right hand. He is coming in power and glory to punish the world for its abuse of His people Israel and to rule the world from David's throne in Jerusalem. Let us stand firm on the truth of Scripture and preach the true gospel of God, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. TBC