God of Jacob, God of Israel (Part 2)
By Dave Hunt
Last month we noted that the only true God, the Creator of the universe and all things therein-the God of the Bible-has linked His name with and tied His integrity to Israel. Yet many evangelicals, including well-known leaders, insist that Israel is of no significance to God any longer, having been cut off for rejecting Christ and now having been replaced by the church. There are even groups (not only among white supremacists or cults such as Herbert W. Armstrong's die-hard followers today) who persist in the ridiculous theory that the "Ten Lost Tribes" of Israel migrated to the British Isles and that therefore all those of British descent are the true Jews today. Some go so far as to say that all of the "white races" are the true Jews-as though not only England but all of Europe and Russia was uninhabited wasteland until these remnants of the "Ten Lost Tribes" settled there.
We have proved that the ten tribes taken to Assyria (2 Kings 17:6-23) were not "lost" but make up most of those called Jews today (see 2 Chr 34,35; Q&A Nov '92, May '96). Far from Israel being cut off, hundreds of prophecies foretell Israel's importance in world affairs in the last days, the attack of all the world against her at Armageddon, her rescue by the Messiah, and her glorious final restoration in the Millennial Kingdom. Nor is there ever a reference to Israel anywhere in Scripture that could possibly be interpreted as meaning the British Isles or the British people, much less the "white races"!
Most of the more than 2,000 references to Israel or Israelites in the Bible and the thousands of prophecies (already fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled) pertain to the historical land of Israel in the Middle East, whose boundaries are clearly described (Gen 15:18-21), or to the people who lived there for nearly 2,300 years, were cast out under God's judgment, and will be brought back by God so that not one ethnic Jew will be left outside Israel (Eze 39:27-29).
We know who the Jews are today by DNA testing. The Israeli Immigrant Liaison Bureau requires DNA tests where there is some question as to the authenticity of claimed Jewish ancestry. Such tests would draw a complete blank if applied to the average person of British descent, and prove British-Israelism to be utter folly. No other ethnic group without its own land and scattered around the world for more than 2,000 years has or could maintain its DNA identity as have the Jews.
It is not important to know who is an American, German, Arab, Greek, et al. In contrast, it is vital to know who is a Jew. Why? About 70 percent of the pages of Scripture are taken up in recounting Israel's history and prophesying her future: her continued and unrepentant rebellion against God, His reluctant and long-delayed but finally severe discipline (the worst of which is yet to come), the Jews' worldwide dispersion, their re-gathering from all over the world back into their own land in the Last Days, hundreds of prophecies concerning Israel's present key role in world affairs, of her greatest trial just ahead (Jer 30:7) when two-thirds of all Jews on earth will be killed (Zec 13:8,9), and of her final restoration under the Messiah (Zec 12-14). Unquestionably, Israel is the major subject of God's Holy Word. To be wrong about Israel is therefore to be wrong on almost everything in the Bible.
The One whom the Bible 203 times calls "the God of Israel" has sworn by an everlasting covenant that Israel (three times called the "apple" of His eye-Deut 32:10; Lam 3:18; Zec 2:8) will never cease to exist as a nation: "Therefore fear thou not...O Israel...though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I...will not leave thee altogether unpunished" (Jer 30:10,11). "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city [Jerusalem] shall be built...it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever" (Jer 31:38-40). The language could not be clearer here and throughout God's Holy Word.
These and hundreds of other promises from God to Israel recorded in Scripture are a sharp rebuke to those such as Hank Hanegraaff, D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, et al., who teach that the church has replaced Israel. "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day...moon...and...stars by night...if those ordinances depart from before me...then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever..." (Jer:31:35,36); "While the earth remaineth...day and night shall not cease" (Gen 8:22); "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger...and I will bring them again unto this place [Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God...so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them" (Jer 32:37-42).
Israel has failed to fulfill her calling to be an example to the world of holiness in dedication to God (Lev 20:20-24, 26; Deut 6:4,5; 7:6, etc.). While there are many believing Israelis, some even within the military, Israel today as a whole remains as wicked and godless as America and the rest of the nations. God's "chosen people," living once again in the Promised Land in fulfillment of many specific biblical prophecies, refuse to honor in their daily lives the God of their fathers who has brought them there. Even in the present distress related to Gaza and Lebanon, the vast majority of Israelis trust in their own arms and determination instead of trusting the only One who can protect them and has promised to do so.
The triumph of tiny Israel in every war and against impossible odds is admitted by many in the IDF as defying ordinary explanation. Military officers giving pep talks to new recruits often tell of amazing events they have witnessed in past wars, but rarely is God's intervention hinted at, even when no other explanation would be possible. Israel as a whole has not yet been humbled to the point of acknowledging what the Psalmist prophesied: "If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say...when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick.... Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth....Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (Ps 124:1,2,6,8). At Armageddon, however, this prophecy will become a reality to all who survive.
In contrast, Britain, along with America, will be among those "all nations" that God will gather and destroy at Armageddon (Jer 30:11; Joel 3:2; Zec 12:9, 14:2, etc.) for their mistreatment of Israel, and especially for dividing His land. In fact, Britain played a key role in robbing Israel of its land and giving most of it to the Arabs for oil. Both Britain and America have betrayed Israel many times, and the U.S. State Department and British Foreign Service have opposed Israel from the beginning, as we document in Judgment Day. Those facts alone prove the lie of British Israelism.
So why would God faithfully help faithless Israel? He makes it clear to Israel from the very beginning, "...because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out...from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt..." (Deut 7:8). As we noted last month, referring to her ultimate restoration and blessing (which He has promised through the Messiah), the God of Israel declares: "Thus saith the Lord GOD; 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 ways, O house of Israel...I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it" (Eze 36:22,32,36, etc.). In spite of Israel's present disregard of Him, "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Ex 3:15,16 and ten other places in the Bible) is fulfilling His promises to those patriarchs through their descendants-and the day is coming when all Israel who survive Armageddon will believe.
Most Jews worldwide await the Messiah's first coming, unaware that He already came and was rejected and crucified. Jesus warned the Jews, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (Jn 5:43). Tragically, it will take Armageddon for the surviving Jews to repent, turn to the God of Israel, and embrace the One who comes in His Father's name. In that greatest distress ever faced by Israel, God declares that the one-third whom He will bring alive "through the fire...refine[d] as silver is refined...as gold is tried [shall] call on my name, and I will hear them" (Zec 13:8,9).
When they see with their own eyes the Messiah come to rescue them, and discover to their shame who He is, "...they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him...a great mourning in Jerusalem..." (Zec 12:10-14). Why such extreme sorrow at being rescued by the Messiah? The God of Israel declares: "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced" (12:10)!
At Armageddon, when Yahweh comes to the rescue, He reveals Himself as the One whom Israel has pierced! Pierced?! When and how could Israel pierce the One who told Moses, "there shall no man see me, and live" (Ex 33:20)? God, "a Spirit" (Jn 4:24), cannot be pierced-but the Messiah coming as a man could be. Jesus, who fulfilled every Messianic prophecy, was pierced on the cross. Why was He crucified? For claiming to be God (Jn 10:30-33)!
Yahweh is speaking in the first person, yet two persons seem to be involved: "...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him...." This him seems to be another person-and yet He must have been pierced because they mourn for Him-so he must also be Yahweh! Is Yahweh two persons? In fact, He declares Himself to be three in one! Consider this: "I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I..." (Isa 48:16). Surely the one speaking must be God because He has been speaking from the very beginning. Yet He adds, "The Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me" (Isa 48:16). Here we encounter God, the Lord GOD, and the Spirit of God.
Could this be what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to write, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"? Surely this One called the "Word," who already existed at the beginning and is God, must be the same God to whom Isaiah refers who speaks from the beginning.
But the similarities in these two verses don't end there. Both raise almost identical questions. In Isaiah, how can God be sent by God; and in John, how can God be with God? There is only one solution: the Messiah must be God. When Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (Jn 10:30), the Jews accused Him of blasphemy. When they picked up stones, Jesus asked why they wanted to kill Him. Their instant reply was, "for blasphemy...thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (vv. 31-33). For the Messiah to declare His deity was the ultimate heresy, worthy of death? No!
According to the Hebrew prophets, the Messiah had to be God and, at the same time, the Son of God. If God has a Son, who Himself is God and one with His Father, that would dissolve the rabbis' objections. We encounter God's Son a number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Speaking prophetically, the Psalmist presents God as declaring of one who is to come, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Ps 2:7). Jehovah's Witnesses and others who deny Christ's deity take this as referring to Christ's birth on earth as the beginning of His existence. That cannot be the case, however, because God speaks of His Son as already existing and warns a God-defying world, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry....Blessed are all they that put their trust in him" (v. 12).
That the Son of God already existed before His incarnation is clear from a number of other statements by the Hebrew prophets. Solomon quotes the prophet Agur asking this question: "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment?" The obvious answer is "God." Then he asks, "what is his son's name..." (Prov 30:4), proving that the Son of God already existed at that time. Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into a huge furnace so hot that the flames killed those who threw them into it. Nebuchadnezzar, astonished to see these three Hebrews walking alive in the flames, observes another with them and in wonder exclaims, "the fourth is like the Son of God" (Dan 3:25)!
While promising salvation through the coming Messiah, Yahweh repeatedly declared that He himself was the only Savior: "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior" (Isa 43:11); "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isa 45:22). And yet this salvation goes to "the ends of the earth" by another who must Himself be God and the Messiah: "I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa 49:6). Of whom does God speak?
Unquestionably, the Hebrew prophets all agree that God exists as a tri-unity: three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but one God-and that in the Messiah He becomes man without ceasing to be God. Christ's claims that He was God and man, and one with His Father, agree with the prophets. Isaiah declared: "For unto us a child is born..." (Isa 9:6). This refers to His humanity, derived, as foretold, from His virgin mother, Mary: the "seed" of the woman (Gen 3:15). But Isaiah adds, "unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder....Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David..." (9:6,7). Surely the Son given must be the already-existing Son of God-and He must be the Messiah, because He will rule on David's throne.
But Isaiah declares that the Messiah is God! His name is "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God." And He is also "The everlasting Father." Here is the same mystery: God is both Father and Son, and He alone is the Messiah! Most Jews still refuse to recognize this identity of the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." This is one place where they agree with their bitterest enemies, the Muslims. The Qur'an condemns to hell anyone who believes in the Trinity (Sur 5:72-74)!
So the fact that Yahweh has come as a man who was pierced to the death, resurrected, and has returned to rescue Israel at Armageddon is in perfect agreement with the Hebrew prophets. When Israel sees her God in this form coming to her rescue, it will be painfully clear that He has been to earth before, where He was rejected and pierced to the death. So Jesus was only echoing the prophets when He said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as He was being "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isa 53:7) on the way to the Cross: "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mat 23:39). At last they will understand "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"-and "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom 11:26)! TBC