O Come, O Come Immanuel … and ransom captive Israel … that mourns in lonely exile here … until the Son of God appear.
“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD,[Jeremiah 30:10-11]
nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
11For I am with you to save you,
declares the LORD;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.“
One cannot tell the story of Israel without telling the story of exile and the long, perilous journey back home. Israel knows suffering full well, passing through the fires of persecution and shedding the bitter tears of lament. The nation of Israel was born out of slavery, and her destiny is one tied to perpetual exile until the end — the consummation of all things and the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
Remember, Israel means to strive, to struggle — both with God and man — and to overcome in the end. Much of Israel’s exile was brought on by her own rebellion and departure from the One True God to serve the gods of the nations, and some of Israel’s suffering has been at the hands of the satanic powers of darkness — who hate God and His covenant people.
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.[Exodus 2:23-25]
Such was the case in Egypt, when Pharaoh and his gods determined to enslave and destroy Israel — God’s chosen portion. Israel was displaced, estranged from her homeland and held captive at the hands of her enemies. The spiritual battle was raging in Egypt over God’s covenant people. It has been raging ever since and will continue to rage until the very end.
It has been written. The patterns of exile and deliverance throughout the Scriptures paint us a prophetic pattern that has been replayed over and again throughout redemptive history. What has been done will be done again.
COVENANT & CONTROVERSY
And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.[Deuteronomy 4:27-31]
The unique covenant that God made with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is at the very heart of the perpetual enmity surrounding Israel. The gods of the nations and the devil himself seek to devour the seed of the woman, and by destroying God’s covenant people, Satan is attempting to nullify the word of God and revoke the promise of God.
This is why the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain agains the LORD and His Anointed. God has uniquely bound Himself to the people of Israel; therefore, Israel is the nation and land of controversy among the nations. Israel is the target of satanic opposition. Israel is the key prophetic timepiece in God’s redemptive plan.
From the moment Israel was delivered from Egypt and entered into the land of promise under Joshua, she has experienced one calamity after another. One invasion after another. One exile after another. Consider the plight of captive Israel.
- Israel was held in bondage multiple times to the Philistines and Midianites during time of the Judges (circa 12th-11th Century B.C.)
- Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and the Northern Kingdom was exiled in early 8th Century
- The remnant of Israel — Judah — was conquered and carried off into Babylon, marking the exile of the Southern Kingdom in the late 6th Century B.C.
- Haman and the Persian plot of ethnic genocide in Esther’s day in the late 4th Century
- Cruel oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the days of the Maccabees, or 3rd Century B.C.
- Roman conquest and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, scattering the remnant of Israel to the four winds of the earth
- Persecution during the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades
- Jewish Pogroms in Russia
- Holocaust of Nazi Germany during WW II
And so it will be in the last days at the end of the age — one final episode of Jacob’s trouble. One more invasion of the land. One more siege on Jerusalem. One last exile of Israel. One final diaspora to the nations. God has bound Himself to the people and the land of Israel, and the restoration of Israel will not fully be realized until the LORD Himself comes down from heaven in flaming fire and crushes His enemies and sits down on His glorious throne.
STRANGERS PASSING THROUGH
In more ways than one, Israel’s story is our story — God’s story. We all identify as strangers passing through — aliens in a foreign land not our own — wandering and waiting to go home. We all are spiritually born into bondage, under the powers of darkness in the heavenly places and held captive by sin and oppressed by a cruel master — the devil.
The God of Israel always intended to adopt the Gentiles into His convent family and incorporate people from every nation into the commonwealth of Israel. We too are brought near into covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So that in the end — all Israel — will be saved, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female.
In that way, Israel not only represents the covenant people of God in the flesh and the physical promised land, but ultimately Israel represents the covenant people of God by faith and the eternal kingdom on earth as it now is under the Lordship of Christ in heaven.
God always had a bigger plan — a redemptive plan. The gospel of the Kingdom is that God has redeemed a people for His own possession from every tribe and nation under heaven — using Israel as the conduit of His blessing to the nations and then bringing exiles back into Israel to inherit the land and enjoy the covenant blessings forever.
Speaking of Abraham and the other great men and women of faith, the author of Hebrews says …
Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.[Hebrews 11:12-16]
The Time for Restoring All Things
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.[Acts 3:20-21]
Israel will be in exile until the King of Israel returns to set His people free once and for all. He is King over the whole earth, but His chosen portion, His allotted inheritance, is Israel. All people who trust in the God of Israel and in His Messiah King Jesus belong to Israel and have a permanent home in the promised land.
As we wait for the day when Jesus comes and restores the fortunes of Jacob and gathers His people to Himself and makes good on all of His promises, we wait patiently in hope, knowing that God’s people will never be fully at home as sojourners in a hostile world.
Hear, O nations, the word of the LORD, and proclaim it in distant coastlands:
“The One who scattered Israel will gather them and keep them as a shepherd keeps his flock. 11For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand that had overpowered him. 12They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD—the grain, new wine, and oil, and the young of the flocks and herds.Their life will be like a well-watered garden, and never again will they languish.”[Jeremiah 31:10-12]
Next time I will take a closer look at Israel as God’s redeemed.